Today I am thrilled to have Jane Isaac Author of Beneath The Ashes write a Guest Post especially for the book review café. Beneath The Ashes was published on the 1st of November, so you don’t even have to pre-order just one click and it’s yours! Just make sure you read Jane Isaac’s guest post first, it’s very intriguing.
Getting into the Mind of a Killer
As novelists, research forms the basis of what we do and this is particularly prevalent in my genre of crime fiction. There are characters, settings, plots and storylines to consider, in addition to police procedural research.
The more accurate our work is, the more authentic and believable. This is especially the case with characters. We need to research their back story and check the feasibility of the person we are creating, before we can make them appear real.
When drawing up the lead detective in my latest crime series, DI Will Jackman, I spoke to police officers at all levels in the British force in order to build a character that was not only interesting and engaging, but also realistic in modern day policing.
Unless you have access to prisons, work with criminals, or know any (and even if you’d want to), researching your antagonist can be problematic. For Before It’s Too Late, the first in the DI Jackman series, I resorted to reading endless case studies of true crime and watching documentaries about killers and their backgrounds to draw up my offender’s profile. I’ve read crime fiction for years, yet I wasn’t prepared for the nightmares I experienced after reading real crime. For some reason it’s quite acceptable to be scared out of our wits by the product of another writer’s mind, but reality? That’s a whole new ball game.
So, what makes a killer? One element to consider is their humanity. It seemed so easy when we were young when all the cartoon baddies were ugly, evil monsters. The reality is that even the worst people in this world have some redeeming features: apparently Hitler was devoted to his German shepherd, Blondi; reports indicate that the Yorkshire Ripper was so charismatic, he could walk into a room and make everyone feel special. Many murderers appear to function normally in society until they are caught. So, we need to create a character that is realistic. If we make them too bad they become unbelievable.
Another element is motive. Statistics suggest that most people are killed by someone they know, someone close to them. What drove them to murder? Was it revenge, greed, lust, power, fear, jealousy, blackmail…?
We also need to consider their background in an attempt to provide some kind of explanation as to what they’ve become. This was particularly notable in my latest release, the second DI Jackman novel, Beneath the Ashes. Why does the offender seek to kill their victim?
Sometimes, even if we have considered all of the above, we need assistance to confirm the validity of our work. The plot for my new book, The Lies Within, was complex and although I researched extensively, I still felt it necessary to have my killer’s back story checked by a clinical psychologist to ensure it was feasible.
Much of what we research never makes it into the book. But if we get the back story right, it brings our characters alive on the page. And as a fiction writer, if we achieve that, we’ve met our goal.
Jane Isaac lives with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo, in rural Northamptonshire, UK. Her debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, introduces DCI Helen Lavery and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’
The Truth Will Out, the second in the DCI Helen Lavery series, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-thriller.com and winner of ‘Noveltunity book club selection – May 2014’.
In 2015 Jane embarked on a new series, featuring DI Will Jackman and set in Stratford upon Avon, with Before It’s Too Late. The second in the series, Beneath The Ashes, was published by Legend Press on 1st November 2016 with the 3rd, The Lies Within, to follow on 2nd May 2017.
Both DI Jackman and DCI Lavery will return again in the near future. Sign up to Jane’s newsletter on her website at www.janeisaac.co.uk for details of new releases, events and giveaways.
When a body is discovered in a burnt-out barn in the Warwickshire countryside, DI Will Jackman is called to investigate.
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor. The house has been broken into and her boyfriend is missing. As the case unravels, DI Jackman realises that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has a secret.
Can he discover the truth behind the body in the fire, and track down the killer before Nancy becomes the next victim?
‘I thought I d never read a book that came close to the realities of crime and policing. Then I read this. –Ian Patrick Writer and former DS with the Metropolitan Police
A smart, intelligent and tightly woven police procedural with real depth of human emotion at its heart. –Rebecca Bradley, Author of Shallow Waters