The world abounds with true crime stories. Dateline, a show on NBC, is all about that. The Epstein horror show is all about that. When people go missing, we all engage about the search, and (hopefully) successful recovery. If the recovery is ultimately not successful, then we obsess about the perpetrators and demand their comeuppance.
But all of those things would continue to happen without all the attention we pay. Why do we pay attention like we do?
My new book, Divorce by Grand Canyon, is all about that. Why? Because I’m as fascinated as the rest of you. I got my start when I was doing research on the famed Lizzie Borden case (still unsolved). I wrote a novel about her.
But that doesn’t explain my (our) fascination.
On my website, I try to explain why writers write, and why readers read. I hold to this explanation, as it’s the best I can do.
Writing is a process by which we can answer the unanswerable questions about ourselves. We don the skin of a character (who is of us, but yet not us) and we throw them into situations that we find difficult, challenging, or abhorrent, and we watch our characters (ourselves) as they endeavor to climb their way out. We watch them make decisions that we would never make and watch them reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences. And by so doing, we not only hold the mirror to ourselves, but speak our truth.
Writing is a calling.
We write because we must.
We read because we lead lives of desperate calm. We go to great lengths to avoid conflict, yet fiction is all about conflict. When we go to bed at night and pick up a book, we slide into the shoes of a character embroiled in outrageous conflict and we learn about ourselves as we watch that character act or fail to act, in ways we would or we would not, and cheer as they triumph or despair as they fail. All along the way we say to ourselves, “I would never do that,” or “I would love to do that,” all the while knowing we would never, could never. This is the nature of escapist literature; we learn about ourselves as we live vicariously through the thrilling escapades of others.
Reading is a passion.
We read because we must.
While this addresses an aspect of fiction, I believe the same holds true as we try, in vain, to figure out why killers (particularly serial killers) do what they do. It’s interesting to me, and it’s likely interesting to you, too.
Divorce by Grand Canyon is published by IFD Publishing, as part of their Horror That Happened imprint.