The Conscious Interview of Carsten Stroud

I met Carsten Stroud at the 2013 Ottawa Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, where we shared a stage (along with Andrew Pyper) for a pre-Hal­loween event title Things That Go BumpHmm…bestselling thriller authors Andrew Pyper and Carsten Stroud, and me. One of these things is not like the oth­er…

I was very famil­iar with Pyper’s work (fan­tas­tic work, love­ly man), but I was unfa­mil­iar with Stroud except for a basic knowl­edge that his work was pri­mar­i­ly best­selling crime-cen­tric thrillers (Cuba Strait, Black Water Tran­sit). How­ev­er, I knew that I’d get to his books soon, espe­cial­ly after he said he loved the first sen­tence of Husk. Hey, praise is praise!

Stroud’s nov­els Niceville and The Home­com­ing were appar­ent­ly a move towards super­nat­ur­al sus­pense, and it is to my eter­nal shame that I only got around to read­ing them months lat­er. And hot holy damn are they good. As soon as I fin­ished the last page of Niceville I grabbed myself a copy of Home­com­ing, and now my pri­ma­ry rea­son for con­tin­ued exis­tence is that I must read the next one. If you’re anx­ious­ly await­ing the announced return of Twin Peaks (as I am), pick up Niceville to sat­is­fy your crav­ings, you will not be dis­ap­point­ed.

Carsten gra­cious­ly accept­ed my request for an inter­view, once again prov­ing that authors are the great­est peo­ple on Earth. Although he may have anger issues. You decide.

You’ve gained a rep­u­ta­tion for hard-hit­ting crime thrillers. While Niceville and The Home­com­ing cer­tain­ly fol­low this pat­tern, you’ve added a hefty dose of what some review­ers have labeled “South­ern Goth­ic Super­nat­ur­al.” Why the switch?

I was forced to. Lit­er­al­ly. I was work­ing on the fifth book of an espi­onage series fea­tur­ing a CIA fix­er named Mic­ah Dal­ton. I was writ­ing under the pen name of David Stone (there’s an even more com­pli­cat­ed sto­ry behind THAT)…the series had made the New York Times list and got­ten rave reviews and I was enjoy­ing the work tremen­dous­ly. And then, instead of send­ing me a check to begin my fifth book, Pen­guin can­celled the series and asked me what ELSE I would pre­fer to write about?

Blink. Blink. Crick­ets. Blink.

I blew up—way way up—and decid­ed to write some­thing COMPLETELY dif­fer­ent under my own name, dammit. So I did, and the result was The Niceville Tril­o­gy, which has done extreme­ly well all over the world but NOT for PENGUIN New York because I nev­er offered it to them. So why did I change?

ANGER! RAGE! and also VENGEANCE!

Were you at all wor­ried about push­ing your­self into this new ter­ri­to­ry? Did you fear you might lose read­ers expect­ing crime but unfa­mil­iar with the hor­ror genre?

No. At this point I was writ­ing strict­ly for me, and if peo­ple liked it, fine, but if it was going to be the last work I ever did, dammit I was going to please just one guy. Me.

Each nov­el in the series leaves ques­tions still unan­swered (Tune in next week!). What’s it like to leave a nov­el open-end­ed? Do you ever fear you won’t be able to wrap things up? Or is that part of your dia­bol­i­cal plan?

Actu­al­ly it isn’t the first time I’ve had mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters and plot lines going in a series of books. I was doing that pret­ty well as David Stone. [NOTE: My bad, I should have known this ahead of time. This is why I haven’t earned a cent as an inter­view­er]

What’s your process for keep­ing it all straight?

God’s hon­est truth? I just let it all unfold some­where between my head and the screen. A lot of it comes as a sur­prise to me, as in “Hey I thought you were sup­posed to die but you didn’t…WTF???”

Do you ever fear you won’t be able to wrap things up? Or is that part of your dia­bol­i­cal plan?

I had a rough idea where I was head­ed, but to be hon­est at the end of the first two I was think­ing “Holy Jesus Carsten what the hell did you do THAT for? How the hell are you EVER going to make sense out THAT? And bud­dy, you damn well bet­ter, or you’ll end up look­ing like those mooks and poo­dle-fak­ers who didn’t know how to end Lost”.

But I pulled it off! And in The Reck­on­ing, the end of the tril­o­gy, I brought it all home in what I think is my very best book ever. I paid off EVERY ques­tion worth answer­ing, and when I did, the truth behind it all shocked the hell out of me. I tru­ly did not see it com­ing until sud­den­ly there it was, just to the left of my blink­ing cursor…weird.

While I’m loathe to ask this, as the books stand firm on their own and should be judged as such, has there been any inter­est in a tele­vi­sion series? Niceville could be a great, ongo­ing Twin Peaks sort of deal, per­fect for Show­time or HBO. Also, if so, can I be in it?

Two pro­duc­ers are devel­op­ing it as a Long Form Dra­ma in Los Ange­les. They may even pull it off!

And you can not only be IN it, but I’ll drag you in as a writer. You would be a PERFECT fit for a Niceville series. Why? Because you’re a twist­ed whacko and I thor­ough­ly approve of twist­ed whacko writ­ers. [NOTE: SQUEEEE!]

Who are your influ­ences? Who do you read now? Who excites you (book-wise, I mean)? Any sug­ges­tions?

Good writ­ing, wher­ev­er I find it. John Sand­ford, Stephen King, Corey Redekop, Andrew Pyper, Hen­ry James, Hem­ing­way’s NON-fic­tion stuff…I real­ly LOVE to read good writ­ers. It’s called “The plea­sure of the page” and it isn’t easy to pull off.

What’s next for Carsten?

Think­ing of going back to see what Mic­ah Dal­ton is up to now.

Next up: The Subconscious Interview!