Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chatting with Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is coming off her book tour for the latest Will Trent novel, CRIMINAL. She was kind enough to make some time to chat with me a bit and I'm excited to be able to share that with you today.

Most of you know that Karin is the author of the Grant County Series and the Will Trent series. She's a tremendous advocate for libraries, a cat owner, and an extremely witty woman. She visited a couple weeks back to share her Five on Friday, which you can check out if you didn't have a chance to see it before.

In the meantime, let me share with you our conversation:

Q: CRIMINAL exposes the history that connects Will and Amanda. Was this something you had planned from the beginning of the series or did it evolve more organically as the series evolved?

Karin Slaughter: When I wrote the first Will Trent book, Triptych, I knew most everything about him—why he was left to state care, where his scars came from. I knew that Amanda had some connection to him, but I didn’t really formulate how strong that connection would be until I wrote subsequent stories. By Fallen, where I talk a great deal about Amanda’s “Good ol’ gal” network, I knew all the salient details. In many ways, this made it so much easier to write Criminal, where the research into the time period was so intense. Knowing those concrete emotional connections were in place gave me room to explore other things.

Q: An element of Amanda’s character that becomes abundantly clear in CRIMINAL is the effect her job had on her as person, the changes it made in her. From wanting to be a Kelly Girl to becoming a cop is quite a difference and the time period threw in its own challenges. Is there a real person or persons that inspired her character?

Karin Slaughter: During my research, I spoke with several female law enforcement officers who came up in the seventies, and I worked to incorporate their stories into the book. Marla Lawson, who works with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and has been called the best forensic artist in the country, was the one who wanted to be a Kelly Girl. She started out years ago doodling caricatures in Underground Atlanta, and now she’s about to retire from what has been an enviable career helping victims of crime. If anything, Marla is closer to Evelyn Mitchell, who might be a bit cynical, but for the most part still loves doing her job and enjoys life in general. That was one of the things I wanted to show in Criminal: Amanda and Evelyn had similar experiences, but their personalities made them grow into very different women. The things that made Amanda angry made Evelyn stronger.

Q: There are several heavy social issues that come into play in CRIMINAL, in fact your books are no strangers to social issues. What role do those issues play in the evolution of the book? Do you have a plot idea and then the issue fits into that or you have an issue you want to use in a book and the plot develops from there or another process altogether?

Karin Slaughter: I never try to shoehorn in issues. It gets a bit boring if you’re being preached to, which is why I try to bring balance through different characters’ perspectives. The bad guy in Criminal, for instance, commits dark deeds he feels have a religious foundation. Evelyn, who is religious herself, sees these justifications as abhorrent and contrary to what Christianity is all about. As far as weaving the gender and racial politics into the story, using the seventies as a setting and writing language that was used back then instantly made it more political, but that’s only because we’re looking at sexism and racism from a 2012 perspective. I think if this story had been published in 1975, then no one would’ve really said anything beyond, “what a couple of feisty gals!” (so long as I published it under a male pseudonym; I’m fairly certain no publisher would’ve published Criminal in 1975)

Q: Since you just finished with book tour, what’s a standout memory from doing book tours? It doesn’t have to be this specific one, just an incident (good or bad) that you’re fairly certain you won’t ever forget.

Karin Slaughter: I always try to do as many library events as I can when I’m on tour. What I love is when I see local booksellers working together with their library system, because it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. There are people who will religiously go to the library but never think to attend an event at their local bookstore. We know that every five holds at a library translates into one sale of that book. To have that sale go to an independent or chain bookseller who supports the library is a wonderful thing.

Q: When I’ve spoken to some writers about their own personal reading habits, they’ve shifted from reading a lot within the crime genre. Some have lost their passion for reading it since they are immersed in it while writing. Others stay away from it to avoid someone else’ voice from creeping into their own writing. Do you find that to be the case for you reading or do you still love to read crime novels?

Karin Slaughter: I love reading crime novels and I hope I never lose my taste for them. I can’t read anything when I’m working on my own stuff, but to think of never again reading the next Mo Hayder or Denise Mina or Lisa Gardner or Tess Gerritsen or Lee Child or… Unimaginable.

Q: What’s the best book you’ve read recently? One you can recommend to a wide range of readers?

Karin Slaughter: There’s a book by an American ex-pat in London called Tiger in Red Weather that I enjoyed so much that I reached out to her editor to offer a blurb. I enjoyed the Chaperone. Mo Hayder’s newest one, Gone, was a terrific read.

Q: What’s next for Karin Slaughter?

Karin Slaughter: Unseen, the next novel featuring Will Trent. He’s undercover in hostile territory, so I’ve been talking to lots of agents who’ve had to basically give up large chunks of their lives to catch bad guys. The book also features Lena Adams, and you can imagine what kind of trouble she’s gotten herself into since we last saw her.

Many thanks to Karin for her time and great answers. You can catch up with Karin on her Facebook page, and I've mentioned before she has a great newsletter you'll want to subscribe to if you haven't done so already. And she has a collection of very cool materials from her research on Criminal that you can see here.

And if you haven't had a chance to meet Karin in real life, she'll be at Bouchercon in a couple of months. Do you have your registration in?

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


caite August 9, 2012 at 7:29 PM  

Great interview!
I must say that I am excited beyond words that Lena will be back for a visit in the next one. She is perhaps my favorite character of the flawed, so screwed

Jen August 10, 2012 at 2:40 AM  

Thanks Caite! I was psyched to learn about Lena as well. She's a fabulous character.

Beth Hoffman August 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM  

I really enjoyed this interview and am looking forward to reading Karin's latest offering!

Francesca Denahy September 7, 2012 at 4:47 PM  

Karin I think your the best thriller/murder writer I have ever read for a very long time, you always keep me entertained,I am on the edge of my seat for nearly every book . Your the best so dont let anyone tell you different .

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