I’m really excited to be part of hosting the Murder on the Beach blog tour today. As part of the blog tour, we have a guest post by Kate Harrison, author of Soul Storm.
The darker side of a writer’s life: sympathising with serial killers
By Kate Harrison
I’ve been pretending to be someone else all my life, whether it’s fairies (when I was 7), princesses (around the age of 9), pop stars (that lasted till I was 13) or world famous actors (I still quite fancy that). It’s what writers do…
But it’s still been a shock to discover quite how easy I find it to pretend to be a serial killer.
I hadn’t planned to write from the point of view of a killer in Soul Beach, but towards the end of writing the first book, I wondered if it’d be exciting to contrast the compassion and grief in my heroine Alice’s life, with the voice of the person who had made things go so horribly wrong.
So I wrote:
The girl is dead, no doubt about it.
That face, the one that launched a billion internet clicks, is flushed, as though she’s spent too long in the sun. Somehow, her skin still glows – one of the TV critics called her dewy – but that won’t last, of course. After the struggle, her hair was tangled, but now it’s combed straight and fanned out against her pillow. Like Sleeping Beauty.
And my killer came to life for me: the lack of emotion, the control, the close observation. That would all develop and strengthen as I went on to write more and more short extracts from their point-of-view.
Even more shocking to me was that I’d look forward to writing a ‘Killer POV’ scene. They felt like little breaks from the angst and sadness of Alice’s world. The killer is sharp and sarcastic and amoral. Maybe it helped me get my own bad moods and nasty thoughts out of my system…
Of course, I researched the behaviour and traits of a psychopath to understand my killer: the extreme self-absorption and vanity, the feeling that the world was out to get you, the love of control.
And my research didn’t stop at serial killers – to understand Alice’s desperation to believe in the beach, I discovered how scientists are using brain scans to understand the difference between reality and imagination, truth and lies. It’s research with big business potential, to make gaming experience more and more vivid.
And I read about the boundaries between sanity and madness, how grief can drive you to delusions, and the science of addiction.
It’s certainly a change from the romantic comedies that I’ve written before. But like most writers, I am incredibly curious about what makes people tick and especially what makes people cross the line – to bully or hurt or kill…
So what have I learned? Well, I know more about the brain, but I also know how much more there is to discover. It’s a fascinating branch of science and goes right to the heart of what makes us human.
I wouldn’t say I ended up sympathising with my killer, exactly, but I did have a glimpse of why psychopaths behave as they do – they simply don’t see why they shouldn’t do as they please, why the world and those in it shouldn’t be manipulated. In short, they’re not interested in other people’s feelings.
Phew. I am fascinated by other people’s feelings. So that must mean I’m not a psychopath! I’m just pretending…
I’ll leave the last word to my killer, who is closing in on Alice:
The brain is dangerous territory.
Unpredictable things happen there. So I can think of nothing more unnatural than trying to pry into its secrets or analyse how someone else interprets the world.
It is true that sometimes even I long for understanding, for one good person to see me for the person I really am and, better still, to accept me completely.
Look out for my reviews of Soul Storm and Cruel Summer, which will be up soon.
You can follow the blog tour tomorrow at: http://www.curiositykilledthebookworm.net/