Both novels are set in Montana’s Glacier National Park and both come with a healthy dose of the great outdoors.
If you like fresh air and complicated interior lives with your suspense, Carbo’s books might be just the ticket.
My review is posted on the New York Journal of Books here.
Mystery Scene magazine has already chimed with an upbeat review that recognized Carbo’s ability to craft well-drawn characters. “I found this book more and more engaging as it moved along a dark and dangerous path to a surprise conclusion,” the reviewer wrote.
Denver-area pals, take note–Christine will be at the Tattered Cover on July 28. Her full tour schedule is here.
In the meantime, Christine was kind enough to drop by the blog, a place she has visited before.
Question: I asked you last time for what sparked The Wild Inside, so I have to ask again—what was the ignition point for writing Mortal Fall?
Christine Carbo: I’d like to say it was something very interesting and dramatic, but it was quite the opposite. Basically, because the fascinating grizzly played such a major role in The Wild Inside, my editor at Atria who was interested in the manuscript asked me, “which animal in Glacier will you feature in the second?” I hadn’t really considered having another animal but it kind of made sense. I had to think quickly on my feet, and the first thing that popped into my mind was the embattled wolverine population in Glacier Park, so I said, “Oh, the wolverine.” She loved the idea, and I was able to let many plot lines grow organically from the endangered wolverine and the researchers who actually tracked them in a study that took place in the park. My third novel doesn’t feature an animal, but deals with some forest fires that ravage the park as they did last summer in 2016.
Question: Did you know when you were writing The Wild Inside that you might feature Monty Harris in the next story?
Christine Carbo: Yes, I knew that I’d feature him. I really enjoyed him in The Wild Inside and planted a few small questions about his situation that might linger for those that read the book. I hope readers enjoy seeing through his eyes in contrast to Ted’s. They are very different characters.
Question: This is the second you’ve written in the male perspective in first person narrative. Was it difficult to write across gender for another male other than the one you spent so much time with in The Wild Inside? And, while we’re on the topic, are you planning to feature a female protagonist in the future?
Christine Carbo: Because Ted and Monty are very different people, I didn’t have any trouble switching to Monty’s perspective. When writing from the male or female perspective, I don’t typically think that they need a voice that corresponds to their gender. I tend to think of my characters as people with flaws and some specific challenges, so their voice stems from those predicaments, not necessarily from their gender. That’s not to say I’m not willing to deal with gender issues if they crop up. I just want them to crop up organically from the character, not because I’m thinking: “now I’m writing a male, so how would a male act or feel?” Rarely do I consider that question. The question for me is more like, “now I’m writing a human being with these specific challenges, so how would this person act or feel?”
In my third novel, I am telling the story by switching between two first person perspectives: one from a female’s and the other still from Monty. It will be a challenge to keep their voices distinct, but again, I am not thinking in terms of gender. I am developing them in terms of who they are as humans and how they tackle their own issues as related to the case at hand.
Question: Okay, tell us the secret to putting so many interesting characters on the page. Nobody’s perfect, would you agree?
Christine Carbo: I think you just nailed the secret yourself. Nobody’s perfect, and I find characters more interesting when I explore what it is that makes them happy, scared, bothered, and angry, and what basically pushes them to the edge. In The Wild Inside, the park itself is the antagonist that pushes Ted to his edge. In Mortal Fall, it turns out to be his brother, circumstances from his childhood, and his failing marriage that haunt him.
Question: I mean this in the best way, but Mortal Fall takes its time. It’s not, well, breathless or over-excited. What’s your approach to pacing your stories? As with Ted Systead in The Wild Inside, it seems to me that the interior journey is at least as important to you as everything else. Thoughts?
Christine Carbo: I suppose it’s very subjective. I’m sure some readers will not like that “it takes its time,” and prefer the breathless approach and some will cherish it the way it is, but thank you for the appreciation of the pace. I do like the interior journey very much in detective stories and I know that Michael Connelly says that the best crime novels “are not about how a detective works on a case; they are how a case works on a detective.” I love the statement because I find that the mysteries I have enjoyed the most are the ones where the case and all it includes – the people, the community and the place in which the crime occurs – impact the detective in intriguing ways. The story sometime gains much more depth when the detective is affected as well. And sometimes, you just need to take your time when you’re exploring those depths.
Question: Without giving away some of the issues at the heart of Mortal Fall, did you know going into the story that you’d pull in some non-wilderness, non-wildlife issues?
Christine Carbo: Yes, I did know. As I mentioned above, the wolverine was an afterthought when the editor asked me about more animals. I had already been gnawing at the idea of a fictional wilderness school for troubled teens close to the park. We have many in Montana, as I’m sure you do in Colorado. Utah is especially well known for wilderness schools where parents send their troubled teens. It’s a romantic notion about the west, I suppose, that perhaps stems from manifest destiny. “Go west, young man,” as if psychological issues can be cured by the fresh air, the ruggedness of the wild and a nice mountain view the way we thought agriculture and mining could solve many of the nation’s problems of poverty and unemployment characteristic of the big cities in the east in the nineteenth century. Many of these wilderness therapy schools are unregulated though, and some have been far from therapeutic. I thought it made for an intriguing story.
Question: Are you going to be writing about Glacier National Park for the foreseeable future? What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of writing about a place with so few full-time residents? And what was the response in places like Whitefish and West Glacier to The Wild Inside?
Christine Carbo: You definitely don’t want to be tripping over dead bodies, but I try to include the entire Flathead Valley, the canyon leading to Glacier and other surrounding areas so that it’s not just the tiny town of West Glacier. We actually do have crime in these parts, like much of rural America. The small towns outside the park are no different, which makes the park’s setting and its surroundings ripe for crime fiction. Just driving to Glacier includes going through economically depressed areas such as Hungry Horse or Coram, or the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We have large income disparities with trendy ski towns not far from timber or mining communities, and neighborhoods full of huge second homes – built by people who only come for two weeks out of the year – just down the road from trailer parks. When there is this kind of disparity, crime emerges: robbery, the production and selling of meth and other drugs, human trafficking, poaching, etc. It’s difficult to imagine when viewing our breath-taking, bucolic scenery, but it does exist. No one locally argues the fact. Some readers have asked me why I choose to portray such a side of our towns, and I simply, say, “well, I am writing crime fiction.” Northwest Montana can be a joyous, happy place where people from all over the world come to visit, but it can also be an unforgiving, rugged place where many of its surrounding communities struggle for survival.
Question: What do you know going into your second book launch and tour that you didn’t know about your debut? You have quite the schedule coming up—coast to coast and then New Orleans for Bouchercon. Do you enjoy the promotion aspect of the business?
Christine Carbo: Of course, like many authors, I’ve learned to grow a thick skin. Putting your writing and yourself out there makes you vulnerable, and practice makes it a little easier each time. But, for the most part, readers are very gracious and supportive, and I have met so many incredible people through the publishing process. I never lose my appreciation when readers take the time to not only buy and read my work, but to write me or visit me at an event.
The tours are great fun, and I love visiting bookstores and going to conferences where I meet fans, other authors and catch up with friends I’ve made in the business. Sometimes, promoting is difficult, and I can’t say I’m all that great at it, especially social media. At times, I forget to go on Twitter or Facebook for days, but I do try and fit it in as much as it makes sense for me and fits my schedule. But, hey, I invite you to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter if you get the chance! I’m getting better and better at it!
Christine Carbo’s website.