Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bubbling dreams and party-busting bears: an interview with Christine Carbo

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 29th instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 201st overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

We celebrated a bit of a big milestone a couple of weeks ago, but there are still so many fantastic crime and mystery writers to meet. So on we go. Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Montana author Christine Carbo to Crime Watch. I first came across Christine's mysteries earlier this year with the release of A SHARP SOLITUDE, her fourth novel set in her adopted home state. I really loved that book - I'm a big fan of good mysteries set in the wilder natural parts of the world, and was curious about A SHARP SOLITUDE as I'd travelled through Whitefish and Glacier National Park a few years ago (terrific region I'll return to one day).

It more than delivered on the promise of the blurb. As I said in a review back in June, A SHARP SOLITUDE is"a fascinating tale that blends a tight mystery storyline with a great sense of the Montana setting - the place and the people... character-centric crime fiction, seasoned with plenty of interesting psychological and societal issues". How much did I like the book? I immediately went and ordered Christine's prior three tales. I've since read and loved her debut, THE WILD INSIDE, and am really looking forward to getting to the other two books. They won't be on my TBR shelf for long.

Christine was born in Florida but swapped sandy beaches for spectacular mountains when her family moved to the Flathead Valley in Montana when she was 12. She led an interesting life before becoming a published novelist in recent years, including studying in Norway, working as a flight attend to save for graduate school, being an English teacher at community college, and owner of a Pilates studio. Christine's Montana mysteries have won the the Womens’ National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award, and the High Plains Book Award.

But for now, Christine Carbo becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I’m a sucker for Mo Hayder’s mysteries, which are often dark, edgy and sometimes downright frightening, so I can’t resist DI Caffery. He’s the sexy, quintessential bad boy, and I suppose since he’s fictional, he’s safe to have a thing for; no healthy woman would ever want to actually get involved with a guy like him! He’s a flawed character who will even break the law if he needs to, but he does it for the right reasons, and deep down, he’s got a big heart.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
I remember Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of my early reads, but the Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene really caught my interest at a very young age. I loved the mystery, the atmosphere, and a young female protagonist who is smart, self-assured, strong-willed, and independent.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) - unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote two fully-completed manuscripts that are stored on some dusty hard-drive. I’m not sure I’d even know how to access them at this point. They were non-genre literary novels that I had visions of becoming Oprah Book Club picks because that was a huge deal at the time I wrote them in the late 1990s, early 2000s. When I finished the first, snail-mail was still the mode of querying agents, and it was a very painful process: sending queries and waiting, checking the mailbox, finally getting a letter and having it be a rejection. After a few of those rejections, I decided I should consider my first a practice novel and started another non-genre manuscript. The second took me half the time to complete, but when I finished it, life blew up a bit for me. I went through a divorce and dove into single-mom survival mode and decided to put creative writing aside. I told myself it was only a pipe-dream and that I needed to focus on realistic endeavors. But, as dreams often do – the desire to write and publish began to bubble back up ten years later (after those initial non-genre manuscripts). It was then that I decided to write creatively again, but this time, I chose the genre I love to read, crime fiction. Luckily, I had success in getting an agent and contracts.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
I’m a full-fledged Montanan at this point, even though I’m actually a Florida native. I moved to Montana with my family when I was in middle school. I hated it at first – leaving the sunny beaches and my friends – but by the following summer, I fell in love with the mountains and still feel that way. So, besides reading, writing and promo activities, I hike in Glacier National Park and other surrounding areas, downhill and cross-country ski, play golf and squash every once in a while, and simply go boating and sometimes fishing on some of the gorgeous mountain lakes in the area I live. However, I do have to say that I did a lot more of these activities before I became published in 2015. The publishing business is a very busy world – and I love it, but it has put a dent in the time I spend recreating in Montana.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
That’s a tough one, because to this day, my favorite place remains Glacier National Park even though it is mobbed by tourists in the summer. But, another awesome area is the Jewel Basin – a gorgeous national forest in the Columbia Mountain range. If you enjoy winter, another fun thing to do is to go dog-sledding. There’s an outfit north of Whitefish that takes you on awesome sledding trips, and you get to see how the dogs work and how fast you fly when behind a team of well-trained sled-dogs.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
This is quite the question! I don’t actually think my life would be interesting at all in either memoir or movie form! But, since you asked, I’m going to selfishly say Charlize Theron because she’s very talented and I think she’s gorgeous (and who wouldn’t want to have that factor on the big screen!). She was amazing in Monster! She could probably take my fairly boring life and find a way to make it interesting!

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite or particularly special, and why?
I think most authors have a special place in their hearts for the first published book because it’s the one that breaks them into the industry. It’s a time when you feel all the heightened excitement and vulnerability that goes with getting a work in front of readers – a place you’ve always dreamed about. However, most of us also realize that the more books you put out, the better the writer you become, so it’s usually difficult to choose between the latest on the market and that first. And sometimes, it’s one in between that maybe didn’t do as well, but you think it’s your best. So, it’s really hard to say, but The Wild Inside remains particularly special because it was my first published and also because it featured a magnificent grizzly bear that still lives on in my mind and heart today.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I milked it with my family for sure – several celebratory dinners and lots of champagne! The Wild Inside came out in June of 2015 and June is my birthday month, so by the end of the month, I’m pretty sure all the reasons I needed celebratory dinners and champagne might have been wearing thin! But, really, to finally reach that dream is so incredibly gratifying, and it is a time that should be celebrated. I remember being a little shy about all of it at first and didn’t want to make too big of a deal about it. Then I realized, you’re only published for the first time once, so try to relax and enjoy the ride in spite of the bashful or vulnerable feelings!

9.What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I’ve been lucky to not have anything too strange happen yet at any of my events, but I can tell you about the time I flew to Florida for an event with my husband. We left our teenage kids in charge of the house and the pets and naively told them not to have any friends over or have any parties. When we returned, they had taken the trash out to the curb already (first clue that something wasn’t right since they never take the trash to the curb without being asked) and then, here’s the strange part… a black bear decided to get into the bin and drag all the beer bottles out around the same time we returned. My son tells all his friends at college in Los Angeles that he’s the only kid who has probably ever been busted for a party because of a bear!

Thanks Christine, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch!

You can read more about Christine Carbo and her Montana mysteries at her website, and follow her on Twitter. 

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