Origin of Suspense: Twitter Plus A Fascination With Guilt

Sep 28, 2017

"You know, as a writer, it’s always these tidbits that catch your attention: the little article, or maybe a line in a song, or something somebody says, or a story, and in this case it was actually on Twitter."                         -- Christine Carbo

The Weight of Night
Credit Simon & Schuster

The following are highlights  from a conversation with Christine Carbo about her book, The Weight of Night. For the full interview, click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.

Sarah Aronson: Where did you first come across this [sleep] disorder?

Christine Carbo: I actually saw this article get thrown out there on Twitter about this sleep disorder and I think it was actually a round-up of all the murders that have occurred from people that have this disorder, going way back. . . to like the 1700s because there’s information of it happening throughout the centuries. And I found it fascinating.

Gretchen [the main character] reads like a person who’s in exile, how did she come to you as a character?

I think I’ve always been a little bit fascinated with the whole concept of guilt, and how guilt, especially for people who don’t actually mean to have the guilt-- they’ve done something by accident . . . in Montana there are a lot of accidental shootings. . . When I was young, I remember in high school a boy that I knew was shot accidentally on a hunting trip. I felt like if you’re that person that did that accident, that thing that is so awful that ripples across and causes so much pain for another family, for other friends, for other people, for the community, and you didn’t even mean to do it, it's just a really interesting thing for me, how you live with that guilt.

. . . You know, we all have things we’re guilty for and things we regret—but to that degree, to that level, I just had to imagine what that might be like and I felt that in some ways you would almost exile yourself. . . I think children that do things that have caused these kind of repercussions in life end up feeling like they’re very undeserving of anything.

There’s a current of adolescence running through this book. There are a lot of teenagers, and things that happen to teenagers, especially teenage boys. What do you know about your impulse to write that story?

Well, I’ve thought about that, like “Why, why do I go there?” . . . and I think that so much of what shapes us as adults is about what we experience as children, traumatic or not, and I think most children have some trauma in their lives, to varying degrees. Some of it’s really huge trauma and some of it's not so huge and they feel safe in their homes and they still experience a degree of, you know, that loss of innocence and the hurt that comes about just by having things happen, just daily life.

. . . I think so much of who we as adults are defined by that, not that we can’t be something different, not that we can’t define ourselves and make choices that are completely different from the things that happen to us when we were young, but I feel that you still have to deal with that stuff regardless. Even if you are choosing to be somebody different or somebody healthier . . . whatever you’re choosing to be as adult to tackle the world you’re still having to deal with whatever it was that formed you and shaped you.

I was thinking as I was reading the book about how we seal over when trauma’s happened.  One of the statements or thoughts that Gretchen has, is, she sees this couple on a ferry when she’s on the coast near Seattle and thinks to herself, “I’ll never have that kind of intimacy.” I’m just wondering, what will it take, you think, for Gretchen to thaw?

It’s a good question and I don’t know I completely know the answer to that. Her condition is such that if she gets close to somebody she has the potential to hurt them, and so I think that, emotionally, that’s one bridge she’d have to cross as well as the technicalities of how to deal with her condition if she were to be in an intimate relationship

She’s in an interesting spot for sure, in terms of that, and it’s not that I don’t think it can be done, I’m not sure she thinks it can be done. And so she has to get to the point where she can trust that whoever she’s with, she can trust them enough to work with her on figuring out how to deal with a person who may wake up in the middle of the night and do harm to you.

I think that’s such a powerful representation, right? The physical hurt, because we always risk hurt in intimacy, largely emotional hurt, but to have this very raw physical risk seems just profound.

And the person who, the partner of that person, is also going to, if they accept there might be danger when their partner goes to sleep even if you figure out how to lock them in a room, you know, difficult stuff to deal with! That person goes into a vulnerable state when they go to sleep, so it’s like sleeping with one eye open. 

To hear this interview, click the link above.

About the Book:  

“Carbo extols the beauty of her setting and provides sensitive character development.” -- Booklist

On most days, the wilderness gave me peace. But not tonight.

In a land sculpted by glaciers, the forest is on fire. Thick smoke chokes the mountain air and casts an apocalyptic glow over the imposing peaks and vistas of Montana’s Glacier National Park. When firefighters are called in to dig firebreaks near the small town bordering the park, a crew member is shocked to unearth a shallow grave containing human remains.

Park Police Officer Monty Harris is summoned to the site to conduct an excavation. But with an incendiary monster threatening to consume the town, Monty seeks help from Gretchen Larson, the county’s lead crime scene investigator.

While the two work frantically to determine the true identity of the victim, a teenager suddenly disappears from one of the campgrounds in Glacier. Could the cases somehow be connected? As chances for recovery of the missing boy grow slimmer and the FBI finds only dead ends, Gretchen and Monty desperately race to fit all the pieces together while battling time, the elements, and their own unresolved inner conflicts.

The Weight of Night is the latest novel in an award-winning series which “paints a moving picture of complex, flawed people fighting to make their way in a wilderness where little is black or white” (Publishers Weekly). It is a gripping tribute to the power of redemption set against one of America’s most majestic and unforgiving landscapes.

Christine Carbo
Credit Scott Wilson

About the Author:

Christine grew up in Gainesville, Florida – the same town her main character in The Wild Inside grows up in – then moved to Kalispell, Montana when she was twelve. At first, she hated leaving her friends and the beaches of Florida, but after a few months of living in the Flathead Valley, which is surrounded by beautiful lakes, mountains, wildlife and a ski resort, she quickly came to love the area. After high school, she attended college at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in Tacoma, Washington. While there, she became interested in studying abroad and went to Norway, and when she returned – having been raised in a family with several aviation buffs – she got a private pilot’s license and decided to go to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. While she was there, she realized she was more interested in the literature and humanities classes she was taking, so she decided to major in Communication Arts and finish her undergraduate degree where she started, at PLU.

After graduating, Christine worked in Seattle, but knew she wanted to travel. She also wanted to save money for graduate school, so when she heard that Delta Airlines was hiring, she became a flight attendant for a little over a year to achieve both. Shortly after, she returned to school to the University of Montana in Missoula and received a Masters in English/Linguistics. After, she began teaching English courses at Flathead Valley Community College in her hometown of Kalispell.

Remembering her earlier years spent with family in Glacier and living close to the park again, she fell back in love with it and spent most of her free time exploring there. Along with getting married and starting a family, she also began writing creatively and wrote two non-genre novels and by the time she was ready to do something with them, she went through a divorce and became a single mom and put them away. Teaching as an adjunct at the community college was not enough income for a single mom, so she began to supplement it by doing technical writing part-time and eventually, full time, which left little time to write creatively. She put novel writing aside for the better part of a decade. When she wasn’t working on technical documents, she was raising her son and for the benefit of her physical well-being, she became involved in Pilates. Ultimately, breaking away from technical writing and opening her own Pilates studio afforded her the flexibility to write creatively again. She remarried, continued running her studio and finally, pursued her passion to write.

The endeavor of writing has been an amazing journey for Christine, filled with all the necessary binary operations in life: self-doubt and self-belief, pain and joy, frustration and contentment, sadness and happiness, defeat and hope… the list goes on. Throughout this process, Christine has come to realize that writing is even more fulfilling when she stays involved with other writers. She is a member of Sisters in CrimeMystery Writers of AmericaAuthors of the FlatheadPacific Northwest Writers AssociationInternational Thriller WritersOutdoor Writers Association of America and Montana Women Writers.

More importantly, she is aware of the investment of time and money when readers take a chance on a new author and a book in general. For this, she is eternally grateful for the support!

Currently, Christine and her husband, Jamie, live in Whitefish with three kids, one dog and a cat. When Christine’s not teaching Pilates or writing suspense, she’s enjoying all that living in Northwest Montana has to offer.

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