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Photo provided courtesy of Lisa Dewar
Are people born evil or are they a product of their environments? Are children born innocent and their caregivers somehow, purposefully or inadvertently, steer them to a path of murderous rage?
I was struck by a song (which reminds me of a few people that I have met over the years) and it sparked my novel:
Before you hand me over
Before you read my sentence
I’d like to say a few words
Here in my own defence ...
Some people struggle daily
They struggle with their conscience
Till the end
I have no guilt to haunt me
I feel no wrong intent
(Gowan, “A Criminal Mind”)
The song goes on to say, "A criminal mind is all I've ever had, Ask one who's knows me if I'm really so bad, I am". I personally know individuals who have made some bad choices and have done some crazy things but I also know that they have good traits as well. Many of the world's serial killers are loving parents, good neighbours, and good friends to those around them (John Wayne Gacy was a well loved member of his community, dressing up as a clown and throwing parties in his neighbourhood).
There are thousands of examples of men and women who were raised in the most horrendous homes yet they still rise above. Were they missing the "evil" gene? Yet there are others that came from loving families with middle class backgrounds that find themselves committing the most heinous crimes (Jeffery Dahmer came from a seemingly normal family who stood by him until the day he died in prison). Were they genetically hardwired to kill?
As I was doing countless hours of research on real life serial killers for Kiss Her, Kill Her, I had an epiphany of sorts ... I started to see that there is a seed of evil in everyone but not all of us act on it. Ask the average person on the street if they have ever been angry and of course the answer would be yes. Ask them if they have ever been so mad that they wanted to kill someone and in most cases the response would be yes, even if just in the figurative sense. But they didn't act on those thoughts. Most people are able to keep their emotions under control, finding another outlet for their anger. However, what interests (and scares) me are those that can't.
Take Tarryn Cooper Love, the main character in Kiss Her, Kill Her. His drug addicted mother was obsessed with serial killers, spending hours comparing their attributes, number of victims, and the complexity of their kills. Tarryn literally grew up idolizing the most evil men on the earth, after all that was what his mother valued most, a juicy murder. When her drug abuse starts to take control of her life, leaving him alone and hurt, he sees murder as a way to bring her back to him. Was the killing gene already in him or was it his mother's love for Ted Bundy that made him murder 36 women?
Tarryn talks about this in a passage from the novel:
When he looked back, Tarryn knew that by the time he was eighteen, the thoughts of attempting a kill had been festering for over five years. At first it was a little annoyance, like a mosquito buzzing in his mind. Then the tiny mosquito turned into a beetle, scuttling around his brain. Then by eighteen, the beetle had grown into a full-sized condor, soaring into every corner of his skull on a daily basis. He wondered if maybe saving his mother was just an excuse to fulfill the fantasy.
With the next kill he is set to pass Bundy's record and make his mother proud. But meeting Carmen Halder, a suicidal woman with an equally coloured past, reminds him of his mother and complicates the task. He has to decide if he should take her life or save her but the choice is far from easy.
Kiss Her, Kill Her explores three separate but intertwined stories: Tarryn's rise to be a serial killer, Carmen's rise to riches and subsequent decent to suicide, and the tale of Tarryn's 37th kill. But perhaps the bigger question is are we born evil or are our actions a result of our interactions with those people that surround us?
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Lisa Dewar was born in Southampton England and immigrated to Canada in 1973. An avid reader and writer of psychological thrillers, she now lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband and three cats. She is currently working on her next novel based on the Las Vegas strip.
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About Kiss Her, Kill Her: New York City has a monster on the loose and his name is Tarryn Cooper Love.
No one had given a second glance to the handsome taxi driver, but in reality he had been molded to be a killer since early childhood. His mother, who valued a juicy murder above all else, had taught him well. Just one more trophy and he is set to reach his goal, surpassing his mother’s idol, the infamous Ted Bundy.
When a beautiful young woman gets into his cab flashing a wad of cash, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot. As she starts confessing her plans for ending her own life he decides to listen to her story, hoping to charm her back from the brink of death, to heighten his game.
What he discovers is a twisted tale that has taken her from the hardened streets of LA to the upper crust of New York … a story that might even rival his own.
Kiss Her, Kill Her is available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and popular eBook formats (see icons below book cover).
Read the first chapter of Kiss Her, Kill Her below; use the Aa settings button to adjust font size, line spacing, and word density.