Friday, February 11, 2011

An Interesting Forensic Conversation!

This question came to me via an online writer's group called Rockcanyon. It's from an author, and I thought I'd share her query and my reply. (The things I pick up as a mystery writer!) Before reading further, though, I want to give a kind of 'parent advisory' that the material below is real and disturbing. For those who still want to peek into my world, my goal is for you to see the kind of research necessary to write dark characters - what I have to grasp in order to capture their motivations. To create that mindset I have to understand it, which means endless digging and reading! So, if you're not feeling squeamish, here is the author's query and my answer. She was specifically interested in serial killers working as a pair, and asked if that was ever true in real life.

Question: What I'm curious about is how does a serial killer find someone with similar interests? That doesn't seem like something that would come up in normal conversation. And maybe if I'd read your book I'd know this (it's on my list) but how do serial killers appear to others? Do they seem fairly normal, have a normal boring job? Or do they seem pretty freaky? Also, is it possible to use those tendencies in a more appropriate way like being a sniper or writing books about serial killers ;) or something? Also how did you become interested in this and how do you research it? Sorry for all the questions. You don't have to answer them. I'm just curious.

Answer: I know this one since I've researched (and written) so many books involving this subject. For me, it's taken an even more personal tone because my best friend Savannah Anderson was murdered by a serial killer, thus thrusting me on the path to write forensic murder mysteries. So, in a nutshell, most serial killers who team up either have an established relationship (as in the Blanchi/Buono case, where the two men were cousins) or the perpetrators meet in prison, although the internet has unfortunately changed and expanded that dynamic. A third rail is a man enticing a woman to be his accomplice, as in the Jaycee Dugard case where Phillip and Nancy Garrido worked as a team to keep her captive. (There is a theory that at least one more girl had been kidnapped and killed, but I haven't heard the verdict on that, just that they are still looking into it.) Also, the Elizabeth Smart case involved a woman, Wanda Barzee, who cowered beneath Brian Mitchell's reign. Anyway, there is usually a psychological 'master' and a weaker accomplice. The gender of the perpetrators could come down in any combination, but by far the most common is a dominant man with a submissive man, then the man/woman followed by the woman/woman, which is extremely rare. The only case I can think of that might qualify in that instance is the Aileen Wuornos/Tyria Moore case, but the suspicion of Moore being part of the murder spree was never proven. Women serial killers, while real, are very, very unusual.

Last point: a serial killer is a sociopath/psychopath, so they applaud the actions of their peers because they see nothing wrong in what they do, other than the fact they may get caught. To them, they are normal, because they live inside their own heads and they are completely narcissistic with zero feeling for others. They have no empathy. To outsiders their image is usually that of a loner who doesn't quite 'fit in,' but some, like the BTK (Bind Torture Kill) Dennis Rader was a church deacon. He was able to pull off 'normalcy' but only for a short time, so he, as others like him, chose a job that gave him a lot of 'alone time.' I read a book by a forensic psychiatrist who wrote that the sociopath could only keep the veneer up so long before he cracked. (I think it something like six hours, but I'm not sure...) Anyway, there is definitely a profile.

Okay, I'll stop now, because as Dan said, most people don't want to know this stuff. The good news is that the folks you'll meet will be charming, warm friends. You will most likely never, ever cross paths with these crazies, so don't fret. Although I know this stuff, I choose to walk in the rainbows and sunshine. And it's a reminder to carpe diem!

Alane Ferguson

So, dear readers, that is the kind of information I must be fluent in so that I can make up a character like Kyle O'Neil or Dr. Jewel. I not only need to understand the science of forensics, but I must also dig into the minds of those who commit these unspeakable crimes. At the end of the day, though, I go back to what I said at the end of the Rockcanyon post, and that is that I walk in the sun purposely. Yes, the world has darkness, but it also has light. It's where I begin my day and where I end it. So, cherish and love your life. I know I do!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Forensic Murders

Hi everyone!

I'm knee deep in guts again, busily sawing away at imaginary decedents in my newest book, The Forensic Murders. Or, do you prefer the title The Forensic Academy Murders? I'm on the fence on this one and just wondered what you, my wonderful readers, thought! In between all the writing (I'm still sneaking away to hammer out Dragonfly Eyes on the side) I'm speaking, visiting eight states between now and April to talk about my passion, which is writing! First stop, Omaha, Nebraska, starting February 13th and going through the week. Corn Huskers, here I come!

Oh, and all is right in the world now that Damon from The Vampire Diaries is back with his blue, blue eyes. I'm so team Delena, although I've been intrigued by the newest Caroline/Matt/Tyler twist. I SO dig this series and my other favorites, which include anything at all with ghosts (Supernatural, Ghost Hunters, and the (alas) canceled Medium). I also love Modern Family, Glee, The Middle, and I Survived. On the reading front, I've just reread The Hunger Games (fantastic) and keep crying EVERY time I read the Mockingjay epilogue, which is pretty pathetic since I of course know how it ends. That's the beauty of truly great writing - it never stops moving a reader. Three cheers for Suzanne Collins!

Speaking of writing, I'd better stop blathering and get back to it. Despite being a pacifist, I have to say that in my writing world, there are so many to kill, and yet so little time...


Alane Ferguson