Take Five with Karin Slaughter
September 16, 2020 | By Baltimore County Public Library
"New York Times" bestselling author Karin Slaughter recently published her 20th book, "The Silent Wife," another electrifying thriller readers will devour! Karin shares her thoughts on writing, quarantine, and the importance of libraries and librarians to communities and writers.
1. Congratulations on your 20th book! That is such a wonderful milestone and "The Silent Wife" is another outstanding addition to your canon. How do you come up with the ideas that make each novel so distinct and the characters so fresh?
I usually don’t know where my ideas come from, but I actually planned the major twist in this story over a decade ago. This book goes back in time a bit, to the "Grant County" series which I finished writing in 2007 (Note: you absolutely do not have to read the earlier books to enjoy this book—it’s just a nod to the good ole’ days). I knew that I’d want to write this story but that a period of time would have to pass first. It’s been thrilling to finally write this book. Readers are in for a real treat.
2. Your books are such a great balance of character and plot. How challenging is that to write? What is your writing process like? Has that changed at all during this stay-at-home time?
It doesn’t feel like a challenge so much as a vital part of the storytelling. If you have a great plot but thin characters, then it doesn’t work, and if the characters are fantastic but the plot falls apart—who wants to read that? When I’m ready to work on a story (and this has not changed since the pandemic hit), I drive two hours outside of Atlanta to the Blue Ridge mountains, where I have a cabin that my father built for me. I wish I could say that I have a very balanced day when I’m working, but all I do is get up in the morning, start writing, then stop writing when I can’t see or think anymore. Sometimes, that can be 12 or 16 hours (with naps in between) and sometimes that can be four hours (with more naps) but I’ve always been better in isolation. My dad lives right up the road, so once a week I’ll open my front door in the morning and find he’s left me soup and cornbread to make sure I’m eating. I don’t understand how people can work in coffee shops or, worse, be in the middle of a chapter and just stop. I suppose part of it is my obsessive-compulsiveness. I’m completely incapable of not finishing something I start. Which is why my garage is vacuumed and mopped at least once a month.
3. Writing about violence against women is very important to you. Can you share your thoughts on that?
The crimes in "The Silent Wife" and my other novels are crimes that are taking place every second of the day, and I don’t find it difficult to write about them so much as feel the weight of that responsibility to hold a mirror up to society and say, “This is happening. What are we going to do about it?” I’m quite aware that some writers (usually men) have talked about rape and sexual harassment as if it’s sensual or sexy. It is absolutely not. It is an act of violence and that is why I write about it with an unflinching eye. If we don’t talk about these things as truly horrible acts, then how can we begin to understand the root cause and hopefully, one day, prevent it from happening in such large numbers? Because is it just me or did we just kind of accept a long time ago that women were going to be raped and that was just the way life was going to be? Fundamentally, I think a lack of respect for women is at the core of this violence. That’s something that we as a modern society, whether it’s in France or in the U.S., can work on. Not talking about rape in an honest way is what perpetrators of these crimes rely on. Where this subject is concerned, every individual has a right to choose whether to engage in the discourse or walk away, but for myself, I won’t be a party to that silence and I will call out the handful of ludicrous women who claim that it’s a positive experience. In many ways, women can do more damage to other women than men can.
4. As librarians, we can’t thank you for founding the Save the Libraries project! Can you share with our readers more about this wonderful program?
Save the Libraries Foundation was started in 2008 when the economy went to the toilet. I am someone who has always toured libraries and I noticed that some of my favorite librarians were no longer there. They’d been asked to retire or their hours had been cut back. I noticed just in my own community that the hours were cut at the local branch and we had a lot of kids on the street that would normally be in the library. And, I thought, this is something I feel very strongly about because as a child the library was my haven. I will say part of that is because it was the only air-conditioned building in town, but they had a lot of books too. I just thought, we have to do something about this—I talked to a bunch of friends of mine who are authors and we all feel this way. You can talk to Lee Child, Mike Connelly, Neil Gaiman, Lisa Gardner—just a cast of any authors and they’ll tell you the libraries were probably the most important thing they had when they were growing up. We all decided, well, we need to give back. I did a fundraiser in my library system in Dekalb County and we had Kathryn Stockett and Mary Kay Andrews come in. I also partnered with the Indigo Girls to do a concert in Atlanta to raise funds. We did block grants to libraries around the country, actually around the world, because we did some in Europe and some in England. We said if you have a need, here’s some money, you know what you need, buy what you need and so far we have given away around $500,000.
5. What is the most unexpected thing you’ve discovered during quarantine and what person/place/thing do you miss the most?
I guess the most unexpected thing I’ve discovered is that my lifestyle has a name and it is called quarantine. Seriously, not much has changed on the day-to-day for me—which I realize makes me very, very fortunate and I am so grateful that I’m able to shelter in place. The thing I miss the most is being able to just run to the post office or run to the hardware store without a second thought. Now I have to have a mask and at least a gallon of hand sanitizer both on my person and in the car. But honestly, that’s such a small price to pay. This virus is horrific and we all need to do our part to keep our communities safe.
Category: Collection and Materials