I sort of fell into crime. Being from the South, I thought I had to write the next Gone With the Wind. Unfortunately (fortunately?), no one else seemed to want me to. I got myriad rejections from publishers. My agent and I had a conversation about what I was going to do next and I told her that I’d always wanted to write a thriller but didn’t think I had it in me to juggle all those plots. She told me to give it a try and send it to her if I thought it was good. So, I sat down and wrote what became Blindsighted.
Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t already know?
I’m so shameless on Facebook that I’m fairly certain everything about me is already out there. Maybe they don’t know that my father is Enos Slaughter’s second cousin (which will mean nothing to your readers; he’s a player who made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame)
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
Sex! Murder! Chihuahuas!
The long version: we go to Macon, where Will works under cover in a case that brings him back into Lena Adams’ orbit. He knows Sara won’t be happy with this, so he tries to hide it from her. And of course something really bad happens and Will is put in a nasty situation and folks will have to read the book to find out what happens next!
Where do you get your ideas from for your stories?
I have absolutely no idea. I wish I could tell you because then I’d bottle and sell it. A good idea happens organically. I just wake up one day and it’s in my mind. Then the hard work starts; it’s not the idea, but the execution, that is important. Lots of people have good ideas for books. Not many people can sit down and write it.
Percentage-wise, how much time do you spend researching and how much time do you spend writing?
I’ve never kept track. Does watching kitten videos online count as research? If I had to guess, I’d say around 70/30, the latter number being devoted to research. Of course, when I’m writing a book set in the past, that ratio changes. I was alive in the seventies, but I wasn’t paying much attention. I had to do a lot of research for Criminal and also for my book that will be out next year, Cop Town (it also takes place in the seventies)
Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer?
Margaret Mitchell, of course. Flannery O’Connor was the first woman I read who wrote about things that I was interested in. I was a kid when I read her so I thought it was just gross and shocking. As an adult, I saw how she used these tools as a fulcrum to pry the scab off the human condition.
How hard is it to keep coming up with different/alternative ways to kill someone off?
The real problem is that there is no way I can come up with that hasn’t been done already. It’s so depressing how awful people can be. I’m sure you’ve heard about this case in the UK—the Ohio man who kept three women hostage in his house for ten years. That’s something similar to what I wrote about in one of my books. It’s not just me, though. I could name three or four books about this sort of thing. I could also name many, many more cases where it’s happened.
How do you relax/unwind after writing gruesome scenes?
It’s actually a relief to get through them because they’re so tightly orchestrated. I think about them a great deal for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. I live with them in my head. Getting them out onto the page is cathartic. But, I want to be really clear about these scenes: they have work for the story. I feel about writing violence the same way I feel about writing sex: if you can take the scene out and the book still works, then it doesn’t belong.
Are you one of those writers who wake in the middle of the night with ideas for plots, new story etc.?
Absolutely. I always a pen and something to write on beside my bed. Unfortunately, many times I wake up in the morning and think, “what the hell does this say?”
Have you ever had writer’s block?
I probably have, but I don’t think of it as writer’s block because that has so many soul-killing connotations. I think if you’re not in the mood to write that your brain is telling you that you need to think about what you’re doing for a bit longer. Forcing words to come is never a good thing. And it’s very easy to confuse writer’s block with simple laziness. Over the years, I worry more about being lazy than being blocked.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I owned a sign company before I got published, so I’d probably be bankrupt now since the sign business was hit so hard by the Recession (even though cutting back on advertising is the worst thing a business can do during an economic downturn) I didn’t graduate college, so I’d probably be doing odd jobs to make ends meet. I would still be writing, though. I can’t imagine my life without that.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
I guess all told it was around ten years. I started trying to get an agent when I got out of high school. I had the goal of getting published before I turned thirty (which seemed so old!) I got in just under the wire. It’s important to say that during that time I wasn’t just working on the same book. I wrote four or five books, and each one was an exercise in learning to be a writer. This is one of the reasons why I am so wary of self-publishing. When I started out, writers often got rejected by agents and publishers for a reason. They either quit or they toughened up and worked on their craft. If they were lucky enough to get a book deal, they then worked with an editor and became better writers. With self-publishing, there’s no failure, there’s generally no editorially work and there’s no “next book” that shows you’ve learned from your mistakes. There are of course a handful of exceptions, but as a writer who loves writers who are invested in refining their craft, it gives me pause.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I do, but only during specific times. I don’t write every day because I just can’t do it. So, I block out times that I feel ready to work and go up to my cabin in the North Georgia mountains. My day is structured thus: get up, eat breakfast, write until I’m dizzy from hunger, eat, then go back to work. Isolation has always appealed to me, and being away from home helps me shut out all the other things that don’t really matter. I can concentrate on the work in front of me and really get down to what I love the most in life: telling stories.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I write different styles in my short fiction: fantasy, horror, humor, conjoined twins where one is a serial killer and the other is a religious nut. Judging by some of my ratings on Amazon, people prefer me to write thrillers, but I have to do something else occasionally, otherwise the books would be very, very boring.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Read. It sounds really simple, but so many would-be authors do not make the time to read. You’re not doing it to anticipate market or crib from successful writers. You’re doing it to train your mind. Even if you’re reading a bad book, you’re learning what makes a book bad, and therefore learning how to write a good one.
I will be reviewing Unseen shortly but in the meantime why not watch the trailer for the book to get you in the mood.
Thanks to the lovely Natalie at Century I have a copy of her latest book Unseen to giveaway to one lucky follower. To enter follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Unseen by Karin Slaughter is out now published by Century, £18.99. Amazon links: Hardcover or Kindle