Joining me today for a brief chat is No 1 bestselling author Karin Slaughter – Blindsighted, Fractured, Broken – resident in Atlanta, Georgia. Celebrating the launch of her latest book Fallen today – the third title in the Georgia series and featuring Agent’s Will Trent, Faith Mitchell and Dr Sara Linton – Karin took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Do you relish the writing procedure or are you prone to distractions and when you finally sit down to write do you have some idyllic writing location to while away the hours?
I relish it, but like any writer, I can get distracted. Over the years, I’ve had to figure out whether it’s a good distraction or a bad one, as in: am I just being lazy or is there a reason my brain isn’t clicking into the story. If it’s the latter, then I need to think about what I’m doing and why it’s not working. And I do actually have an idyllic writing location–I go up to the North Georgia Mountains and stay in a little cabin my daddy built for me ten years ago. It’s great to get away from life and just concentrate on the book and the story.
I haven’t been to Georgia for quite a while and long to one day make it to Augusta for the golf! (it’s on my bucket list!). Given Fallen is set in Atlanta, your home city, how hard do you find writing fiction set in a real city?
It’s harder to write in a real city than a made-up one. In Grant County, I could make things up as I went along. I need a skating rink on the outskirts of town? Here it is! When I’m writing about Atlanta, I have to hew to certain landmarks and actual streets. Though, the more I write about the city, the more liberties I take. It’s fiction, after all. I tell readers to be sure to buy a map when they come visit, because I’m not writing a travel guide. (And you be sure to bring some lightweight clothes, because August in the summer is sweltering!)
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, did you get one of those pivotal moments in school or did it come later?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I really feel that you don’t choose to write. Writing chooses you. As a child, I was always writing stories and getting in trouble for making things up. I suppose the turning point was when my ninth grade teacher told me, “you’re good, but you can be better.” That’s really what a great teacher does: makes a kid want to do better. And I took her words to heart and started paying more attention to my stories. I also started reading different sorts of books, because the only training we have as writers is to read books.
What books/authors have most influenced you most and why – reading anything at the moment?
Flannery O’Connor, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Mitchell, Sara Paretsky…the list goes on. I think everything a writer reads has some influence on them. It’s just the way things work. When I think about my favorite writers, these women top the list. More contemporary authors I enjoy are Mo Hayder, Lee Child, Peter Robinson, Denise Mina, Mark Billingham. I’ve just read books by all of them and can honestly say these are writers at the top of their game. One book I’ve recently read that was by a new author is Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. I love when people do new things, and this is a great first novel.
In the course of writing and researching Fallen, did you discover anything that surprised you?
As I was writing Fallen, I had in my mind what the next book, Criminal, would look like. Criminal takes place partly in the present with Will, Faith and Sara. The other part takes place in the past–1975, when Amanda first became a police officer. So, the “old gal” network you meet in Fallen started back in 1975, and we get to meet those women. We also get to see why Amanda became the person she is. I love her character. She’s such a ballbreaker. Fallen sets that up fairly well, and Criminal explains how she got there.
For those readers who haven’t discovered “The Georgia Series” (Broken, Fallen) can you give us a little insight into the characters and the thinking behind the books?
The Georgia series melds Grant County into Will Trent’s world. One of the reasons I chose to write about the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was that I kept wondering how long I could murder people in Grant County before it became unbelievable that people would still be living there. The property values must be in the toilet by now! So, with the GBI, I can go anywhere in the state. We have almost 160 counties, which I believe is more than any other state in the US. That’s a lot of territory in which to plant bodies. It also gives me the opportunity to say new things about Sara Linton, who comes from Grant County. Her life has changed quite a bit over the years. So has Faith’s and Will’s. One of the great pleasures of writing characters in a series is they grow with you. I’ve got lots of things planned for their futures.
If you could invite three people/characters from the past (or present) to a dinner party who would you invite and why?
I would invite Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Flannery O’Connor and Hillary Clinton. I imagine Heathcliff would do a lot of brooding, but maybe I could persuade him that Cathy isn’t all she’s cracked up to be. Flannery O’Connor is someone I’d love to meet just because she’s one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers. (Though, I have a feeling she’d take offense to my wearing pants and the fact that I don’t sit up straight at the supper table) And of course Hillary Clinton would be great because she could talk to any of them and make them feel special and fascinating, because that’s the gift of being someone on the world stage. She could probably make a stump sound interesting. Trust me, we’d need that with Heathcliff.