So I fell in love with a murderer.
And no, I’m not a fan follower of infamous killers, like some of the women who threw themselves at Ted Bundy while he sat on death row. Or the women who have shown interest in Charles Manson, throughout the years, while he serves out his life sentence in Corcoran State Prison in California.
I created a villainous, wicked, maniacal character and then I fell in love with her.
In the second two books of my trilogy, Close Enough to Kill, there are point of view chapters from the murderer. When I first began getting inside her head, into the head of someone who kills, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I have years of experience working in forensics as a psychologist. I have heard firsthand stories of murders, rapes, home invasions, armed robberies, awful stories, violent stories. Stories that sometimes I wish I could erase from my memory, stories that haunted me for months after hearing them. And some that still do.
I was chased a few times. Fortunately, most times there were correction officers only steps away to protect me. But there was one time, which I discuss in my co-authored book, BARE: Psychotherapy Stripped, where I ran into a former inmate, I had evaluated in a forensic setting, on the outside. I literally ran, thank goodness I am a runner, until I felt safe.
Did I love the murderers that I worked with?
No. I did not.
Most of them terrified me. But I was there to do a job, whether it was anger management, running group therapy, individual therapy or conducting forensic evaluations. I did what I was employed to do. I’d be lying though, if I said that I wasn’t…fascinated.
It’s what drew me into forensics to begin with: fascination with the minds, the psychology, of violent offenders. Crimes of passion most specifically.
So this is where I started. I created a character with a motive to kill someone she knew. I can’t say too much. There are tons of twists in Circle of Betrayal and for those who have not read it yet, and plan to do so, I don’t want to spoil the experience.
When I finished Circle of Betrayal I knew why my murderess did what she did. In the land of murderous, felonious, entitled rationality, it made sense. She made sense.
But as the story went on and her character evolved through books 2 and 3, she surprised me. Or was it me surprising myself? Hmm…
Now with more experience as a fiction writer, I have to say this is a fine line.
A blurry line.
As it turns out…she’s evil. She’s dark and scathing. She’s vindictive and maniacal. She’s entitled (a trait that has always been hard for me to tolerate in people outside of my writer’s world). Her entitlement, at times, makes her thinking delusional.
But…she also turned out to be tormented, troubled. In the beginning of her descent into the land of murderessness, she even grapples with guilt.
I felt her distress. So poignant at moments, I thought I might cry.
At other times, I felt a striking and disturbing sense of power. A power she feels because she’s a killer and chooses who lives and dies. A power for her, that is unmatched in any other area of her life. Perhaps a power that most of us will never know. But a power nonetheless that was so vivid for me that at moments while immersed in her point of view chapters, I felt it.
This both intrigued and disturbed me.
Talk about empathic understanding.
Her absolute and utter audacity and entitlement (which again, I usually don’t like) was almost humorous at times, darkly humorous. I could not believe some of the things she was able to rationalize doing. When I stepped into her mind, I could not believe some of the places she led me and how she was able to make rational sense of these things. In her mind, her actions were justified. She had the right to do whatever she did, even when it meant exploiting people, hurting people, manipulating people. Even killing.
Now that I have finished the drafts of both book 2 and book 3, I miss all of the characters. Of course, I will need to do re-writes once my editor sends back the drafts with comments and suggestions. But the evolution of the twists and surprises that she (and all my other wonderful, loveable) characters have offered me the opportunity to explore, that part of my writing process for this trilogy is over. And I miss her. And I love her too, creepy as that may sound.
That being said…I wonder to myself how she will be experienced by my readers. Perhaps my loving her makes her a more compelling villain. Someone readers will love to hate, or something like that.
Maybe the ultimate villains are the ones we love. Maybe.
I guess we’ll see.
Anyone have a similar experience?