If you would have asked me five years ago if I had a desire to write a crime thriller I’d have said, no. Most of my stories are for kids and young adults. But somewhere along the way my writing was hijacked by my imagination when it discovered geocaching.
That’s how CACHE a PREDATOR was born.
Now that I’m a crime thriller novelist, I pay attention to other crime writers and met Gary C. King on Twitter. People like Gary fascinate me. I had so many questions for him I asked him for an interview. He agreed. I think you’ll find him as fascinating as I have.
Please welcome my amazing guest and author,
1. Your brand is the true crime author, focusing on serial killers and true crimes. What made you choose this genre?
My choice of becoming a true crime author actually came about almost by accident. I had always wanted to write, but I did not necessarily know what I wanted to write. A friend of mine, who also had aspirations to becoming a writer, had seen information about the detective magazines, True Detective in particular, in Writer’s Market, and wrote to the editors for their writer guidelines and a sample copy of the magazine.
He quickly decided this wasn’t for him, and passed the materials along to me. I knew right away that I could write these types of stories, so I spent about six weeks researching and writing about a case that had occurred in Oregon about a sexual sadist that had murdered two little girls.
In late 1980 I sent in the story, over the transom, so-to-speak, without querying the editors. Fortunately no other writer had filed on the case, and the editors ended up loving my story. It was titled, Tortured by the Sadist in the Press Box, and the editors wanted more and began clamoring for my work. This was about the time that Ann Rule was winding down her tenure at True Detective as their Pacific Northwest stringer, and I seemed to fall right into the slot. I wrote upwards of 500 stories for them over the next 15 years or so, and the rest is history.
2. Are you an Indie author or represented by a literary agent and published by a traditional publisher?
I’m both an Indie author and a traditionally-published author. My first book, BLOOD LUST: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer, was published under Penguin USA’s imprint, Onyx Books, along with others. I’ve since been published by St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, and John Blake Publishing, and have written a lot of online content for Crime Library and an Investigation Discovery website. Although I am still represented by a literary agent who placed a number of my books with traditional publishers, I chose to go indie because I became tired of the deadlines and low royalties.
3. What’s the most difficult part of being an author?
Paying my bills! Kidding aside, feeling very strongly about a story only to have it turned down by an editor who thinks he or she knows better makes the process more difficult. In some cases they actually do know better, but in many cases they do not.
4. Our blog, Random Writing Rants, teaches writers the tools of how to get published. Could you share an important tool that might help our writers on their journey?
Read as much material as you can in the genre in which you wish to write. Learn the craft if you’re not a natural. Most importantly, never give up!
5. Why do you think people love to read about murder?
People tend to like to read about true crime because they are fascinated about the cruelty one human being can inflict on another. Readers also tend to like the detective work and are fascinated by the work that goes into solving a case. Still others read true crime hoping to come away with information that can help them better protect themselves and their loved ones from becoming victims.
6. Which book has sold more than others?
To date, BLOOD LUST has sold more copies than my other books, in the neighborhood of half-a-million copies including paperback editions, book club editions, and now eBook editions.
7. How many books (estimated) have you sold since the beginning of your career? (Did you start writing novels in 1990?)
I’ve probably sold more than a million books in total since I began writing true crime books in 1990. I stopped counting a long time ago. To date, I’ve sold 18 books to traditional publishers, and have produced one eBook that is a compilation of some of my stories from yesteryear. I’ve also produced four of my traditionally-published books to which I hold electronic rights as eBooks, and I’ve found I’m really loving the eBook route.
8. How much research do you do before writing your novels?
Research takes up about half the time involved in writing a true crime book. I spend considerable time researching a case as thoroughly as possible, talking to cops, prosecutors, victims’ families, and so forth, and studying and knowing the material like the back of my hand before I begin writing.
9. Are all your books based on true crimes? (Is there anything else you aspire to write?)
To date, all of my books are nonfiction true crime books. I hope to write a novel one day, likely a mystery/suspense novel because I can use my background in true crime so easily.
10. Do you add fiction to “their” stories? I mean, how can you know what was really going through the criminal minds? Do you write from the criminal’s point-of-view?
I never fictionalize my books or stories. Some authors, including bestselling true crime authors who should know better, do engage in this practice, which makes them somewhat of a charlatan in my opinion. Fictionalizing true crime not only upsets the police (many have told me stories about how their cases have been fictionalized by an author who has repeatedly engaged in this practice), and the practice is also very hurtful to the families of victims. I can get a good idea about what goes through a criminal’s mind either by interviewing the criminal, such as what I did with Westley Allan Dodd and Darren O’Neall, but also from reading the police case files and talking with witnesses who were also victims but managed to survive a particular attack. I typically write from law enforcement’s perspective, but in the case of child killer Dodd I also wrote from his perspective.
11. What would your mother say about you as a child? Did you always have a huge imagination? Would she say she always saw you as a writer? In your podcast you make her sound like she wasn’t involved in what you were reading, or concerned about you going to work with your dad at the mental institution. Would you allow your children to have the same experiences you had as a child?
My mother always encouraged me to do what I wanted to do, and she was supportive and proud of me when I decided to write. She read to me often when I was a child, which I believe helped me want to become a writer. She didn’t always see me as a writer, and in fact probably thought I’d be a bum. She once told me that if I didn’t “get the rag” out of my ass, I “wouldn’t amount to anything.”
It was shortly after that conversation that I decided to become a writer. I was about 25 at the time. She didn’t really care what I read, but seemed pleased whenever she saw me reading. She didn’t bother herself about me occasionally going to work with my dad at the mental hospital.
As far as my own children are concerned, they never had the opportunities to do what I did as a child, but I’ve always been very open and receptive with regard to what they wanted to do with their lives.
My youngest daughter is now a fantastic artist and art teacher, and is working on her master’s degree. My eldest daughter has a Bachelor’s degree in English, as well as a Master’s degree, which she obtained from University College London, and though she hasn’t published yet she’s a wonderful writer. I’m very proud of both of them. They’ve always made mostly good decisions without much prodding from either me or their mother.
12. Did you always have an obsession with crime? (To listen to more about this, please check out Gary’s PODCASTS HERE.)
I’ve always enjoyed reading about crime, usually fiction, from an early age, by more authors than I can remember. I think it was the fictional crime stories I read that enhanced my desire to eventually write about real crimes.
13. Your brother left his profession as a law enforcement officer after he witnessed a naked dead woman’s crime scene. What did he do after that?
After my brother witnessed the dead woman’s body when he was a police officer, he went on to law school and eventually became a prosecutor for a number of years. He’s now in private practice, and has been for a very long time.
14. Obviously not all people can stomach this type of career. What makes you able to continue?
I am able to continue my crime writing likely for many of the same reasons people like to read about it—fascination. I’m always bothered by the cases I write about, some more than others, but I’ve received so many letters from victims and their families over the years thanking me for my work and the care I put into it and that makes it easier for me as well.
15. You interview serial killers. Child killer Westley Allan Dodd allowed you to interview him before his execution and be present at his hanging. Were you nervous about this interview? (You can listen to a podcast about this interview HERE.) What is interviewing a serial killer like? Where did you sit/meet to conduct the interview? Were you afraid? How do you devise your questions?
The interview with Dodd came about as a surprise, so I didn’t have much time to get nervous. I was interviewing a detective for an article I was doing, and I told him I was going to write a book about Dodd. He said, “We’ve got Dodd upstairs in a cell. Want to interview him?”
Of course I didn’t say no, and Dodd was quite willing to do the interview, even eager because he enjoyed talking about himself and his crimes so that he could relive his horrible deeds in a fantasy state of sorts. So they took me upstairs and placed me in an interrogation room, and brought Dodd in and sat him down across the table from me. He wasn’t handcuffed or shackled. I wasn’t afraid because he wasn’t a big guy, and I made up about three of him in size. I wasn’t too worried.
It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, but one that I’m glad to have had. As far as questions were concerned, I had no time to formulate any because of the impromptu nature of our first meeting. As a result, I kept it very conversational, asked whatever popped into my head, and let him do most of the talking, which he quite enjoyed. But because of what he had done, and because of his willingness to recount it all for me in such graphic fashion, I felt very dirty. My first stop out of the interview room was the men’s room where I spent about 10 minutes washing my hands after having shaken hands with this monster.
16. I love how you include resources for victim’s families at your website. How do you keep your emotions in check when dealing with these true crimes? How do you keep your faith in God?
I don’t always keep my emotions in check. I developed empathy quite rapidly and am able to place myself into a victim’s shoes, as well as that of their family, as much as is humanly possible. I’ve cried right along with a victim’s family as they recount their tragedy to me, and at times I find myself grabbing a tissue as I write some of this sad and horrific stuff.
Shedding tears has become a part of my life as it goes with the job, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. If you can’t feel what a victim and/or their family feels, you shouldn’t write true crime, in my opinion. My work has never been a problem with my faith. I’m a Catholic, and though I neglect God at times I do not believe He has neglected me.
17. Is there one criminal you remember more than others? If so, why?
That would have to be Westley Allan Dodd, probably because he showed me the evil inside him. I also saw some goodness in him, but it was only a spark. I remember him most also because he invited me to his execution—that had never happened before, or since. Although I didn’t witness his hanging, I did participate in a lottery system, along with my editor, Paul Dinas, for DRIVEN TO KILL, from which witnesses were chosen. Fortunately, neither of our numbers was drawn, but I was able to talk to the witnesses afterward and it was quite unnerving.
18. My debut novel, Cache a Predator, is about one person’s vendetta against pedophiles. Where can a parent find information about the minds of pedophiles?
I hate to toot my own horn, but my book about Dodd, DRIVEN TO KILL, shows just about as much inside the mind of a homicidal pedophile that an author might dare to show. That’s probably a good place to start. The work of Dr. Steven Egger is also something I’d suggest. Egger actually used DRIVEN TO KILL as a supplement to his text in classes he taught about such anomalies of nature to law enforcement students. Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, by Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and John Douglass can help one understand the minds of such creatures, though it’s not specifically written about pedophiles.
Best wishes to you for Cache a Predator. Sounds like something I should read! And thank you for this interview—I am most grateful.
You Tube Video:
Gary C. King, a freelance author and lecturer, is regarded by readers and critics alike as one of the world’s foremost true crime writers and serial killers expert, a reputation he has earned over the last 33 years with the publication of more than 500 articles in true crime magazines in the United States, Canada, and England. King took over Ann Rule’s job as Pacific Northwest stringer for True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, and Master Detective magazines, writing hundreds of nonfiction articles under various names until those magazines ceased publication in the mid-1990s. More recently he has found alternate venues for his stories, including providing online content for Crime Library. He is also the author of several true crime books: Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer, Driven to Kill, Web of Deceit, Blind Rage, Savage Vengeance (with Don Lasseter), An Early Grave, The Texas 7, Murder in Hollywood, Angels of Death, Stolen in the Night, Love, Lies, and Murder, An Almost Perfect Murder, Butcher, Rage, and The Murder of Meredith Kercher. Coming soon is Dead of Night, and a compilation of his earlier detective stories, Crime Scene. He is about to begin work on a new book in a collaboration with the sister of a killer who murdered their own sister and other women.