Karin Slaughter Gets Topical With ‘The Kept Woman’
Karin Slaughter’s The Kept Woman is the latest in a series of books featuring Will Trent. All the makings of a classic Slaughter thriller are there: a murder, a villain, and Trent’s continued internal struggles. Slaughter recently phoned KMUW to talk more about the book, and about Will Trent.
Jedd Beaudoin: Tell me a little bit about where The Kept Woman began for you.
Karin Slaughter: I was seeing a lot of things in the news, and hearing people being interviewed about a football player in Georgia who was accused of rape and just what happened to that case and what happened to the accuser, actually. She was eventually, basically, run out of town by the player’s fans. I wanted to talk a little bit about that and also talk about domestic violence, which of course is an issue in the NFL, and just in the world in general. The story just started to take form. I had a good direction in my head and went with it.
This is the return of Will Trent, the eighth book in that series. How was it that you came to create him and these characters? Was the series something that was suggested to you or something that you initiated?
It was definitely something I wanted to do. I’ve been very fortunate in my publishing career that my publishers have never told me that they want something, other than for me to write the books that I want to write. I originally started writing my Grant County series in a small south Georgia town. I realized very quickly that it was probably a mistake on my part to create my own little Cabot Cove where it became extremely suspicious that anyone would want to live there. People kept dying and were getting murdered. There were pedophiles and rapists. It was worse than Congress. So, I decided to create a new series and merge some people from that earlier series with Will Trent.
I’m saying "series" but, actually, I write the series so that they can be read individually. If you’re a longtime reader, that’s great. There’s some stuff that rewards you, but if this is the first book you’ve picked up and you started reading about Will Trent, then you can definitely jump right in.
Do you have a plot and character bible? The thing where you can say, 'OK. I can never contradict this thing that happened in this moment of this character’s life.' Or do you just think, 'Well, if something takes me, I’ll follow it'?
I definitely can’t have somebody have an eye patch in one book, and then their eye grows back in the next one. I do make mistakes. Sometimes I have to go on Wikipedia. There’s been some very diligent people who’ve kept up with the plot. But the characters, their beats, their emotional story? I’m every conversant with that. People may have noticed that Will might be a year older in one book than he is in the next book. His age is in flux. He’s 34 in one book and then, in the book before that he’s 35. I guess those are features that I put in there. I try to keep it consistent. But I guess where the characters are emotionally, that changes from book to book. That was an important thing for me. I wanted them to respond to what they were seeing in their lives because that’s what normal people do.
When Will Trent begins emerging and he becomes popular, what’s that like for you as the author?
It is really kind of strange. I’ll be on Facebook occasionally and I’ll ask, ‘Who’s your idea of Will Trent?’ It’s amazing how many women just happen to have half-naked photos of men on their desktops and immediately post suggestions for him. It can be anywhere from Alexander Skarsgård to Ryan Reynolds. Just different guys. I like that everybody has a different idea of Will Trent. Some women will come up and say, ‘I have to confess. I love Will Trent.’ I think that one of the things that makes him such a great character is, actually, who he’s with, which is Sara Linton. She’s really made him open up and explore some things that before he wouldn’t have because the woman he was with previously was really not a nice person. She wasn’t one to sit around and say, ‘I’m sorry that I’ve hurt your feelings,’ or ‘I’m a horrible person.’ I love [Will and Sara’s] relationship. I think it really has informed Will.
Like a lot of guys who were raised by a single mom basically—he was in a children’s home, but he was raised by a very strong woman—the relationships he has with women in his life are very formative and very important. I think it’s great that people are picking up on Will and that they have their own idea of him.
You mentioned earlier taking topical ideas and using them as the basic bones of this story. Do you ever have readers who, as the result of reading about a topical issue in one of your books, say, ‘You made me think about this in a different light because of the way this character went through this?’
Yeah, I have. In my first series, there was a character, Lena Adams, who was raped in the first book. Spoiler alert. I talked about her recovery in subsequent books and a lot of women said to me, ‘Thank you for showing this.’ It was a very difficult recovery. When I was growing up books that dealt with that, the woman was either catatonic, or she was an alcoholic. What saved her was the loving of our hero, the good guy. Suddenly she was healed. Lena had a very hard time with that, and women really related to that.
Karin Slaughter appears at Watermark Books on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 6 p.m. The Kept Woman is out now.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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