Chris Carter is the Number One Sunday Times and International Bestselling author of the world famous "Robert Hunter" crime series. Before becoming a full time writer, Chris has worked as a criminal psychologist and has also been a part of a rock band, spending several years of his life as a professional musician.
In the article, "How to spot a serial killer?", you say that it's almost impossible to spot them. So are they normally found only after committing a crime?
Chris: Yes, unfortunately they are usually only identified once at least 3 murders have been committed.
You have interviewed several criminals and serial killers. Did you ever come across a real life "Hannibal Lecter" type psychopath? Perhaps a person with very dark personality who still haunts you when you think about him/her?
Chris: Yes, actually most of the murderers I interviewed or worked the case would fall into that category, even the ones who weren’t serial murderers.
Why do think criminal psychologist take such a dark profession? Do you think it affects them emotionally? If yes, how do they cope and go on doing their job?
Chris: I can only speak for myself, concerning why I chose to study criminal psychology and then pursue a career in that field. The subject of criminal psychology was very, very young when I began studying it. I could even say it was in its crawling stages. The subject was fascinating to me and I would have the chance to work in a field that was still unexplored. Yes, working with criminal psychology will undoubtedly affect anyone emotionally. Coping with the pressures that accompany such profession is also a very personal issue. Everyone will find their own way of dealing with their demons. I used to spend my free time with friends... going out... to the cinema... to clubs etc. I also tried my best not to think about the job once I was away from the office.
You have been a part of a music band for several years. Can you name a musician who inspired you and perhaps name a few songs which you always love to hear over and over?
Chris: Well, Kiss was the band that actually got me into Rock music, but my taste in music is pretty eclectic, and I listen to all different genres, depending on my mood, but I don’t think there are any songs I like to listen to over and over again. I do get bored easily.
I am pretty sure the fictional criminals in your "Robert Hunter series" are all fragments of the criminals you have interviewed. Can you tell us how Robert Hunter came alive? Perhaps he's based on a person you know?
Chris: The truth is that I had never planned on writing a book. I never thought 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 books that is - came out of a dream I had back in 2007. Since I was writing a crime fiction story, I needed a Detective, so I created one out of thin air, but due to the fact that I had worked with so many detectives in my past career, it was a little easier for me to base Hunter on real life figures. That said, I must also add that Hunter isn’t based on anyone specifically. He’s more of a combination of personalities.
Apart from money and Lust, what other factors motivates a person to commit a crime? What makes them "tick" to go ahead and make the kill?
Chris: That’s very hard to say. Crime can be motivated by an almost infinite list of reasons like jealousy, revenge, to profit, hatred, fear, compassion, desperation, to conceal another crime, to avoid shame and disgrace or to obtain power. The basic motivators for serial crimes are manipulation, domination, control, sexual gratification, or plain simple homicidal-mania.
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In your article, you have also mentioned that to heal mental illness, it is quite difficult. So do you think that serial killers will always be the same forever? That is to say, without empathy and being devoid of love?
Chris: In my own experience, rehabilitating a serial offender, being that offence murder, rape or whatever, is almost impossible.
Is being psychotic a biological disorder or does the emotional health deteriorates as a person grows in a bad atmosphere?
Chris: History has pretty much witnessed both cases – people who were psychotic from a very early age without being moulded by those around him/her, and people who became psychotic as a consequence of their surroundings and those around him/her.
Who is your favorite crime fiction writer? Is there a writer who influences your writing style?
Chris: The absolute truth is that I don’t really have a favourite writer and I was not inspired to write or to become an author by anyone. I never even thought about being a writer until I had a dream about a story, which turned out to be The Crucifix Killer, my first novel. I do respect every single author out there, because this is a tough job, I just don’t have a favourite one. When I was growing up, I guess that the one author I liked to read quite a bit was Frederick Forsyth, but as I’ve said, I never even thought about becoming a writer until ten years ago.
How do you conduct your research when starting on a new story idea? Do you have an outline for your book or do just write whatever comes to your mind?
Chris: My writing process is pretty organic. I don’t really plan ahead at all. I always start with a very simple “one or two line” main plot idea and start writing. That is probably why it takes me longer than most authors to finish a manuscript. I simply go with the flow of the story.
To aspiring crime writers, can you share a few vital tips?
Chris: I guess the best advice I can give is - Trust your gut. Forget about rules, or creative writing classes, or anything. Just tell the story in the way that YOU think it should be told - remember, it's your story. Create your characters the way YOU think they should be. Make them act in the way you think they should act. Tell your story in the same way that you would like a story to be told to you. Seriously, TRUST YOUR GUT. When you finish it, read it back. If YOU think the story excites you, then chances are, it will excite others as well. That's exactly what I did. I had no experience. I had never even written a short story before. I never took a single creative writing class. I simply sat down one day and started writing "The Crucifix Killer."
Are you working on any new genre or maybe a new series?
Chris: No, not at all. I am still sticking with the Hunter series for now.