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‘In the Dock’ with Karin Slaughter

Internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter is ‘in the dock’ this week – talking exclusively to Dead Good about her ideas, inspirations and finding solitude in the North Georgia mountains…

Karin, please tell us about Unseen?
Sex! Murder! Lena Adams!

Who or what was the inspiration for Special Agent Will Trent?
Jeffrey Tolliver from Grant County was my initial inspiration. I didn’t want to make the mistake of writing a “new” character that was too similar to the old. So, Will is sandy blond while Jeffrey is dark. Will is dyslexic while Jeffrey is a constant reader. Will is a bit insecure while Jeffrey is the most secure man on earth. I think for all the work I did on making them different, one thing I couldn’t change was their moral center. They’re both good men who try to do the right things.

The surrounding towns and villages of Grant County are key to your books in that series. As a Georgia girl is that why you decided to set your books there? And did you decide to base Will Trent in Atlanta because you live there?
Every writer is told to write what they know, and I definitely know how small Southern towns work. The cast of characters is more than familiar to me: the busy-body, the holy-roller, the town slut. What I found when I started writing about Atlanta was that the same folks are still there, they are just better at hiding it. I like the anonymity of writing in a large city. It makes more sense that people can hide.

In Unseen why did you choose to put Special Agent Will Trent undercover and take him out of Atlanta?
I always envisioned Will’s role as an entree into exploring more of the state. With Grant County, I was confined to one county where Jeffrey had jurisdiction, and sometimes he could go into neighboring counties and it still made sense. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is to the state of Georgia as the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to the United States; Will can work in any county in the state so long as the GBI is asked to investigate.

Do you agree, that at its heart Unseen is about good versus evil and the grey areas in between?
Absolutely, but all of my work is really about that. I want to humanize the criminals in my books so that my readers understand that there is a reason why characters do bad things. This doesn’t mean I don’t think criminals should be punished – they absolutely should be – but that it’s important to understand that people aren’t suddenly possessed by a devil. There are decisions that are made, bad choices, that take them down the wrong path. At any time they can stop themselves and turn away from crime, but they choose not to.

Does your writing ever scare you?
Fear comes from not knowing what comes next. Since I’m the writer, I always know what comes next. I’ll tell you who scares the crap out of me – Mo Hayder. She’s great at that unexpected twist that makes you sweat even as you turn the pages.

Where do you write you novels?
I have a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains. It’s great to go up there and relax and not have the phone ring or people in and out. It’s just me and the story I’m working on, which is kind of like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one.

Which crime fiction, TV programme or film has had the most impact on you or your writing?
I love movies like Bonnie and Clyde or Clay Pigeons where there’s a bit of humor alongside the shock of violence. Justified (on TV) meets this criteria in spades. As far as impact, I’m not sure how they’ve influenced my writing, but I’m sure they have in some ways. I write stories that show violence for what it is. Maybe TV shows and movies frankly taking on violence has made me feel like I’m in good company.

What is your favourite scene or line from any crime fiction book?
I don’t know that people call Gone With the Wind crime fiction, but there’s a very violent, bloody murder in the book. Scarlett shoots a man in the face. The passage is quite descriptive – blood flowing, a hole where the man’s nose used to be. But, to me the best part is when Melanie comes down the stairs and sees that Scarlett has killed a Yankee in cold blood. She smiles. Scarlett sees reflected in Melanie’s face a triumph, a sort of thrill, and that shared moment informs their relationship going forward.

What tip would you give any budding writers?
Read as much as you can. Even if you are reading a bad book, you learn what not to do.

At Dead Good we’re passionate about working with libraries and have been following the Save the Libraries campaign. What is it, for you, that makes libraries so special?
I know so many writers who got their start at their public library, whether it was sitting in the back reading comics or up front reading Tolstoy for the first time. They are places of sanctuary. They are a great social leveler – anyone can go into a library to read, no matter how rich or poor or happy or downtrodden. Universal access to education is the backbone of our society.

If you were a fictional character, how would you write your own death?
I would die in my sleep. No rain of bullets or blazing glory for me. I think once you’ve been in a morgue and seen the realities of death, you no longer wish for infamy. You want to be warm and comfortable and not know what’s coming. Also, you want to be in clean underwear, because if it’s not, it goes in the autopsy report.

…and what would your final meal be?
I’d need to not know it was my final meal, because I think that I’d lose my appetite. Probably it’d be the meal I had with one of my editors the other day. Hors d’oeuvres: pigs in a blanket. Entree: hamburger and fries with some fried pickles. Dessert: red velvet cupcake. Afterwards I took a two hour nap, so I figure if I eat all this crap then I’ll be too tired to know that I’m dying.

Find out more about Karin on her official facebook page.

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