I never tire of meeting other writers (more often, online these days) and finding out what makes them tick. Whether we specialise in the same genre or find ourselves in different camps there are always stories behind the stories and an individual path to 'The End'.
This time I would like to introduce you to Erik Carter, who writes thrillers and mysteries. A trained public historian and design professional, his adventures have led him across America, where he has done everything from hosting a television show to shooting documentaries in the desert to teaching college. These experiences gave the background he needs for his greatest adventure—writing fiction.
1. How do you know when a story is going to fill a book?
That's never really a problem for me because I always seem to think big story-wise. When a story idea comes to me, I typically have to work on wrangling in all the details before it gets too big! Writing a short story would be a challenge for me.
That said, however, here's a big caveat: I always write on the shorter side of longer works. So for instance, my mystery is about 60,000 words, and my thriller is about 80,000 words. These are both debut titles in their genres, so I'm planning on future installments being even a bit shorter. I like brevity, quick action, and economy of words. But I still don't think I'd be able to do a short story… LOL.
2. What's the best and the worst writing advice you ever received?
This is a toughie. I would say the best writing advice I've received is to utilize the power of the hero's journey. Specifically, my favorite book (non-fiction or fiction) is The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. It's aimed mainly at screenwriters (where I got my start), but it applies to novelists as well. Vogler expands upon the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell, and his book literally changed my life, not just as a writer but as a person.
I'm drawing a blank on what the worst advice I've received is because I think there's a bit of wisdom to most pieces of writing advice. Of course, you take more from some pieces of advice from others, but I think that writers almost always have other writers' best interests in mind, so the advice is almost always good.
3. What is your current novel about?
My first two books came out these last two months almost back-to-back, so I'll give brief descriptions of each.
Stone Groove is a historical thriller set in the 1970s. Federal Agent Dale Conley investigates the bizarre cases that others can't solve. His new assignment: 140 people have gone missing, and the kidnapper emulated the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a mysterious 400-year-old mass disappearance. Having nothing more than an empty crime scene, a blood-spattered stone, and history books to guide him, Dale must solve the kidnapper's demented riddles ... before the missing people are murdered.
The Clements Kettle is a mystery that takes place in an over-the-top, spaghetti Western setting. Barnaby Wilcox is the West's best private eye. But when a new client asks him to track down a missing kettle, he's left scratching his head. When he's told that the kettle is cursed, he can't help but laugh. That is, until the deaths start piling up. Everyone who touches the kettle ends up in a pine box. Now Barnaby must track the kettle across the desert, from small towns to high society, to stop the final killing.
4. Can you see your books adapted to TV or film? (And do you have a preference?)
Absolutely! I write very much "like a movie," so I could definitely see this. In fact, I got my start with serious writing in screenplays. Of the two, I would prefer film. I'm a big fan of movies, and I don't watch television almost at all. However, I know we're in a really good time for television quality, so I think either of my series could fit well there too.
5. Who are your influences as a writer and a reader?
I'm a big movie buff, and, as I said, I write "like a movie," so I have a lot of movie influences. The '80s movie magic (Spielberg, Lucas, Zemeckis, etc.). Bond films. Indiana Jones. Westerns. Comedies. In terms of authors, perhaps my favorite is Michael Crichton. He wrote thrillers, but that's about the beginning and end of the similarities in our writing.
However, I don't think that, as authors, all of our influences need to be parallel. Dan Brown's break-neck speed in his first two Langdon's books was something I specifically studied for my thriller. Love those two books. Of course, given Stone Groove is a historical thriller, I have to give my thanks to Mr. Brown, as he more or less single-handedly created the sub-genre. And, again, The Writer's Journey had a huge impact on me.
6. What are your greatest challenges as an author?
The business side of it. There are immense challenges with this. It's exciting, but there is soooo much to learn. I'm just starting out, though, so I know it will all start to make better sense soon.
7. What is your favourite aspect of being an author?
Storytelling. I love to tell stories, and it is my sincere hope that my talents in doing so will make other people's better. If one of my books can help someone who's having a bad time smile for a moment, to forget what's been troubling them, then I'm doing my job!
8. Where can we find out more about you?
At my website, www.ErikCarterBooks.com
9. What question did you not want to be asked, and how would you answer it?!
I gave the question about bad writing advice some serious thought! I guess I copped out by saying that I've never really received bad writing advice, lol!