Karin Slaughter Shares the Powerful Reason Why Women Write Crime Fiction

karinWomen love crime fiction. This should be no surprise, given that one of the world’s most famous writers in the genre is Agatha Christie. Grisly, haunting, and downright disturbing tales of murder can be found on the bookshelves of women around the world. And yet, author Karin Slaughter still finds that interviewers wonder “why” she’s so interested in writing about darker material. The oft-unsaid implication is that she’d be happier serving up tales that won’t provoke nightmares. Slaughter, author of Pretty Girls and a dozen other bestsellers, has a thing or two to say to those who think women should lighten up their crime writing.

When people say my writing is dark, I’m always reminded of a passage from one of my favorite classics, written in the late 30s, the so-called golden age of detective fiction. To set up the scene: Rex, our tall, dark and handsome hero, is at home when he hears a noise downstairs in the dining room. There have been reports of a brutal rapist in the area, and Rex’s wife, who gave birth days before, is asleep. Rex grabs his gun, runs down the stairs and is confronted by an armed stranger—the rapist; he recognizes him from police sketches. They both point their weapons at each other and—

Rex pulled the trigger… the explosion filled his ears and acrid smoke stung his nostrils… The man fell backwards onto the floor… Hardly aware that he was moving, Rex ran down the stairs and stood over him, gazing down into what was left of [the man’s] face… Two streams of blood crept across the shining floor, one from his face and one from the back of his head… Rex could have ground his heel into the gaping wound which had been his nose and taken sweet pleasure in the feel of the warm blood.

Okay, so, I changed something. See if you recognize which book this scene is from now:

Scarlett pulled the trigger… the explosion filled her ears and acrid smoke stung her nostrils… The man fell backwards onto the floor… Hardly aware that she was moving, Scarlett ran down the stairs and stood over him, gazing down into what was left of [the man’s] face… Two streams of blood crept across the shining floor, one from his face and one from the back of his head… Scarlett could have ground her heel into the gaping wound which had been his nose and taken sweet pleasure in the feel of the warm blood.

Obviously, this is a passage from Gone With the Wind, where Scarlett kills a Yankee soldier who is there to rape and rob her and Melanie. Why does the emotional impact of this passage change when a woman pulls the trigger? Why does it feel darker when we know a woman’s mind conjured these images?

From the beginning of my career, interviewers have asked me why I am interested in writing so honestly about bad acts. I always point out that the vast majority of thriller and mystery readers are women—if we are interested in reading about these topics, why does it seem implausible that we are interested in writing about them? To many, this isn’t a satisfactory answer. There are still so many people who hold onto the institutional belief that only men can (should?) write about dark or violent topics, and that women are doing it to make a statement or get attention. It can’t be because we are good at it, or because these are the books we want to write. It can’t be because we are interested in exploring the darker, gray areas of life.

And yet the perception of sugar and spice persists. Very recently, I had a conversation with an old-school critic who told me without any hesitation that he doesn’t have time for women authors because women in my genre do not write as well as men. I have lost count of the number of readers and reviewers who, over the last decade and a half, have told me that they enjoy my books because I “write like a man.” I am not the only female writer I know who has received this compliment (sometimes in print). The message seems clear: man = strong / woman = weak.

Obviously, I’ve given a lot of thought as to why women who write realistic stories are called “dark” while men who do the same are called “tough” and “gritty” and (my favorite) “powerful.” Why is it so shocking when Kathy Reichsspeaks to her experience as a forensic anthropologist? Or Gillian Flynn speaks to the violence that can lurk inside a marriage? Maybe an insider’s perspective is what gives female authors’ books this so-called darker edge. We write about these crimes as an exorcism. We write about them because they could happen to our mothers, our sisters, ourselves. Does that mean our work is any darker than our male counterparts, or does it just feel darker because we tend to write from a female protagonist’s point of view? I’ll let you know after I read the latest Lisbeth Salander novel, written by David Lagercrantz. I hear it’s great. He writes like a woman.

Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent andGrant County series and the instant New York Times bestseller Cop Town. There are more than 30 million copies of her books in print around the world.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM BOOKISH.COM

Similar Articles

Comments

FOLLOW US

2,026FansLike
3,248FollowersFollow
9,910SubscribersSubscribe

Recent Book Trailers

Instagram

Advertisment

Don't Miss

BookBub and Chirp – Are they worth it?

0
BookBub sends me a daily email and I actually read it every day. For someone who gets a lot of emails daily, this says...

You Can Vote! Goodreads Choice Awards Final Days

0
Some votes are still being counted! Of course, we mean for the Goodreads Choice Awards! You can still cast your vote for "Best Books of...

The Most Followed People on Goodreads

0
Goodreads is a popular reader destination site that launched in December of 2006 (though many sites credit the founded year as 2007) by Otis...

Book Lights gets Spooky with Comic Book Author Laura Marks

0
Laura Marks is a PEN Award-winning playwright, television writer, and comic book writer.  Her plays Bethany and Mine have garnered acclaim from critics and been published and produced...

Allen County Public Library’s Storytime

0
It's "Storytime" at the Allen County Public Library! And even though we're quarantined, that doesn't mean we have to miss out on storytime! The Allen...

What I Love Most About 2020 – Lisa Harris

0
SPECIAL FEATURE WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT 2020 WITH AUTHOR LISA HARRIS  Like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve been feeling as if I’ve been living...

Cookbook Companion to Hit Netflix Show “Somebody Feed Phil”

0
Simon & Schuster announced that it will publish “SOMEBODY FEED PHIL: The People, Stories, and Recipes” by Phil Rosenthal, a companion cookbook to his hit Netflix show...

The Authors Teaching Masterclass

0
MasterClass online classes offer anyone with an active mind who wants to learn more about a skill the opportunity to learn from masters. Currently, there...

Rescue pups, a new release, & grilled cheese talk with author Kaylie Newell

0
Kaylie Newell was born in the great state of Oregon, where she was raised alongside rivers and lakes and scruffy dogs that chased their...

BEHIND THE WORDS WITH J.D. GRIFFO

0
Behind The Words with J.D. Griffo Welcome J.D., we are very excited to have you on Reader's Entertainment. Let's start with sharing a bit about...