Our featured author for September/October
is Karin Slaughter!
her latest, A Faint Cold Fear:
When Grant Countyís Chief of
Police, Jeffery Tolliver, is called in to handle a suspected suicide of a
college student, he summons his ex-wife and current lover, Sara Linton, who is
the medical examiner to assist on the case. She brings along her pregnant
sister Tess, and what follows is nothing short of tragedy when Tess is brutally
attacked and left for dead. Following this event is yet another suicide, and
when itís discovered that these deaths are in fact murder, all eyes turn to Lena
Adams, an ex-cop who now works security for the college, as the prime suspect.
Lena, still recovering from an attack which nearly left her dead the previous
year, is on the brink of complete self-destruction, and the events that follow
may only bring her closer.
A dark and disturbing book,
Slaughter delivers yet again. Feeling like the emotional equivalent to a punch
in the gut, this powerful and evocative portrayal of lives in anguish is brutal
in its honesty. To say the suspense is high is an understatement, and says
nothing of the deep and often tormented depiction of these flawlessly rendered
characters, especially Lena, whose spiraling descent into near-tragedy is so
utterly wrenching, it will leave the reader breathless. This is a must read for
the intelligent mystery lover, and we canít wait for the next in this remarkable
Interview with Karin:
1. Tell us a bit about
Sara, Jeffrey, and Lena. Where did they come from?
Sara Linton is the pediatrician/coroner in the fictional town of Grant County
that I write about it. She is, first and foremost, a person who is devoted to
her family, something which comes to play in FAINT COLD FEAR, the latest
installment in the series. Sara was born and raised in Grant and is the fulcrum
that pries open most of the story.
Jeffrey Tolliver is Sara's ex-husband and is also the chief of police in town.
Like a lot of people, he moved from the big city--Birmingham, in Jeffrey's
case--to small town Grant County because he wanted to get away from the stress
and violence of big city life. What he found is what most people find when they
do this, which is that the violence follows you. The face of small town America
is rapidly changing into a scary place indeed, and as a writer, I use Jeffrey's
point of view as a way to express this outrage.
The final narrator in the series is Lena Adams. She is the only female
detective in an all-male force, but even without that, she has quite a chip on
her shoulder. In the first few books, she's had a lot of bad things happen to
her, and FAINT COLD FEAR is all about how she deals with those things and fights
to become a survivor.
2. Which character
is the most difficult to write, the easiest? And which one do you feel closest
is the most difficult to write because she's always changing the story. I never
want Lena to appear to be a victim or a bad person, but there are things she
does that are unlikable, so if I have a Lena scene where she's doing something
stupid or making a bad choice, I always try to balance it the next time around
and show that she made these choices because she is, at heart, a person with
flaws. As a Southerner, I might have an inordinate interest in flaws, but I
don't find perfect people that interesting. To me, Lena's faults help her drive
As far as closeness, I have always felt a kinship with Sara. She's everything I
would like to be. I think that a lot of authors project themselves into their
books, but for me, Sara is my ideal while Lena is closer to who I actually
3. Lena is one of
the most interesting, but seriously damaged and scarred characters, to come
along in a while. Why did you go down that road so intensely in her evolution,
besides the obvious reasons?
an avid reader of all types of books, and when I sat down to write
Blindsighted, my first published novel, I was very conscious of the people
who had come before me. I can't stand when women who are assaulted are turned
into martyrs or catatonics. I wanted to show as realistic a recovery as I
could, and not just because I think it's an interesting thing to do. The
majority of readers in the world are women, and with Lena, I get to speak to
them and hopefully point out the fact that you can make really bad decisions and
still be a good person. I think when you're writing about something as serious
as violence against women, you owe it to yourself and the reader to not sugar
coat it. This sort of thing happens every day all over the world, and to me, it
is better to meet it head on with an unflinching eye than to cower in the back,
4. Do your
characters, and/or plot, ever start out one way at the beginning and then take
over, ending up in a completely different place than what you had originally
is constantly changing the narrative, but what I've found as I've been working
on Indelible, the fourth book in the series, is that Sara does this too. She is
just more subtle about it. Indelible focuses on Jeffrey and Sara when they
first got together more than ten years before Blindsighted began. They're very
different people, which has been tricky to pull off, but a lot of fun.
Most people will never experience some of these horrific and traumatic events
that your characters go through. How do you manage to write these scenes, and
their aftermath, so realistically?
it's cathartic in a way, but part of it is just natural curiosity on my part.
It may not be ladylike to be interested in murder and serial killers and the
such, but I have always had a fascination for the dark side. Though I will add
that I have never been particularly interested in WHAT people do so much as
WHY. That's what motivates me to write: figuring out why people do the things
they do. I would say that figuring out people is the main focus of my work.
Now some technical questions. At what age did you know you wanted to write?
Well, I'll get a lot of crap for this because no one ever believes me, but I've
known I wanted to be a writer as long as I've been able to hold a pencil. I
have tons of books I did when I was a kid (I even did the illustrations) and
while I never thought I could ever make a living writing, I always knew it would
be a part of my life. In the beginning, it was a very private thing. I worked
for several years to get an agent and when I finally got a book deal, a lot of
people who knew me were surprised because they had no idea I'd been writing on
the side. I have a Writer's Market from the late 1980s where I was marking
pages and taking notes on what I needed to do to get published.
7. How hard was it
to get from just dreaming about it, to actually doing it?
far as writing is concerned, it was never a matter of dreaming about it. I just
sat down and did it. The hard part was getting to a point where I thought I had
something good enough to send out to an agent. That took several books and
several years. The point is that you can never give up. Every time I got a
rejection, I just took from it what I could and put my head down and kept
butting against the wall until there was a break (in the wall, not my head,
though some days I wonder...)
8. Who inspired
always inspired me. I was one of those weird kids who loved going to school
(until I got to high school and came to my senses, that is) My ninth grade
teacher, Ms. Bennett, was the first teacher who sort of took me by the collar
and told me I could do better. As a student, I pretty much coasted along and
thought everything I wrote was golden. Ms. Bennett actually corrected my work
and showed me how to enhance it. I owe her my career, though when I say that
she brushes me off. I dedicated Blindsighted to her and my father, because they
both were so important to my development as a storyteller.
9. It seems to me
that until fairly recently, woman mystery authors followed a few standard
formulas, but now have evolved into writing more character-driven and
individualistic type stories. Why do you think this change has finally, thank
goodness, come about?
think that women have finally realized they can write about what they want to
write about without appearing to be godless hussies. As I said before, it's
very unladylike to be interested in this sort of thing, but when you consider
that women are by far more likely to be victims of these sorts of violent
crimes, it makes sense. There's also the "playground rules," where if a boy
gets mad at another boy, he punches him; if a girl gets mad at another girl, she
calls her fat and gives her an eating disorder. We're not taught to talk about
these things, and deal with them head on. Now, you've got women like Denise
Mina, Mo Hayder, Tess Gerritsen--and dare I say me--who are not afraid to write
about it. We've taken some punches for it, too.
Let me also add that we writers owe a lot to the ladies who came before us.
Women like Mary Higgins Clark, Sara Paretsky, Dorothy L. Sayers and Sue Grafton
took the early steps toward breaking that glass ceiling. I would argue that
they're still leading the way with the stories they write.
10. Do you have any secrets for getting past the blank page and blinking cursor
on those really bad days?
I don't write until I'm ready to write. If it seems like I'm pulling teeth,
then I need to be doing something else. Thankfully, I've had the luxury of
never feeling like I HAD to write, but I dread it if it ever comes.
11. And finally,
what's next for these wonderful characters?
Indelible is just about completed. I wanted to get it done before my
tour starts so I could concentrate on promoting Kisscut and A Faint
Cold Fear, and Iím just about to the end. There have been a lot of pleasant
surprises along the way, but the journey has been well worth it. I am also
editing a short story collection called Like a Charm. Itís a novel,
really, written in serialized form by some of my best friends who just happen to
be great authors: Laura Lippman, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, Peter Robinson
and Kelley Armstrong, just to name a few. Basically, itís about a charm bracelet
that has a nasty curse attached to it, and each author has to pick up where the
last one left off. So, since at the end of Jane Haddamís story she has someone
leave the bracelet in a cab, Peter Moore Smith has to explain how his character
in his story found the bracelet and brought it to the Midwest. Iíve been
reading the short stories between breaks in writing Indelible, and itís just
been a treat reading what these folks have come up with. I canít wait until
itís out next year.
grew up in a small, south-Georgia town and now lives in Atlanta. She is
currently writing the fourth Grant County novel, Indelible