Fellow Wild Rose Press author makes a return visit to Journeys with Jana with the third book in his Deadly Glimpses Series, Glimpse, the Tender Killer which released September 11, 2019. So, if writers are supposed to write what they know, how does Stephen get inside the head of a serial killer? Take it away, Stephen!
How do I get inside the heads of my serial killer characters?
Very recently, while talking about the release of book 3 of The Deadly Glimpses trilogy, Glimpse, the Tender Killer, I was asked a question that made me sit up and think about my answer very seriously. The question was from a fellow TWRP author, Christine. This was what she asked:
“When I write, I actually 'become' the characters and live their lives to write authentic stories. My reviewers have said my writing is very emotional, tear jerkers, realistic, complex characters with deep POV. So, with writing books as good as yours, I would think you must've taken on the characters lives & gotten into their minds, or imagined them explicitly (unless you have another method of making them so real).”
Now not only was this very high praise, which I truthfully appreciated very much, but it was a serious question, because the Glimpse series, give the reader insights into three serial killer’s mind, from their own POV and each suffer from a different mental illness. I think what she meant in a very polite way is how can I describe these monsters so well without being or acting like one myself.
The answer is that I don't get inside them. I couldn't because I am the complete opposite to them (I'm a lover, not a fighter in every sense of the word). I guess everyone has their own way of writing, for me it starts with a spark of an idea. For example - and I've told this story in blog interviews before - I was driving along to work one day, with the radio on, and a crap song was playing. I was stuck in traffic and I was NOT thinking about my next book. At that time I was deep into edit rounds for Thirty-Three Days. Anyway this random thought flitted across my mind and I have no idea where it came from or why I thought it: I was five years old when I first saw somebody bleed out.
Now, I’ve never seen anyone bleed out thankfully, at any age, let alone five years old. So I began to think who would say that, and why? What circumstances would cause someone to say such a thing? The only way for me to explore an idea is to start writing from that point forward; I never pre-plan anything and I have no idea what's going to happen next. When I’d written two or three pages about a five year old remembering watching someone bleed horribly I realized that what I was writing was a memoir of a serial killer, and in that moment, I had the title. Glimpse, Memoir of a Serial Killer is what book 1 is called; book 2 is Glimpse, The Beautiful Deaths and three I’ve already mentioned.
So, in this case, by starting at five years old, I was able to build a character so traumatized by events he became a serial murderer. At the same time I had to create the protagonist who catches him. For a while I’d wanted to tell a story of two people, who are in dysfunctional marriages, who are immediately attracted to each other when they work together to catch the killer. I wanted to tell the story of their relationship, and the consequences if they took the irrevocable step of sleeping together. So, I wondered how about a cop and a criminal psychologist?
When I am in the zone, the words pour from me like a torrent, and often I read what I’ve written and wonder where the hell did that come from? Its like the words come through me, not from me - it's a tap I can't turn off.
I’m not inside the characters - that would be too one dimensional for me, but more like I’m omnipotent; I can see what they are doing, know what they are thinking, and am often horrified by it. I suppose it’s a bit like being a method actor, except I’m the one writing the script. My brother said to me, when he read Burial Ground, an earlier book of mine about – you guessed it, a serial killer: “You’re a sick bastard.” He was smiling and said that he only meant that because he enjoyed the story so much and the character was so NOT like me. More high praise!
I guess it’s a subject that has always fascinated me; why do serial killers kill? What makes them want to do terrible things like that, and I don’t think I’m alone in that interest. How about you, dear reader? Do you ever wonder why someone that everyone thought was reasonably normal diced up ten people over a couple of years? It’s too glib to say because they wanted to, because the next question is, yeah but why did they want to?
So if you read the Glimpse series, you will learn why three people became mass murderers in my make believe world. The sad thing is though, you will discover that my make believe world is scarily close to the truth sometimes……….
Criminal psychologist Patricia Holmes is now a detective paired with Detective Sergeant Rick McCoy. Together they hunt The Biblical Killer, so named for the quotes left on walls written in the victim's blood. To lure the murderer out they join the Tender Nights internet dating site, openly making themselves targets. Rick and Pat have fought their desire for each other for months. Can they now survive their lust and an insane murderer intent on vengeance?
Purchase Glimpse, The Tender Killer at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07W3NNVKM
Stephen B King