Linda Hengerer talks with Carrie Stuart Parks about her latest book, Relative Silence, forensic and fine art, and writing.
Linda Hengerer talks with Carrie Stuart Parks, an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols and Inspys; the Christy, Golden Scroll, Kudos, Maxwell, and Wright. Her books have finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Selah, and Cascade competitions. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.
Visit her at CarrieStuartParks.com to find out more information about Carrie, her art, and her books, including her most recent release Relative Silence.
Get to know Carrie: The Tart Words Baker's Dozen
1. Plotter or Pantser? Combo? Plotter
2. Tea or Coffee? coffee
3. Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? wine
4. Snacks: Sweet or Savory? yes
5. Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? trad mostly but training materials are indie
6. Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No yes
7. Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? mostly computer
8. Daily Goal: Yes or No: yes
9. Formal Track Progress: Yes or no: sort of
10. Special Writing Spot? yes
11. Writer’s Block? no
12. File of Ideas: Yes or No: no, only for current book
13. Favorite Author(s)? TNTC
Carrie Stuart Parks
Fine and Forensic Artist
She has a pencil and she's not afraid to use it.
Relative Silence, HarperCollins Christian 2020
Kudos Award Winner best Fiction
Fragments of Fear, HarperCollins Christian 2019
Golden Scroll Winner in Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Formula of Deception, HarperCollins Christian, 2018
Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense Mainstream finalist
Cascade Award Contemporary Fiction finalist
Portrait of Vengeance, HarperCollins Christian, 2017
Inspys Award winner mystery/suspense
Carol Award Winner mystery/suspense/thriller
Wright Award Winner Fiction
Maxwell Award Winner, Fiction
RT Finalist Inspirational mystery/suspense/thriller
When Death Draws Near, HarperCollins Christian, 2016
Christy Winner, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Carol Winner, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
RT Reviewer's Choice Best Book Awards for 2016 finalist
Christian Retailing Best Finalist: mystery/suspense
Inspy Award Finalist
Idaho Author Awards: winner: mystery/suspense
The Bones Will Speak, HarperCollins Christian, 2015
INSPY winner: mystery/suspense
Christy Award Finalist: suspense/mystery
Christian Retailing Best Finalist: mystery/suspense
Family Fiction Readers Choice 15 Best Books of 2015
Idaho Author Awards Finalist 2016: mystery/suspense
A Cry From the Dust, HarperCollins Christian, 2014
Carol Award Winner: mystery/suspense/thriller
Christy Award finalist
Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors J
Episode 119 - Carrie Stuart Parks
Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words.
Today I'm talking with Carrie Stuart Parks, an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols and Inspys; the Christy, Golden Scroll, Kudos, Maxwell, and Wright. Her books have finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Selah, and Cascade competitions. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers. To find out more information about Carrie and her books, visit www.CarrieStuartParks.com.
Hi, Carrie, welcome to the podcast.
Hi, Linda. I'm so excited to be here.
I'm really looking forward to talking to you today. I heard you first on I think it was actually a Sisters in Crime webinar. And I was really interested in what you do and what you write about.
It was interesting because I had my airline tickets already to go to fly out to Virginia and do a full day presentation over there and COVID hit. And so everything went on the back burner until we could figure out exactly how to handle these different presentations. But we finally got it done. So that was good.
Tell me about your latest book.
The latest book is called Relative Silence. Actually, the latest latest book is Women in Shadow, but it won't be out until July. So the one that's out now is Relative Silence. And like all of my books, it's a mystery Suspense Thriller that is involving forensic art and dogs, and Relative Silence actually takes place in the Charleston area of South Carolina, Mount Pleasant and so on, though that's quite far from where I live, which is Idaho, but we were forensically, my husband and I and we teach so Mount Pleasant police department is one of the locations where we teach and I thought well, wouldn't it be fun to place a story in South Carolina.
And I like the fact that you talk about a hurricane coming in because I live on the Atlantic coast of Florida. And I am quite familiar with Hurricane preps and what can happen during a hurricane. And a lot of it isn't good.
I actually had to Rick has cousins in South Carolina. So when I was getting ready to write about the hurricane, since I've never experienced it, we don't have those in Idaho. I interviewed his cousins and said, Okay, what is it like to live through a hurricane and my husband is from Virginia. So he lived through and I don't remember which hurricane it was, but he told me about that. But he was inland, he was in Woodbridge. And I wanted to put what it would feel like to be in a hurricane when you're on an island when you can have a storm surge higher than your island. And I thought well, now that's pretty exciting. That would make a pretty good antagonist as a whole hurricane. So they told me what it like in the sounds and what they did and so on. And I was very appreciative of that.
Is this book part of a series or do you write standalones?
The first four books I wrote were a series and I was 30-40,000 words into the next book in the series, and my publishing house came back and said, okay, no more in this series. And I was like, what, what? What? No, you can't do this to me. No, no, I love this character. So I had to start all over. And they wanted me to just write standalones for a while. So the last four books have been stand alones
That's interesting. Generally, with mysteries a series is the way to go because readers really liked the characters.
Well, that's what I thought but they said no, they wanted standalones. So there is a link between three of the books and that the characters are all coming. This was the first one that characters are all coming up a group called Clan Firinn, which is Scottish for family of truth. What I did is I came up with an idea that there's a farm in eastern Washington, that would take First responders and law enforcement people who had ruin the reputation or had PTSD or had very, very severe emotional problems because of their work. And this place is like a recovery. And so the characters in the next three books, starting with Relative Silence are all from Clan Firinn, and are recovering from some event that had happened to them. So in Relative Silence, the male character is a forensic artist who destroyed his life and basically had to change everything in order to get back to life again. So he had gone through the treatment and was in South Carolina working on the Hunley which is the first submarine that sank a boat in a wartime situation. And it was the war was a Civil War. So it was a Civil War submarine. So he was out working on that when he runs against my protagonist.
Yeah, I would not have thought about submarines being around during the Civil War. So that's really interesting in and of itself.
And I love to weave history, some kind of historical event through my story is to bring them not written from the time period, they're written in the present time. But in Relative Silence, I brought out the Hunley the book before that was Fragments of Fear, where I touched on that was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I touched on the Native American people as well as the land that's down there. And the one before that touched on World War Two and the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. So I tried to get some historical context as well.
It's interesting. Is that because if your background as a forensic artist?
Well, I try to put forensic art or something similar to it in all of the books. In Relative Silence the fellow is a forensic artist, forensic art defined as any art pertaining to law enforcement or legal proceedings, the book that will come out in July, it'll be a forensic linguist. And that's kind of relating to my work with signs of deception through language. So I thought, well, let's have a forensic linguist, which is different, but I usually weave that in there somehow, because that allows me to use my own background and training in that field.
Interesting. Tell me a little bit about Piper Boone. She's the female protagonist in Relative Silence.
Her full name is Sandpiper Boone. I use templates of people. So she's a template, if you will, of the Kennedy family. Basically, she's the daughter of some very, very powerful and wealthy people that have a compound on what they call Curlew Island off the coast of South Carolina. Her older brother is a senator and their wealth and their political pole is very significant. Piper when she was first married, she had a daughter, a four year old daughter who it was that died in a boating accident, and she never really recovered from that. She ended up divorcing her husband, she moved away from home and tried to make a go of it in a publishing industry couldn't make a go of it couldn't really get on with her life. Her basically her life just stopped with the loss of her daughter. So she decided to just go back and hide from the world on the family compound in on Curlew Island, when the story opens, she is having lunch with a friend on an outdoor cafe when a gunman opens fire on her and she's saved by the fellow who is the forensic artist, male love interest, if you will, that saves her life. So through this story, she finds out that a fellow is able to age progress faces, and she asked him to age progress the face of her daughter so she could see what her daughter would look like today. And that's one of the many things that forensic artists do. I've done a number of those so he aged progresses, the photograph, and she becomes convinced she knows who this girl is that her daughter didn't die. Even though they found her body. They did DNA she's buried. I mean, there's no doubt that they found her body but she can handle it. She does not believe that she believes that her daughter is actually alive. So this story explores her feelings about that her struggles to come to grips with what has happened, the people in her life that would keep her in the situation she's in now her escapist actions covers a lot of that type of thing. It's sort of a family saga. In a way though it only covers her primarily.
I did read the book. So it did seem to me that there were some similarities between Piper and Tucker where they're both dealing with issues in their past and trying to move on with their lives. But certainly the shooting would not be a good way for someone with PTSD to move on with their life; to me that would bring them right back to a fraught time in their life.
Right with Tucker, he was a drunk while he drank that was his escape. And in his drinking, he is in a car accident where he loses his wife and unborn child. So he's living with the guilt of that. And he's also living with the terror of water because that was part of his PTSD. And of course, he's invited to go out to the island which is surrounded by water. So that's a huge challenge that he has to overcome and face.
I really enjoyed the book. And I look forward to reading some of the other stories that are I guess, loosely related by the Clan Firinn?
Yes, f i, r, i, n, n. It’s Gaelic.
I have Scottish ancestry myself, and I'm always interested in Celtic things and Gaelic things, and some of the legends and lore that goes along with that.
Do you have a writing routine or schedule?
I do, it's been badly tossed. Because my laptop decided to give up the ghost, I've ordered a new one, my normal routine is to sit in the living room with my laptop, and just right from the time I get up until roughly noon ish, or one o'clock, we're somewhere right in there, I have a word count that I try for, I'm having to use my desktop. And that's changed a whole lot. Because I'm sitting differently, I'm looking different. My husband said, Oh, my gosh, he said, I feel like Rain Man, you know, you're not sitting over there, you're not sitting over there. So my routine is very disturbed that the new laptop will arrive in a week or so. So I'll get back to that. But I work I write unless I've got some event, I try to write every day for several hours.
Did your dying laptop trap your work in progress on it? Or were you able to access that and keep working?
It took me half a day to find it, I think that the operating system is fine. But the screen is now sort of an interesting plaid. So there's a big black bar that goes through the middle. And then the whole lower part is little ripples. So if I can bring something up to the top right corner, I can see what it is I spent a big part of the day trying to find the latest edition of the story, I usually say like by the name, and then the month, so March, April, and so on, it turned out that I had been saving the current work by an earlier name. So I thought, Oh, no, I've lost a week's worth of writing, I've lost 1000s of words. Don't let it happen. But I found it. Now it's backed up all over the place. I mean, I had it backed up. But you don't think about backing up all the time you think about doing it every couple of days. But then when you realize, you know, if I lost, I've lost that. Plus the notes, I have extensive notes. I had they there as well. I was hoping I had the most current thoughts also on my notes, and I was able to find most everything. And when the new laptop comes in, I'll take it over and have everything transferred. So I'll be back to my routine.
That is a sick feeling to think that you have lost days-worth of work. And it is such a relief when you find it, whether it's under a different name, or you were able to access it a different way. But I have had a finger fumble and not days of work, but maybe an hour's worth of work and inadvertently got deleted and can't undo to get it back. It's like I'm not even sure like what combination of keys I hate to do that. But it's like, Alright, well what was I thinking? What did I write? How do I get it back? And it's never exactly the same.
Exactly. And oftentimes, you spend time on one little pass that you wouldn't just want to get it right got to flow better and you work on and you work on you finally get it you know, oh, it's good. Okay, now it's working and you move on, and then it's gone. And it's like, no, it took me how long to fix that mess.
And do you outline?
I do, I actually teach a class at different writers conferences called Visual Plotting. So I teach people who hate to plot how to do it using mind mapping or link analysis. These are different names for the same thing. But I use a mind mapping to figure out where my character is going to go, the big points in the story I use, what clues do I need to get, when do I introduce a new character, what big events and then from that I go to the internet and download images and I go from mind mapping to essentially storyboarding. So I storyboard it. So that I see it, and I'm an artist. So I'm very, very visual. So I storyboard it. Then I have another kind of running pages that I write notes like, what does the house look like they're in, I might download house plans, I might have to day by day, what are they doing on this day? What are they doing on this day, I might have to figure out when a lot of things I do is figure out when people were born, how old they are the relationships. And I use a program by James Scott Bell, who has written a number of books-he's an author himself. But he's also written a number of books, like Write Your Novel from the Middle, but he has a program called Knockout Novel. And it helps me to focus on the different characters, even though that may not appear in the book. I still know all about them. So I use a combination. So by the time I type things out, it is outlined I figured it out and but it's still open to a lot of surprises, like you're typing along, all of a sudden you go Oh, gosh, look there, look what they just did. So it leaves that open, which the pantsers really liked to have.
Yes, you're also a fine artist, aren't you as well as a forensic artist?
I am my gallery closed down just before COVID. I was at my gallery, the gallery that represented me, but I wrote five books on drawing and watercolor for North Light Publishers, of which some of them are still in print, actually one of them still a best-seller. And then I taught art, but I was a watercolorist and sold paintings to corporate and private collections, large watercolor paintings to places like the Halekulani, Waikiki, the Kalia Hilton quarterly resort, a variety of different places like that,
Do you find that painting is an outlet for writing? Do you write in the morning and paint in the afternoon? Or are they separate things?
They're both creative. So from that standpoint, either one will provide me with creativity currently, because I, as I know, you will know about this, I am working under a deadline. So the paintings taking a back step or a backseat right now, until I hit my deadline. But I do have some events coming up where I've got to produce some artwork. So I'll start working on that. And then I have a group of ladies that get together every year. They call it art camp. And so I'll need to come up with at least five or six projects for them. So I'll need to be doing five or six paintings, and working out the steps for them, as well. When I was actively painting I was producing between 150 and 250 watercolor paintings a year, considerably less prolific. Now
That sounds like it's what, three a week, three to five a week?
Yeah, yeah, I was very prolific. And that leads that can get you a pretty good case of burnout. When you're producing you know, you have to have 30 new paintings because you have a show coming up or 30 or 40 new paintings because doing some kind of exhibit or gallery opening or whatever you're going to be doing.
When is your next book coming out?
Woman in Shadow comes out July 12. It's currently with the public
Will a link to that be on your website?
A link to all the places you can get the books are on my website now.
I'll have the links to your website and to Relative Silence in the show notes for the podcast episode. I look forward to reading your next book. Thanks for coming on the podcast today, Carrie, I've enjoyed talking with you.
Thank you so much, Linda. You are just such a gracious person. I so appreciate this time.
Oh, You're quite welcome.
Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart119. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast, or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for bakers, readers and writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.
Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist. She travels across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals including the FBI, Secret Service, and RCMP, and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in the mystery/suspense/thriller genre have garnered numerous awards including several Carols and Inspys; the Christy, Golden Scroll, Kudos, Maxwell, and Wright. Her books have finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Selah, and Cascade competitions. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated best-selling art books for North Light Publishers.