In Carter’s debut, The Photographer (Minotaur, May.), professional photographer Delta Dawn becomes obsessed with her latest subjects, a glamorous Brooklyn family, and insinuates herself into their lives.
What inspired this novel?
A few years ago I hired a photographer to take pictures of my two children. They came back, and they were beautiful. But my children’s eyes were cobalt blue in the photos. And they’re not in real life. So I said to her, “I’d like for my children’s eyes to be their real color,” and she said, “There is no real color.” And that psychology was fascinating to me. Little did I know at the time that this whole notion that there’s no real anything, that you can just say something loud enough and it will be true, would escalate over the last few years in so many different ways.
Why did you name your protagonist Delta Dawn?
I did want her to have this kind of fish out of water feeling about herself, and one way that expresses itself is in her name. She’s in Brooklyn, and she has this name that’s not a Brooklyn name. I have the same thing in a way because I have a very Southern name and I didn’t grow up in the South; I grew up in New York and Los Angeles, and I’m half Jewish. So I felt this in common with Delta, that my name separates me.
How did Delta’s character evolve?
The question of what she really wants, that was something I was learning as I went along. I didn’t plot out the story ahead of time. Because it was in first person I just wanted to allow Delta’s voice to go where it would go. As I was writing, I didn’t know actually how it was going to end.
Do you see any ways in which your own feelings about motherhood might have shaped the book?
Because I am a mother—I have a 10-year-old and an eight-year-old—it’s a big part of my identity. And so I think it’s going to definitely be there in whatever I write to some extent. I struggle with really wanting to be a good mother and not always even knowing what that is. And then there’s also something that a lot of people I’m sure relate to, feeling ambitious for professional success, but also wanting to be the best mother possible. That pull in both directions and feeling that maybe you’re not doing either one very well. So I wonder, this was not intentional at all, if some of my own conflict about wanting to be a good mother is funneled into portraying the novel’s selfish mother.