Following on from The Crucifix Killer and The Executioner, Chris Carter scared the hell out of me once again with the fiendish kills in The Night Stalker.
He kindly dropped by to answer a few questions about his books and made this interviewee feel very ashamed that I hadn’t researched enough to know where he lived…..just hope that no one he knows knows where I live (gulp!)
KBW: Where did the idea behind the devices and the built up tables come from? That is truly the stuff of nightmares.
CC: The truth is, the idea behind the killing devices in The Night Stalker didn’t come from anywhere in particular, but my head (I know, scary, isn’t it?). I knew I wanted the killer to use a different device for each victim, so I kept throwing ideas around in my head until I had a small selection. I picked the ones I thought were more effective. I also needed a way to self activate the devices, but in the context of the book, a timer wouldn’t work. Again, I just kept throwing ideas around until I came up with something I thought was good enough.
I got to meet you at Harrogate last year when you did a panel there at the time of The Executioner launch and was quite impressed to find a ‘Crucifix Killer’ temporary tattoo in the festival goodie bag – do you know if anyone has had a permanent Chris Carter book-jacket inspired tattoo, or have you gained any odd ‘special’ fans in an Annie Wilkes/Misery style?
Yes – me. Seriously, I have the double crucifix from the book’s jacket tattooed on my right arm. Funny that after being in rock bands for so many years, that is actually my first ever tattoo.
And yes, I have received (and still do) a few emails, together with pictures, from some more enthusiastic fans. Some emails are very flattering, but a little odd, and maybe even scary. But they love the books, and that’s always good.
Was there a Robert Hunter or someone with similar characteristics that you came across in your time as a criminal psychologist?
I never met a detective who had a criminal psychology degree. A lot of homicide teams work together with a criminal psychologist to try and get a better idea of the type of person they might be looking for, but the two of them as one isn’t very common. I’m sure that the FBI has a few agents with a psychology background. I never met them, though.
With your background, are you able to read much crime fiction or do you find your experience leads you to pick holes in the facts of other peoples fiction in terms of the behaviour of their murderers or serial killers?
I try to read as much as I can, I love reading, and I love crime fiction. I’d say that as authors, we all have holes in our stories. I know I have several in all of mine, but there’s a good reason for it. If we try to recreate a real life investigation step by step, it would be the most boring book on earth. Things happen a lot slower in real life than what we portray in crime fiction books. The first few weeks of an investigation move at a snail’s pace, with loads of paperwork. There are usually several separate teams working a single case, and everyone is waiting on someone else. The police need results from forensics and the coroner, which in turn might have to wait for the lab. Those results might take weeks, not the few hours or a day or two like in most books and films. No one in forensics or CSI will ever solve a crime, nor will a coroner, a medical examiner, or a profiler. It isn’t what they do. But I believe crime fiction is about entertainment. And that is what we as authors are trying to do, entertain, not give people a class in profiling, police or forensics procedures. I admit, if there’s something completely out-of-this-world ridiculous that will make the story sound too unbelievable, than it is off-putting, but other than that, I love my crime fiction.
Were you ever under any pressure to change your name (bearing in mind the X-Files/Millennium creator) and has having the same name caused any issues (good or bad)? As a big fan of Millennium I did find it interesting that both the Chris Carter’s write such great serial killer tales
No, I was never under any pressure to change my name. I discussed it with my agent, Darley Anderson, and he wasn’t worried at all.
I have had a few emails from people asking me if I was the same Chris Carter who had written X-Files, but that was all. So far, no real issues about sharing the name.
PS: Thank you so much for the compliment.
Is there a serial killer book or movie that you think got the whole thing just about right? Or one that’s out there that you wished you had written?
Through my experience and some of the things I’ve seen, I’d say all serial killer books have got it right in some sort of way. There is no rule, or pattern, and there certainly seems to be no limit to the savagery a broken (and sometimes not so broken) human mind can produce. I’ve interviewed people who have committed grotesque murders for the most mundane of reasons. People who have lost their temper and gone on a killing rampage because of something most of us wouldn’t bat an eyelid. No matter how crazy you make the killer in your novel seem, there will probably be someone in real life who is crazier. Believe me when I say that when it comes to violence, real life can defy human belief a lot more than any fictional book you could read.
As for ‘are there any books out there I wish I could’ve written?’ No. There are too many great books out there, but they are great because that was that author’s vision and words, and nobody else’s. If I (or anyone else for that matter) had written them, the vision would’ve been different, the words would’ve been different, and the story wouldn’t have been delivered the same way. It wouldn’t have been the same book.
I assume the guitar’s not hung up for good? Do you still play with a band regularly?
I still play, but at home, not in a band anymore. Being a full time author is a lot harder than most would think (at least for me). I would struggle to find time for rehearsals and gigs and all. Not fair on the other band members.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Easy – don’t give up.
And the worst?
To be very truthful, I didn’t tell many people when I decided to write my first novel. The few I did, never gave me any advise because they didn’t know anything about writing. So I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a bad piece of advice. But there’s still time, I’m still new to this.
What scares you? And is there anything you couldn’t bring yourself to write?
Big insects and spiders freak the hell out of me.
Because of what I have seen in real life, it would be very hard and emotionally draining for me to write a story in which its main plot was based on certain types of crimes. Mainly crimes against young children, and excessively violent rape against anyone.
Any plans for any UK visits in the near future? (this is my ‘D’oh!’ question…)
Well, I live in London, so I’d have to say – yes.
And, finally, what can we look forward to next from A) Chris Carter and B) Robert Hunter?
I love what I do. I love every aspect of being a writer, and I am extremely fortunate that my novels and Robert Hunter have been so well accepted in the UK and internationally. As long as readers are still enjoying my novels and Robert Hunter’s adventures, then I guess I will keep writing them. Nothing would give me more pleasure.
A huge thanks to Chris for stopping by, and you can seek out his first three Robert Hunter novels now – all published by Simon and Schuster.