The Killer In Me
By: Margot Harrison
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.
Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.
But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?
If you emptied out your purse, wallet, desk drawer, pockets, backpack, beach bag, saddle bag, or fanny pack, what would we find?
A reporter’s notebook, a flash drive, spilled movie popcorn, movie ticket stubs, sand from Lake Champlain, acorns and pieces of beach shale, drafts of scenes scribbled on the backs of print-outs, disgustingly old lip gloss, dozens of Pilot Rolling Ball Extra Fine pens.
What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m a pantser for about the first thirty pages of the first draft. Sometimes all I have when I start is an idea for one character, one scene, one problem. I wing it, and then if I like what I have, I try to write an outline that goes all the way to the end of the book. When I actually write the book, I give myself freedom to change the outline if the characters are leading me somewhere else—which often happens!
Describe yourself to us in five words or less:
Painstaking editor with weird imagination.
Describe you book in 5 words or less:
Don’t look into the abyss.
What are some fun facts you can share about the characters from your book or the world you created for it that may or may not have made it to the final draft of the book?
I had some fun scenes between the protagonist, Nina, and her friend-who-crushes-on-her, Warren, that had to be cut for pacing. At one point he teaches her not to be scared of highway driving—which is a sort of personal thing for me, because I have an on-and-off fear of highway driving.
One thing that did make it to the final draft was Nina’s white cat, Sugarman, who’s based on my beloved cat, Max, who died right after I started this book. I can’t say he’s a major character, but he has Max’s bad habit of attacking skunks.
In the first scene of the book, Nina uses the “last payphone” in her town so her call won’t be traced. I had a specific payphone in mind, in Montpelier, Vermont, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist anymore! Soon no one will even know what a payphone is.
Do you have a special story behind your inspiration for the book?
The idea started with a real crime that happened one June night not far from where I live. Two people vanished, and for months, the whole town speculated. It took more than a year for us to find out they had fallen prey to a serial killer, because he had completely covered his tracks. This bizarre mystery was so different from the serial killer stories on TV that it caught my attention, and gradually, the book took shape in my mind.
Who was your favorite character to write and who gave you the most trouble?
Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I sometimes enjoyed writing the killer’s perspective. I think that’s because he always feels strong; he isn’t afraid of anything; he always thinks he’s in control. Exploring that mindset was liberating (though I certainly DON’T condone any of his actions!). In real life, I tend to be more of an anxious, jumpy person, like Nina. For that reason, I found it hard to write Nina sometimes — it was exhausting to be inside all her fears. But I wanted to show her growing into a braver, more confident person, so the effort was worth it.
If you could ask a character of your choice from THE KILLER IN ME one question what would it be?
I think I would ask the killer: “Is there a way to stop people like you from becoming like you? To make them use their strengths in ways that don’t hurt other people?” But I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to wait around for the answer. Plus, it would probably be a lie.
What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
There’s a scene toward the end where Warren is out in the desert alone—I can’t say more without spoiling it, but I feel good about how I built the suspense and atmosphere in that scene, so it starts slow but gets creepier as it goes along. I’d really like to see that scene in a movie!
Is there a scene that you had difficulty with and just had to “power through” to finish the book?
The climactic confrontation scene was incredibly tough to figure out. I rewrote it several times and just had to “power through” every time, trying out different ideas, because I really wanted to do justice to both characters involved. They both had to act in character, or it wouldn’t work. And there was action, which is tough for me to write, always!
What is your number one writing tip?
When you feel blocked, read! Whether I’m reading something similar to my book or something completely different, seeing how other writers work out problems always gives me new inspiration for tackling my own.
I was raised in the wilds of New York by lovely, nonviolent parents who somehow never managed to preventme from staying up late to read scary books. I now work at an alt-weekly newspaper in Vermont, where my favorite part of the job is, of course, reviewing scary books and movies. The Killer in Me is my first novel.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author info, image, giveaway, and more were provided by The Fantastic Flying Book Club.