WRITERS TELL ALL
Matthew Turbeville: Hi Emily! It’s so great to be able to talk with you. I loved your last book, and I definitely love Every Single Secret even more! I know some authors get their stories from the news and true crime, and some are just incredibly creative in other ways. Where did you feel this novel came from?
Emily Carpenter: Thanks, Matthew! Great to talk with you. For Every Single Secret, I wanted to write a book, a mystery/suspense that took place in one location, one of those closed-door stories. Agatha Christie was the master of them. I was just hoping to add my own version to the collection!
MT: It seems with every book you become a more and more interesting and intriguing author. What are the biggest secrets to writing a great novel that you’ve learned over the years?
EC: A couple of things seem to work for me: I write my first draft pretty quickly, usually in about two months. Then I go through a lot of edits, which to me, is where the magic happens. I also have learned to try to simplify rather than complicate storylines. I also know to listen to my agent when she’s helping me problem-solve. She’s got a great editing eye.
MT:. What do you feel are great mottos or ideas to stick to while writing? How do you motivate yourself not only to write, but to edit and revise?
EC: There is no problem that can’t be solved. That’s a great motto for writing a book and also for life. I am usually excited to write and even revise, but, in terms of boots on the ground motivators, deadlines never hurt!
MT: Can you describe, to the readers, Every Single Secret, in as few words as possible and why they should read it? (By the way, for what it’s worth, every person should read it!)
EC: Every Single Secret is about Heath and Daphne, an engaged couple who decide to go to a couples retreat in the mountains of north Georgia in order to hash out some things in their relationship. Heath thinks they should delve into their pasts, but Daphne is reluctant for some very important reasons. When they get up to Baskens Institute and meet the doctor, they both begin to realize his methods of therapy aren’t exactly traditional.
MT: Do you think that this book has a feminist slant? How do you feel about women dominating the crime industry? Megan Abbott—I believe through Twitter—once said that the crime industry in this day and age is largely written by women for women. What are your thoughts on this?
EC: Probably everything I write ends up having a feminist slant because that’s one of my core beliefs, that women are equal to men and should have equal opportunity and pay. But while I’m writing, sometimes I’ll find myself inadvertently writing to old tropes, for instance, my women characters not having as much agency or using their smarts or whatever and allowing someone else to rescue them when they can and should take care of business themselves. I’ve discovered a lot about myself writing – that sometimes even a feminist can fall into those particular storyline traps and let some of the culture telling us to quiet down, step back, let others shine surface in our books. In terms of women writing crime? I love it and I do appreciate reading a woman’s take on what it feels like to move with a woman’s vulnerability through this world, what it means to be a target for particular crimes. That’s a very specific story with specific emotions attached, and I find it so interesting. On the other hand, I love Harlan Coben too, so I think there’s room for all of us.
MT: If you had to pick one of your books to endorse, sell, or even give to the president, which would you choose and why?
EC: Well, I’d definitely give Melania Every Single Secret. But if I can’t say why because it would be a spoiler.
MT: I know, as a gay man, it’s hard for me to write from a gay man’s point of view, largely because I can’t stop writing about me, or who I want to be. Do you ever find this challenge in writing women narrators?
EC: That’s such an interesting perspective and a really deep question. And I will say, I think that, yes, in some way I want to be like all of my characters, on some level, in some way. I’d love to have Althea’s sensitivity and tenacity from Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. I like Meg’s toughness and humor and the way she stands up for herself from The Weight of Lies. In Every Single Secret I admired Daphne’s willingness to love and her pursuit of it. But it is true that an author can’t only write about themselves, because that would be myopic and boring. It does help me to know that even though I may be writing about a white, hetero, cis-female, there are a million different personalities and motivations and desires contained that group and it’s my job to explore them.
MT: Which book did you have a tough time writing, if any? Have you ever felt like giving up? I know Lois Duncan said she had a drawer in her desk for manuscripts she feels she has to come back to later. Do you have a “drawer” yourself?
EC: Each book has driven me to desperation in its own unique, delightful way at some point in the process! But I’m not a big giver-upper. In fact, I’m more known for hanging on to things (and people) that are not working out for entirely too long! I’ve never actually embarked on writing a book and then stepped away from it. It’s back to that mantra about there being a solution for every problem. I tend to think if I’ve gotten through working the story out in my head, outlining the thing and pitching it to my trusted critique partners and agent and now I’m in the phase of actually writing it, there’s no way I’m putting this puppy in a drawer! However, I have put some ideas in a drawer because I couldn’t flesh them out to my satisfaction. The Weight of Lies bounced around in my head for many years before I figured out how to tell the story.
MT: Who are the authors who, dead or alive, have inspired you. Which of the female crime writers do you feel you have been most influenced by, and do you think that you’ve influenced some through your writing too?
EC: The usual suspects: Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Jennifer McMahon, Chevy Stephens, Kate Moretti, Laura McHugh, Mary Higgins Clark. I’ve also been really inspired by Daphne du Maurier and Sarah Waters, who are more gothic and Shirley Jackson, who’s horror. I have no idea if I’ve influenced anyone, but if I have, that makes me happy!
MT: What is your writing process like? Are you a morning, noon, or nighttime writer? I would love to hear how many words or pages you write a day.
EC:I’m more of an afternoon/evening writer. When I’m drafting a new book, I like to hit 1,500 to 2,000 words a day. Sometimes there is more, sometimes less, but that’s my general goal.
MT: When it comes to a novel like Every Single Secret, do you always have everything plotted out, or do you write and figure out as you go? Was the ending of Every Single Secret an immediate realization to you, or did it come to you over time?
EC: Every Single Secret was plotted out and, although it took me a while to nail down the twist, I knew it before I started writing. It hasn’t always been that way for every book though. Sometimes I’ll change my mind mid-stream about the ending. Or the ending won’t work and I’ll have to come up with something better. That’s slightly terrifying.
MT: Could you ever see your books as movies or TV shows? If so, who would you cast in each part, especially in the amazingly complex cast of Every Single Secret?
EC: Oh yeah, I’d love an adaptation. I’d cast Jeff Bridges as Dr. Matthew Cerny and either Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren as Glenys, one of the other therapy patients at Baskens. Also I’d cast Adam Driver as Heath because I think he is a great actor and has the most interesting face.
MT: May I ask what’s next for you? Are you already writing a new book, or are you giving yourself a break? I’m positive that our readers would be more than pleased to get at least a glimpse as to what’s coming next.
EC: I actually just turned in my fourth book and I’m mulling over ideas for the next project(s). The fourth book happens to be more of an adventure/thriller, that straight up suspense, so that was a nice change to write.
MT: Emily, it has been such a pleasure getting to know you through your writing and also through this interview. I admire you so much. I cannot wait to see what you write next! Do you have any additional comments or thoughts you’d like to add, or anything else to say about your new book?
EC: I’m really grateful for my readers and thank each and every one of you for reading, reviewing and talking up my book. I couldn’t do it without you guys. Also, I so enjoyed chatting with you, Matthew, and thank you so much for the interview!