Karin Slaughter is the author of the Will Trent and Grant County series and New York Times bestsellers Cop Town and Pretty Girls. She has sold over 35 million books. Her latest novel, Pieces of Her, was published by Harper Collins on 9 August 2018.
Here Karin talks about Pieces of Her.
You write about an emotional violence that’s different from your previous novels. Why was that important for this book?
Well, I didn’t do it on purpose. I always try to write what the story calls for. I think the big difference is that opening chapter in PIECES OF HER that surprises people the most. I invest a lot of time in your caring about the people–all the people–in the opening of the book, so you’re not quite sure who’s going to have the bad thing happen to them. I’m not one of these writers who’s like the red shirt guy in Star Trek is going to be the one who’s killed—I don’t want to flag it ahead of time. So I spend as much time developing a character as I can as if they’re all going to make it through the entire book. But with this book, I think there’s not that kind of emotional connection when the first crime occurs. So maybe that is why it feels more psychological; more an emotional sort of violence. And also I’m writing about something that’s not impossible. I’m writing about a crime that everyone sort of thinks of at one point in their life, when they’re out in the open. We live in a world where this sort of crime happens. We’re all thinking about it. So there’s not as much shock in this kind of violence happening.
How did you research about Witness Protection Programs? What do you think it’s like to give up everything to protect yourself, and what kind of research went into writing this in the book?
I talked to someone who used to work with witness protection placement. And a lot of times, the people who are getting a new life really want a new life. You don’t tend to find a lot of completely innocent, sympathetic people who are in witness protection. It’s generally not the mom out with her young kids and she sees something awful. It’s more like you’re a mob accountant, or you’re on the periphery of some people doing really bad things. For them, the prospect of starting a new life is really appealing. And I didn’t realize that even though you get a new life, you still sometimes have to go to prison in many cases, which was surprising to me. There are a lot of surprising things about prison. Like I didn’t know that bank robbers, the first thing that happens their first week in prison is they get a bill from the IRS on the money they stole. So stuff like that I find really fascinating. And it kind of made me feel good. Because the one thing Americans hate more than anything else is a sense of unfairness. And I think a lot of countries are kind of used to it, like a badge of honor, that life is unfair, but we just have a sense that there’s unfairness in the world, and we get really angry when people get off. When people we know, when it’s people we like, that’s a good thing. But I think that it makes people feel good to think, well these are bad people, and they didn’t get a completely free ticket by turning in their boss or whoever they turned on.
Many of the characters in Pieces of Her are exceptional—talented, intelligent, charismatic, successful—but also extremely flawed. Why do you think the most magnificent people can also be the most fragile?
I think part of that comes from growing up in the south, because we’re just raised to think everyone has a deep dark secret. I remember when I was a little girl I’d go to church with my family and my grandmother, she would introduce me to people and as soon as the person turned their back she would say something, like a horrible secret about them, like “oh you know she drinks too much,” or “you know her husband’s cheating.” There’s this sense of gossip as currency in the south. And it’s one thing…. Kathryn Stockett said a while back—I thought it was so hilarious because she was asked about living in New York as opposed to living in Atlanta and she said “People up north don’t know how to gossip.” They think it’s rude. And in the South, that’s the first thing. What do you know? What’s going on? So that’s a part of it. Just a curiosity about people with just no stigma. About telling their secrets and just wondering about them—what’s up with that person, what are they up to?
Growing up, Andy only saw pieces of her parents’ background. Do you think it’s possible to ever fully know a person? Particularly your parents?
I don’t think it is, and I think that’s a good thing. Otherwise you’d be completely bored with everybody. I think everyone has parts of themselves that they don’t necessarily show. And especially parents. You know, Andy is an only child. My dad—he was a very different parent for each of my sisters because he was older, he was financially more stable when I came along. For my sisters, it was a very difficult time period and they didn’t have a lot of money, so the focus of their parenting was food, clothing, shelter. And then by the time I came along, it was, oh I can afford to buy my daughter a Walkman and nice jeans and other things. I think parents especially are unknowable because there’s always this cringe that you have as a kid, that you don’t want to know too much about them. I remember one time my stepmother was talking about my father, he had a mirrored headboard when they first started dating and I kind of zoned out and had a kind of a seizure… so I couldn’t hear the rest of what she was saying.
About the book
You’ve known her your whole life
Andrea Oliver knows everything about her mother Laura. She knows she’s always lived in the small town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life.
but she’s hiding something
Then one day, a trip to the mall explodes into a shocking act of violence and Andy suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura.
and it could destroy you both
Hours later, Laura is in hospital, her face splashed over the newspapers. But the danger has only just begun. Now, Andy must go on a desperate race to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past. Unless she can, there may be no future for either of them
About the author
Karin Slaughter has sold over 35 million books, making her one of the most popular crime writers today. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestsellers Cop Town and Pretty Girls. Her previous novel, The Good Daughter, was a no.1 Sunday Times bestseller in paperback. She is passionate, no-nonsense, provocative, and is one of suspense fiction’s most articulate ambassadors. Her Will Trent Series, Grant County Series, and stand-alone novel Cop Town are all in development for film & television. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.