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Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your background?
I was a newspaper reporter from 1970 until 1987. In 1988, I
moved to Nashville, Tennessee to collaborate with multiple Grammy
Award winning singer Ronnie Milsap to write his autobiography.
Subsequently, I was asked to collaborate with other celebrities,
including Glen Campbell, Reba McEntire, George Jones, Merle
Haggard, Tammy Wynette, LeAnn Rimes, Britney Spears, Jason Aldean
In 1970. I was a college student who needed a part time job.
The local newspaper was looking for someone to write obituaries.
I applied and got the job. I was scheduled to begin writing a
few days later. In the interim, I refreshed my typing skills
that I hadn’t used since my high school typing class in 1962. At
my first day of work, my typing skills were still slow. I could
have written the obituaries more rapidly through cursive rather
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to
My latest book is my first novel. It’s a mystery/thriller set
along Nashville, Tennessee’s “Music Row,” the creative and
commercial hub of recorded music heard around the world.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Not really. I’ve lived in Nashville for 28 years during which
I’ve spent a lot of time on Music Row.
What was your goal when writing this book?
To acquire my 10th New York Times or USA Today best-seller.
Who is your target audience?
People who enjoy country music, and people who enjoy page-turning
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
If I’ve done a good job, he’ll think he could write a book just
as good as mine.
What type of writer are you–the one who experiences before
writing, like Hemmingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in
the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while
driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas?
At no certain time or place. Ideas don’t ease into my mind.
They ambush it.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the
published book, how long did it take?
About eighteen months.
Describe your working environment?
I have an office whose walls hold my eighteen books, and
photographs of most of the celebrities for whom I’ve written
What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
Not many. I see the scenes in my mind.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you
edit as you move along.
Rain or sunshine, sick or healthy, I write daily until I have a
They say authors have immensely fragile egos….How would you
handle negative criticism or a negative review?
Negative reviews and criticism still sell books. People like to form their own opinions. Also, most critics have never written a book.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
That people will eventually read only their texts on cell phones.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
That I’ll foolishly end a sentence with a preposition like the
one in the previous sentence. Whenever writing non-fiction
collaborations with celebrities, I become passionate about
whatever they feel. In my first fiction, I became passionate
whenever the protagonist faced mortal trauma.
How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and
children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in
I have someone who takes care of my house, and my only child is
46 and lives in another state. Writing is usually the first
thing I do after I eat then begin the day. Isn’t that regimen
totally boring? I’ve often wondered what readers would think
about compelling prose written by a personality that could put
caffeine to sleep.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
I get up around noon. I work all during the afternoon and
sometimes into the evening.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for
Yes, I have two agents. I found my first after traveling many
times to New York where I knocked on agents’ doors, all of whom
rejected me. I was 41 when I was finally accepted by an agent.
I was his first and only client, but in time, he procured a book
deal for me. Since then, I’ve gone through a half dozen agents
who represented 16 of my books. Two of the agents died. My last
two books were intentionally written without an agent.
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
I refuse to write while yodeling.
Have you suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for
unleashing your creativity?
I usually face writer’s block after the first or second
paragraph. So I repeatedly read them aloud until I get an idea
for the third. I do that over and over until I reach that day’s
self-imposed word count.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one.
Very likely, unless you’re a best-selling author, you won’t
procure a conventional publisher without an agent. Agents can be
found online, of course.
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
Television. But you must use a publicist who has contacts on
network television. Social media is helpful. But anyone can
write anything at anytime on social media. For example, “Aunt
Dodi” can promote her book about curing bunions, and do so on
social media. But her pitch will be lost in thousands of other
postings. Therefore, social media has massive exposure, but
minimal credibility. It’s not that way with television. There,
it’s just you and the interviewer. That union IMPLIES
credibility. In other words, your book is good enough to
convince two people that millions of others will like it.
Television promotion is old-fashioned, and still is the most
powerful when promoting books.
What is (are) your favorite book/authors(s)? Why?
Willie Morris who wrote “North Toward Home.” David Brinkley who
wrote “A Memoir.” Russell Baker who wrote “Growing Up.”
They’re my favorite books because their concise writing has the
the credibility of a diary, the rapid prose of newspapers.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work? www.authortomcarter.com
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Make every word count.
Do you have another book in the works?
My current book, to be released on February 7, is Nashville:
Music and Murder. It will be available at www.authortomcarter.com. It will also be available at Amazon.com
In late March or early April, my collaboration with singer Jason Aldean will be available at Amazon.com and at Jason’s website.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
The New York Times lists the nation’s top-fifteen best-selling
non-fiction books every Sunday. Seeing one of my books on the
list tells me I’m doing something right. That’s very rewarding.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
Slow down on the reading of blogs. Instead, spend the time
reading a book.