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A conversation with true crime writer Kathryn Casey

Welcome, dear readers. I hope you enjoy today’s post–an exclusive interview with mystery and true crime author Kathryn Casey. I first met this award-winning, Houston-based author through Women In Crime Ink., a wonderful blog that she’s a part of. Enjoy!

Q: You started out writing true crime books. How has this influenced your fiction

KC: I’ve had a couple decades of what I’d call homicide school: going to sensational trials, hanging out with prosecutors, cops, defense attorneys, forensic experts, medical examiners, murderers, victims and their families. I’ve seen more than my share of crime scene photos and read countless autopsies. So when I decided to write fiction, I had all those experiences to draw on, situations to use, and friends I could ask for insight. The true crime writing has been invaluable.

Q: What’s it like to write true crime?

KC: Pretty interesting. As I mentioned, I go to the trials, interview everyone involved. A book usually takes me about a year. When I sit down to write, I have crates full of information to work with, which is important to give the books depth. I usually start on my research at the trials. That works for me because I get to hear what the jury hears, and from there I work my way out, looking for others involved in the case. Right now, I’m working on the Matt Baker case in Waco, Texas. I’m at the stage where I’m beginning to write.

Q: How did you become a crime author?

KC: It just kind of happened. I started covering criminal cases back in the mid-eighties, for Houston City Magazine. When I started writing for national magazines, including Reader’s Digest, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Ladies’ Home Journal, More, etc, the editors knew that I had experience and the assignments rolled in. In the nineties, I turned a magazine story into my first book, The Rapist’s Wife, now called Evil Beside Her. From that point on, I began writing the books. It seemed a natural progression to go from true crime to crime fiction.

The truth is that I never intended to be a crime author. After a couple of decades as a fly on the wall in this world, it simply happened, because it’s what I know best.

Q: What are some of the challenges of writing about real cases?

KC: Finding people to interview and convincing them that they should talk is a big one. There are some bad true crime books out there, so some folks don’t understand that there are also good ones. I work hard on my books, and I’m proud of them. They serve a good purpose. Sure, they entertain, but they also enlighten folks on how these tragedies happen. They connect all the dots. And I do believe that they warn people about the types of behaviors that lead to violence. I get letters all the time from people, usually women, who write that they saw their significant other reflected in my book and realized that it was time to leave an abusive mate. We tend to make excuses for people we love, but when violence enters a relationship–when we fear we’re in danger–we need to take action and reach out for help. My books illustrate that by showing what’s possible.

Q: Have you ever been afraid or threatened because of what you write?

KC: I’ve been threatened but never really afraid. For the most part, the people I write about are in prison. Some have gotten out, but my guess is that they realize that if they come after me, they’ll be on a short-list of suspects and will undoubtedly end up quickly back in prison. I hope that they’ve learned their lessons and are ready to become valuable members of society.

There is one person I am trying to keep behind bars, however, not for my own safety but the safety of others–James Bergstrom, the psychopath in my first book. Bergstrom got four 99-year sentences because the jurors NEVER wanted him to walk free. He admitted to raping five women and attacking 35 over a two-year period. He’s obsessed, a true sexual predator. He’s been eligible for parole for the past few years. When his parole hearings come up, I protest and urge others to as well. The instructions for how to protest are on my Web site, kathryncasey.com, on the update page. If Bergstrom ever gets out, there will be more victims.

In addition to the fiction being exciting and fun to write, one of the great things about it is that the bad guys aren’t real. No one actually gets hurt. After all these years, that’s incredibly refreshing. I put my main character, Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong, in harrowing situations, it’s true, but it’s all for fun.

Q: Any advice for upcoming and/or new writers?

KC: First, hang in there. It’s a journey. Second: You have to take that first step. Many people write but never attempt to publish. If you’re writing for personal reasons and don’t care about seeing your work in print, that’s fine. But if you want to be published, you have to pull together your courage and submit your work to an agent or an editor. To determine how to proceed, I recommend Writer’s Market, a great publication that’s updated, I believe, annually. There are books listing agents and explaining how to get one. For a good book on writing, read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

KC: I’d like to thank everyone who reads my books and recommends them to others. I can’t thank you enough. It truly means the world to me.

If you have questions for Kathryn, feel free to post them in the comment section. She may agree to answer a few.

Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.

39 Comments

  1. Great interview JH and Kathryn…

    I haven’t read your books yet, but that’s about to change! ;0)

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Lisa. And thank you JH, for inviting me to answer your questions. I’ve enjoyed it!

    Reply
  3. JH

    Thanks for your comment, Lisa. Kathryn is a wonderful writer and human being. She definitely deserves support. 🙂

    And thanks so much for being here, Kathryn.

    Reply
  4. Great interview. Kathryn is one of my favorite authors and all-around inspiring people.

    Reply
  5. Can’t wait to read it, Kathryn

    Reply
  6. JH

    Thanks, K. Welcome to the blog! Come back anytime!

    Reply
  7. Thanks, Donis. And hi, Karen. Thank you again for inviting me, JH.

    Reply
  8. JH

    No problem. Thank you for being here!

    Reply
  9. Enjoyed the interview ladies. Having been a journalist myself for 30+ years, I always covered the police beat and found trials interesting. For many years I didn’t read anything but true crime. My way of thinking was that there is enough real crime stories out there without having to make any up. Now I enjoy both. Wishing you much success Kathryn.

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for the comment, Mason. Interesting to hear you were a journalist as well.

      Reply
  10. Sad to think someone who got that many ninety-nine life sentences could ever be up for parole. Hope they do keep him behind bars.
    You found your niche, Kathryn, and it’s one that makes a difference.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much for commenting, Alex!

      Reply
  11. I’ll admit I have trouble reading true crime, simply because it’s true. I prefer fiction because it’s less scary to me. Still, sometimes I do breakdown and experience reality. I think your writing is important whether nonfiction or not. Crime stories need to be told so they can reach the people who need them.

    Reply
    • JH

      Some of them are great cautionary tales too. Everything I learned about personal safety I got from Ann Rule.

      Reply
  12. Thank you both – I enjoyed this. I love the crime/detective genre when skilfully told, keeping the reader guessing … I guess I prefer fiction because sometimes fact is even stranger and more scary.

    Reply
    • JH

      So true, Susan. Truth *is* stranger than fiction.

      Reply
  13. Stories about crime can be so disturbing and scary and yet so many of us want to read them. Trying to find out what makes a criminal mind tick is a mystery that we want to unravel and perhaps never totally can understand. Sad that there should be so many stories available about these topics, but as long as they are their people will want to read them and writers will be needed to put them out for public consumption.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    Reply
    • JH

      I personally love true crime. Trying to figure out what makes people tick is fascinating. I consider them real life murder mysteries.

      Thanks for commenting, Arlee!

      Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Anna! I appreciate the comment.

      Reply
  14. I wonder why that SOB and others, like Charles Manson are given that right to come up for parole. They should not ever be given that right since they took away so many lives regardless if they killed someone or not, lives have been horribly altered due to these evil beings. Have you ever had an interview with a serial killer? That would be most disturbing to me because they are usually quite intelligenT, charming and manipulative to the nth degree. I have had clients who left their abusive husbands and one who the police had to watch since her husband threatened her life and there was areal threat. The sad part is she went back to him and so did the others I have seen. I would like to read your books…I used to read Max Haines

    Reply
    • JH

      Kathryn is a great writer, Birgit. I highly recommend her books. I’d say she goes into a lot more depth than Haines, although I’ve enjoyed his books as well.

      I’ll let her know she has a question to answer.

      Reply
    • I have interviewed serial killers, Birgit, for my book DELIVER US that came out in 2015. It was truly frightening. It is often very difficult to get out of an abusive relationship, but people do it. There are resources out there for folks. They just have to look for them.

      Reply
  15. Kathryn, what an interesting interview. Yes, writing is a journey – one that depends upon what effort we put into it. Watch out for those threats. People are unpredictable. Highest of sales, Roland

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much for commenting, Roland!

      Reply
  16. Great interview! Great questions JH! Especially enjoyed reading about the transition she made to fiction writer and her advice for aspiring writers. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Henry! You’re too kind. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply
  17. Isn’t it funny how our writing niches seem to choose us rather than the other way around?

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

    Reply
    • JH

      It is! I can’t get away from dark fiction…not that I’ve tried too hard.

      Reply
  18. Hello, Kathryn. Great interview. Thanks for the introduction, J.H! 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  19. Thanks, everyone. I enjoyed reading all your comments! And thank you for inviting me, J.H. Love the blog!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Kathryn. Hopefully you found a few new readers!

      Reply
  20. Going to trials to better your fiction writing is smart. Very smart.

    Reply
    • JH

      I thought so as well!

      Reply
  21. Fantastic interview! This is my first time reading about how a true crime writer works. I’m intrigued.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Dianne! I’m glad you liked it.

      Reply
  22. True Crime is one of my favorite genres. I love the “homicide school” idea. Fascinating way to learn about something, and I’m sure that experience is what makes your books such stand outs!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, Lee! It’s one of my favourites too. 🙂

      Reply

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