Pete Carlson lives in Denver and has written three novels: “Ukrainian Nights,” “Tearza” and “Deep Waters of Destiny” published by Calumet Editions. Pete and Marsha enjoy their family and four grandchildren, cooking, golf, and travel. 

SunLit: Tell us this book’s backstory. What inspired you to write it? Where did the story/theme originate?

Pete Carlson: The core inner stories of my novels are always about the relationship between two people. I have friends who were adopted and others who grew up without the benefit of a loving family. I wanted to explore how that affects their lives. 

The outer story came from research that I conducted for my first novel, “Ukrainian Nights.” After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian mafia and KGB filled the power vacuum left after the government collapsed. I discovered that in the late’90s they collaborated with the Italian, Columbian, and Venezuela mafias to create the largest cartel in the world.

SunLit: Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole? Why did you select it?

Carlson: This introduces Palmer, the young DEA agent inserted on “Destiny” to stop the first shipment. It provides some backstory to her life as a deep undercover agent.


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

SunLit: Tell us about creating this book. What influences and/or experiences informed the project before you sat down to write? 

Carlson: I crewed on a sailboat in the Caribbean for six months as a young adult and always wanted to write a story about life at sea and the people who have chosen to live off the grid. The story about the yacht’s captain, Gunner, finding his biological family and finally finding out his background is based on a true story. 

I don’t outline my stories. I have learned that to write well, you must become a good listener. Let the voice inside you lead where the story should go. Try not to steer the story. I look at my role more as an observer and a transcriber rather than the author. I never know where the story will take me. I get up early in the morning, turn on my computer and wait… If I’m patient enough, the voice will come. Then I write as fast as I can, so I don’t lose it. 

SunLit: Are there lessons you take away from each experience of writing a book? And if so, what did the process of writing this book add to your knowledge and understanding of your craft and/or the subject matter?

Carlson: Writing is a journey that teaches me about myself and new knowledge of people and places around the world.

SunLit: What were the biggest challenges you faced in writing this book?

Carlson: The first word — like all creative efforts, it takes courage to write the first word, to play the first note of a new song, the first brush of color on a blank canvas. Being patient. Writing as true to the story as possible. Getting rid of my ego — it’s about the voice, not about me.

SunLit: If you could pick just one thing — a theme, lesson, emotion or realization — that readers would take from this book, what would that be?

Carlson: We all have the same universal desire to love and be loved. To be acknowledged. 

Quick hits: A quirky collection of questions

“Deep Waters of Destiny”

>> Read an excerpt

Where to find it:

SunLit present new excerpts from some of the best Colorado authors that not only spin engaging narratives but also illuminate who we are as a community. Read more.

SunLit: Do you look forward to the actual work of writing or is it a chore that you dread but must do to achieve good things?

Carlson: Writing is the most difficult and rewarding endeavor that I’ve ever experienced.

SunLit: What’s the first piece of writing – at any age – that you remember being proud of?

Carlson: A poem written when I was in high school.

SunLit: What three writers, from any era, can you imagine having over for a great discussion about literature and writing? And why?

Carlson: Hemingway, EB White, Pablo Neruda. They write from the heart.

SunLit: Do you have a favorite quote about writing?

Carlson: “A second chance! That’s the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Henry James

SunLit: What does the current collection of books on your home shelves tell visitors about you?

Carlson: Eclectic, romantic, and curious.  

SunLit: Soundtrack or silence? What’s the audio background that helps you write?

Carlson: Varies.

SunLit: What event, and at what age, convinced you that you wanted to be a writer?

Carlson: Started writing as a teenager without any intent of writing for anyone but myself. I don’t think I qualify as a “writer.” I’m such a novice and still have so much to learn.

SunLit: As an author, what do you most fear?

Carlson: Not getting the story correct. Letting the Voice down that has given me the gift to write their story. I feel like a golfer. I swing and swing and occasionally I hit the sweet spot and wonder why it’s so hard to repeat that feeling. 

I have the same feeling when I write. I write and write and most of it is junk, but once in a while, I write a word or a sentence or a paragraph and I know it’s true. That is the magic of writing. 

SunLit: Also as an author, what brings you the greatest satisfaction?

Carlson: The gift and privilege that we can create something from nothing. Something that has never been there before in the world.