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!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

About the forensic mystery series with cammie and justin... When will you have the newest book out... I'm reeeeaaalllyy excited and can't wait to read it!!

Anonymous said...

alane! i love the forensics mysterys soooo much! are they coming out any time soon! i cant wait till the next book!

Anonymous said...

Just like the two people that posted before me....When will your newest book be coming out?? Im really excited to read it. I read The Circle of Blood and The Dying Breath in just 2 days. I couldnt put the book down!!!

Anonymous said...

are you going to let us read the 1st chapter like you did with the dying breath!!! i am dying to know when its coming out!

Sara said...

Heyy! You came to my school Wade Hampton today! I didnt get time to talk to you which I hate so much.. You did a GREAT job. I just had to tell you that. You made a big chance in my life about keeping my journal and finding what you are really good at in life and going for it. I loved every story you told today from your sister and you going at it, Your friend :( , and many more. I have never read your books but my teacher Mrs.Rea orderd some for our class and I cant wait to get my hands on them and READ. I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyied today. Thank you for coming

a future forensic scientist(: said...

i cannot wait to read the 5th book!!! have you picked out a title for it yet? im dying to know when it comes out. I was wondering if you are doing any book signings or tours like that. It would be great to get a signed book from my favorite author!!! keep on writing and making us readers' imaginations go to amazing places!!
Your biggest fan,
Chelsea
ps- if you are doing a book tour/signing, come to new york!! you have soo manyy big fans out on long island. so many of my friends read your series!!(:

Alane Ferguson said...

I'm FINALLY back from speaking trip number seven and am currently gearing up to speak in Florida, so this will be quick. Thanks, all, for your positive comments! I'm thinking of posting the first chapter but will have to clear that with my editor (copyright issues) but I'll let you know what she says. I'm still noodling on the title. Does anyone like The Death Academy? The Academy of Death? The Forensic Academy? The Forensic Academy Murders? I'm a bit stuck on this one, so please, chime in. And to Chelsea, I may be coming to New York, so if/when I do I'll be sure to come your way! In November, I will be a guest speaker in Chicago at NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)and then I'll return to the South. Oh, and I'll be finishing up book number six. Plus launching a new series. My brain is beginning to fry!

Well, I must get back to finishing up book five. SO much is happening I can't wait to share!

XO's to all,

Alane Ferguson

a future forensic scientist(: said...

How about "The Forensics Academy of Death"? That sounds really catchy!!(:
Chelsea

Millie said...

The Forensic Acadmey Murders. If I had to pick :D

Shelby said...

Alane, I have a question about Hannah in the Forensic mystery series actually. My sister was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder when she was 9, she's currently 14. Was there a reason you wanted Hannah to be Bipolar or was this based off of someone you know? I also like how accurate your description of someone with Bipolar is, usually the media over does it and makes them seem like their out of their minds. And by the way, I eagerly await the next book! ^^

-Shelby

Alane Ferguson said...

Shelby - I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my accuracy of portraying someone who is bi-polar, because yes, I have a family member who is challenged with bipolar disorder. I'm extremely proud of the way he has regained control of his life, and I know that although it is a hard road, it's a road that can be managed. He is thriving! I hope your sister will as well - please give her a hug from me. And one for yourself as well!

Anonymous said...

When is the next book coming out and are you still writing more books?
love,
your biggest fan ever

Anonymous said...

The forensics academy murders! If i could choose thats what i would!!! :) I can't wait to read your next book!

April said...

Dear Alane Ferguson will you make a new story to the Forensic Mystery series. I've read the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th books. so please will you make a new book.

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Savannah said...

Alane!!!! My name is Savannah and me and my best friend are desperately waiting for your next book in the Forensic Mystery series. Did it come out already and is hiding from us? Or are you not finished yet? Please if you still post on here please write back!!! I LOVE UR BOOKS YOU ARE A VERY TALENTED WRITER!!!! :):):):):)

Anonymous said...

When is the next book coming out??? I can't wait to read it! :)))

Anonymous said...

When is the next book coming out??? I can't wait to read it! :)))

Anonymous said...

Just read all 4 books in less than 4 days! I've read the first 2 before, but this time I couldn't stop. I was wondering if there was a release date yet for the fifth novel. I CAN'T WAIT!

Anonymous said...

Please! Is there any information you could give regarding your new book?!m(The fifth one in The Christopher Killer series). I love you books and am dying for a new one!

sbobet said...

Good website! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified when a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a great day!
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Anonymous said...

Alane please update this, I've been dying to find out when the next book is coming out. And no website I look up tells me anything... Hope everything is going well.
-biggest fan