Warning: sections of the interview include plot spoilers
Q: How did you come up with the title BONEYARD?
While researching serial killers, I read a few books on Ted Bundy (if you ever want to catch some strange looks, spend an hour in the OB's office eight months pregnant, highlighting passages of a book on raising serial killers. The receptionist quickly learned to move me to the front of the line so I wouldn't disturb the other expectant mothers). One of the books referenced a nickname given to the location where they found the remains of Bundy's earliest victims; they called it a "boneyard." The minute I saw that I thought, Dang, that's a great title
Q: Why serial killers?
Now that I've written two books centered on serial killers, I guess I do seem a little obsessed! I think that when it comes down to it, crimes of passion or for money are sadly things that most people can relate to. We've all experienced those intense emotions, or have been in a difficult situation, so that sort of homicide makes sense to us (though it's obviously still tragic). But for someone to snatch a total stranger, torture and then kill themthat's profoundly unsettling.
Q: In the book, there's a lot of infighting between the various departments involved in the case. How realistic is that?
I was at a seminar a few years ago where a law enforcement official discussed the term "linkage blindness," where murders that occur in different jurisdictions may not be linked due to a lack of cooperation between agencies or a lack of access to information. This is one of the reasons that Ted Bundy was able to simply move to another state when things got too hot for him in Washington. Because at the time there was no national ViCAP database, the police in Utah had no idea that a serial killer with the same MO had recently been claiming victims in Washington. Despite the rosy portrayal of our police structure on shows such as CSI, the truth is that the United States has one of the most decentralized systems in the world, with overlapping city, county, state, and federal agencies. And sadly, often the kind of jockeying for jurisdiction portrayed in BONEYARD
can result in a case going unsolved.
Q: Who are the "less dead?"
Other than an alternate title for the book, you mean? It was a close call between that and BONEYARD
, but in the end I'm a sucker for a punchy one-word title. The "less dead" is a law enforcement term for victims whose deaths don't tend to be as strenuously investigated for various reasons. Illegal immigrants, prostitutes, and drug addicts all fall into a category of people who rarely have concerned friends and relatives leaning on police for answers, and whose deaths frequently go unnoticed by the community at large. For example, the nation was riveted for weeks when a pretty blond high school senior went missing in Aruba, while meanwhile dozens of girls her age across the country had also slipped off the grid. Despite the fact that our legal system is supposedly based on the premise of equal justice for all, the truth of the matter is that with most police departments struggling against limited resources, certain homicides are assigned a priority. And if someone who has already slipped through society's net is found murdered, no one comes forward to claim the body and there isn't a huge uproar, the death will probably not receive the same resources as the slaying of a pillar of the community.
What this means is that if a serial killer is smart, he/she preys on the less dead, who are unlikely to be reported missing. And then if he/she takes the time to bury the bodies somewhere they won't be found, few will ever know a crime has been committed. One FBI expert I spoke with postulated that given those circumstances, a serial killer could operate virtually unhindered for decades. That was in the back of my mind when I began writing BONEYARD
Q: Why two serial killers? Isn't one enough?
One is definitely enough! But for the purposes of the story, I needed Dwight to step in. I had my very savvy killer, a man admired and respected by all, who no one would suspect of having a killing room beneath his garage. He's so clever that the only way for him to get caught, really, was for someone with a grudge to follow him and discover what he was doing. And how much more interesting if that person was also slightly off, and instead of turning him into the authorities, decides to have a little fun by digging up the victims so they'll be found. So suddenly a sleepy resort community awakens to the fact that there's a serial killer in their midst, who has been stealing lives for over a decade.
Q: Tunnels, bomb shelters…when are you moving aboveground?
With the next book! I'll really be branching out with this one, it'll all take place in the light of day with nary a serial killer in sight. Instead there will be prison gangs, domestic terror groups, loose nuclear fission materials, and an abandoned Naval fleet. Jake Riley will play a much larger role, in fact he and his new private security firm will probably be the focal point of the narrative. I'm excited to dive into the research (and a little frightened as well, since this will be my most science-laden book to dateand physics was never my strong suit in school).
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