In my conversation series Making It Up I talk to writers of all backgrounds in order to find out why they do what they do. My guests and I discuss childhood influences, roots of creativity, luck and loss, tools of the craft, and the highs and lows of publishing. At the end of our conversation, we pick a random sentence from a random book and use it to create an impromptu short story. Scroll down for all the episodes!
Full Episode List:
Ep 2: Julie Clark
Ep 3: Joe Clifford
Ep 4: David Bell
Ep 5: Sean Eads
Ep 6: K.J. Howe
Ep 7: Lynne Constantine
Ep 8: Mark Stevens
Ep 9: Steven James
Ep 10: Julia Heaberlin
Ep 11: Graham Hurley
Ep 12: Emily Bleeker
Ep 13: Erika Englehaupt
Ep 14: Mark Sullivan
Ep 15: Sabrina Jeffries
Ep 16: Clare Whitfield
Ep 17: Xio Axelrod
Ep 18: Brad Parks
Ep 19: Barb Webb
Ep 20: Adrian Goldsworthy
Ep 21: Stuart Turton
Ep 22: S.A. Cosby
Ep 23: Daniel Handler
Ep 24: Maureen Johnson
Ep 25: Sarah Fine
Ep 26: Matthew Fitzsimmons
Ep 27: Robert Dugoni
Ep 28: Farrah Rochon
Ep 29: Alverne Ball
Ep 30: Drew Magary
Ep 31: Dr. Ian Smith
Ep 32: Yasmin Angoe
Ep 33: Gabrielle St George
Ep 34: Amanda Kabak
Ep 35: Lynne Reeves Griffin
Ep 36: Allen Eskens
Ep 37: Daniel Jude Miller
Ep 38: Alex Finlay
Ep 39: Aaron Philip Clark
Ep 40: Lara Elena Donnelly
Ep 41: J.T. Ellison
Ep 42: Erica Ferencik
Ep 43: Katie Lattari
Ep 44: Katrina Monroe
Ep 45: Ananda Lima
Episode 45 | May 23, 2022
Ananda Lima is a poet whose most recent collection, Mother/land, is the winner of the Hudson Prize. She is also the author of Chapbooks Translation (winner of the Vella Chapbook Prize), Amblyopia, and Tropicália (winner of the Newfound Prose Prize). Her work has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Poets.com, Kenyon Review Online, and many more. She has an MA in Linguistics and an MFA in Creative Writing.
Among other things, Carter and Ananda talk about writing in various languages, constructing verse from abstract thoughts, and how the publishing industry works for poetry. At the end of their conversation, they make up a bizarre little tale beginning from a sentence out of The Institute by Stephen King.
Episode 44 | May 11, 2022
Katrina Monroe is a novelist whose debut title, They Drown Our Daughters releases in July 2022 from Sourcbooks. The book has been named one of CrimeReads’ 16 Horror Novels To Look Out For In 2022 and Tor Nightfire’s Horror Books We’re Excited About In 2022. Katrina lives in Minnesota with her wife, two children, and Eddie, the ghost who haunts their bedroom closets.
Carter and Katrina talk about what constitutes horror, how the switch from small publishing to a larger release is going and preparing to attend writer conferences for the first time. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story about unsuccessful therapy, from a sentence out of a Victorian Ghost Stories collection.
Episode 43 | May 4, 2022
Katie Lattari is the author of two novels, American Vaudeville, a small press work, and her recent thriller debut, Dark Things I Adore. Her short stories have appeared in such places as NOO Journal, The Bend, Cabildo Quarterly, and more.
Among other things, Carter and Katie discuss creepy small towns, the tumultuous journey to writing novels, and how to handle the editor’s first letter without panicking. At the end of their conversation, they make up a little tale about a dark plan, starting from a sentence from The Tourist, by Olen Steinhauer.
Episode 42 | April 20, 2022
Novelist Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her most recent release, Girl In Ice, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a Los Angeles Times Best Crime Novel of Winter 2022, and a Reader’s Digest Best Fiction Book of 2022.
Among other things, Carter and Erica discuss the benefit of travel for researching books, how writing comedy and thrillers are more similar than you might think, and what it looks like to define your own success. At the end of their conversation, they tell a quirky and brutal story from Mario Puzo’s The Last Don.
Episode 41 | April 6, 2022
J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A Word on Words. She also writes urban fantasy under the pen name Joss Walker. With millions of books in print, J.T. has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, been optioned for television, and has been published in 28 countries.
Among other things, Carter and J.T. discuss growing up surrounded by reading and writing, making every mistake in the book as a new writer, architect-vs.-gardener writing styles, and wanting your characters to really live. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story full of intrigue, stemming from a sentence out of They Drown Our Daughters by Katrina Monroe.
Episode 40 | March 23, 2022
Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula, Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry. Lara has taught in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College as well as the Catapult Workshop in New York. She is a graduate of the Clarion and Alpha writers’ workshops and has served as on-site staff at the latter, mentoring amazing teens who will someday take over the world of Science Fiction & Fantasy.
Among other things, Carter and Lara discuss writing competitions and workshops, the value of a critique group, and how different the editing and publishing process is between publishers. At the end of their conversation, they use a sentence from The Searcher by Tana French to craft a story about the last few seconds of life.
Episode 39 | March 7, 2022
Aaron Philip Clark is a novelist and screenwriter from Los Angeles, CA. In addition to his writing career, he has worked in the film industry and law enforcement. His most recent novel, Under Color of Law, which was inspired by his experience in the LAPD, was just named a 2022 Thriller Awards finalist (Best Paperback Original).
Among other things, Carter and Aaron discuss the world of screenwriting, eBooks versus hard copies, and what you can and can’t teach about writing. At the end of their conversation, their improvised story (beginning with a sentence from The Negotiator by Frederick Forsyth) will leave you wanting answers.
Episode 38 | February 21, 2022
Alex Finlay is the pseudonym of Anthony Franze, who launched his debut thriller the same year as me back in 2012. His 2021 breakout thriller as Alex Finlay, Every Last Fear, was an Indie Next pick, a LibraryReads selection, an Amazon Editor’s Best Thriller, as well as a CNN, Newsweek, E!, BuzzFeed, Business Week, Goodreads, Parade, PopSugar, and Reader’s Digest best or most anticipated thriller of the year. His recent release is The Night Shift.
Among other things, Carter and Alex discuss learning to write by clinically analyzing the books they love, how being a lawyer influenced his original Supreme Court thrillers under Anthony Franze, and how taking on a pen name not only is weird for your personal life but also can change your writing style and voice. At the end of their conversation, they make up a tale based on Robert Ludlum’s The Borne Ultimatum.
Episode 37 | February 14, 2022
Daniel Jude Miller is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book series Monsters in Manhattan, as well as Everybody Wake Up, Earclaw and Eddie, and Halloween Boy and the Christmas Kid. Growing up in Queens, NY and working in Manhattan inspired Daniel to write and draw all the creatures and goblins he came across on a daily basis. He now lives upstate, far from the clutches of those monsters.
Among other things, Carter and Daniel talk about Daniel’s decision to start his own publishing company after 12 years as an illustrator, the process of educational presentations for schools, and managing a publishing business through the pandemic. At the end of their conversation, they tell a creepy story starting from a sentence in Joyland by Stephen King.
Episode 36 | February 7, 2022
Allen Eskens is the bestselling author of The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, The Heavens May Fall, The Deep Dark Descending, The Shadows We Hide, Nothing More Dangerous, and The Stolen Hours. He is the recipient of the Barry Award, Minnesota Book Award, Rosebud Award (Left Coast Crime), and Silver Falchion Award and has been a finalist for the Edgar® Award, Thriller Award, and Anthony Award. His books have been translated into 26 languages.
Among other things, Carter and Allen discuss how his intensive outlines sometimes create more stories, the hero’s journey from an author’s perspective, and how to correctly write a huge plot twist. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story about things gone doubly wrong, starting from a sentence out of Tell Me No Lies by Shelly Noble.
Episode 35 | January 31, 2022
Lynne Reeves Griffin is an internationally recognized family counselor, public speaker, teacher, and writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in Parents, Psychology Today, Solstice Literary Magazine, Chautauqua Journal, Craft Literary, Fiction Writers Review, Brain, Child, and more. She writes novels of domestic suspense as Lynne Reeves, with The Dangers of an Ordinary Night published by Crooked Lane Books in November 2021.
Among other things, Carter and Lynne discuss how she approaches writing with a societal issue in mind, leaving a prescribed “message” out of the story allowing readers their own takeaways, and how to best approach editorial comments. At the end of their conversation, they tell a dark story about decisions and their outcomes, stemming from a sentence out of Harvard Yard by William Martin.
Episode 34 | January 24, 2022
Amanda Kabak is the author of The Mathematics of Change and her latest novel, Upended. Her stories have been published in The Massachusetts Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Sequestrum, The Laurel Review, and more. She’s also the recipient of the Lascaux Review fiction award, the Arcturus Review’s Al-Simāk award for fiction, and the Betty Gabehart prize from the Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference.
Among other things, Carter and Amanda discuss the messy nature of first drafts and how they lead to crying in coffee shops, working as a technical writer, and communicating trauma in a story. At the end of their conversation, they make up a thriller with a sweet ending from The Secret Next Door by Rebecca Taylor.
Episode 33 | December 21, 2021
Gabrielle St George is a Canadian screenwriter and story editor with credits on over 100 produced television shows, both in the USA and Canada. Her feature film scripts have been optioned in Hollywood. She also writes humorous mysteries and domestic noir about subjects of which she is an expert– mostly failed relationships, hence her début soft-boiled series, The Ex-Whisperer Files, which recently launched with its first title How to Murder a Marriage.
Among other things, Carter and Gabrielle discuss how childhood can influence creativity, being envious of other writers’ successes, and the confoundedness of mean reviews. At the end of their conversation, they make up a horror story inspired by a sentence from Love and War by John Jakes.
Episode 32 | December 13, 2021
Yasmin Angoe recently released her debut novel, Her Name Is Knight. She taught English in middle and high schools for years, served as an instructional coach for virtual teachers, and spent time as a freelance copy editor. Angoe recently received the Eleanor Taylor Bland Award for emerging writers of color from Sisters of Crime, of which she’s a proud member.
Among other things, Carter and Yasmin discuss Yasmin’s “first” book that she wrote in middle school, why you should always check your junk mail, and what events or topics deserve a trigger warning. At the end of their conversation, they delve into the emotions of someone who had just committed a crime, stemming from a sentence out of The Nines by Sam Anderson.
Episode 31 | December 6, 2021
Dr. Ian Smith is the author of 15 books, both novels, and multiple #1 New York Times bestselling non-fiction health and diet books. He is currently the medical contributor and co-host of the nationally syndicated television show The Rachael Ray Show and a former co-host of the Emmy award-winning syndicated daytime talk show, The Doctors. Among many more noteworthy achievements (too many to list here) Dr. Ian was appointed by President Obama to a second term on the prestigious President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
Among other things, Carter and Dr. Ian discuss the huge differences between writing fiction and non-fiction, the importance of emotional attachment to characters, and how enjoyable and freeing a career in writing can be. At the end of their conversation, they make up a visceral tale of mystery and impulse stemming from a sentence out of Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James.
Episode 30 | November 29, 2021
Drew Magary is a co-founder of the employee-owned sports and culture website Defector, as well as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle online and the author of three novels. Drew’s life changed forever at a company holiday party in 2018 when he suffered a mysterious fall that caused him to smash his head so hard on a cement floor that he cracked his skull in three places and suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage. His latest work—The Night the Lights Went Out—chronicles his recovery from his injury, including understanding what his family and friends went through as he lay there dying, coming to terms with his now permanent disabilities, and trying to find some lesson in this cosmic accident.
Among other things, Drew and Carter discuss Drew’s experience co-founding a media company, how his life-altering accident impacted both his professional and personal mindset, and writing as a form of acceptance and outreach to others. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story of insight from a sentence out of The Rule of Four by Dustin Thomason and Ian Caldwell.
Episode 29 | November 22, 2021
Alverne Ball’s creativity is seemingly boundless. His writing has been featured in literary magazines, he’s crafted award-winning comic and graphic novel material for various production studios, and he’s written and produced a short film himself. Oh, yeah, he’s also a novelist. His latest book is Blue Religion, a sequel to his earlier work Only The Holy Remain.
Among other things, Carter and Alverne discuss the moment of clarity when he knew he wanted to be a writer, how difficult it can be to find a publisher who will work with underrepresented language and characters and the real-life crimes that inspired his novels. At the end of their conversation, they create a gripping story about beginnings and endings, using a sentence from J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar.
Episode 28 | November 15, 2021
Farrah Rochon is a USA Today bestselling author who has garnered much acclaim for her popular Holmes Brothers and New York Sabers series. More recently, The Boyfriend Project and The Dating Playbook. When she’s not writing in her favorite coffee shop, Farrah enjoys reading, cooking, traveling the world, visiting Walt Disney World, and Broadway shows.
Among other things, Carter and Farrah discuss her mom’s influence as an English teacher, pursuing psychology to end up writing Romance, and how self-publishing is sometimes the best decision. At the end of their conversation they take a sentence from The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens and craft a story about a man brought to justice by a goat.
Episode 27 | November 8, 2021
Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, which has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. In addition, he has two other series, several standalone novels, and numerous short stories. His latest book, The World Played Chess, is the emotionally arresting follow-up to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.
Among other things, Carter and Robert discuss their love for storytelling and where it comes from, how Robert went from practicing law to theater to writing, and how he sought war stories from Vietnam veterans in order to write books honoring them. At the end of their conversation they craft a darkly compelling story beginning with a sentence from John Grisham’s A Painted House.
Episode 26 | November 3, 2021
Matthew Fitzsimmons nearly abandoned writing forever. Thankfully he persevered and is now the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Gibson Vaughn series. His most recent release is Constance, a mind-bending thriller about human cloning.
Among other things, the two discuss Matthew’s long and sometimes painful path to success, which included being a playwright in New York, a long stint of teaching, becoming homeless, and finally taking salvation in novel writing. At the end of their conversation, they create a thrilling tale about the consequences of decisions made long ago, using a sentence from The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall.
Episode 25 | October 25, 2021
Sarah Fine, writing under the name SF Kosa, is a psychologist by training and a writer by passion. Though The Quiet Girl was her debut psychological suspense novel, she is the author of over two dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels, some of which have been translated into other languages.
Among other things, Carter and Sarah discuss how she went from wanting to be a surgeon to writing novels, being internally focused while writing her first book, and writing to feel the emotions of characters. At the end of their conversation, a sentence from David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle spurs a story about the post-trauma psyche.
Episode 24 | October 18, 2021
Maureen Johnson is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow with John Green and Lauren Myracle (now on Netflix), and several works in the Shadowhunter universe with Cassandra Clare.
Among other things, Carter and Maureen discuss attending a Catholic high school as a non-Catholic, getting her MFA from Columbia, and how she writes mysteries by outlining and stress-testing her crime scene. At the end of their conversation, a sentence from A Column of Fire by Ken Follet sparks an in-depth conversation about old court schemes.
Episode 23 | October 11, 2021
Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, became a cultural phenomenon with his 13-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events. His books have sold more than 70 million copies, won Peabody and Writers Guild of America awards, and have been made into box-office and streaming movies. His latest release, the standalone novel Poison for Breakfast, is self-described as a “book about bewilderment.”
Among other things, Carter and Daniel discuss the education of writing, how to read like a writer, and the benefits of putting your work away for a whole year. At the end of their conversation, they spin a tale of mystery beginning with a random sentence from Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.
Episode 22 | October 4, 2021
S.A. Cosby, thriller-writer extraordinaire. Shawn (S.A.) struck oil with his breakout 2019 novel Blacktop Wasteland, a Los Angeles Times book winner and the ITW Thriller Award winner for best hardcover (a big goddamned deal). He followed that up with his 2021 book Razorblade Tears, which was an instant New York Times bestseller.
Among other things, Carter and Shawn discuss writing for a purpose and expanding perspectives, the role luck and timing play in success after publishing, and accepting valuable help from industry experts and editors. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story, beginning from a sentence out of Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King, about being driven into a snap decision to find a long-lost love.
Episode 21 | September 21, 2021
Stuart Turton lives in West London with his wife and daughter writing murder mysteries after years spent as a journalist. He is the author of the international bestsellers The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle which got picked up to be a Netflix series, and The Devil and the Dark Water.
Among other things, Carter and Stuart discuss finding work as a writer after traveling for five years straight out of college, remembering a childhood conversation that may have foretold a future career as an author, and plotting vs pantsing. At the end of their conversation, they pull a random sentence from The War of the Rats by David L. Robbins and make up a story about shady experiments.