Here’s the transcript from our book club chat with Karin. Head over to Goodreads and join our group to participate in future discussions!
Nick: I loved the book and would like to know what pushed Karin towards 1974 Atlanta? Will she revisit?
Karin: I had so much fun writing Criminal, which was partially set in the 70s, that I wanted to go back to that time period and really explore it more deeply. There was so much going on then that is relevant now. I created Maggie and Kate because I wanted to talk about policing from the point of view of patrol officers (which I’ve never done before). I enjoyed their stories so much that I knew as soon as I finished that I couldn’t just leave them in a stand-alone. I definitely have plans to do more books about them, but I need to get back to Will and Sara first.
Mike: Were the characters in the book based on someone you know? Especially Terry – hated that man, and was really glad to see that Maggie finally got over on him in the end…
Karin: In preparation for the book, I spoke with a lot of women officers who came up in the 70s. I wanted to tell their stories because they went through such an awful time to just do their job. It’s amazing to understand just how shitful people were to them – not just some of the male cops, but their families, other women who were their friends, and the women on the force. They had to earn their way with their fellow female officers, but some of the men never accepted them. Thankfully, these jerks became a minority, and the good guys drowned out their nastiness, but still, it is important to understand how bad things used to be because it tells us what will happen if we let things slip back.
Kerry: I would love to know if we will see Lena again? I am worried about what she is getting up to without Jeffrey!
Karin: Yes, we will definitely see Lena again, but not for a few books. I like to check in on her occasionally just to let folks know how she is doing.
Maria: I would like to know if it was difficult to set the book in 1974, with the racism, the discrimination to women… and which part of the book was the most difficult to write.
Karin: It was a difficult book to write because I was talking about all new characters. I haven’t written a book without either Sara or Will… ever. So, creating Maggie and Kate from scratch was a challenge. I didn’t want them to be in any way like other characters I’ve written about because what would be the point? I also had to make sure they stayed true to their voices, and that the Maggie and Kate you meet in the early chapters are as believable as the Maggie and Kate at the end.
As for the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, it’s still something that we have in our world. You see it every day. So, it wasn’t difficult to imagine what people would say if they were completely unchecked by anyone saying, “that’s wrong.” (Or no one with a loud enough voice saying it). When I was growing up in South Georgia, we had a section of town called (pejoratively) colored town. We had a clear separation of people. So that was something I knew about as well.
Modei: I have read that there is a new Sara and Will on the horizon. Is there a chance that it will come out this year? I just can’t wait to read what you have in store for them. I loved Cop Town (nice to read about a little less blood), but Sara and especially Will are my favorites. You just can’t help but fall in love with Will. Is there a chance you’ll go easy on them? They have had a heavy life already.
Karin: Sorry, nothing more from me this year and probably not next year, either. I’ll definitely have one with Will and Sara after that, though. The thing is, their relationship got to a really good point at the end of Unseen, and the last time Sara was happy, I had to… er… blow things up. So I need to figure out how to move forward with their relationship. Will has a lot of baggage and he’s never been in a functional relationship before. Sara has been there and done that, and she might not want to “train” another man the way she did with Jeffrey. But as for the plot, I’m totally set on what it’ll be about – I’ve always wondered where Angie goes when she leaves Will. This book will tell us. All I ask is that you’re patient! I promise I’ll deliver a great story, but my brain needs time to noodle on it.
Kyle: As a student of Creative Writing, I always take the chance to ask about author habits. I suppose my main question would be your feelings on outlining, which seems to vary greatly by author. For instance, Stephen King adamantly detests the idea of outlining while others swear by it. How about you? Also, do you set writing goals every day/week? P.S. Cop Town was amazing. Thank you for releasing it to the world.
Karin: Every author is different, and it’s up to that author to set their habits. I never really outline. Sometimes when there are massive time shifts, like in Unseen, where Lena’s chapters are told in backward chronology, I have to jot down some notes just to make sure that the chapters come together at the right time in the present day (otherwise the book would end too soon!) but for the most part, I know how a book starts and how a book ends, and figuring out what happens in between is the fun part. Good luck with your writing.
Hazel: I have just finished reading Unseen (thanks to Dead Good for the copy!) and I really enjoyed it. I will definitely be reading more in the future. My question is… what is your favourite character from any book you have read or written and why? If your books were made into a series or film, which actor would you like to play Will Trent? Thank you and keep writing!
Karin: Thanks! My favorite character goes back and forth depending on who I am writing about. Mostly, it’s Will and Sara, but then Amanda or Faith can be a lot of fun, so sometimes it’s them, and I love Philip Van Zandt and Kate and Maggie and… as you can see, it’s hard to choose. As for casting Will, I’m really not sure. I picture his body type as Alexander Skarsgard’s, but that guy is sooo handsome and he knows it, and while Will is handsome, he doesn’t have that self-confidence, so it’s more his body without his personality!
Martin: I am intrigued as I read Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris prior to reading Cop Town and noticed that there is a character called Karin The Slaughterer! Are you friends with Charlaine, or is there some sort of friendly rivalry behind it? As Maggie Lawson would surely have remarked there is no such thing as a coincidence, so what’s the background please?
Karin: Yes, Charlaine and I are friends. She is not just a terrific writer, she’s a terrific lady. I returned the favor by putting her in Cop Town. I used her first name and made up a last name. And I made her tall and rail thin, which any woman can appreciate!
Stephanie: Would like to say how much I loved Cop Town. I was horrified at the level of animosity displayed to female police officers throughout the novel. Was it as hard for them as it was portrayed in the book and if so when did it start to change?
Karin: The things that happen in the book are things that happened to the women I spoke with for research. I also spoke with some male cops who came up in the 70s. It was funny, because the men thought the 70s were fantastic – they smoked and drank and cheated on their wives and were kings of the world. The women couldn’t get credit cards even though they had jobs. They couldn’t get mortgages or lease apartments without a man to co-sign. Then at work they might go in and find faeces in their locker, or that someone had left some DNA in their purse. One woman I spoke with was being driven home by her boss when her car broke down and he tried to rape her. It was very difficult for them, and a lot quit (understandably), but the ones who stayed kept fighting and fighting every single day until it incrementally got better. It’s very different now, of course, not least of all because being openly racist or sexist is not acceptable (though sexism is treated very differently from racism: one is in bad taste, the other can get you fired). Still, a lot of women in policing have to put up with a certain amount of macho crap, but if you talk to them, they say, “if you can’t take it, don’t do the job”. It’s still male-dominated and like any male-dominated field, there’s resistance to women doing the job.
Pia: It’s the Dane here with the loong name. Am of course, for obvious reasons curious to know what your NEXT book will be? Linton/Trent? Or a follow up to Cop Town?
Karin: Hello! Y’all, Pia won my contest and her name is going to appear in the next book (which is why you should all enter my contests!) The next Will and Sara will be in 2016. For next year, I’m working on a book that doesn’t have any cops. It’s still a thriller and there’s lots of sex and murder, so don’t worry! Then I promise I’m back to Sara and Will. I just need time to think about their story.
Lori: Do you find the traits of your friends creeping into your characters?
Karin: An author tells a story that is the sum of everything the author has ever experienced. While I’d like to think that I’m wholly creative, the traits of my characters come from people I see in real life. It’s not on purpose by any means, but I’m sure it bleeds in.
Denise: While I was reading Cop Town I couldn’t help but think about Amanda from your series. I was really expecting her to show up at some point in the story. When you were writing the story did you think at all that you were basing the story on Amanda’s early life, when she first started her career? I’ve always been curious about her back story and I can’t help but think it would be similar to the women in this book.
Karin: I told Amanda’s story in Criminal, which is one of the reasons I wanted to keep writing about that time period. She is an amazing woman and I love her character. The reason I didn’t write about her (or Evelyn) in Cop Town is that their present day selves are pretty much cemented. People know how they turn out and that they’re okay. Obviously, that takes a lot of suspense out of a story like Cop Town, so I wanted to create new characters that people didn’t know anything about.
Ellen: I heard you talk in Breda back in May and you spoke about Cop Town, giving us the highlights. None of us had read it then, but now that I have I’d like to say… wow! It was so awesome and like always with one of your books I couldn’t put it down. As a Dutchie I was very happy about all the Dutch stuff in it and how you nailed it perfectly. Some parts literally gave me the chills. So good job! And please write the sequel ASAP, I need my fix! Is the Grant County series being made into a TV show? If so, when can we expect to see it on TV?
Karin: Thanks very much! I had a lot of fun in Breda. It’s a lovely town. The Grant County series was optioned for TV, but these things take a looong time to move forward (if ever). Will Trent has been optioned as well, and the folks working on that project seem very optimistic, so fingers crossed!
Erica: How do you go about getting a member of the police to be a liaison so you can get help with writing accurately? Also do professional authors ever mentor new writers or help with moral support?
Karin: The thing about cops is they join the force to help people, so I’ve had no problem at all getting officers to talk with me and share their stories. Also, I am very respectful of the job they do (which is a very difficult one) and I try to honor that in my writing. While Will might come across some corrupt cops, he’s a cop, too, and he’s always the good guy (and he gets the girl in the end, which is very important for cops!)
I’ve never mentored another author, but I know many authors who do. It’s something that takes a great deal of time, which unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of. I wish you luck in your work, though.
Cindy: As an aspiring writer, I was wondering what you used to research and learn about the minute details of criminal justice and forensics, which you always integrate seamlessly into your novels. Do you have any non-fiction books that you recommend?
Karin: I read a lot of textbooks on forensics and policing as part of my research, but most of the stuff I get that’s fascinating (to me, at least!) comes from talking to medical examiners and death investigators. There are some really strange things that happen in the world – some of them so strange I could never put them in a story because no one would believe me. The book I started out with is the Practical Handbook to Police Investigations. This takes you through the nuts and bolts of investigating all kinds of crimes. It’s a very easy book to follow and will keep you from making the kind of mistakes you see all over crime shows on TV.
Heather: How do you come up with these FANTASTIC ideas? I fell in love with your writing style with Blindsighted!
Karin: Thanks very much! I have no idea where my ideas come from. They just sort of pop into my head one day and I’ve suddenly got a story. I read lots of newspaper and magazine articles and follow a lot of crimes. Also, sometimes I’ll get a call from a cop saying “you might want to check this out”. The idea isn’t really the hard part. It’s implementing the idea – expressing the plot through characters – that’s difficult. The idea is one sentence. The story is 4-500 pages.
Chrissy: Absolutely my favorite author. What made you interested in the 70’s women’s movement? I lived through that era as a young teen, and as a mother of young adult daughters I am thrilled to have a written testament of the women who came before us and their strength/struggles to share with them. Interesting note is that my son is a recent grad of the Air Force Academy and his view of females in military is inspiring. Thank you for your intelligent novels.
Karin: Thanks. I have nieces who have no idea what it was like 40 years ago, and when they were younger, they honestly didn’t care. Now that they are young women looking for jobs and participating in the work force, they see why things like pay equality and non-hostile workplaces are so important. It’s human nature to not really care about something until it directly impacts you, but I wish that things were easier. That’s one of the reasons I tackled this subject in Cop Town. I wanted to remind people (or show younger people) what it used to be like. I think so much has changed and so many people in charge now came up during that time and understand why it’s important that young men are told that women have a place in the world (and it’s not in the kitchen!)
Michelle: You’re on a plane with all the main characters from your books. It’s going down and there are only two parachutes (one is yours). Who do you give the other parachute to and why?! Sorry, I know the characters are like your children but you have to pick just one!
Karin: Holy crap, that’s an awful choice! I will take the chicken’s way out and just jump and let everyone else duke it out. (But I have a feeling if I gave it to Will, he would give it to Sara, and Sara would give it to Faith because she has children, and then Angie would grab the parachute while they were all discussing this and jump to safety…)
Anne (Booklady): How do you conjure up all of your delicious villains? And is it true that you and your friend, Mo Hayder, have a slight competition as to which one of you girls (I say this because I’m probably old enough to be your mother) can create the most deranged character?
Karin: Mo and I have a healthy freak-out competition going. Keep in mind when we both started years ago, we were really the only women around who were writing very graphic, frank stories. There were certainly other women writing fantastic books, but we were considered the most extreme. Now there are so many it’s hard to keep count, which I think is fantastic because I LOVE reading these types of stories. I’m not sure how I come up with the bad guys. Generally, it starts with the crime and just thinking WHY? Because all of my books aren’t just about the violence – they are about the motivation behind the violence, and what the violence leaves behind. I always have a reason for my killer, which is important to me. People do awful things for a reason. In real life, it’s depressing to learn that the reason is generally because they are stupid and have no self-control. Sometimes, I write villains like that, but for the most part, they’re a lot more interesting in their motivations than in real life.
Sue: I have just read your first novel Blindsighted and was blown away. A suspense thriller that made me cringe with terror. I was so impressed with your writing, I have gone ahead and bought a lot of your books, which I plan to read in sequence. Now to my questions:
When you write a book do you plan ahead that it will be a stand-alone, or do you write a sequel based on the reader’s reaction to your book?
Is it important for you to write about settings that are familiar to you?
Why do you feel it is important to shock the reader, and place them in a uncomfortable scene?
Who was/is your mentor… and do you mentor other upcoming writers?
Karin: I know this sounds crass, but I never think of my readers when I am writing. I only think about what I’m enjoying as a writer, and then it goes from there. I started out Cop Town thinking it would be a stand-alone, but then when I got to the end, I knew I couldn’t stop.
I feel in many ways like an ambassador for Atlanta. Even in the US, there are so many misconceptions about the South, so it’s important to me to show the city for what it is. Also, I love Atlanta, so whenever I talk about it – even the bad parts – it’s a labor of love.
I think since I’m writing thrillers that I need to make sure there are lots of shocks and twists and turns. That’s what I love reading, and I think you should write what you love to read.
Ah, the mentor question again. I was never really mentored by anyone but my 9th grade English teacher, who told me that I was good, but I could be better. That was great advice for me, because I had coasted up until then. Thrillerfest, which is held in NYC and sponsored by the International Thriller Writer’s Association, is a great place to meet authors who are interested in mentoring unpublished writers. It’s very, very expensive, but I think it’s paid off for a lot of authors.
Daniel: Karin, I had jury duty a couple months back and I picked up a copy of Fractured. I read a third of it in one day. It just flowed so well and anybody can pick up one of your books and not need any back-story. You truly have a gift. Would you ever want to see a movie adaptation of one of your novels? If so, which would it be and would you want to be an on-set consultant/the writer of the screenplay? If not, how would you want to continue to your books or keep them alive aside from the books themselves?
Karin: Thanks. I work very hard to make sure that people can jump in with any book and know what’s going on. The people who have optioned the Will Trent series want to start with Fractured. I love that book because I think we really get to see him as a smart detective, and his relationships with Amanda and Faith start to cement. Fortunately, the production company wants me involved in the process, so I’ll be writing some scripts and making sure that the stories stay true to the characters.
Jim: How do you commit yourself to write every day, assuming you do? Do you try to write for a certain amount of time when you do sit down to write?
Karin: I don’t write every day. I block off a few weeks at a time and go up to my cabin in the North Georgia mountains where I can sequester myself from distractions and just focus on story. I can spend 15 hours a day writing for around two weeks before I burn out and collapse in an exhausted heap. It’s certainly not the smartest way to do it, but I’ve been working this way for 15 years so it’s too late to stop!
Sandi: Which came first, success or an agent? What advice would you give aspiring authors with regard to finding a good agent?
Karin: In the US, you have to have an agent in order to get a contract with the Big 5 publishing houses. I looked in the back of books that I enjoyed reading to see if the author thanked their agent. That’s the biggest recommendation you can find, because if they hate them, they’ll leave them out (I love mine, so she’s always in). Then, I looked up the agents in the Writer’s Market. I followed the submission guidelines to the letter, because I understood that agents, while they love literature, are also in business to make money. So, I approached them the way I would another business person. This also helped when I got rejections (which were legend!) because I was able to step back and tell myself that it didn’t mean they hated me or my book, they just didn’t think they could sell it.
Betsy: SPOILERS BELOW
I still haven’t gotten over Jeffrey’s death however many years later. Have you? How hard was it to write about the absolute disgusting workplace discrimination in 1974? I admit, I almost stopped reading at one point because it was so hard to imagine. But I loved it!
Karin: It was very hard to get over that, though keep in mind I knew that particular plot twist well ahead of anyone else, so I lived with it for many years before I actually wrote it. It was very, very hard to do, but I think it’s done so much for my writing. I didn’t want to be a 70 year old lady still writing the same stories about horrible things happening in this small town (not least of all because there wouldn’t be anyone left alive to kill). I became a writer because I love writing, and I always want to challenge myself, so cutting those ties was the best thing I could do to keep me on my literary toes. And I still get mean letters from people who are mad about it (seven years later!) so I must’ve done something right to create characters that people care so much about.
Tami: I loved Cop Town – when can we expect the sequel? I also really enjoy the Grant County and Will Trent books but there is something about these women constantly fighting an uphill battle that appeals to me. Thank you for having the courage to undertake such a wonderful book during such a controversial time in our nation’s history.
Karin: Thanks, Tami! It was a difficult subject, but I think it’s important for us to understand the past. Also, I think we all have an idea of what the next US presidential election will look like, so being reminded of why sexism and sexual hostility should be relegated to the past is important. Even if that match-up doesn’t come to pass, in the US, we are facing unprecedented restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. It bears repeating why it’s important for women to control their own bodies. After the pill was made available to all American women in 1972 (before that, only married women could legally buy it) we say the number of women in colleges soar, and graduation rates triple, because women could choose when to get pregnant. We also saw job opportunities open for them and major advancements in graduate and doctoral degrees. Prior to this, a woman’s job choices were limited because it was assumed she’d get married and quit so she could have babies. Now, women have all kinds of opportunities because of this one simple scientific advancement (which was funded in great part by a woman who inherited a fortune from her husband and wanted to put the money to good use!)
Aly: I’m a huge fan of yours and have a big soft spot for Will Trent – I can’t wait to see where he’s headed next. I’m wondering, since there are a lot of us who read everything you write as soon as we can get our hands on it, who are your “have to read ’em right now” authors?
Karin: Mo Hayder, Denise Mina, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Alafair Burke, Kate White, Linda Fairstein, Mark Billingham… the list could go on and on. I also enjoyed Alice LaPlante’s latest novel (Circle of Wives?) Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret, Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes.
Richard: The only author to write about real life situations in a horribly graphic way yet not to the point of being overly so just to be shocking. How do you manage this – when no one else that I know of even comes close? I cannot express how amazing your work is or how highly anticipated it is for me. It’s because NO ONE even comes close to writing in your style and creating characters which are more like acquaintances the way you make them seem so real. Thank you for your books and the pleasure you give to readers everywhere.
Karin: Thanks very much. I work very hard to keep that balance. Every author has a moral compass, and I just let that point the way when I am writing a particularly graphic scene. I think with sex and violence, there’s a tendency to go overboard, so I have a rule that I apply to scenes involving both: does it say something about the characters and move the plot forward? If yes, then it belongs. If no, then take it out.
Suzanne: How did you get the period details so right? You went beyond the typical collective memories – those warm feelings of singer songwriters or silly feelings associated with dated technology – and reproduced the hard and unpleasant stuff that went on between people in the workplace and in social settings. There was a lot of meanness in the air and you caught it really well.
Karin: I think talking to the female cops who came up during that time really keyed me into the feelings. A few of them have read the book and emailed to say that they had forgotten how awful it was. I think it’s good that they forgot! Let’s be honest, anytime a woman goes into a predominantly male arena, there is pushback. Even today, women have to be tough and prove themselves over and over again. It’s never easy, but I’m so glad that there are women out there who aren’t going to be told they can’t do something that they love. And policing is a labor of love. The pay is crap, the hours are long, it takes a beating on your social life and people are horrible. Why else would you do it unless you loved it?
Ruth: SPOILERS BELOW
My husband and I both read every new novel as it comes off the press – yes, we’re currently reading Cop Town. We both have a soft spot for Jeffrey Tolliver and couldn’t believe it when you killed him off! Any possibility that Jeffrey might show up in an earlier version of himself, similar to what you’re doing with Maggie and Kate?
Karin: Whoopsie – hope you didn’t ruin anything for anyone. I would never say never, but then again, you never know!
Tina: I was just wondering, if there is anything special that you do before you sit down to write, to get yourself in the mind set?
Karin: It depends on the book. Mostly, I listen to music on the two hour drive up to my cabin. For Cop Town, it was a lot of Linda Ronstadt. With Will and Sara, it’s usually something country like Red Molly or lately, the Common Lunettes!
Lindy: Have you always written horror and if not, how did you get into writing it? Do you find it affects your everyday thoughts and behaviors? I find when I’m reading a horror/crime novel I start to look at the world with more of a “cop” view if that makes sense, so sometimes I wonder if horror/crime authors get that too. Congratulations on all your success. You’re really talented and I wish the best for you!
Karin: I don’t really think of it as horror so much as crime. I think being around a lot of cops and listening to their stories has made me look at things very differently. For instance, people expect extraordinary behavior from cops. They think they should stand passively by while they are spat on or verbally assaulted or even physically assaulted. Or they think the cop should magically know who the “bad guys” are (there should be a law against telling a cop who’s stopped you, “I’m not a criminal.” The cops are always thinking, “Really? It would be nice if you could point out all the criminals so I didn’t have to waste my time with an entitled jackass who’s making my job harder”). Also, people don’t understand that cops are trained to kill. They are not trained to “wing” or “wound” someone (which is very difficult to do – anyone who has ever fired a weapon knows this). Cops are trained to stop a threat and keep themselves and the people around them safe. No cop ever wants to pull their gun, let alone use it. I know that there are corrupt cops out there. I know there are bad cops. Every profession has bad actors. The majority of them are human beings trying to do their jobs. I try to show that with my stories, and it often bleeds over into my own thinking that the job that Will is doing is stressful and difficult, but that the world is a better place because he does it.
Marsha: How did you feel about writing from the female perspective back in the 70s, with all the stereotypes with females in the workplace? What made you decide to give Kate a secret affair?
Karin: SPOILER ALERT
Kate’s relationship with Philip was something I thought was important to her character. We see her making all of these strange decisions for someone of her background (let’s face it, not many wealthy people become police officers). Through Philip, we get an idea of what she was like in high school, and frankly, she was a bit of a rule breaker. I like that wicked side of her, and I like that Philip thinks that she’s meant for fucking rather than marrying, because it points to a greater paradigm faced by women in policing, which is that men view them differently for doing the job. Even today, female cops won’t tell a guy on the first date that they are cops because the guy usually runs for the door. Not many men are comfortable dating a woman who has so much power, but I have to say that the ones who are tend to be extremely self-confident and cerebral and secure in their own right. Maybe in 2014, Philip would want to marry Kate, but he’s a guy who is benefiting greatly from the patriarchal system in place. I think it must be said that if the roles were reversed and women were in charge, they wouldn’t be too concerned with men’s rights. It’s the nature of the ruling class. Why rock the boat when you’re not in steerage?
Gabrielle: Where did you first get the idea for your books? And why did you choose to write this genre? Was there a book that inspired you to do so?
Karin: I chose to write crime fiction because that’s what I love to read. I was scared at first, because I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. You have to have so much going on in a thriller – the characters, the fast-paced plot, the forensic details, the red herrings, the twists and turns. Blindsighted was something that came to me very quickly, and I wrote the bones of the story in less than a month. I had tried other genres, but I knew when I started writing about Jeffrey and Sara that I had found my voice.
Dawn: I love your books and your writing style. The characters and their dialogue are so natural and just flow. When I’m reading one of your books I totally lose track of time because they just transport me to their world. Will Trent is one of my favorite fictional character crushes! And I look forward to reading whatever you throw out next! Thanks for sharing your imagination and talent with the rest of us!
Karin: Thanks! Keep in mind that Will is fictional (he does the dishes and takes out the trash without being asked!)
Patricia: Your characters face a lot of tough challenges. My question is really curiosity over how you are able to let your characters go enough to have the good, the bad and the ugly happen to them? Ultimately your characters are stronger, deeper people. How hard is it for you to not allow yourself to cushion the adversity your characters often face?
Karin: I never feel the pull to cushion things for my characters. While I really love them, I think that the thing that makes them interesting is they’ve experienced adversity. I think I proved in Blindsighted (with Lena) that I won’t pull any punches. To me, it’s important not to fall too much in love with your characters. I don’t want them to be superheroes. I want them to feel like real people.
Marcus: Mrs. Slaughter, I just read Blindsighted. Great book! I’m curious as to whether or not you have a medical or law enforcement background.
Karin: I have neither background. I owned a sign company for many years while I was working on becoming a published writer. I’ve always been fascinated by these two areas, though, so I bring a natural curiosity to all of my novels. I want to know the details. I’ve always been driven to research everything I write about. Many times, I have to cheat a bit to keep things interesting, but it’s important to give as honest a take on what you’re writing about as possible. You have to know the rules before you break them.
Julia: Karin, you have such intimate insight into Women’s roles in the 60s and 70s. I experienced the many roadblocks caused by pursuing a career in 1973-1978. I made my first marriage because my small Texan community did not support young single women. From your writing, I feel that you must be writing from firsthand experience. Is this true or where do you find the source for such honest reflections?
Karin: I was a little kid in the 70s, so I wasn’t paying attention to much. I lived in a small South Georgia town in the 80s, and as you probably know from living in Texas, a lot of rural areas are about a decade behind the times. So, living in the 80s wasn’t that different from living in the 70s, except the TV wasn’t as good (haha!). I remember when I was a kid, my dad took me to the new dentist in town. A woman in a white lab coat came into the room, and I started laughing because I thought my dad was playing a joke on me. I didn’t think a woman could be a dentist. Growing up, it was made clear that women were teachers and homemakers and librarians and nurses and secretaries. That was pretty much it. I was very lucky that I had my dad telling me that I could do anything I wanted to do. There were three of us girls, and he was always making sure that we understood finances and how credit cards worked and how to change a light bulb or fix a flat tire. It was important to him that we knew how to take care of ourselves. The reason he did this was because he saw how his mother was trapped at the mercy of his father all of her life, and he adamantly didn’t want that for us.
I think it’s important to say that power is never taken – it’s always given – and I appreciate my dad giving us the power as women to believe in ourselves. It’s the most important gift dads can give to their daughters.
Shon: Do you ever mingle with fans on Facebook or in Facebook blogs? If you don’t, why not?
Karin: I’m constantly on FB and GR (perhaps too much!) I have to limit my time when I am touring and writing, though, because it can get to be a bit much.
Sarah: If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be doing?
Karin: I would probably be doing something with my hands – fixing things or mending things. I would still be writing stories in my head, though. That will never stop.
Sarah: How did you come to the decision to make Will dyslexic and unable to read? I have known people who are dyslexic and have difficulty reading, and they tend to veer away from academic pursuits and heavily intellectual work. Will’s ways of hiding his learning disability are truly fascinating!
Karin: I’ve spoken with a few cops who are dyslexic, and believe it or not, despite the reams of paperwork involved, it’s been easy for them to hide in plain sight. No one expects perfect grammar from a cop, so that’s good cover. Also, many male cops will trade duties with their female partners -you write the report and I’ll walk this guy through booking, etc. I chose to make him dyslexic because I wanted him to have a secret. Also, if you look at the characteristics of the disorder, they’re actually things that make for a very good detective: the attention to detail, the ability to key in on emotional cues, the almost mechanical way of thinking through puzzles. So, I think that while Will sees his dyslexia as a disadvantage, some might say that it’s made him the man he is today.
Judith: Do you think you will ever write a book based in a different country?
Karin: If I were to set a book in a different country, it would be from an outsider’s point of view. I get really pissed off when people who don’t really know about Atlanta try to write about it, and I don’t want to piss people off in other countries!
Zoe: Karin – I came across your books by accident when I was in hospital for 4 months last year and there were a few copies of your books in the reading room there. They got me through the boredom and the bad times, along with James Lee Burke. Stephen King once got me through a few months of unemployment too, back in the nineties. Tell me, has reading ever got you through some hard times? And was there a certain author who accompanied you through those times?
Karin: I lost a really important client years ago when I owned a sign company, and I read every single Elizabeth George (up to that point) that I could find in about a week. It really took my mind off things and when I finally emerged from my cave, I was ready to take on the world again. I have no idea why it was Elizabeth George. I think there was a bundle on sale at the bookstore.
Melanie: When researching for characters or a storyline do you find it hard to disconnect from the characters/storyline even after the book is finished? Or does some of it stay with you?
Karin: The characters tend to stay with me. Even while I was writing Kate and Maggie, I was thinking through things for Sara and Will. That’s just the nature of the beast, I guess. I always have different characters in my mind. I honestly wouldn’t feel normal if I didn’t.
Virginia: We went to Amsterdam a couple of years ago, flying on KLM. I was reading one of your books when the woman in the middle row caught my eye. She was reading one of your books too… though hers was in Dutch. I held my copy up and we nodded to one another. I am only sorry we didn’t take a photo together for you! You kept us both engrossed on that long flight from Los Angeles. My question is this: how did you prepare for throwing out the first pitch at the Yankees game? You’re adept at curveballs, sliders, and pace. Obviously you are a natural! Thanks for all the great books.
Karin: That Yankees pitch was pretty cool. I practiced a lot for it because I’m the only woman in the series of authors who got to do the first pitch. I didn’t want to let my gals down! My great uncle, Enos Slaughter, a baseball hall of famer, played for the Yankees. He was most notably known as a Cardinal, but he was instrumental in helping the Yankees win two pennants. It was pretty neat to step onto the plate and think about that history.
London: My question concerns the titles of your books. How do you choose the titles? Some are specific and others are very vague. I prefer the more specific ones because they are more unique and memorable. I’m looking forward to reading Cop Town soon!
Karin: I generally come up with the titles before I start writing the story. It really helps me focus on what the point of the novel is. For Cop Town, it was more obvious, but books like Fallen, which deal with a fallen cop, a mother’s fall from grace, and two people falling in love, have deeper meaning.
Ann: Looking back at all the characters you have created, do you ever wish you could go back and give them an extra trait, or change anything about them? Do you ever think “I wish I’d made them do that”?
Karin: It’s a dangerous game to look back. I could pick everything apart. I’m very happy with the characters and who they are, though, so I don’t think I’d want to change any aspect of who they are.
Cecil: Loved Cop Town, awesome job on a great stand-alone work! Look forward to hearing more from these gals. I think my favorite part of your writing is how you capture the “real feel” of the chaos during fast-moving points of the story, especially during the climax of the book. I often have to re-read those parts to make sure I caught everything! Another slick part of your writing and character development is how you mention in passing tidbits about one of the characters, and that teaser becomes the basis for another story. That keeps the story going, without getting stuck in chronological traps that can get old. Do you throw in those glimpses as part of the grand plan, or just insert them as part of the story, then go back and see what you want to expand upon? I usually tell people about that trick when describing your writing to other potential Karin Slaughter fans.
Karin: Thanks for noticing! I do indeed purposefully put in those little details that are followed up on in subsequent books. Sometimes my editor will flag them and I’ll have to tell her that it’s for the next one. As a series reader, I love when authors put little treats like this in the story, so I want to give that to my readers as well.
Thea: I would like to know how you manage to create the different scenarios, and not become formulaic? I think this is a fantastic skill and would love some tips.
Karin: I wish I could tell you. It would be so easy to have a formula, but I always veer off into different things. I think the key is to just let the story tell itself. Also, since I have such a long body of work, I’m aware of what I’ve done before, so if my mind wanders down a familiar path, I can remind myself that I’ve done that before. I don’t ever want to repeat myself.
Butch: Roll Tide or War Eagle?
Karin: Duh. War Eagle.