by Andrea Campbell
I am happy to share this interview with my friend and Women in Crime Ink colleague Kathryn Casey about the release of her new true crime book: Shattered
Q: Kathryn, for WCI readers who don’t know you that well, can you tell us a little about your background?
KC: I began as a magazine writer in the mid-eighties, and wrote for a lot of the national magazines, Reader’s Digest, TV Guide, Ladies Home Journal, MORE, Seventeen, and Rolling Stone. As a reporter, I profiled celebrities, wrote about all kinds of subjects, including lifestyles and health. But from the beginning, I had a knack for investigating and writing about criminal cases. In the mid-nineties, I began writing true crime books, and I’ve done that ever since, adding crime fiction two years ago with the debut of Singularity, the first in my Sarah Armstrong mystery series.
Q: Since today we're talking about Shattered, would you give us the set-up or a brief synopsis?
KC: The murder took place in 1999. David Temple was a former Texas football star, high school and college, working as a teacher and coach in a Houston suburb. He and his wife, Belinda Lucas Temple, were college sweethearts. She was bright, beautiful, and a beloved teacher, and they had one child, a toddler named Evan. To those on the outside, they appeared the perfect, happy family. But behind the scenes, that was far from reality. Belinda was eight months pregnant with a baby girl, Erin, on that January morning David called 911, claiming he’d discovered her shot through the head in the master bedroom closet. From the beginning, the investigators suspected David was the killer. There were too many signs at the home that the scene had been staged. Then, they focused even more tightly on him after discovering that he was carrying on an affair with a beautiful young English teacher. But this was a complicated and frustrating case. In the end, it would take nine years to bring David Temple into a courtroom.
Q: Kind of a two-part question here: How do you choose your projects, and what elements do you look for? Also, have you started working on a book project that fell through for any reason?
KC: When it comes to true crime, I look for cases with lots of twists and turns, ones that will resonate with my readers. I spend a year on each book, often conducting a hundred or more interviews, so it’s a long road. With that in mind, I look for a case that will hold my interest, one I care about, and one, I hope, that will explore something about our society or the human condition. I strive to see the big picture through the lens of the case I’m studying. The Temple case, for instance, sheds a light on intimate partner homicide, particularly involving pregnant women. This is a horrendous problem, one virtually ignored until this past decade, with the sensational Scott Peterson trial. I can’t say that I’ve had a book fall through. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky.
Q: What type of background work do you do to begin, and how do you find your interview subjects?
KC: It’s a big commitment, but I go to the trials. Sometimes this can translate to six weeks or more living in a hotel room and long days in the courtroom, but for me, it’s necessary. I want to be there, with the families and jurors and the defendant, listening to the evidence. Once the trial is over, I use what I’ve learned as the foundation to begin my own investigation, seeking more evidence from those who’ve taken the stand. These people, connected with the case, often suggest others, and I fan out, talking to everyone willing to talk to me, finding out all I can about those involved and the events that fell into place leading up to and following the murder.
Q: Obviously you are digging into the lives of victims and those accused, their families, and the criminal justice professionals involved. How do you get cooperation? Also, do you let their emotions change your point of view or the way the story is told?
KC: I’ve found over the years that most people involved in such tragedies want to tell their stories. I never assume that someone won’t talk to me. Many will still be trying to figure out why things happened, and talking to me, cooperating so that the book is accurate, is one way to make that possible. The only way I can depict a case fairly and accurately is to talk to everyone involved who is willing to talk to me, and I do that. I try to keep an open mind. People are sometimes falsely accused and even convicted, so it’s important not to presuppose that a guilty verdict means the person actually committed the crime.
It’s difficult not to identify with the families whose lives have been torn apart by these tragedies. I often ache for all they’ve been through. I see their suffering as part of the story, and I include it in the book. It’s important to understand how devastating murder is, what it does to all those involved. It’s the most horrendous of acts, the taking of a life, and to treat it without emotion is to become desensitized to the pain. That said, the evidence is the evidence, and the events that lead up to the murder aren’t written by me but by those involved. When I write a novel, I construct the plots. But when it comes to true crime, I’m a chronicler, who researches and pulls together the evidence to paint the picture, to explain what happened and why.
Q: Have you ever done a prison interview?
KC: Many times, for magazines and books. It can be a chilling experience. It’s more than unsettling to sit across from someone who describes in detail how he or she has committed a horrendous crime. I’m often amazed at how skimpy the motives are and how calm and collected the killer can be while describing a victim’s final moments. Yet most of those I’ve interviewed, even years after their convictions, maintain their innocence. Do I believe them? As I said before, I do my best to give them the benefit of the doubt. I listen to what they tell me, ask them for anything I can research to bolster their claims, and afterward I follow through, looking for evidence that contradicts the guilty verdict.
Q: What is on the horizon for Kathryn Casey?
KC: I have a third Sarah Armstrong novel, The Killing Storm, coming out on October 26th. I’m very excited about the book. I love this character. Sarah is a Texas Ranger/profiler, a single mom. Since inventing her, I’ve put that poor woman through hell. In the first book, Singularity, she tracked a serial killer. In the second, Blood Lines, she was charged with saving a teen pop star from a perverse and deadly stalker, and in The Killing Storm, Sarah will have to fight her way through a hurricane to save the life of an innocent child.
Q: Do you have a blog?
KC: I have one associated with my Web site, www.kathryncasey.com, where I occasionally write about what I’m doing, a little bit about my personal life and writing. I’m also proud to say that I’m one of the founders of Women in Crime Ink.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell WCI readers?
KC: I’d like to thank everyone who reads my books, especially those who recommend them to others. Word of mouth is truly the best way to spread the word. Thanks all of you! Please keep reading: I really do enjoy the writing!
Monday, September 13, 2010
by Andrea Campbell