Carter Wilson | Thriller Author
Every now and then I’ll get asked about writing the opening lines to my novels. How long do you toil over each of those words, making sure they’re perfect? How often did you go back and change that first sentence? And how did you decide on the first line of  The New Neighbor?

All great questions. Let’s see.

<<looks up first line of The New Neighbor>>

Oh, yeah, that’s right.

I thought I couldn’t handle another minute in the funeral home, but this church is worse.

I remember it now. This line actually changed a bit after my first round of editorial notes, but the tone is the same. And that’s almost always what I’m going for with a first line: tone. I don’t need action. I don’t need an immediate hook. (exception: my first line from The Comfort of BlackHannah didn’t have a plan beyond setting her father on fire.)

I need tone. Mood. Ambiance.

I want the reader to feel an immediate sense of mild unease, like wondering if you remembered to turn off the oven. In the case of The New Neighbor, all you can glean from the first line is that the narrator is at a funeral and is getting increasingly miserable. Sets the stage for the unpleasantness that follows, alerts the reader that this isn’t gonna be a feel-good story (depending on what makes you feel good, I suppose). That first line doesn’t have to be dramatic, but it should be intriguing and, ideally, a bit vague.

I look at it this way: the first line should be like the opening few bars of music during a movie’s title sequence. You’re sitting there watching as the opening credits roll and a single violin plucks in a staccato style, high-pitched and dissonant. Haunting. Just those few notes tell you: this movie’s going to freak me out.

So that’s how I approach my opening line. It’s all about the tone. But you know what? No one ever talks about a book’s second line, and usually that’s the crossing punch delivered after the jab.

I thought I couldn’t handle another minute in the funeral home, but this church is worse.

My wife doesn’t belong here.

Yeah, now we’re getting dark.
““Eerie, disturbing, and violent, Wilson’s psychological thriller packs a real punch, with a shocker of an ending.”   — Booklist on The New Neighbor
Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my conversation series Making It Up are out!

This month I chatted with ITW Thriller Award finalist Aaron Philip Clark,  Nebula, Lambda, and Locus-nominated author Lara Elena Donnelly, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison, and New York Times Editors’ Choice novelist Erica Ferencik.

All episodes are available on my YouTube channel and wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Check them out now here
Making It Up clip of the week!

Erica Ferencik and I discuss her roots in stand-up comedy.
Sheraton Times Square
Craftfest instructor: “Marketing the Thriller Writer”,  June 1
Panel, “The Writer Who Influenced You Most,” June 4

September 8-11, 2022

Hilton Minneapolis
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Make sure to check my calendar for the more up-to-date information. Also, if you’re interested in having me speak at your event or book club, please reach out to my PR team.
What I’m Reading

The Lies I Tell, Julie Clark (Sourcebooks, June 2022)

I’ve gotten to know Julie a bit over the past year (she was actually one of my first guests on Making It Up), and I recently did a virtual event with her in which we interviewed each other about our latest books. As such, I was able to get my hands on a galley of The Lies I Tell, which releases in June.

The book falls somewhere in the suspense-thriller range and tells the story of con-artist Meg–who goes to great lengths to scam her victims–and Kat, the woman seeking to finally stop her. An ostensibly straightforward setup that soon becomes very twisty in the best possible ways. There is a lot of grey in this book–Julie doesn’t believe in pure villains or heroes–and the moral ambiguity on display adds tremendous  depth to the characters.  Pre-order now so you can add this excellent book to your summer reading pile.
What I’m Watching

The Shining – Opera (Denver Opera House). Yes, you read that right. An opera version of Stephen King’s The Shining. My daughter was back from college for a few weeks and I decided this would make for a fun night out in Denver. And it was! 

There was no false advertising about it–this was literally the story of The Shining as told by opera signers. So I’m not going to lie, the first act took a little getting used to. When a line as simple as “I’m worried about Danny” takes forever to sing because it’s been, you know, opera-ized, the whole event has the potential to get very tedious. But the story soon took its nicely dark turn, there was some truly creepy moments, and the sets were AMAZING. Best of all, it was a real-life cultural event and I got to spend a night out on the town with one of my favorite people in the world. 
Photo of the Month
Flashing back to 2011, when I took this shot of Machu Picchu. You can see a million pictures of this place and will still be spellbound the first time experiencing it in person. Simply dizzying.
Update from My Kids
I ordered eight cubic yards of mulch (which is a lot) with the intention of paying Sawyer to spread it around the yard. But he got easily distracted, and instead of working he grabbed a guitar and beer bottle and started making his own county-album covers. When I checked in to ask about his progress, here’s what he sent me.
Update from My Cat
“In its flawless grace and superior self-sufficiency I have seen a symbol of the perfect beauty and bland impersonality of the universe itself.”  —H.P. Lovecraft, on cats
What’s in my Backyard? 

After a long hiatus, the bobcat is back! Caught her strolling through the backyard around 3am. She’s probably insanely jealous of the fort I built for Guff (more on that next month).
Dark Humor of the Month, sent to me by a friend  
Book-Love Instagram Post of the Month  
Wow, thank you, @jandrews560!
That’s it for now – until next month!


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