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For as long as I can remember, books have been my salvation. I always have a book (or my Kindle) wherever I go. As a teenager, I had an old curling iron with a broken heating element, and I would plug it in, hide under the covers with a book, and use the little orange light from that broken curling iron to read. I'm surprised I didn't damage my eyes. At least I don’t think I do.
These days I can be found writing my own novels (where I can legitimately say reading is research). And like so many writers, one of the first questions I’m asked is: How do you come up with your ideas? Though most of the novels I’ve written, including my as yet unpublished YA ones focus on darker topics that many in society shy away from, the answer is: I’m not really sure. I might see someone strolling down the street, and my mind will take on a life of its own, and I suddenly find myself inventing a story about that person, or I might hear something on the news as I’m making dinner, and before I know it, I’m racing to jot down all my thoughts or even begin an outline of a novel. If I’m not already working on another story, I may even stick with it to the end of a rough draft. Sometimes I’ll only take it so far before I file it away under ‘To Be Written Later.’
I have a ton of ‘To Be Written Laters.’
The genesis for the very first novel I ever wrote – which also turned out to be my debut novel, All His Pretty Girls, came to me when I took my vehicle in for a tune up, and a man I didn’t know came over to sit right next to me even though there were no other customers in the waiting area, therefore plenty of spaces to sit. Once he was situated, he struck up a rather rambling conversation, and from there, my mind whirled with the possibilities… As soon as I could, I raced home where it was difficult for my hands to keep up with my brain. Don’t get me wrong – he was a kind older gentleman; it’s just my creative side envisioned serial killers and red herrings and misunderstood people.
That being said, the truth is I’ve always been incredibly fascinated with the topic of serial killers. How did they get that way? What makes them tick? Is there any hint of compassionate humanity in them? It’s the whole nature vs nurture dilemma, and I can see both sides of that argument. All His Pretty Girls covers the spectrum.
Maybe this odd fascination stemmed from my younger days when Jason and Freddy and Michael were deliciously frightening. OR, maybe it all began because of Belle Gunness, one of the first female serial killers our country is aware of... and she just happened to live and commit the majority of her atrocities in my small hometown of LaPorte, Indiana… and her hunting and burial grounds happened to be located directly across the street from where I grew up. In fact, one of my childhood friends lived in a house built on top of where so many of her victims were buried. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I did enjoy sleepovers in that house, more than once. Creepy, I know, but in my defense, at the time, I’d not yet heard of Gunness, which is a good thing because my friend and I enjoyed swapping scary ghost stories, and had I known what lurked beneath the foundation and in the yard, well, I can’t imagine what my ten-year-old mind would’ve conjured up.
Regardless of where my interest began and more importantly, my heart aches for all the victims of serial killers – the ones whose lives they’ve taken, as well as the ones they’ve left alive. And that’s what lies at the heart of All His Pretty Girls.
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