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?


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!