Alan Carter was born in 1959 in Sunderland, UK and immigrated to Australia in 1991. He holds a degree in Communications Studies from Sunderland Polytechnic and now works as a television documentary director. His first novel Prime Cut won a Ned Kelly Award in 2011. Subsequently he has written Getting Warmer and Cato Kwong series and Bad Seed. This year Prime Cut was translated into Spanish by Maria Rosa Garcia Solé with the title of Corte perfecto (Editorial Yulca).
Revista Mito: Good morning Alan. Thank you for accepting this interview for Mito | Revista Cultural.
Alan Carter: It is my pleasure!
Revista Mito: When you were a little boy, what did you think you would be when you grew up?
Alan Carter: Either a secret agent, or a shipyard welder like my father.
Revista Mito: When did you begin to think of yourself as a writer?
Alan Carter: About two minutes after my wife said to me in 2008 Alan how about you give up your TV job for a year and do the housework and care for the kids and I will take care of the house expenses. If you have any spare time maybe you can write a book or something.
Revista Mito: Did the title of your books change between selling your manuscript, submission and publication?
Alan Carter: Yes, initially Prime Cut was called Chinese Whispers but the publishers did not think it sounded criminal or bloody enough. In addition, book 2, Getting Warmer, was first called Finders Keepers until we found out a bigger crime writer than me already had that title.
Alan Carter: I like those days when I surprise myself. I wake up one day planning to take the story along a particular path and then I find myself somewhere I never expected.
Revista Mito: What is the most challenging part of writing for you?
Alan Carter: “Killing my darlings” – taking out those scenes or lines, which I have become very fond of but my editor thinks should go.
Revista Mito: How do you write? Do you plot in advance or do you just write and see where the story takes you?
Alan Carter: With book one I believed that I needed to plot in advance (like a proper writer) so I had a whiteboard and pens and I wrote names, circled them, linked them with lines (like the murder board in a real investigation) then promptly forgot all about it and went where the muse took me. I still did not know 60% of the way through who had committed the murder or why. Since then with deadlines, I plot a little more in advance.
Revista Mito: So tell us about Cato Kwong . Where did the character appear from?
Alan Carter: He is inspired by someone I met while working on a TV documentary about the police, a real-life Chinese-Australian cop whose colleagues called him ‘Cato’. I got to thinking what did he feel about that nickname which immediately marked him as an outsider (like all good heroes should be).
Revista Mito: Is Cato your alter ego?
Alan Carter: He is my good angel. I like his firm sense of right and wrong, his stubbornness, his tenacity. Also, like me, he is too mean to buy his own newspaper for the cryptic crosswords so he steals them from other people. But I don’t play the piano. His boss, DI Hutchens, is my bad angel; he says all the terrible things I would love to be able to say.
Alan Carter: I was living in Hopetoun, a mining boomtown on the south coast of Western Australia when my wife made me the offer I could not refuse – to take up writing. Therefore, I am a great fan of crime fiction and the mining boom and the Spectacular Hopetoun location offered a great starting point for my story. There was plenty of evidence on google for exploitation of migrant workers, and the “cold case” story was also inspired by a real-life happening.
Revista Mito: What do you hope readers will take away from Getting Warmer?
Alan Carter: Getting Warmer is the follow up to Prime Cut and brings Cato back to the big city (I couldn’t keep killing people in Hopetoun – the population was not big enough). It is an extension of the themes raised in Prime Cut – an affluent society ravaged by rage and spiritless amorality. A missing girl, warring gangs, summer bushfires. Beneath the blue skies of paradise there is, for some, a dark hell.
Alan Carter: Bad Seed fulfils a promise I made to myself in first creating the Cato character to do a story exploring his sense of Chinese identity. He is caught up in a personal murder case of an old friend tied into murky real estate dealings and the trail takes him to Shanghai.
Revista Mito: What are you working on next?
Alan Carter: I have just completed the first draft on a new non-Cato novel set in New Zealand – new characters, new setting, but also crime.
Revista Mito: Well, the interview has come to an end. It was a pleasure to know more about you and your texts. Thank you very much.
Alan Carter: Again, my pleasure.
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