My upcoming release, Blood in the Paint, is going through the final stages of editing and I couldn’t be
more terrified happier. I started writing Blood in the Paint almost a decade ago, way before its predecessor, Blood in the Past, and it’s been quite a journey.
I minored in Criminology and Psychology in college and that basic knowledge has helped me tremendously. But I’ve still had my doubts. Am I writing Lyla Kyle’s background correctly? Am I right about her motivations? Am I right about her methods and mindset? Still, I did my research and I was confident I knew my stuff.
Until a few months ago. One of the new beta readers to join my gaggle didn’t get through the entire Blood in the Paint manuscript. She questioned Lyla Kyle as a serial killer every step of the way. My face flushed with every comment she’d left. “I went to school for this,” I mumbled through clenched teeth. Eventually I got over it. I re-verified all the details, reminded myself that she hadn’t even read Blood in the Past (so she didn’t have Lyla’s background info), and moved on.
Then I found this Jennifer Chase blog post that put me at ease completely. She listed the four types of serial killers and I was psyched to discover I was already familiar with them:
Power & Control
This type of serial killer experiences complete sexual gratification from the domination and humiliation of the victim. This killer is a true sociopath and lives by his own personal set of rules and guidelines. Many of the famous serial killers we have seen in history would fall under his type of serial killer.
This type of serial killer is compelled by voices or visions they experience and are considered psychotic. These voices and visions compel them to kill certain kinds of people.
This type of serial killer feels a “need” or duty to kill certain types of people or “class” of people such as religious or racial groups or prostitutes. This type of serial killer is not considered psychotic.
This type of serial killer makes a strong connection between personal violence and sexual gratification. This type of killer can also be described as a “lust” or “thrill” killer. This killer receives pleasure from the act and has eroticized the experience. They generally take the time to torture or mutilate their victims.
For those of you wondering, Lyla Kyle is most definitely a mission killer. In her mind, her father’s infidelity led to her mother’s death. Having always shown a predisposition for killing, even as a child, her mother’s death was the catalyst that motivated her to seek out and seduce married men…and kill them. Also, any collateral damage that occurs during the commission of her mission killings vexes her terribly. So far, so good, if you ask me.
Next, Ms. Chase posted several comments made by criminal psychology professionals from organizations such as the FBI, the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). The uncertainty surrounding my knowledge and my main character dissipated as I skimmed through them:
• Predisposition to serial killing, much like other violent offenses, is biological, social, and psychological in nature, and it is not limited to any specific characteristic or trait. (Sounds like what I briefly described above regarding Lyla, doesn’t it?)
• The development of a serial killer involves a combination of these factors, which exist together in a rare confluence in certain individuals. They have the appropriate biological predisposition, molded by their psychological makeup, which is present at a critical time in their social development.(This sounds familiar, too!)
• There are no specific combinations of traits or characteristics shown to differentiate serial killers from other violent offenders.
• There is no generic template for a serial killer. (This quote is my favorite. The beta reader who got me down kept trying to put Lyla in a box. Every serial killer is different!)
• Serial killers are driven by their own unique motives or reasons. (Preach!)
• Serial killers are not limited to any specific demographic group, such as their sex, age, race, or religion.
• The majority of serial killers who are sexually motivated erotized violence during development. For them, violence and sexual gratification are inexplicably intertwined in their psyche.
• More research is needed to identify specific pathways of development that produce serial killers. (Exactly! And until then, we can, with some limits, write serial killers any way we choose.)
Now that I feel better, I spend my time being thankful that the other four beta readers devoured my manuscript of Blood in the Paint and had nothing but nice things to say about it. Not to mention the fact that Blood in the Past now has 40 reviews on Amazon and not one of them questions the believability of my characters. In fact, almost all of them say the exact opposite.
Have any of you read Blood in the Past? How did you feel about Lyla Kyle? Are any of you writers who have had your characters’ motives questioned? I want to hear from you!
(PS: This is basically the ‘cover reveal’ for Blood in the Paint! What do you think?)