Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Author Karin Slaughter Hits Cleveland

Kim Hammond tells about her recent catch up with author Karin Slaughter.

One of my favorite thriller writers is Karin Slaughter, so imagine how tickled I was to hear that she was coming to Cleveland to do a library talk.  It was being held at a beautiful new library in Parma, Ohio in a large auditorium style room.

I count down the days to a new Will Trent/Sara Linton book release. However, Karin’s new book, Cop Town, is a standalone.  She decided to write about women in the police department in the 1970s. Talk about a tough job for women. I consider myself a strong person but I don’t know that I could have survived as a cop in that era.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Karin at Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. What is Bouchercon you ask? Well it’s the world’s largest mystery convention where fans can meet their authors and geek out in panels about mysteries, setting, pace, etc. It’s also where Average-Joe-Fan can be found in the bar having a drink with Lee Child! For more information go to This year’s conference is being held in Long Beach, CA 11/13/14-11/16/14. But I digress. Back to Karin.

We actually emailed for months before the conference discussing a panel she was going to be on and an interview she was going to do. She also graciously donated a character naming for our annual Bouchercon auction for charity. I found her engaging and funny.

I think when you meet her in person she seems shy at first, but once she warms up to the crowd. She has a witty, dry sense of humor with dead pan delivery and within minutes she had the audience laughing at her stories and self-deprecating jokes. 

There were over 100 people in the library auditorium and everyone was as excited as I was. Karin first gave little background about herself. She grew up in the south and she said she comes from a family of storytellers.  She told stories as a kid and usually got spanked for it, but now she gets paid for it. Her dad still isn't sure how this happened.

She always wanted to be a writer and always wrote. Cop Town is dedicated to her 9th grade English teacher. Karin was terrified of her, but wanted to please her, and thought she was fantastic. She was the first teacher who said you're a good writer but you could be better. Karin said she owes everything to her.

Karin is big on researching.  She started to research Cop Town when she was writing Criminal. (as an aside, the research for Criminal took 3 years).   She loved researching women in the police force in the 1970s. Joining up was a radical thing to do back then. She interviewed retired women officers and asked them why they did it.  Most told her a variation of the same answer: someone told them not to do it. Karin shared a story of one woman who wanted to be a typist and the department was hiring a secretary. So she went to the government building and went into the room to fill out the form and a big burly cop said “Little lady you don't belong here.” Still thinking she was there to apply for a typist job she replied “Yes I do.” He handed her the application and she saw that at the top it said Atlanta police department. She sat down and filled it out anyway. The little lady retired at the top of the force and is a consultant for the FBI.

Many of the women said their mothers were afraid they'd never get married and have kids because men wouldn't want to marry a female cop. It was a power shift and men didn’t like it. 

The uniforms were all too big because they didn't make uniforms for women and they weren't about to accommodate the females. The citizens they policed didn't respect them and then they went home and their families didn’t respect them either because they didn't want them to be cops.

Karin’s books aren’t usually for the faint of heart. She has some gruesome scenes in her books and many times they have made me want to check under my bed.  Karin quipped that people have said she writes like a man, which to her means, “men can read her books and their penises won't fall off.”

There was time for audience questions, although Karin asked that no one ask a question that could be a spoiler for someone who hasn’t read her earlier books (if you have you probably know what I am talking about).

When asked how she came up with dyslexic cop Will Trent as a character she explained that her sister is dyslexic and that people just thought she was stupid, when that wasn’t the case at all. Her sister struggled to read so Karin read books to her, joking that she was reading for two. She also said that she always defines her characters through their families so she purposely didn’t give Will a family, instead having him live in State homes until he was eighteen years old. What she ended up doing was writing a success story about a foster care kid. Will had an awful time as a kid, but he persevered and became a productive adult, despite the odds. He’s got baggage, but he’s a brilliant FBI agent and a strong protagonist that I always find myself rooting for in the books.

Karin’s next book is also a standalone. When asked what it was about, all she’d say was, “Something really awful happens to a family.” After that she'll go back to Sarah and Will, and the next step in their relationship.

Karin was asked how she came up with her torture ideas.  She said she reads a lot of police reports. Georgia has a very open Sunshine Law and she can get lots of files that way. Cops are very nice to her and love to tell her stories too. Karin said she can't use everything she reads in the police reports because some of it is so horrible. Little known fact: She wanted to be a cop but she had poor vision and couldn't. I for one am glad she turned to writing. 

I enjoyed spending a few hours with one of my favorite authors and get her new book autographed.  Karin will also be attending Bouchercon 2014 so if you want to meet her you still have a chance.