Monday, 8 January 2018

Chris Carter on How working as a Criminal Behaviour Psychologist inspired the Robert Hunter series

The truth is that unlike so many of my fellow authors out there, I had never in my life planned on writing a book.  I never though about a career in writing and I never spent any time thinking up stories or developing characters in my head that I would one day want to write about.  My submersion into the world of books - writing that is - came out of a dream I had back in 2007. 

Now please allow me to clarify.  I’ve been an insomniac for many years - something that actually started during my days as a criminal behaviour psychologist back in the USA - I don’t have a problem falling asleep.  My problem is staying asleep.  I usually fall asleep quite quickly and on a good day I will stay that way for an hour, maybe two, before waking up for the first time during the night.  From then on it’s stop/start traffic all the way to the morning - sleep for three quarters of an hour, wake up for five minutes (if I’m lucky) - sleep for an hour, wake up for another five minutes - and so on.  It’s quite a torturous and exhausting process, believe me.  There are rare occasions when I manage to stay asleep for more than three hours straight, and it was during one of these rare, uninterrupted sleepfull nights that I had this quite bizarre and odd dream.  One of the reasons that made it so unusual was the fact that the dream played out in my head like a plausible story, with a beginning, a middle and an end.  For the record, I’d like state that my dreams are never that coherent.  Now, when considering that I have become a crime thriller writer, here is odd part number one – the story I dreamt about that night was not a crime thriller story, far from it actually.

Odd part number two - in the morning I could recall all of it - and I mean all of it – which is something else that rarely happens to me.

The fact that I could recall my dream in its entirety, kind of made me wonder, so as for nothing more than just “conversation” topic, I mentioned it to my girlfriend at the time.  She was obviously intrigued and asked me to tell her the story in my dream, which I did.  It took me about ten minutes to run her through the whole story, and maybe I should call this - “odd part number three” – but the story didn’t bore her at all, on the contrary, it made her look at me and say - ‘You know what, Chris?  You should write that story down.  It’s a good story.  And I really like the twist at the end.’

Odd part number four – my reply to her was - ‘You know what? I think I will.’  The reason why I called this “odd part number four” was because the reply came from someone who had zero experience in writing.  I mean, I had never even written a short story in my life.

Odd part number five – the next morning, against all odds, I stayed true to my word.  I actually sat at my computer and began writing the first chapter to this bizarre story I had dreamt about the night before.  I spent the entire day at it and once I finally got to the end of that first chapter, a new thought came to me – ‘This is kind of crazy.  Never in my life had I contemplated the idea of writing a book, or even a short story for that matter, but If I’m going to put time and effort into doing such a thing, due to my background in Criminal Behaviour Psychology, I could probably come up with a much more interesting plot for a psychological thriller than I could for any other genre.’

I had finally started thinking logically.

So, with my brain now awake at last, I decided that instead of moving onto chapter two of the bizarre dream story, I would put that first chapter aside and just as a trial, I would try to write an opening chapter for a crime thriller story, or novel, or whatever it was that I was doing.  Let me add here that unlike the story in my dream, I had no plot in my head whatsoever for a crime thriller story.  I simply tried to think of something that I thought it would make a good opening for a crime book, and I was right, because that was when my past as a criminal behaviour psychologist came into play.

The first thing that happened as I sat in my room, trying to come up with an opening chapter for a crime thriller story, was that my memory took me straight back to my days as a criminal psychologist.  Every time I needed to describe a crime scene, or the modus operandi of a murder, or the signature of a killer, or the thought process of an investigator – basically anything and everything to do with a murder and the process of its investigation – my memory got utterly overwhelmed by images, reports, conversations, locations, appearances, everything... even the undeniable smell and the awful feeling one gets as he/she enters a crime scene.

At first I found it almost painful, because to be honest, I didn’t really wanted to be taken back to any of that, but I very soon realised that those memories filled my story with authenticity.

I spent another whole day working on that first chapter.

The next day I gave both chapters to my girlfriend and asked her to give me her truthful opinion. 

‘I’m not very much into detective stories,’ she said, after reading both chapters.  ‘But I must admit that the crime thriller chapter is a lot more exciting than the other one, I really like it.’

Odd part number six – I actually kept on going – page after page, chapter after chapter.  I decided very early that I wanted to include several insights into the field of criminal behaviour psychology into the novel I was writing, but instead of creating a separate criminal psychologist character, I decided to bundle everything together into one single character, who became the main detective in my novels – Robert Hunter.  He is an ex- criminal psychologist who decided that studying the minds of criminals wasn’t enough.  He wanted to go after them himself.

Hunter’s character opened the door for me to be able to bring criminal behaviour psychology into my stories, which I believe is one of the reasons why my novels are so well received not only in the UK, but in so many different countries.

More information about Chris Carter and his books can be found on his website.

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