My Life of Crime
To be successful as a writer, I believe one needs to have a knack for understanding human behaviour and what drives individuals to act in certain ways. It’s that keen insight into personality types and motivating factors that help when developing characters. However, when it comes to an understanding of my proclivity for crime, I’m at a bit of a loss. This begs the question; why crime?
Now when I say I have an appetite for crime, I’m not confessing to robbing a bank or planning a killing spree. My criminal life takes place on the pages of my books. For me, there has never been even the slightest possibility of writing a romance or even a cozy mystery. I’m not saying that romance and cozy mysteries aren’t great genres; they are, just not for me. For a story to be exciting, there has to be murder and mayhem – or at least madness. The characters have to be in peril or insane. Well, not always mad, that’s too cliché. Let’s just say bad guys have to have evil intentions, and the story has to be edgy.
To be clear, I’m not the product of criminal parents; in fact, both my mother and father were extremely law-abiding. My childhood was uneventful, but I don’t believe anyone’s first eighteen years of life can be completely humdrum. Mine was unremarkable in terms of exposure to crime. Yet, all my memories of writing stories in primary school involve trying to incorporate something creepy into every text.
As a child, I clearly remember writing a short story about a girl who becomes lost in the woods and finds herself in a terrifying scenario involving an abandoned house. I wish I still had that story as it would be fun to read what my ten-year-old self considered frightening. While the story is long gone, it does answer the question of when my fascination with the dark side began but not why. This brings me back to my original question; why crime?
If I were developing a character, I would include a childhood tragedy as a catalyst. Something heartbreaking and dark. Or, the very reason for my character’s appetite for crime would be the result of a strict upbringing by conservative parents leading to the character’s desire to shock and rebel. But since as far as I can remember, neither is the case for me, this throws up another question: do you chose your genre or does your genre chose you?
Crime chose me, this I can answer unequivocally. Reading books like Silence of the Lambs and Carrie made me realise that not only did I love this genre, but I wanted to write the sort of books I like to read. Writing about crime and what motivates a human being to hurt or kill and how these actions can impact the lives of the victims and their families, fascinates me and has done for as long as I can remember. And while I enjoy developing devious murders, it’s the victim I identify with and not the perpetrator – sigh of relief from my friends and family.
But why crime? I think the answer has to be escapism and the pleasure that comes for reading or writing something that gets the heart pounding. I love the thrill that comes from reading a book that has me on the edge of my seat. It’s that feeling I want to give my readers. But more than that, it’s what the readers are hungry for. It’s that unspoken agreement between writer and reader; that contract of expectation and delivery that pulled me into this genre. I know I’ve done my job when a reviewer says they were holding their breath or as one reader wrote about my novel, Backwoods Ripper: there were a few moments that had me cringing in delicious horror as chills raced up my back.
Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper, Retribution Ridge, Forgotten Crimes, Cruelty’s Daughter, Vengeance Blind, and the best-selling thriller, Unwelcome Guests, as well as the Lucy Hush Series, which includes the Amazon best-selling Small Town Nightmare and Cold Valley Nightmare. Her new thriller, The Woman Behind Her, is available on Amazon.
Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna relishes writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband, two children and their dogs.
A woman alone. Watched. But by whom, and why?
When schoolteacher Jackie Winter inherits her beloved aunt’s house, she discovers that her close relative had been keeping a terrible secret.
As Jackie is drawn into her aunt’s past, all that was certain begins to fray. But she is destined to not experience this alone. Someone is watching her every move.
Then, there is a murder near the house. A cruel killing. Suddenly Jackie finds herself in the frame.
Trying to keep one step ahead of the police, Jackie turns her attention once more to the past, now certain there’s a link between her aunt’s secrets and the shadowy figure that plagues not only her days but also her nightmares.