This Cozy Cat intern recently was able to sit down with our newest author C.F. Carter, and get to know him better. We talked about a number of things, such as how he writes, what the best thing about writing is, and when this journey of his started. It was such an enlightening and enjoyable conversation, that I just had to share it with all you Cozy Cat fans!
When did you realize you wanted to write?
I started writing fantasy back in the eighties in the days of modems and Bulletin Board Systems. In case anyone doesn’t know what a modem is, imagine dialing up a website using a phone number then inserting your telephone handset into a pair of rubber acoustic cups. And in case you younger readers don’t know what a telephone handset is, they’re those huge plastic speaker/microphone devices that hipsters are plugging into their smartphones to be ironic. Anyway, back on “the boards” is where I started writing.
Did you originally want to write cozy mysteries or did you try other types of writing as well?
They say you should write the types of books that you like to read; I only read cozies! Over the years, I dabbled in everything from short stories to greeting cards, but cozies are the most fun.
What is your writing process like?
I take a lot of time to plan. With cozies in particular, there is usually a business or hobby that you really need to research in depth. For Death Of A Dummy, I read countless books on Quebec and Canadian history, biographies of Madame Tussaud, and police procedure. Plus I had to research surfing culture, wax modelling techniques, and archaeology. I even consulted a student archaeologist to find out about Munsell soil charts and other archaeological concepts. So it was a long process. After the research, I outline all of the scenes in great detail and put them into Scrivener where I can work on them out of sequence. I usually write when the house is quiet from midnight to 3am, typing and chuckling in the dark and listening to melancholy music on Spotify.
How do you get over writer’s block?
I have never experienced serious writer’s block because I have a detailed plan for each scene. But it does take some time for me to lose myself in a scene and enjoy the process. I think the best way to get over writer’s block is to relax and just have fun. I start by promising myself that I won’t do any editing in the first draft of the scene I’m working on: not even typos. Basically, I give myself permission to write really terribly, and simply relate what’s happening in casual language as though I’m describing it to a friend over coffee. But here is where the magic happens. After a few minutes when things get flowing, I start to edit and rewrite sentences in spite of myself. Before you know it, I’m lost in another world and having a lot of fun!
What would you say is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing is?
The feeling of creating something is everything. If you’re writing novels to get rich, or even for readers, you’ll probably end up disappointed. With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, trying to find readers is extremely time consuming, even if you offer your books for free. If someone had asked me this question when I started writing Death Of A Dummy, I would have replied, “I want to entertain people.” But the truth is, I do this to entertain myself. When I’m writing a scene I can get so absorbed by the world I’ve created that I miss the characters between writing sessions, and I can’t wait to get back to them to see what they do next. It sounds corny, but it’s true!
What does it feel like to finish a novel?
A little anticlimactic. I don’t write each scene in order. In Death Of A Dummy, the last scene I wrote was one from the middle of the novel when Paul plays Petanque (a game similar to Bocce ball) in a park. And the line between an unfinished/finished novel is always blurry, anyway. There are so many rounds of editing after the first draft that it’s never really finished. Every time I read parts of my book I want to make changes, even today.
Do you have any plans/ideas for your next novel?
The next novel in the Wax Museum Mysteries series (A Model Murder) takes place during the Christmas season. Christmas is the greatest time of year in Old Quebec City. Charles Dickens himself was enchanted by his visit to the old city, and his famous novel A Christmas Carol plays a prominent part in my exceedingly farcical sequel. That’s all I want to give away right now...
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?
I would highly recommend having a plan. A lot of writers feel that novels are living, breathing things, and that their structure should organically reveal itself over time. But I believe that once you start writing it becomes difficult to rearrange the skeleton of your story without killing the patient—just ask any serial killer. My advice would be to start by describing your novel in one sentence. Then flesh it out and write a whole paragraph. Keep adding details until you have an outline several pages long. Then, break your book up into scenes (not chapters), and continue to add more details and maybe even interesting facts and bits of dialogue. Now you have a detailed, structurally sound scaffolding to hang your story, and you can write the scenes in any order you like.
Thanks so much for allowing me to talk with you Carter! I can only hope that others enjoyed learning about you, your writing, and your novel, as much as I did, and we all can’t wait until your next mystery is out! We wait anxiously.
Carter will have an appearance in Quebec on March 16 to discuss his book. Come back Friday when we release exclusive excerpts from Death of a Dummy to find out where!