So. This is a bit of a change for me as I normally shy away from anything too technical. However, if you are offered the opportunity to pester, I mean ask very important and highly intelligent questions of an author like Chris Carter, you can’t really turn it down now can you? His latest book, The Caller, the eighth in the highly successful and downright fabulous Robert Hunter series is released today in paperback.
Now when I say highly intelligent questions, that may have been the intention when I agreed to this, but I am hopeless at that kind of thing. However, Mr Carter kindly found the time to indulge me and answer my considerably less intelligent questions, including divulging his opinions on the British institution that is the Jaffa Cake. Prepare yourselves folks – his thoughts are somewhat controversial …
Firstly Chris, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Much appreciated.
Firstly, can you tell us all a little bit about yourself. Anything you want to share that’s not on the official bio? Is there anything about you that surprises people?
There’s nothing really special about me. I’m just a guy who one day decided to write crime fiction novels and got lucky. Not really much else to share. My life is an open book. Well, there’s one thing that’s not in my bio – the first twelve crime scenes I attended as a criminal psychologist, I puked my guts out outside.
People say that I am funny as a person. I guess that surprises many people who know me only as a writer of quite gory crime fiction novels. Most people expect me to be quite serious and all. Big disappointment there.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Dancing. I love to go clubbing, once there I hit the dance floor and I’m off. I’ll dance like an idiot all night.
Can you tell us the best compliment you’ve ever had for your work?
A reviewer once wrote that I was the most talented crime thriller writer of my generation. I think that that was without a doubt the most flattering compliment I have ever received.
And the funniest criticism?
From the top of my head I think it was – I could write a better book tied up and locked inside a coffin with no light.
I’ve seen in prior interviews that being a writer was not something you’d even planned upon but something that came from an idea for a book and developed from there. Did that book ever see the light of day or is it hidden away in ‘the drawer that must not be opened’?
No, I never actually wrote that book. Though I did tell my editor what the story was about a while ago and she too said that the story sounded good and that I should one day write it. So no, the story isn’t locked away. It’s still in my head. Maybe one day it will become a book.
From your bio you seem to have had a really interesting variety of jobs – from Criminal Psychologist through to Glam Rock Musician! Clearly the Criminal Psychology has helped inform your writing, your protagonist Robert Hunter having that very same skill set, but have you ever found a way to utilise your knowledge of Glam Rock while plotting?
Not as such, but I do tend to mention at least one rock band in every novel. It’s my little contribution to the rock world, I guess.
It’s probably fair to say that your work touches on the darker side of the crime genre. I love this by the way and also the fact you are not afraid to step away from the usual and expected when writing your antagonists. Without giving anything away I think that ‘The Crucifix Killer’ was a brilliant example of this and a daring move for a first book. Was this a conscious decision or something that naturally evolved in your writing from your own experience in psychology?
No, it was not a conscious decision at all. When I wrote The Crucifix Killer, all I wanted to do was write a good story, something that I would enjoy reading. That was it. I had no experience. I had never taken a creative writing class, or any kind of writing class for that matter. I had never even written a short story before. I literally just went with what my head was telling me and that’s why I was so surprised with all the reviews for my first novel. All that – thinking outside the box and moving a few goal posts happened by accident.
Looking as an outsider, it seems as though Police procedure and process is constantly evolving and changing. How do you approach research for your novels to keep them feeling authentic?
I guess I’m a little like Hunter. I read a lot. There are certain websites that deal with those exact themes, always uploading real cases and how the police and the detectives went about solving the cases. I learn a lot from those articles.
Where do you get the inspiration for some of your plot lines from? Is any of it real life or all fiction?
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.
The Caller is the eighth Robert Hunter novel and I love the dynamic you have created between the two lead Detectives. For the uninitiated i.e. those who perhaps haven’t had the pleasure of reading your work before, without spoilers can you tell us a little bit about your central protagonists, Robert Hunter and Carlos Garcia? What have people been missing?
It’s quite hard for me to try to talk about Hunter and Garcia without writing overwriting, so I will keep this very simple. I guess that what has won readers over about my two protagonists – Robert Hunter and Carlos Garcia – is the fact that I have tried my best to keep them as real as possible. Yes, Hunter has a high IQ and a very analytical mind, which of course helps him in all the investigations, but he’s not self-absorbed or egocentric. In fact, I write him as one of the most common people one could meet, with the sot of common problems we all face. His relationship with Garcia tends to be a little funny, simply because Hunter is not a “joke” person and Garcia is.
Anyway, if you haven’t read any of the books in the series, grab one. You might just like it 🙂
And what can readers expect from the latest book, 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.
Looking back now to where it all started, is there anything you would change about your central characters or any of your stories, or that you wish you’d done differently?
I don’t know if I would change anything about my central character, but I just can’t read any of my published books. I am way too critical of myself. I can always finds chapters and passages that I think I could’ve done better, and I will find loads of them in every book. For that reason I can’t read any of my published books.
Of all your antagonists, is there one you have liked above all others and if so why?
I guess I will have to say Lucien Folter in An Evil Mind. The reason why is because he was such fun to write. Writing evil is quite fun, I guess.
Do you already have an end game in sight for Detective Hunter or are you letting the series run to see where it takes you?
No, no end in sight. As my agent says – as long as readers want to read Robert Hunter stories, I guess I will carry on writing them.
You are clearly a music lover. Then again – Glam Rock …? Do you listen to music while you work? If so does it tend to reflect what you are writing or your own musical personality?
I am crazy about music. I could listen to music while I write, but I tend not to, simply because I might stop writing and start jumping around the room.
The music I listen to always reflects the mood I am in at that moment.
What would be the soundtrack for your character’s personalities? Robert Hunter? Carlos Garcia?
Good question. I guess that Garcia would be Glam Rock, as he is more of a lively character. Hunter probably alternative and experimental metal, like Tool or A Perfect Circle. Maybe a little bit of Nine Inch Nails and Marylyn Manson in there as well
Do you ever find that you inject a little of yourself into your characters?
Oh, that’s for certain. There’s a little bit of myself in Hunter and in Garcia.
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’ when writing? Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions you can share with us?
I’m definitely not a plotter. 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.
The only superstition I have is that on the day a new novel comes out, I will always go to a bookshop and I buy a copy. That’s my good luck charm for a new release, I guess.
An all important none book related question now. You lived in London for a while so I have to ask – were you here long enough to form an opinion on whether a Jaffa Cake is actually a biscuit or a cake?
It’s definitely a thing that does not work. Who ever thought of mixing chocolate and orange? They just do not go together. Now, a peanut butter and jelly biscuit, that would be something awesome.
And finally, as a very successful writer, do you have any advice for fledgling authors out there that you can share with us today?
I guess the best advice I can give is – Trust your gut. Forget about rules, or creative writing classes, or anything. Just tell the story in the way that YOU think it should be told – remember, it’s your story. Create your characters the way YOU think they should be. Make them act in the way you think they should act. Tell your story in the same way that you would like a story to be told to you. Seriously, TRUST YOUR GUT. When you finish it, read it back. If YOU think the story excites you, then chances are, it will excite others as well. That’s exactly what I did. I had no experience. I had never even written a short story before. I never took a single creative writing class. I simply sat down one day and started writing The Crucifix Killer.
About The Caller
After a tough week, Tanya Kaitlin is looking forward to a relaxing night in, but as she steps out of her shower, she hears her phone ring. The video call request comes from her best friend, Karen Ward. Tanya takes the call and the nightmare begins.
Karen is gagged and bound to a chair in her own living room. If Tanya disconnects from the call, if she looks away from the camera, he will come after her next, the deep, raspy, demonic voice at the other end of the line promises her.
As Detectives Robert Hunter and Carlos Garcia investigate the threats, they are thrown into a rollercoaster of evil, chasing a predator who scouts the streets and social media networks for victims, taunting them with secret messages and feeding on their fear.
Thank you so much Chris for taking the time out to answer my questions, even if you do have a strange taste in biscuits. Happy paperback publication day to you. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into The Caller. You can order a copy of the book for yourselves at the following links:
About Chris Carter
I was born in Brasilia, Brazil where I spent my childhood and teenage years. After graduating from high school, I moved to the USA where I studied psychology with specialization in criminal behaviour. During my University years I held a variety of odd jobs, ranging from flipping burgers to being part of an all male exotic dancing group.
I worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where I swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well known glam rock bands, I decided to try my luck in London, where I was fortunate enough to have played for a number of famous artists. I toured the world several times as a professional musician.
A few years ago I gave it all up to become a full time writer.
You can follow Chris on his website chriscarterbooks.com