When Perpetrators are Victims: Noah's Story

When I think back to my experiences working in the criminal justice system as a psychotherapist and forensic evaluator, I am reminded of this quote by Carl Jung: “The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”  

As you may know, a basic tenet of psychotherapy is to listen empathically, which means that we suspend our own beliefs and feelings in order to hear and feel someone else’s experience. What I quickly realized when I sat in the room with murderers, rapists, armed robbers was that I had what I am going to call “an empathic conflict.”

Hearing atrocities committed toward other people – stories oft told with cold, detached gazes, flat voices and an absence of emotion, my first inclination was to feel empathy for their victims. But I was there to hear their stories. I was there to listen to them, to try to reach the few inmate-patients that I could.

Soon I learned that many of the inmate-patients I worked with were victims too. I heard awful stories, stories I wish I could erase from my mind. Histories of abuse and neglect: people being burned by their parents, people being raped by one parent while the other one watched, people being offered for sex in exchange for drugs.  

Some didn’t have any history that would explain their criminality, but in situations where they were a victim turned perpetrator, I wondered: Who were they to me? Were they victims or were they perpetrators? My empathy swung back-and-forth between their victims and them. Sometimes I would be so angry at them – my own patients, while listening to the crimes they committed. I stopped doing clinical work in forensics because of this, but continued with my research.

I used my experience, both as a clinician and as a researcher, to write my Close Enough to Kill series. Each of the characters taught me something, and the stories weren’t always easy to write. Before writing the series, I had only written non-fiction. I had no idea how much fiction writing was like being actor. When I’m deeply engaged in my characters’ minds, I feel their feelings, all of them, like a roller-coaster – up and down, good and bad.

My forthcoming release is a story told from the perspective of Noah Donovan, whose betrayal (in Circle of Betrayal – book 1) inspires the entire series. Writing Noah’s Story was painful, exhausting, disturbing, eye-opening. A few times I stared at the computer, my jaw hanging, wondering what the hell just went from my fingertips onto the screen. What really happened to Noah Donovan? Perhaps he wasn’t simply the cold, manipulative man I had thought. Perhaps Noah was also a victim.

Noah exploits women. As a woman, I felt furious with him. And yet, as the story went on, it became clear that he was the greatest victim. A few times I felt sick as the story of how he became who he was unfolded.

Being inside the head of someone while writing fiction is more intimate than psychotherapy; I am not listening empathically, I am (through the characters) telling the story. I become them. They tell their story through me. The experience of writing through Noah created an empathic conflict.  One that was more intense than what I had experienced in a clinical setting. Fascinating and disturbing.

Another thought I had after finishing Noah’s Story was that I had met and even dated a few men like Noah Donovan. Maybe if I had written the book while I was still single, I would have recognized the inner conflict and saved myself some heartache.

 Live (Write) and Learn.

Noah’s Story will be available Tuesday July 18. For a chance to win a signed copy, please sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

Circle of Truth (Close Enough to Kill - Book 3) now available

“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” – Carl Jung

I am excited to announce that Circle of Truth, Close Enough to Kill series, book 3 is now available in both paperback and digital versions.

I searched the book for a satisfying teaser to share, not an easy endeavor. There are many twists in the plot and I didn’t want to spoil any of the suspense. Prerelease readers have called it “suspenseful and hard to put down.”

Here is an excerpt, giving a peek inside the mind of a murderer, a killer whose love turns to rage, causing an explosion of fierce and deadly passion. Who will be the next person, close enough to kill? You will soon find out.    

She fondled the knife handle, her thumb moved up and down. Oh, it felt good. It really did. She released a long abdominal breath, closed her eyes and rubbed the knife from bottom to top. Her eyes were hollow. She thought about the hours leading up to Noah’s murder.

The pain. The pain.

Noah — love of her life, man of her dreams — the pain he caused her ate at her insides. She remembered. She had cried, hunched over, folded in half, broken, trampled, paralyzed. She lay on John’s couch, moved her thumb up and down the edge of the knife. She was almost in a trance as she thought back on those devastating hours after she found out about his betrayal. Those hours that broke her forever.

She remembered feeling empty, like she didn’t exist anymore. His betrayal took her soul right out of her. Whoever she was before, the she that existed for him, that woman was no more. Instead she felt a void; a part of her had been ripped right out, and in its place was a rage like she had never felt before.

It had no words.

Everything became colorless.

She had played Evanescence’s song “My Immortality” over and over on her computer. Amy Lee’s voice bellowed the exquisite pain only someone whose heart had been crushed could ever comprehend. She sat, listened to the song, to the words. She tried to swallow her feelings. She tried to rationalize, to compartmentalize. Nothing would ease the pain and that wordless rage seethed.

He had always been the one. Always. She had given him all of her, everything she had. And he didn’t care. He took her for granted. He made her expendable.

She sang along with Amy Lee: These wounds won’t seem to heal,this pain is just too real. There’s just too much that time cannot erase.

She tried to use Amy Lee’s words as her own, to help her integrate the betrayal and stop the simmering volcano that engulfed her. She sang at the top of her lungs. Tears flew out of her eyes. Her body sliced into itsy-bitsy pieces. Her open crevices filled with that inarticulate rage, a rage so deep it seeped through every pour. It swallowed her. It became her.

She picked up a knife. Amy Lee’s voice still rang loudly in her apartment. She stopped hearing. She held that knife, rubbed the blade. She didn’t know why at first. She just fondled the edge with her thumb, over and over. It was then, while she massaged the blade that she knew what she had to do. She would Kill Noah. (Capital K). There was no other way out. She had to do it. Nothing could stop her.

She thought back on that first moment when she plunged the knife into Noah’s chest, the way it felt when it penetrated his flesh and she saw inside of him. She looked at the tip of the knife she held presently and sat up on the couch. Noah had begged and begged for his life. Even while she killed him, she still loved him.

Thank you all for your interest and support. I hope you enjoy reading the book, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I will be giving away 3 signed copies to subscribers of my newsletter. Winners will be notified on Friday.

What He Didn't See

“Everyone is a protagonist of their own life,” my longtime friend, co-author and book editor had said to me back when I was working on the first book of my Close Enough to Kill, series. We were working on creating strong supporting characters at the time. Since I write in the third person and shift character point of view, as the series goes on, quite a few of the supporting characters have significant back stories and conflicts of their own which beg for resolution. I like subplots and story complexity. It’s the way I see life: rich, complex, filled with interwoven stories, people’s lives touching and affecting one another’s, sometimes in ways unbeknownst to them. I like writing stories where we can see how all of these invisible tangles between people lead to stunning twists and starling occurrences. This is life.

Anyway, I digressed.   

Perhaps it’s because my background is in clinical psychology that I have a hard time resisting elaboration on most of my characters. As much as readers want more, I want more, too. I want to peel back layer upon layer and see what makes them tick. I want to know each character’s story because in their hearts, they are “a protagonist of their own life.”  

It is for this reason that I chose to write a series of spinoff novellas for some of the supporting characters. The first of these is in the final stages of editing and is called, What He Didn’t See. This is a story from the point of view of Jacob Temple, the murder victim in Circle of Trust  a dark love story with twists. As many of you know, I fell in love with him while I was working on Circle of Trust. That love persisted through Circle of Truth, (the third book in the series, due to be released in a few months).  

I love all of my characters, even my villains, as nefarious as they may be. But Jacob really tugged at my heart strings. Sigh. I think it’s because he is profoundly wounded. I have always had an affinity for wounded male characters, both in books and films. And Jacob, well… he is the epitome of the wounded male character. Scars from his childhood as well as conflicts into his adulthood, remain obstacles for him. His sensitive nature doesn’t make it any easier, either.

Jacob is very alive through flashbacks in Circle of Trust, but the book starts out with his murder. So we never get to hear his side of the story. I wanted him to have a voice and an opportunity to share with readers what really happened between Jane and him. I wanted Jacob to have the chance to be the protagonist.

The book will be released in November and I will be giving out free copies. To be entered to win a free copy of What He Didn’t See as well as other releases, please sign up for my newsletter. Don’t worry; I won’t bombard you with lots of email. It’s just a way for me to stay connected with my readers and to announce releases and giveaways.

Thank you. And always feel free to write to me with comments and questions about the stories. As I mentioned before, it was through reader feedback that I decided to write a novella about Noah Donovan – a dark story, which will be out sometime next year. If there is more you want to know, I would love to hear.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love You Madly

Knit and count.

Maybe someday we'll be together again.

Knit and count.

Last week during an interview about my new release Circle of Trust, I was asked about Jane Light, one of the characters from my book. She seems to have captured readers’ attention both for her sympathetic narrative, as well as, her complex psychological make-up.

Knit and count.

Jane Light is Jacob Temple’s (the murder victim’s) ex-girlfriend. Although their relationship ended nineteen years ago, she continues to remain obsessed with him, oft times taking risks and leaps to stalk him. Wanting to feel close to him and keep their relationship alive, she organizes her entire life around Jacob, a man who has left her for another woman. She is unable to let go. In her mind, letting go feels like an emotional death. If she stops loving him, she ceases to exist in some way.

Maybe someday we'll be together again.

Knit and count.

His murder is the catalyst for her already compromised emotional state to slowly deteriorate. If she actually murdered the man she loved or not is a question that will remain unanswered until the very end. But, the characterization gives an intimate look into the mind of a woman who feels she has lost everything. As one reviewer, commenting about Jane Light, wrote, “Love appears to have brought her to the brink of madness.”

Jane loses the only man she ever loved when Jacob leaves her. What had kept her going over the nineteen year separation was imagining that someday they would be reunited. She believed that their love was still very alive and that the relationship would come full circle. When Jacob is brutally murdered this reunion is no longer possible.

Jane knits and counts to try to maintain her sanity. Knit and count. Knit and count. This stabilizes her long enough for her to share Jacob and her story with readers – a love story with a lot of tangles.

What makes Jane’s story so compelling and relatable? I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that most of us have loved and lost. Even though most people let go and move on, there is sympathy for people who, for various reasons, are unable to do so.

One thing is certain: Love can drive people to madness. This madness can take various different forms. In my series, I’m exploring different ways love morphs into stalking, delusion thinking, and even murder. But there are many other possibilities. Jane Light’s character gives us insight into the mind of a person compromised by a love so powerful, it consumes her. For Jane, pleasure and pain become emotionally synonymous.

There are twists in Jane’s story arc that even surprised me as her narrative evolved. Since Jacob is only heard through flashbacks and notes from his journal in Circle of Trust, I wrote a novella, a prequel, which is his voice, his story. It begins six months before his murder, and goes back and forth in time between 1996, when Jane and he first met, and the present when she is calling into his radio show. (This novella, Jacob’s Story, will be out before the end of the year. I will be giving away free copies. So stay tuned).

As Jacob’s side of the love story unfolded, I was surprised and heartbroken. But I also realized that sometimes love, especially lost love, devastates us, and sometimes it saves us. Perhaps there is nothing as powerful as love – for better or worse. This makes writing stories with love triangles thrilling. Once love is placed into the hearts of our characters, anything can happen. And through their machinations we each (readers and writers, alike), learn something about ourselves.

In all truth there is paradox. Meaning, for every magical, expansive, beautiful moment of love, the dark side – passion gone wrong, lurks as a possibility.

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing every moment of emotional abandon with Jane and Jacob, even when the storyline led to heartbreak and loss. Even with the devastation, I found hope. I was reminded that we only lose because we have first loved. And when we can love there is always hope.   

But, the dark side of love shows itself in the series, too. A killer is on the loose and gaining momentum. As transformative as love can be on the positive side, the paradox is always there: love can turn deadly, transforming someone into a murderer, too. In this case, a killer with a burning vengeance, a character so harrowing, she scared the shit out of me while I was writing.

And speaking of love… I am now working on a novella about Noah Donovan, the murder victim in Circle of Betrayal, book one of the series. This will be the inner dialogue of a man involved in a deadly love triangle, whose mother makes Norma Bates seem benign. Maybe it should really be considered a love square, in that case.

 

*This series of novellas that I am writing will all be spinoffs from characters in the Close Enough to Kill series, a variation of a television series in book form. I will be running giveaways periodically. Stay tuned for ways to win free copies of Jacob’s Story, the first of these novellas. I will also be giving away copies of the third book, Circle of Truth, prior to the release. I will announce the release date once it’s set.    

I always like to hear from readers. In fact, I decided to write the novella about Noah Donovan after quite a few readers wrote to me and asked to know more about him, his inner thoughts, and his relationship with his mother, Belle. Please always feel free to write to me with comments and/or questions.  

More soon!