Tomorrow is publication day for the paperback edition of Chris Carter’s The Caller, the eighth Robert Hunter novel. I’m always fascinated by how crime and thriller writers go about writing their novels and plotting their narratives. So I was happy to be able to ask Chris some questions on the subject. I hope you’ll like this interview as much as I did and if The Caller sounds like your cup of tea, do check it out!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Chris Carter?
Just a simple guy who one day decided to write crime fiction books. That’s all.
How would you introduce people to The Caller?
The Caller is a novel about a new type of serial killer who likes to use Social Media for his victims. The theme of the novel that will hit very close to home with a lot of people because of it’s theme. It’s also quite scary at times, so by all means, go check it out.
You have two recurring characters, Detectives Hunter and Garcia. Why did you choose to write a series featuring the same detective (and presumably following his development and life) instead of writing standalone crime thrillers?
I have always liked reading series. I like the familiarity with the main character and following his/her development throughout the novels. There’s a very well known piece of advice for writers out there which says – write about what you know. I expanded that to also include – write about what you like and what interests you.
What inspires the crime plots in your books? Are they based on cases you know, inspired by things in the news or an amalgamation of elements?
All of my plots are actually a combination of reality and fiction. The truth is that I am always looking for different ideas. Sometimes I will read something on a newspaper, or see something in a movie or on the streets, or hear something on the radio that will sparkle some new idea in my brain. I then usually add to it to come up with the entire plot.
Plotting and pacing is super important for a good thriller. How do you go about creating your narrative: do you know the how, why, and who of your crimes before you start writing or do you follow Hunter on his investigation and discover it as you go?
All of my stories are very organic. My main problem is that I never have a whole story in my head when I start writing. I usually only have the basic idea for the main plot, so as I am starting a new novel I have no “how’s why’s or who’s” really. Most of that develops as I write. Even Hunter, I did not have the entire character in my head when I finished The Crucifix Killer. I discovered more and more things about him as I progressed through the series.
Having such an extensive background in criminal psychology, how much research do you have to do for that element of your books?
My background does help me a lot, but I still have to do a huge amount of research, which isn’t a problem at all, as I love doing it.
What’s next for you? Any appearances planned?
I am just about to finish book 9 in the series, which will be titled The Gallery of the Dead, and it will be released in February 2018. Yesterday I filmed an episode for a Serial Killer documentary that will be aired by Sky TV in the UK (I don’t know when, but as soon as I find out I will post it on my FB page and on the NEWS page of my website). I will also be appearing at Bloody Scotland, the crime writers’ festival in Sterling, in September this year. After that I will take a few weeks break, before starting on book 10.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
Music. I’ve always been very passionate about music. My music goes with me everywhere I go.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
I really wish I could help you with this question, but I am one of those writers who simply can’t read while I’m writing a new novel. That means that I haven’t read a new book in eight months. I know it sounds mad, but I just can’t concentrate on another story while I’m trying to create one myself. I have been sent several novels that will be released very soon, but I just haven’t got around to reading them.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Oh yes, I do have a great system for shelving my books. It’s called “the terribly messy system”, where a book goes anywhere I can fit it. Yes, I am horrible at that type of organization.
Bio: Chris Carter, born in Brazil and of Italian origin, studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan State District Attorney’s Criminal Psychology team, he interviewed and studied many criminals, including serial and multiple homicide offenders with life imprisonment convictions.