Interview With The Author: Will Carver
John Dwaine McKenna
Our interviewee today hails from Great Britain. His name is Will Carver and he’s a writer with the ability to pack more original ideas into a single paragraph than most of us are able to conjure up in an entire chapter . . . so with great pleasure, it’s my honor to introduce him to our Mysterious Book Report audience, by submitting this first question:
Why do you write?
I still hold on to this crazy idea that words can change the world, that ideas can make a difference, alter a mindset or way of thinking. Language is the perfect weapon for change. What one says is important but so too is the way that it is being said.
As writers, I believe it is our job to pay more attention to the world and the people in it than anyone else. We then have to capture these moments, record them and make readers question everything.
I write because I have to get these words down. Because I see people in a way that not everyone does. And I want to share this. I want people to question.
What makes a character endearing?
I have no idea. I’m constantly being told to have a character that a reader can root for. ‘None of your characters are likeable’. I get that one a fair amount. For me to be endeared to a character, I have to see them struggle, I have to see them try. I think these are the things most readers go for but it’s made more endearing to see them triumph in some way. I don’t need that, and I don’t write that. It doesn’t feel true to have a character overcome every obstacle.
What’s the most important element for writing success?
The recipe for writing success has only two ingredients. Work and luck.
You can talk for ever about the book idea you have and will write one day but it takes work. You have to sit in that seat and get the words down. That’s what it takes. It will, actually, take you hundreds of days. You will hate what you write a lot of the time and you will hate yourself, too, but you have to get the words from your mind onto a piece of paper or a screen. It takes more discipline that most people realise.
You need luck, too. You need an agent, editor, publisher to see your writing at the very right time. Then you need a sales team to get behind your idea. Then you need readers to engage and spread the word. You can spend money on marketing but it all comes down to luck.
Great writers don’t get the success they deserve because they haven’t had the luck. And bad writers can make it because they have had it. But even the bad ones have to put in the work and finish their novel first.
It takes both things.
But it also depends on what you call ‘success’.
What makes a character compelling?
Flaws. It’s the same thing that makes real people compelling. Nobody wants to scroll through their social media feed and see pictures of the perfect family. They don’t want to see a couple in love with gorgeous children frolicking with an obedient dog. Yes, it’s lovely to witness but it isn’t compelling. When you know that a couple has some underlying issues and relationships are strained behind closed doors, and their kids are not always well-behaved and the dog relieves itself on the bed every morning, your relationship with that person or character hits a deeper level than the surface.
Struggling is compelling. And imperfections are always far more interesting.
Do you write in more than one genre?
If yes: which ones?
My last book, Nothing Important Happened Today, was about an invisible suicide cult. It was half fiction and half instruction manual on how to set-up a successful cult of your own. Hinton Hollow Death Trip is about a fictional, idyllic town with a seedy underbelly. But it is narrated by Evil itself. A crime thriller narrated by a concept.
My books turn up in all different sections of bookshops and I tend to get marketed as something ‘different’.
So, my answer is that I don’t strictly sit in a genre at the moment. I tend to straddle crime, literary, thriller, dark humour and horror. Most people called Good Samaritans ‘domestic noir’, while I saw it as a love story. A dysfunctional one, of course, but a love story nonetheless.
I write the stories that interest me, it’s up to others to try to fit them into a pigeonhole.
Do you use humor in your work?
I have to. I write about very dark things and there’s a lot of social commentary – particularly in my last three books. Talking about these things can feel like an assault on the reader. They could come across as preachy. It can seem like an idea is being hammered into your face repeatedly with a frying pan.
I use humour – albeit dark humour – to add contrast. You can’t have a book that is all shade, it has to be injected, or at least peppered, with some light. It can act as relief for a reader but it’s also very useful to use this contrast to accentuate a point. One can write humorously in order to make a more serious statement.
Are you more comfortable writing in the first, or third person POV?
I feel comfortable with all points of view, it really depends on the story and the best way to tell it. I also like writing in the second person because it is a useful tool to bring a reader into the book and make them a part of the story. I used this a lot in Hinton Hollow Death Trip because I wanted the reader to have a relationship with Evil, who narrates the story.
My next book, The Beresford, takes place in an old apartment building and is third person all the way through because I want the reader to feel like they are peering in on what is happening. But my original series of books was all first person from every character, the detective, the killer and, most importantly, the victims leading up to their death. I do not prefer one to the other, it all comes down to what works best for each story and will get the message across in the most effective way.
Bonus questions, and your last chance for brilliance . . .
Do you have any other comments, suggestions, tips, anecdotes, quotes or inspirational material you’d like to share?
A quote I tend to live my life by is attributed to George Bernard Shaw and goes something like, ‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man attempts to adapt the world to himself, therefore, all progress is made by the unreasonable man.’
I think this is especially true when it comes to writing or any kind of art. There are topics that most steer clear of, and few like to steer into. The reasonable and the unreasonable.
And that leads me into something my favourite contemporary writer, Chuck Palahniuk, said, ‘Don’t write to be liked, write to be remembered.’ Sage advice.
Where could you be reached on the World Wide Web?
My new website www.willcarver.co.uk is under construction as I let the previous one expire but I can be found on twitter most days talking about books and whisky. @will_carver
Many thanks Will, for your time, for your insights . . . and most of all, for your thought-provoking kick-ass novels!
“Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Will’s latest title published by Orenda Books, Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.”