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!

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Latest Episodes

Episode 13 | July 23, 2021

Erika Englehaupt has spent more than a decade writing and editing for top science publications, including National Geographic, Science News, Scientific American, the Philadelphia Inquirer and NPR. Her niche is exploring the gross and horrifying realities of nature. She decided to take it a step further, diving even deeper than her beloved blog, and write a book called Gory Details

Among other things, Carter and Erika discuss growing up with an engineer and inventor dad who always had a lab nearby, the struggles of being a science writer, and how to write a book inspired from a blog. At the end of their conversation, they make up a wild tale of a man who might not be what he seems with a random sentence from North and South by John Jakes.

Episode 12 | July 13, 2021

Emily Bleeker is a busy woman. She’s a mother of four, an improv actor, an aspiring guitarist and, oh yeah, the Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of six novels. Combined, her books have reached over a million readers. She is a two-time Whitney Award finalist and was recently listed as one of the top 100 Kindle authors “of all time.” Her latest novel, What’s Left Unsaid, releases July 2021.

Among other things, Carter and Emily discuss writing from wildly different points of views, how surviving a rare form of cancer influenced her novels, and how a person knows when they’ve finally become a writer. At the end of their conversation, they make up a murderous tale on the open seas based on a sentence from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Episode 11 | July 5, 2021

Graham Hurley is the author of 25 novels, and shows no signs of slowing down. In his previous life, he worked as a script-writer with Southern Television before becoming a researcher and later a director. His latest novel is The Last Flight to Stalingrad, which The Times called “historical fiction of the highest order.”

Among other things, Carter and Graham discuss his lifelong love of WWII stories, writing five novels before he turned 18, and the challenge of mixing fact with fiction in historical novels. At the end of their conversation, they make up a twisty survivor story beginning with a random sentence from Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller Unbroken.

Episode 10 | July 5, 2021

Julia Heaberlin is the author of the international bestseller Black-Eyed Susans, Paper Ghosts, and We Are All the Same in the Dark, the latter of which her newest crime novel set in the moody landscape of Texas where she grew up. Heaberlin’s psychological thrillers, all set in her home state, have sold to more than twenty countries.

Among other things, Carter and Julia discuss murder in a small town, how persistence is equally important as talent in writing, and how a personal tragedy affected her work-in-progress. At the end of their conversation, they make up a dark tale involving scissors beginning with a random sentence from Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.

Episode 9 | June 28, 2021

Steven James is a kind and gentle soul who writes about dark, gritty things. He’s the author of more than thirty books, including the critically acclaimed Bowers Files, an eleven-book series of psychological thrillers which includes Opening Moves, Every Crooked Path, and Every Deadly Kiss. The series has received four Christy Awards, which is a damn big deal.

Among other things, Carter and Steven discuss his family’s history of spinning yarns, getting a Master’s degree in storytelling, and how faith can influence writing. At the end of their chat, Carter and Steven create a tale of domestic turmoil using a sentence from James Clavell’s Shogun.

Episode 8 | June 21, 2021

Mark Stevens is a helluva good writer and an all-around good dude. Best known for his Allison Coil mystery series, Mark’s novel Antler Dust was a Denver Post best-seller in 2007 and 2009.

Among other things, Carter and Mark discuss what it was like being raised by librarians, how an early life in journalism fueled a passion for writing crime fiction, and the Herculean task of posthumously publishing fourteen of a friend’s novels. At the end of their chat, Carter and Mark create a rather bizarre story using a sentence from the non-fiction work The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick by Norman Kagan.

Episode 7 | June 13, 2021

Lynne Constantine is an internationally bestselling author who writes with her sister as Liv Constantine (The Last Mrs. Parrish) and solo as L.C. Shaw (The Silent Conspiracy). Her books have been translated into 28 languages, are available in 33 countries, and are in development for both television and film.

Among other things, Carter and Lynne talk about her father working for Spiro Agnew, the process of writing books with a sibling, and the dread of receiving the first editorial notes on a manuscript. At the end of their conversation, they make up a boozy little tale based on a random sentence from Mortal Fear by Greg Iles.

Episode 6 | June 6, 2021

K.J. Howe lived all over the world growing up, and those experiences turned her into a bestselling and award-winning storyteller with global reach.

Among other things, Carter and K.J. talk about meticulous research, the kindness of thriller writers, and kidnapping conferences in Miami. At the end of their conversation they make up a short story starting with a sentence from William Goldman’s Princess Bride.

Episode 5 | May 30, 2021

Sean Eads writes for himself and is unapologetic about it. Not only is Sean a talented and amazingly prolific author of countless novels and short stories, he and Carter are in the same critique group.

Carter and Sean talk about audience, character development, and the lasting pain from accidentally deleting a manuscript. At the end of their conversation they make up a short story starting with a sentence from Eyre Price’s Rock Island Rock.

Episode 4 | May 21, 2021

David Bell has been fascinated by murder since he was a kid. Fortunately, his career path led him to writing stories about it rather than committing it. He’s the USA Today bestselling author of ten standalone thrillers and his eleventh, Kill All Your Darlings, releases in July 2021.

Among other things, Carter and David talk discuss the highs and lows of publishing, the wisdom he imparts on his writing students, and how he defines success as an author. At the end of the conversation, they make up a weird story about chest hair using a sentence from The Children’s War by J.N. Stroyar.

Episode 3 | April 1, 2021

Joe Clifford’s writing career was immensely helped when he was hit by a bus. Today, this bestselling mystery and crime writer has a dozen books to his name and life is good, even if it requires a cane.

Carter and Joe discuss Joe’s past struggles with heroin addiction, his inability or desire to hold down a 9-5 job, and love and heartbreak within the publishing industry.

At the end of the conversation, they make up a noirish tale using a beginning sentence from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

Episode 2 | March 31, 2021

Julie Clark still tells people she’s an elementary school teacher, which she is. But she’s also the New York Times bestselling author of the 2020 breakout thriller The Last Flight.

Carter and Julie talk about working multiple jobs, the unpredictability of the publishing industry, and how to continuously become a better writer.

At the end of the conversation, they make up a surreal circus story using a sentence from The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, by J. P. Donleavy.

Episode 1 | March 26, 2021

Alex Marwood was a journalist who worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, achieved widespread acclaim and international bestsellerdom. It was shortlisted for ITW, Anthony and Macavity awards, was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list, and won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Carter and Alex talk about the other famous writers in her family, the highs and lows of publishing, and what it’s like writing when you have ADHD. At the end of our conversation, we make up a dark little tale based on a random sentence from Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose.

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