Posts Tagged: J. Carson Black

Laura Cardinal is a criminal investigator with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Her job- to investigate and bring justice to murder victims and their killers in small towns with limited resources. J. Carson Black reveals answers on the plot and character development of the Laura Cardinal Series.

Q: Where did your inspiration for Laura’s character come from?

A: I have always been intrigued by people whose lives change, usually through tragedy. I’m fascinated by those whose lives become bigger than they were before. John Walsh is a perfect example of this. His son is murdered, and his whole life changes. He has been responsible for the capture of hundreds of criminals, and in the process, become larger than himself. I grew up with a friend whose life was altered by tragedy. Like Laura, she was middle-class, went to college, and she was artistic. But after the tragedy (a result of gun violence) she became something else: a black-belt, multiple-Rottweiler-owning, gun-toting cop. Perhaps this person always resided inside her, but the transformation was incredible and complete. She has become an urban legend among the cops at TPD; some of them think she uses her hallway for a shooting range. I’ve been in her hallway, and there’s no way.

Q: Why did you decide to go the route of a series as opposed to stand-alone type novels?

A: I think of a series as building equity. With every book you write, whoever comes late to the party realizes you have a book before that and a book before that, and they buy those, too, which is good for your backlist. So many stand-alone books are just plain lost. Now, with amazon, if someone really wants to buy your first three or four books in a series, they usually can. But the main thing for me is continuity. I want someone I can depend on and grow with.

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Q: Where do you get your plot ideas?

A: From everywhere and anywhere. I’ll be honest and tell you I had a leg up on the first book in the series. Cops, again. Two of them approached me and asked if I had a premise for the first book in my series. They were seriously worried about internet predation on children and wanted to get the message out to parents. They thought fiction was a good way to do it. They even had a scenario which impressed the heck out of me. (These guys could have been screenwriters!) The premise was open-ended and could lead anywhere: what would happen if cops in a small town took things in their own hands and lured a sexual predator to their town—and it all went bad? And so I wrote DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN. The second book, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, started with one idea (the dark side of love) but I realized that it needed another component. I read something on the truckloads of nuclear waste traversing our highways, going through the heart of two major cities: Flagstaff and Albuquerque. I wondered what would happen if someone got control of one of those trucks.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, at its heart, is about how we see ourselves, and how we want other people to see us. It’s about what happens when that image of self breaks down.

THE DEVIL’S HOUR is about a sociopath. I don’t want to give away the story line, but this, too, was inspired by an undercover detective who told me about that strangest case he had ever been involved with. (Another cop. Are you beginning to see a theme here?) And then one day I was sitting at a light and there was a purple PT Cruiser behind me. The man driving it was somewhere between forty and fifty, and he had a salt-and-pepper beard, wire-rimmed glasses, and hair parted in the middle that fell to his shoulders. Later that week I was finishing the last rewrite of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON in a cabin in the woods, throwing pages of hardcopy on the floor when I was done with them, when I suddenly thought of this guy. Now he had a name, a real white-bread monicker: Steve Lawson. And he had a dog, a black Labrador named Jake. The next morning I awoke at four in the morning and wrote what would happen to Steve Lawson and why. And what his connection to Laura Cardinal was.

Q: Do you usually know where your book is going and where it will all end when you start, or are you the type who makes it up as you go along?

A: With police procedural/thrillers, I think it’s good to know who the killer is. Although I’m sure there are some writers who don’t even know that. I try to outline some, and I try to just write my way in, too. It’s different with every book. I just sort of muddle through. Although with DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, I was asked for a detailed synopsis halfway through. If I didn’t deliver it, I wouldn’t get my next paycheck. So I ended up writing about 20 pages of outline, which is pretty detailed. I followed it, too, although there were plenty of differences. I believe the real changes and the real writing come in the second draft. The first draft–for me, anyway–is just somehow getting it down, even if it’s complete and utter crap

Q: Does any of your own personal background go into Laura’s stories? If so, how about some examples.

A: Laura grew up where I grew up, in the El Fuerte area of Tucson, Arizona. El Fuerte means “fort”. Fort Lowell was a cavalry fort outside Tucson in the late 1800s, and a neighborhood later grew up around the ruins. When I was growing up, there were lots of farms and ranches along the riverbed. And a little desert cemetery that gave me nightmares. j-carson-black-arizona

The orange and white 1955 Chevy Bel Air that was used in the murder of Julie Marr was the same car that chased me when I was fourteen. I had been walking down a road after getting into a fight with my friends and splitting up with them. Recently, I found a three-page description I wrote of the chase for English class. It was over-written; heavy on the heart-pounding, throat-closing, knees-shaking, but a nice effort nonetheless.

Laura had a horse, and so did I. When I was seventeen years old, I spent a goodly number of nights sitting on the ground waiting for a mare to foal; she never did—not until I had gone home to sleep. So I used this for an important event in DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

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Categories: Laura Cardinal

The day has finally come—the debut of my thriller, HARD RETURN.

Some of you might have met Cyril Landry in THE SHOP (Thomas & Mercer 2011). I met him on the same night you did—the night a group of people were murdered in a pine-log McMansion in Aspen, Colorado. Cyril Landry was the faceless killer and the leader of three other faceless killers. It was a walk-on part.

But on page 2, something happened. Landry touched his earpiece and asked the upstairs team how many people were in the bedroom.

The guy replied, “Two. A couple. They were laying in bed.”

“Lying,” Landry said.

“What?” (And it wasn’t just the guy upstairs asking the question. I was asking it, too.)

“Lying in bed, not laying,” Landry said.

The other guy, as nonplussed as I was, couldn’t think of a retort. Finally, he said, “Roger that.”

And a star is born.

You have to think of it from my perspective. Here I am, writing this walk-on part, and what does Generic Assassin #1 do? He decides to become real.

And Cyril Landry gets more and more real every moment he’s onstage, so, yeah, I end up giving him more and more scenes, and then the man just goes ahead and takes over half the book.

And I’m thinking: hey, this guy’s easy to write. He does all the work. So, being the lazy sort, I ultimately decided to give Landry his own book.

I did my best to stay out of his way and just watch him do his thing, and darn if we didn’t become fast friends.

So here it is, folks:

Landry’s maiden voyage with a book all his own.

— J. Carson Black, September 2014

Categories: Books Cyril Landry

J. Carson Black’s new thriller, ICON, has a publication date of June 12, 2012.  Published by Thomas & Mercer, ICON is already earning rave reviews as one of the best thrillers in 2012.  Order your Kindle Edition or Trade Paperback edition NOW.

Icon is a smart thriller that had me hooked from the start. J. Carson Black has outdone herself. I loved it!” – John Rector, bestselling author of Already Gone

Hollywood superstar Max Conroy is A-list all the way—one of the few actors who can guarantee box office blockbusters on opening weekend. Max has it all: the devil-may-care charisma, the stunning movie star wife, and a sizable personal fortune that grows along with his legend.

When Max escapes from a rehab center in Arizona, disoriented and longing to return to his blue-collar roots, he becomes the target of a motley group of kidnappers planning to cash in by holding him for ransom. Max not only outsmarts them; he evens the score. Little does he know that a far more dangerous and merciless enemy is coming for him. But this time, he has an ally in the smart and beautiful sheriff’s deputy Tess McCrae.

For years, Max drifted through an easy superstar life, untethered and without purpose. But as he fights for his life, something turns inside him. He’s ready to live again—on his own terms. He will destroy those who’d rather see him die like an icon than live like a man.

Categories: Publishing Hub-Bub

When my publisher Glenn McCreedy at Breakaway Media and I decided to put up my three Laura Cardinal crime fiction thrillers, the first thing we thought about was cover art.

Readers of crime fiction and thrillers would be our primary audience. So we asked ourselves these questions.

What should a thriller look like?

Should the books be unified in some way?

Should they have the traditional look of a big publishing house? And if we chose to go that route, what kind of product did we envision? (more…)

Categories: The Writing Life