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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why do mystery writers write the things we do????

Today, I have a guest blog from Kathryn Casey, whose book The Killing Storm is hot off the presses. She's seen the dark side of life, writing true crime books, and now she's crafting her own murder stories, instead of letting the real-life bad guys call the shots.  Why are we mystery writers drawn to the things we write?  Well, I think I tell my stories because they give me the power to set things right.  In my little world, justice is done, even though we all know that in the real world, this just isn't always so.

Let's let Kathryn tell us the inspiration for her fiction herself. And if you'd like to see a trailer for her book, you can do that at the end of her post.

Happy reading!
Mary Anna

Fictional bad guys are better
By Kathryn Casey

When Singularity, my first mystery, came out, I noticed a couple of distinct reactions from family and friends. Before reading it, they seemed delighted that I wasn’t hanging around courtrooms and prisons as much as in the past, during my more than two decades as a journalist, writing true crime books and covering real murder cases. “It’s good for you to not see such a depressing side of life,” my aunt said one day, patting my hand. “It’ll give you a more optimistic view of the world.”

I didn’t argue. First, my parents raised me to not contradict my elders. Second, it can get pretty intense covering real murder cases, sitting with the victims’ and defendants’ families, watching their reactions, listening to the evidence, often grisly, looking at disturbing crime scene photos, and then, later, interviewing the killers.

My family and friends relief, however, was short lived. When they’d actually read the book, some eyed me rather warily. “You know, Kathy,” a friend said over lunch in a crowded restaurant one afternoon. We were out celebrating the new novel, and we’d both sipped a couple glasses of champagne. I was feeling rather effervescent when she said, “Some of the girls have been talking, and we’re wondering if we should be concerned with the ideas you have floating around in your mind.”

I put down my fork, looked at her eye-to-eye, thought briefly, and then said, “You know, you really shouldn’t bother. I’m pretty sure, I’m okay.”

“But those murder scenes in your book,” she said, growing ever more adamant. “They were, how should I put this, unusual. Do you often think about such things often?”

Again, I took my time, considering the scenes she’d referred to. My main character, Sarah Armstrong, is a Texas Ranger/profiler. She doesn’t get the run of the mill murders. Instead, she’s kind of like that TV doc House, the one they call on to weed through all the clues when they can’t crack a case. In that first book, the one my friends had just read, Sarah hunted a serial killer and the death scenes were indeed unusual, in fact, ritualistic might have been a better word.

“You know, I do think about such things,” I told my friend, who shook her head slightly at my confession. “But you don’t need to worry, because the beauty of fiction is that none of it’s real.”

As my aunt had hoped, the transition from fact to fiction has been invigorating. After all those years covering real cases, I do have rather strange things floating around in my head, and, for the first time, I’m letting them out to play, resulting in plenty of plots and characters to draw on.

For instance, in the second book in the series, Blood Lines, I wrote about a deadly cyber-stalker circling a pop star and an oil company exec found shot through the head with a farewell note beside her body. Was it suicide? I’m not telling, but I will say that both plot lines tied back cases I’d heard about but never wrote about back in the early nineties. So their roots are real, even though they’re thoroughly fictionalized in the book.

So is it any surprise that in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike hitting my hometown, Houston, I wrote a book entitled The Killing Storm? The African symbols and the sugar cane plantation in the book? All modeled after real places and archeological finds within an hour of my house. The location where the book builds to a climax? You guessed it. Real.

Yet everything else materialized when I let my imagination take over, freed from worrying about sticking to the facts, able to mold the best plot, scene, and characters. What’s the most delightful thing about writing mysteries? For me, it’s that when it comes to the killer: pure fiction.

Kathryn Casey is the author of six highly acclaimed true crime books and the creator of the Sarah Armstrong mystery series. Learn more about her at www.kathryncasey.com








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