We are pleased to welcome Karin Slaughter to Murder by the Book's blog. She has agreed to answer a few of our questions.
MBTB: When Blindsighted came out in 2001, did you have plans to create a series?
Karin Slaughter: I absolutely knew as soon as I was halfway through Blindsighted that I could turn it into a series. I grew up reading books with series characters, from Encyclopedia Brown to V.I. Warshawski, so I'm the type of reader who always wants more--it was natural to be that kind of writer.
MBTB: "Mystery," "Thriller," "Crime Fiction," which do you prefer when describing your books? ("None of the above" is also a choice.)
Karin Slaughter: I'm of the "just don't call me late for dinner" variety. I prefer crime fiction because it sounds snootier. Also, in Europe, when you say "mystery" that automatically means something with a cat or an old lady, or an old lady cat. I think in the US they say "thriller" and in most cases that works for my stories because there's a momentum to them. I'm sure there are scholars out there who can debate this till the cows come home, but for me, I'm just content to be in a category that has lots and lots of voracious readers!
MBTB: Your books are international best sellers. What is it about them that appeals to a worldwide audience?
Karin Slaughter: Several American crime writers do well overseas--Michael Connelly, Lee Child, etc. I think that American stories appeal on several levels, primarily because we don't get caught up in the angst of it all. Even Lee, who was born in England, embraces a forward thinking attitude. (Reacher never sits down on the floor and cries about his feelings, for instance). So, I think that's one part of the appeal. I also think that international audiences automatically think the level of violence in thrillers is absolutely believable because they think of America as a very, very violent place.
MBTB: All of your books are set in the South and we couldn't imagine them taking place anywhere else. Do you consider the Southern setting to be one of your supporting characters?
Karin Slaughter: I absolutely feel like the south is a character. I love being a southerner--warts and all. I want to show my south when I am writing the books. In Unseen, the novel I'm writing for next year, we get out of Atlanta for a bit and get to see Sara back in south Georgia (though not Grant County) and through Faith and Will, we get some of the "big city" prejudices Atlantans have toward folks who live down "where Jesus lost his sandals" (as Amanda would say)
MBTB: Special Agent Will Trent, who works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is a fan favorite. What is it about this detective--who happens to be dyslexic--that makes him so fascinating?
Karin Slaughter: Well, I think women love him because he does the dishes without having to be asked! Seriously, I think he's a very complicated man with some dark secrets. The reader finds out a lot about him in Criminal that even Will doesn't know. I love that he doesn't let his past ruin the present. He doesn't mope around. He doesn't try to get pity. He actually runs from those things. It's one reason why he was stuck with his horrible wife for such a long time. She doesn't think he's a pitiable person even though she knows (first hand) many of the awful things that happened. He is a fighter. And he's age appropriate, meaning he's responsible, has a good job and doesn't sit around all day playing video games.
MBTB: Speaking of dyslexia, what kind of feedback do you get from readers about the way in which you describe his condition and his coping mechanisms?
Karin Slaughter: I gather from letters that a lot of people assume that being dyslexic means that you can't read at all. I always try to explain it in the books: Will can read--it just takes him longer. People seem to bring their own misconceptions no matter what I do. A lot of incredibly successful people have (or had) dyslexia: Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, John Lennon, Einstein. So, obviously these fellas are/were able to read. That being said, I've had many letters where people with dyslexia in their family talk about how great it is to see Will developing skills that help him with the disorder. There's so much help out there now. I hope that eventually Sara is able to persuade Will to get it.
MBTB: In your latest book, Criminal, the story takes place in the 1970s and in the present day. What kind of research did you do in order to make 1970s Atlanta come alive for the reader? Were you able to interview any women who were police officers during that time?
Karin Slaughter: I did a ton of research--read articles from magazines (Cosmo, mostly!) and pieces from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. There were forensic textbooks and scholarly articles and trashy popular (in the 70s) books and movies that I had to watch. And I'd say maybe ten percent of all of that got into the book! The thing that resonated the most was talking to police women about coming up during that time. Some of the stories they told me were absolutely unbelievable--so much so that I left a bit out because I just thought people would be too incredulous. Of course, I've got a lot of those stories sitting around, as well as huge chunks of research, so I might end up using them in another book...
There are scenes from Criminal plus bonus content on my website http://www.karinslaughter.com/criminal/
MBTB: We've read that the public library played an important role in your young life. Can you tell us something about that and about the Save the Libraries Project?
Karin Slaughter: It's not just me--I can't think of a successful writer working today who doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to their childhood public library. We all feel it's important to give back. Save the Libraries was started to do just that. We sometimes give block grants, but other times we'll send four or five New York Times bestsellers to an event to help raise money and awareness. The writers all pay for their transportation and hotel, so 100% of the money raised goes directly to the library. I'd like to give a shout-out to some friends who've helped this cause and encourage your readers to read them (or at least buy their books!): Kathryn Stockett, Mary Kay Andrews (also Kathy Hogan Trochek), Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, Tess Gerritsen, and Lisa Gardner. Readers won't just be getting great stories, they'll be supporting library heroes.
Karin is celebrating the recent release of Criminal, her latest novel starring Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent.