USA Today and #1 Denver Post bestselling author Carter Wilson explores the depths of psychological tension and paranoia in his dark, domestic thrillers. Carter is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award and his novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly,Booklist, and Library Journal. He lives outside Boulder, Colorado. Visit him at www.carterwilson.com.
The following is an interview with Carter Wilson.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
I never outline, so I don’t sit down at my laptop with a specific plot in mind. When I began writing “The Dead Girl in 2A,” I had two broad goals in mind. One, I wanted to write about memory. My father passed away at the age of 69 from early-onset Alzheimer’s, and the topic of memory can be found threaded through most of my novels. But in this book I wanted to face memory head on: the beauty and brutality of it all. Lost memories, found memories, and, perhaps the most insidious, false memories.
The second goal was to feature the Colorado mountains as a key setting in the book. It was important to me that the final act of the book take place in a remote area of the Colorado Rockies. That kind of setting is perfect for a thriller: majestic, wondrous, and easy to be swallowed up within.
Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?
I mentioned I don’t outline. What I do instead is think only of an opening scene, not really knowing who the characters are or why they’re doing what they’re doing, and then spend the rest of the book trying to solve that puzzle.
Knowing I wanted to write about memory and the Colorado mountains, I crafted a scene whereby two strangers are seated next to each other on a plane from Boston to Denver, and they each have a visceral sense of knowing each other. They spend the flight engaged in a very strange conversation, only to have one of them reveal something haunting to the other just as they land. This is the true setup for the rest of the book, which is why I chose a portion of it as my excerpt.
Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?
The book is primarily set in Denver and the mountains, so I could draw on my own experiences in terms of locations (though I did take a trip to the Maroon Bells, which features prominently in the book).
Without giving too much away, I’ll say the most amount of research I did for this book revolved around secret government-facilitated psychological tests in the 1960’s, and, more specifically, the drug scopolamine. It’s a crazy-freaky drug that suited my story perfectly.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
I got about halfway through the book and didn’t have a clue where it was headed. I had a lot of intricate storylines and no idea how they would tie together. So I stopped writing, covered my office walls in Post-It easel-paper, and used a dozen different colored markers to write words, phrases, and seeds of unifying ideas. After about a month of this I finally figured out how all those storylines would come together. Unfortunately, it also meant rewriting much of the first half of the book.
Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?
I write mostly in the evenings, though occasionally in the mornings. I have a couple spots in my house that I favor, though you can find me at coffee shops and restaurants with my laptop as well. My daily goal is 500 words, which takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, but if I stick to it daily I can get a book done in nine months to a year (including rewrites, agent feedback, etc.), which is a good pace.
And I always, always, listen to thunderstorms when I write.
What’s your next project?
My next thriller will be released in early- to mid-2021 by Poisoned Pen Press (publisher of “Mister Tender’s Girl,” winner of the Colorado Book Award, and “The Dead Girl in 2A”). It tells the story of a 35-year-old widow returning to her childhood home in the town of Bury, New Hampshire, where she must confront the demons of her distant past while being investigated in connection with her husband’s death.
And I’m just on the cusp of finishing my next book, which is another thriller set in Bury, New Hampshire, featuring different characters but overlapping plot lines as my first Bury book.