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Interview with Carter Wilson

Our guest today is Carter Wilson

Carter Wilson is an award-winning, bestselling author of incredibly creepy, psychologically twisted thrillers. His most recent novel The Dead Girl in 2A won the Colorado Book Award and he’ll be presenting at our upcoming Colorado Writers Collaborative conference in September. I personally devoured Mister Tender’s Girl, but The Comfort of Black is still my favorite of his books. He was on faculty at the NCW conference a few years ago, and I’m so glad he joined us as this month’s featured author. 

Amy Rivers – NCW Director

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Depends on the moment, as I expect most authors would say. Writing is a passion, but it’s also a job, which means it’s work, and work isn’t always fun. Some days writing feels like data entry, other days it’s sublime. The fact that my work often feels sublime is something I try not to take for granted. 

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Striving for perfection. Your work will never be perfect, but you won’t even finish your manuscript if you let the imperfections gnaw at you. Writing is exercise and you have to build muscle. Just finish your manuscript and let it suck, and then go back and edit.

The other trap I see aspiring writers is a complete fear of letting anyone see their work. You have to get over that. You have to welcome criticism and rejection. Wallow in it, even.  

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I have a pretty big ego in most parts of my life, but not in writing. I came into writing with no experience, so I had zero self-confidence. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but having humility in your writing certainly helps with being able to take advice and direction from agents and editors, who are right more often than not. And having a small writing ego certainly helped with all those initial rejections. I would often say to myself, “Of course you should reject me – I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing!”

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Vodka and tequila are more effective than wine or beer.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I don’t think it did. Perhaps over time I’ve become more attuned to the market of readers who follow me, but I still largely write for myself and hope later there’s an audience. By the way, I’m not saying that’s a smart thing, but it’s my thing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I always spend a decent sum of money on a PR/marketing team with every release in order to complement the publisher’s efforts. It’s impossible to determine an ROI and this money, but I’m convinced it has helped me reach a broader audience over time.

What does literary success look like to you?

Success is a moving target. Everything I do is defined by goals, and my first writing goal 18 years ago was to get an agent. I figured if I could land an agent, that meant my writing was at least good enough for someone to take a chance on me. Once I got an agent, my goal was to have one book published. When that happened, my next goal was to get “bigger.” Over time I’ve published six novels, hit the USA Today bestsellers list, have won several awards, and I still struggle to call myself a successful writer. I don’t know. I think having a more sustainable income solely from writing would help. But it’s no secret that writing is a horrible career choice for those whom consider food and shelter important lifestyle choices.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A novel that reveals the powerful impact of prose cadence on a story. Goddamn, that guy can write.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Not knowing what comes next. I don’t outline, so sometimes I simply don’t know what comes next in my story. And then when it finally occurs to me, I have to question myself whether it’s what should be coming next, or if it’s just something to write. It gets very easy to second-guess myself.

What is your most unusual writing quirk?

I always listen to thunderstorms every time I write. I have a whole playlist of them on Spotify.

How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?

I’m much more interesting to people at parties than I used to be. Folks seem to perk up when you tell them you write messed up, psychological thrillers.

Give a shout-out to a fellow author.

Barbara Nickless, author of the award-winning Sydney Rose Parnell series. She’s a terrific writer and a lovely human being.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?  

So here’s the thing, most writers do have another job. I know very few individuals who are the sole source of income for their family and do it all through writing. I actually have a full-time career as a senior executive for a hotel consulting company. I love it.  Travel, data, public speaking…it’s all great. And I carve out time every night to write. I’ve juggled two careers (plus a family) for 18 years and found it’s not that hard to do if you can keep yourself organized. Oh, also, vodka and tequila.

About Carter

USA Today and #1 Denver Post bestselling author Carter Wilson has written six critically acclaimed, standalone psychological thrillers, as well as numerous short stories. He is an ITW Thriller Award finalist, a four-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and his novels have received multiple starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. His latest novel, The Dead Girl in 2A, was released in July 2019 from Poisoned Pen Press. Carter lives in Erie, Colorado in a Victorian house that is spooky but isn’t haunted…yet.


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