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Interview with Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks, author of over twenty books, gives her readers the perfect mix of intrigue, mystery and danger with characters who are deeply rendered and flawed, but full of hope.

We are thrilled to chat with you today about your most recent mystery, Fallout, where your experiences with criminal cases and forensic art are yet again perfectly interwoven with tension-filled writing. Welcome!

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As an artist and teacher of both water colors and forensic/composite sketches, at what point did you decide to extend your creative pursuits to writing fiction?
I had written and illustrated a number of books on drawing and watercolor—how-to books. In 2003, I needed a Christmas present for a dear friend. I wrote a short story for her. She read the story to her husband, who felt I had some talent and offered to mentor me in writing fiction. The husband was Frank Peretti, who then mentored me for the next eight years.

What are some of your earliest memories of the written word that have inspired your own writing journey?
I was a voracious reader as a child, devouring every book on dogs (such as Albert Payson Terhune,) horses, and all the L. Frank Baum books. I didn’t think I had any writing ability (except some bad poetry.) I should modestly admit that I haven’t changed in that area—I’ve won Chip MacGregor’s bad poetry competition twice.

In the beginning of your writing journey, we are introduced to Gwen Marcey, a forensic artist who has battled cancer and the breakdown of her marriage. She is a much-loved character who stays with us through your first four novels. What inspired you to create new leading ladies for your most recent novels?
I don’t know if it was inspiration so much as my publisher telling me to write stand-alones!

We also see a themes of exploring the less traditional and more occult sides of Christianity throughout your earlier novels. What drew you to exploring these groups and cases, and how has your own faith been challenged in the research process?
The first book published, A Cry from the Dust, was about Mormonism—especially fundamental LDS. Living in Idaho, I know a lot of Mormons. I’d studied their beliefs in depth and wanted to create a cognitive dissonance—a reason to question what they thought they knew. The Bones will Speak is about the Phineas Priesthood and the Christian Identity movement. I looked into this topic as several of my forensic cases involved this violent, radical group.

When Death Draws Near is about the eastern Kentucky, Appalachian, Pentecostal snake handlers. I just thought this was interesting. My faith wasn’t challenged, it was strengthened.

I have been told as a writer myself to write what you don’t know about what you already know. We already know you intimately understand the forensic art side of criminal activity. What other questions challenged you to write your most recent novel, Fallout?
I knew very little about the history of Hanford, the geography of the area (eastern Washington,) and the Hutterites.

Your protagonist in Fallout, Samantha Williams, is described by early readers as an endearing, quirky character. Where did you draw your inspiration for creating her more eclectic mannerisms and interests?
I wanted a young woman who was in full retreat from the world, someone who didn’t want to travel over the rainbow but stay in Kansas. I looked at those childhood books I treasured so much.

Tell us about your lesser known start as a groomer and vet tech and your love of dogs and in particular Great Pyrenees. How have your own dogs’ lived wisdom weaved their way into your stories?
My folks started a Great Pyrenees kennel in 1960, so I grew up with dogs and dog shows. I competed and was a top winning junior handler. It was a natural step to grooming and working at vet hospitals during and after college when other types of jobs weren’t available. The first four books had “Winston,” a Great Pyrenees, loosely based on our Winnie and other of our dogs. I currently have five dogs—four Pyrenees and a Bull Terrier. I serve on the board of directors of the Great Pyrenees Club of America and chair the Judges Education. This year I judged the Pyrenees National show in Chicago.

What do you hope readers take away from this most recent thriller, beyond a pulse-racing, sweat-induced marathon of a read?
Exposure to little-known history, knowledge of an interesting region, introduction to a lesser known group (Hutterites,) and an acknowledgement of God’s hand in our lives.

Reflecting back on your many publishing and award-winning successes, what do you see as most significant to your publication career?
Meeting Frank Peretti and his mentoring me.

For the budding thriller and suspense writers reading this, what tips can you share about creating twisting plots and unforgettable endings?
Answer the six questions: who is your protagonist? What does he want? Why does he want it? What is he going to do to get it? Who is going to stop him? What will happen if he fails?
Think of the ending, think of how to get there, then think of how you can throw a few wrenches into the mix…

What can we get excited about reading next from you and how can we track with you in your writing journey?
I’m working on a new book which I’m calling Bay of Secrets. Drop into my web page, then sign up for my newsletter. And God bless you for doing so!

Thank you so much again for joining us this month on Fiction Finder, and we can’t wait to dive into Fallout September 13th!
As a teen, Tara Ross first discovered how hope-filled prose can change the entire trajectory of a person's life. Case in point: her life. She now has the joy of sharing this truth with youth every day - as a Speech-Language Pathologist, youth ministry worker and YA author. Her debut novel and blog, were created to ignite sparks of faith for Generation Z. You can follow Tara on instagram (tara.k.ross) or twitter (tara_k_ross) for more book reviews, tattoo-worthy quotes, and updates on her publishing journey.

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