Carter Wilson | Thriller Author
Carter Wilson | Thriller Author

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 1: Alex Marwood
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
Ep 46: D.P. Lyle
Ep 47: Jess Montgomery
Ep 48: Elle Marr
Ep 49: Hilde Lysiak
Ep 50: Hannah Mary McKinnon
Ep 51: Ashley Winstead
Ep 52: Joey Hartstone
Ep 53: Clare Mackintosh
Ep 54: Faye Snowden
Ep 55: Pip Drysdale
Ep 56: James Byrne
Ep 57: Russell James
Ep 58: David Ellis
Ep 59: Laurie R King
Ep 60: Leanne Sparks
Ep 61: Wendy Walker
Ep 62: Sam McAlister
Ep 63: Kelly J Ford
Ep 64: Jonathan Woods
Ep 65: Samuel Octavius
Ep 66: Jeffrey Wilson
Ep 67: Barbara Nickless
Ep 68: Katie Sise
Ep 69: Carla Damron
Ep 70: Jennifer Givhan
Ep 71: Ronald Kelly
Ep 72: Nuzo Onoh
Ep 73: Mark Stevens
Ep 74: Chad Boudreaux
Ep 75: Lexie Elliott
Ep 76: David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Ep 77: Rebecca Kelley
Ep 78: Kimberly Belle
Ep 79: Tracy Clark
Ep 80: Veronica G. Henry
Ep 81: Kimberly Giarratano
Ep 82: Samantha M. Bailey
Ep 83: Hank Phillippi Ryan
Ep 84: Nancy Stohlman
Ep 85: Ciera Horton McElroy
Ep 86: Rebecca Ann Keller
Ep 87: Lauren Thoman
Ep 88: Tessa Wegert

Latest Episodes

Episode 88 | May 25, 2023

Tessa Wegert is the author of the Shana Merchant mysteries, including Death in the Family, The Dead Season, Dead Wind, and The Kind to Kill. A former freelance journalist, Tessa has contributed to such publications as Forbes, The Huffington Post, and The Economist 

Among other things, Carter and Tessa discuss the control over situations and meditative qualities that writing grants, how authors have to surprise themselves to nail a twist, and the reality of working with multiple publishers over an author’s career. At the end of the conversation, they make up a scene of conflict that had been building for years from a sentence out of Carter Wilson’s own novel, The Comfort of Black

Episode 87 | May 18, 2023

Lauren Thoman’s pop-culture writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Parade, Vulture, and Collider. In-between article deadlines, she managed to finish a book she’d started years before and then set aside. I’ll Stop the World is now out in the world, after Mindy Kaling decided to publish it.   

Among other things, Carter and Lauren discuss switching up reading genres to cleanse the palate, Lauren reinventing herself as an outliner, and learning how to trust your writing voice. At the end of their conversation, they make up a quirky scene from a sentence out of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. 


Episode 86 | May 11, 2023

Rebecca Keller is a writer, an internationally exhibited artist, a college professor, a Fulbright Scholar, and recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart prize, and her debut novel You Should Have Known was released from Crooked Lane Books in April 2023. She is now working on stories about art and another novel. 

Among other things, Carter and Rebecca discuss the origins of and inspiration for her novel, how challenging it can be to make a character both interesting and believable, and how long chapters should be. At the end of their conversation, they make up a comedic story about an unwanted dinner guest starting with a sentence from S.F. Kosa’s novel, The Night We Burned. 


Episode 85 | May 4, 2023

Ciera Horton McElroy is the author of the novel Atomic Family, which has received critical praise including a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Ciera holds a BA from Wheaton College and an MFA from the University of Central Florida. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Bridge Eight, Iron Horse Literary Review, the Crab Orchard Review, and Saw Palm, among others.  

Among other things, Ciera and Carter discuss her knowing from a young age that she wanted to be a writer, how trends in the industry work, and the dark side of MFA and literary programs. At the end of their conversation, they tell a a beautiful story beginning from The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy. 


Episode 84 | April 20, 2023

Flash-fiction writer Nancy Stohlman is the author of six books including After the Rapture (2023), Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (2018), and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (2020). Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for both stage and screen. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and holds workshops and retreats around the world.   

Among other things. Carter and Nancy discuss how writers sometimes act as conduits, how to trust that the story is smarter than you, and she talks all about flash fiction. At the end of their conversation, they tell an invocative tale starting with a sentence from Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones.  

Episode 83 | April 17, 2023

Hank Phillippi Ryan is USA Today bestselling and five-time Agatha Award-winning author of 14 thrillers, winning 37 EMMYs for television investigative reporting. Her newest novel is The House Guest—it’s Gaslight meets Thelma & Louise. The Publishers Weekly says, “Ryan is a master of suspense!” The Library Journal starred review calls it “Binge-worthy.” 

Among other things, Carter and Hank discuss riding ponies to the library growing up, Hank’s dual-career between writing and politics, and how they approach the editing process of their novels. At the end of their conversation, they make up a story with an ending that may surprise you, using a sentence from The Good Guy by Dean Koontz 

Episode 82 | April 6, 2023

Samantha M. Bailey is the author of Woman on the Edge, a USA Today and #1 national bestseller; her second novel, Watch Out for Her, was an instant #1 national bestseller. As a journalist and freelance editor, her writing has appeared in Now Magazine, The Village Post, The Thrill Begins, and The Crime Hub, among other publications.  

Among other things, Carter and Samantha discuss how she has been writing full novels since the age of ten, risk taking and the fear of failure among aspiring writers, and the experience of having a book published after years of hard work. At the end of their conversation, they tell a character driven story starting from a sentence from The Rainmaker by John Grisham. 

Episode 81 | March 30, 2023

Kimberly Giarratano is an author of mysteries for teens and adults. Her debut novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, won the 2015 Silver Falchion Award for Best YA at Killer Nashville. A former librarian, she is currently an instructor at a SUNY Orange County Community College and a reviewer for BookPage.  

Among other things, Carter and Kimberly discuss the intricacies of describing characters, how they both find more inspiration from TV shows than reading at times, and how both like experimenting with their writing. At the end of their conversation, they conjure up a story full of mysteries starting with a sentence from Caroline B. Cooney’s novel, Before She Was Helen. 

Episode 80 | March 27, 2023

Veronica G. Henry is the author of Bacchanal, The Quarter Storm, and The Foreign Exchange in the Mambo Reina series. Her work has debuted at #1 on multiple Amazon bestseller charts, was chosen as an editors’ pick for Best African American Fantasy and shortlisted for the Manly Wade Wellman Award.  

Among other things, Carter and Veronica discuss how being a writer changes your reading habits, how Veronica’s career began after reading a “how-to-write” book, and how many people it takes to get a book published. At the end of their conversation, they devise a story about two people in a bad situation, starting with a sentence out of The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. 

Episode 79 | March 16, 2023

Tracy Clark, a native Chicagoan, is the author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, featuring ex-cop turned PaI Cassandra Raines. Her debut, BROKEN PLACES, made Library Journal’s list of the Best Crime Fiction of 2018 and CrimeReads named Cass Raines Best New PI of 2018. The novel was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, an Anthony Award for Best Debut Novel and a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel.  

Among other things, Carter and Tracy discuss how Tracy’s motivation to write began with a character, how rejection letters can sometimes be totally unhelpful, and what Tracy does when she gets stuck. At the end of their conversation, they work together to create a crime scene from a sentence out of Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon. 

Episode 78 | March 9, 2023

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eight novels, including The Personal Assistant, The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller, and the co-authored #1 Audible Original, Young Rich Widows. Her books have been published in dozens of languages and optioned for film and television. 

Among other things, Carter and Kimberly discuss how they both prefer to write in first-person, the benefits of treating writing like a job, and the dream of writing full time. At the end of their conversation, they make up a story about the moment fear slows time, starting with a sentence from Where She Went by Kelly Simmons 

Episode 77 | March 2, 2023

Rebecca Kelley is a fiction writer from Portland, Oregon; her first novel, Broken Homes & Gardens, was published in 2015. She also co-authored The Eco-nomical Baby Guide with Joy Hatch and her most recent novel, No One Knows Us Here, launched in early 2023.  

Among other things, Carter and Rebecca discuss how a teacher provided early courage in Rebecca’s writing abilities, how she used a blog to get an agent, and how much of a book needs to be completed before you can get a book deal. At the end of their conversation, their impromptu story perfectly depicts a tense and suspenseful relationship starting with a sentence from Atomic Family, by Ciera Horton McElroy. 

Episode 76 | February 23, 2023

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, is the author of Winter Counts, which has won multiple awards and was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Weiden received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts, his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.  

Among other things, Carter and David discuss David’s childhood spent between the Sicangu Lakota Nation and the rougher parts of Denver, if technology is replacing reading in younger generations, and forgetting details from their own novels. At the end of the conversation, they craft a scene from a sentence from Greg Iles’s Spandau Phoenix. 

Episode 75 | February 16, 2023

Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. The result was The French Girl, which was published by Berkley in February 2018. This was followed by The Missing Years in 2019 and How To Kill Your Best Friend in 2021. She is now working on her fourth novel. 

Among other things, Carter and Lexie discuss Lexie’s path towards writing novels, how they both know they would write even if no one read their work, and what it is that draws them to writing thrillers. At the end of their conversation, they set up a thriller of their own starting from a sentence out of Donna Tartt’s novel, The Little Friend. 

Episode 74 | February 13, 2023

Before launching his career as a novelist, Chad Boudreaux served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He has also served in several high-ranking positions at the U.S. Justice Department, where he was hired the night before the September 11, 2001 attacks. During his time at the Justice Department, Boudreaux focused most of his time on matters relating to terrorism and homeland security. 

His career in the government inspired him to write his debut novel, Scavenger Hunt, released in January 2023. 

Among other things, Carter and Chad discuss the discipline necessary to write novels while working a full-time job, the parallels between being a lawyer and a fiction author, and the sheer amount of work it takes to get a novel published. At the end of their conversation, they craft a short story of conflict beginning with a sentence from John Grisham’s The Street Lawyer. 

Episode 73 | February 2, 2023

Mark Stevens returns to Making It Up to talk about his fantastic new novel, The Fireballer. Mark has worked as a reporter, television news producer, and in public relations. He’s also the author of The Allison Coil Mystery Series and has had multiple books be finalists as well as his, Trapline, won the Colorado Book Award. In September of 2016, Stevens was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year.  

Among other things, the two discuss Mark’s voice and writing style for his new novel, the inspiration for his baseball-themed story, how well The Fireball is doing, and what it took to get the book published.  

Episode 72 | January 26, 2023

Nuzo Onoh is a Nigerian-British writer of Igbo descent, a pioneer of the African horror literary subgenre, and hailed as the “Queen of African Horror.” Nuzo holds both a Law degree and a Masters in Writing from Warwick University. Nuzo’s works have featured in numerous magazines, podcasts, and anthologies, as well as in several academic studies and publications, and her latest novel was released last November titled, A Dance for the Dead.

Among other things, Carter and Nuzo discuss her childhood growing up through war, how she turned nightmares into her creative inspiration, and her fear of not finishing all her stories. At the end of their conversation, they tell a heart clenching story starting with a sentence from The Little Friend by Donna Tartt.

Episode 71 | January 12, 2023

Ronald Kelly has been writing and publishing horror tales set in the American South for 36 years. A former Zebra Books author, his published works include Fear, Undertaker’s Moon, Blood Kin, Hell Hollow, and many more. His audio collection of Southern-fried short stories, Dark Dixie: Tales of Southern Horror, was included on the nominating ballot of the 1992 Grammy Awards for Best Non-Musical or Spoken Album. In 2021, his collection of extreme horror fiction, The Essential Sick Stuff, won a Splatterpunk Award for Best Collection. His latest release is Southern Fried & Horrified. 

Among other things, Carter and Ronald discuss how Ronald took the self-taught route, the changes to the Horror Genre over time and how that impacted individual writers such as himself, and the stereotypes people have about authors. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story about change and realizations starting with a sentence out of Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry. 

Episode 70 | December 29, 2022

Jennifer Givhan, a National Endowment for the Arts and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow, is a Mexican American writer, activist, and the author of four full-length poetry collections: Landscape with Headless Mama, Protection Spell, Girl with Death Mask, and Rosa’s Einstein. Her novels include Trinity Sight, Jubilee, and most recently, River Woman, River Demon.  

Among other things, Carter and Jennifer discuss adding educational value to fiction in a well-balanced way, how some writers gravitate to a similar theme throughout many different novels, and what it took for Jennifer to make her first story publishable. At the end of their conversation, they make up a mystical story starting with a sentence from The Fireballer by Mark Stevens.  

Episode 69 | December 15, 2022

Carla Damron is a fiction writer and social worker. In addition to The Stone Necklace, she authored the Caleb Knowles mystery novels, in which she explores the social issues of addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. Her latest novel, The Orchid Tattoo, takes on the dark horrors of human trafficking. 

Among other things, Carter and Carla discuss using writing as a therapeutic outlet, how Carla getting her MFA changed how she approaches writing, and the importance of having a well-rounded villain. At the end of their conversation, they craft a nerve-raising story beginning with a sentence out of The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson. 

Episode 68 | December 1, 2022

Katie Sise is a bestselling author, TV host, and jewelry designer featured in major fashion magazines and television shows. Jewelry and television work inspired her first novel, Creative Girl, which was when she realized the thing she most wanted to do in the world was write books. After ghost writing bestselling NYT suspense books, she published three of her own novels with HarperCollins and has gone on to sell bestselling adult novels since, the most recent of which was released this November, The Break. 

Among other things, Carter and Katie discuss the importance of perseverance in writing, Katie’s experience with ghost writing, and the relationship authors have with their characters. At the end of their conversation, they set up an intense scene worthy of a Netflix thriller, beginning with a sentence out of Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis. 

Episode 67 | November 18, 2022

Barbara Nickless is the #1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Sydney Parnell police procedural series. She promised her mother she’d be a novelist when she grew up, because what could be safer than sitting at a desk all day? Now she is an award-winning author and creative-writing instructor, and she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies.  

Among other things, Carter and Barbara discuss writing crime fiction while being sensitive to current political climates, how much attention to give to reviews and readers’ opinions, and all the adventures Barbara went through before landing on writing. At the end of their conversation, they make up an exciting yet chilling story, starting with a sentence from Forsaken Country by Allen Eskens.

Episode 66 | November 10, 2022

Jeffrey Wilson has at one time worked as an actor, a firefighter, a paramedic, a jet pilot, a diving instructor, a Naval Officer, and a Vascular and Trauma Surgeon. He is also the co-author, with Brian Andrews, of the Wall Street Journal and Amazon #1 Bestselling TIER ONE series of thrillers from Thomas & Mercer. He still works as a consultant for the Department of Defense when not hard at work on his next book. 

Among other things, Carter and Jeffrey discuss the challenges of short versus long fiction, how Jeffrey used his experiences to fuel his writing, and the challenges of writing realistic violence. At the end of their conversation, they make up a gory tale from a sentence in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  

Episode 65 | November 3, 2022

Samuel Octavius spent 24 years in the Marine Corps, being rewarded with tons of stories to share. He has pursued his passions for writing, technology, and the intersection of futurism and society. He retired at the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant, completed a B.S. and an M.S. and continues to pursue graduate studies while working on his first novel, The Echo Chamber. 

Among other things, Carter and Samuel discuss the impact that speech and debate in high school had on Sam’s life, his experience in the military and the adjustment period afterwards, and the difference between having the idea for a story and being a storyteller. At the end of the conversation, they make up an intriguing story from a sentence out of The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. 

Episode 64 | October 27, 2022

Jonathan Woods holds multiple degrees and for many years he practiced law for a multi-national high-tech company. But writing is his real passion. His stories have appeared in 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika, Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit and other web-based literary magazines. His latest novel, Wild Hogs, released late August this year. 

Among other things, Carter and Jonathan discuss childhood reading, Jonathan’s years in-between law and writing, and living the writer’s dream. At the end of their conversation, they tell a story quite fitting for Halloween weekend, starting with a sentence from Stephen Hunter’s Black Light. 

Episode 63 | October 20, 2022

Kelly J. Ford is the author of Real Bad Things, and Cottonmouths, named one of 2017’s best books of the year by the Los Angeles Review and featured in the “52 Books in 52 Weeks” from the Los Angeles Times. An Arkansas native, Kelly writes crime fiction set in the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley. Kelly is also an occasional co-host with Daniel Ford on the Writer’s Bone podcast. She lives in Vermont with her wife, cat, and dog. 

Among other things, Carter and Kelly discuss the best locations for thrillers, the influence social media can have on authors, and some advice to new authors. At the end of their conversation, they make up an intriguing scene starting with a sentence from Tell No Lies by Julie Compton. 

Episode 62 | October 13, 2022

Sam McAlister was the first in her family to go to university, before training to be a criminal barrister. As a single mum, she decided her real passion was in news. Now BAFTA-nominated for her work with BBC Newsnight, Sam’s hard-won exclusives have shaped the public conversation. Most notably, she is the woman who clinched the 2019 interview with Prince Andrew, described as ‘a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion’. Sam’s new book, Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews, has recently been optioned for film. 

Among other things, Carter and Sam discuss her experience as a barrister, her ability to connect with people, and jumping into a book deal without any experience writing. At the end of their conversation, they delve into the mind of a character starting with a sentence out of Lost Lake by Emily LittleJohn.

Episode 61 | October 6, 2022

Wendy Walker’s psychological suspense novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages, topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad, and have been optioned for television and film. Prior to her writing career, Wendy practiced both corporate and family law and worked as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Her latest novel, What Remains, will be released in June, 2023. 

Among other things, Carter and Wendy discuss the difference between writing and reading dark novels, how she applies her real-life knowledge to her characters, and their love for ambiguous endings. At the end of their conversation, they tell what could be the beginning of a new thriller novel, starting with a sentence from Just After Sunset by Stephen King. 

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