Saturday, 25 March 2017

Introducing Erik Carter

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.


Enjoy!



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!

Erik Carter

Friday, 17 March 2017

Room for a Review

Last month I ran a mini workshop on the theme of Comedy Writing in Fiction. (I mentioned it here.) Linda recently sent me a review of the event and she's kindly let me post it on this blog.

In the words of Rabbie Burns in To a Louse:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
Too see oursels as ithers see us!


Crimes, chases, and a whole lorra laughs

February’s guest at Writers’ Café was Derek Thompson (not to be confused with local MP Derek Thomas, especially as they are at opposite ends of the political spectrum!). “Our Derek”, as we should perhaps refer to him henceforth, is the author of a number of novels available online and in paperback - notably the Thomas Bladen Spy Chaser series, which has reached book four with Shadow State and sounds serious enough. But unlike some other authors who do the grittier end of the thriller spectrum, Our Derek keeps the really graphic violence at arm’s distance, taking things only as far as he feels the reader needs to go. He also includes regular bouts of comradely banter between his characters, some wry comment at their expense, and - occasionally - downright comic situations. Well, what will those hardened men on the fringes of the official police do, when the stolen car they’ve been tracking turns out to have a baby in the back?

As a freelancer, Derek has had a full and interesting writing career – although he also has a part-time “day job”. Apart from novels, his work has included what he said was “the rudest greetings card ever”* (and although he later said he sometimes used inappropriate material to “test the water”, the joke was definitely judged unfit for the ears of Writers’ Café). He describes himself as an “emerging writer”, although at least one member of his audience is already a fan and has read every one of his books. His final drafts go out to “beta-test” with a panel of fellow-writers, before being submitted to his publisher, Joffe Books, and are subsequently available on Amazon. Some American readers have struggled with the British slang and the (by no means excessive) emotional content, but Derek likes his characters to be more than mere ciphers. “I argue with my characters”, he said, “and if I’m lucky, they argue back”. Apart from his personal Facebook account, he has a professional page, a blog, and an account with Twitter – which he feels scores well for instant communication, though less well for actual engagement.

By way of instruction, Derek pointed out that “there’s more to comedy than a few laughs”, and provided us with an excellent summary of techniques for writing comedy, which include setting up misunderstandings and confounding expectations. Then of course there is juxtaposition, exaggeration – and the rule (or pattern) of three. Comedy, he said, is a “dance between content and context, and between language and ideas” which can either reinforce or challenge orthodoxies - authority and stereotyping alike. He described one purpose of comedy as “getting your point across diagonally”. Derek cited the opening of Iain Banks’ Crow Road (It was the day my grandmother exploded.) as a perfect comic moment which needs no explanation, acts as a hook and sets the tone of what will follow.

And then, of course, it was time to rummage in pockets and bags for our own pens. The challenge was to take an event within the shared experience such as a wedding or an interview, and weave comedy into it by using some of the techniques that had been discussed. Members happily read their work, which ranged from treatments to finished prose, from a summary of the nightmare reception to a cross-purposes conversation.  Some of these may re-emerge sooner or later at a Café open session, where (as some of our regular turns are aware) a bit of comedy always goes down a treat.

Derek’s writing secrets? (Well, we always ask.) Writers, he told us, need a “shard of ice at their heart” and a willingness to cannibalise their own experience. Derek will be putting this into practice in his current novel, Stars and Stripes, and some Penzance scratchcard buyers may soon be reading a scene that feels oddly familiar. He has also appropriated nuggets of film and classic literature, and starts by “walking round a novel to find the way in”, describing this voyage of discovery as the technique of a “poor man’s medium”. Yes, he does favour a set routine and sets time aside on a daily basis, writing a set number of words “though not necessarily in the right order”. He recommends trains for the sense of constraint and the rhythmic background they provide (are the speedier sections of his plots composed the other side of Exeter?), and – like most writers – warns us away from writing on any internet-enabled device in the early stages. And he freely admitted that wearing a favourite hat – no, literally – is just the thing for providing the right cranial stimulus.

You can read more from, and about, Derek at http://www.alongthewritelines.blogspot.co.uk and see his books at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Derek-Thompson/e/B0034ORY08

He is happy to connect on Twitter - https://twitter.com/DerekWriteLines - or on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ProfessionalWriter1/

About Linda


She is a writer, historian and speaker. She worked on collaborative scripts for History Through the Looking Glass at the Penzance Literary Festival and is also involved with the Penwith Local History Group, having contributed a chapter in their latest book, "Women of West Cornwall". She is currently working on a new book about the history of Penzance. She says it's a long-term project!

Incidentally, if you are in Cornwall 5th - 8th of July, the Penzance Literary Festival is well worth a visit. They have a packed and diverse programme of events. http://www.pzlitfest.co.uk

* All I will say is that it involves glass houses...