If you think Hannibal Lechter is scary? Check out serial killer Gretchen Lowell who is beautiful, brilliant, and cunning. This fall, Cain will carve out a place for herself on bookshelves everywhere with her new novel.
Evil at Heart is the third novel in Cain’s highly praised Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan series, which heralded the birth of the new captivating face of evil and psychological suspense.
In my interview with Chelsea, I got to ask her some questions her fans dying to know.
AG: So serial killers and journalism: Are these two of your top interests?
CC: Right up there with infanticide and cannibalism. I’m kidding, of course. I wouldn’t include either serial killers or journalism in my top interests. Though if I did, serial killers would be way higher on the list. I just really like thrilling stories and these seem to lend themselves to that genre.
AG: Your inspiration for the book came from the Green River Killer case, but how did you come up with Gretchen Lowell? She’s pretty twisted.
CC: I actually remember reading stories as a kid about the Green River Killer in the Bellingham Herald. The idea of this unidentified killer being pursued by a task force of cops really captured my attention. I wanted my killer to be a woman because it made the obsessive nature of the cop-killer relationship instantly more complicated. But I wanted her to kill violently, like a man, because she enjoys it. Culturally we demand an explanation from our female killers. We want to blame their motives on a man – a bad father, a bad boyfriend. I didn’t want to provide an easy explanation for Gretchen’s homicidal tendencies. It’s way scarier to not understand her.
AG: How did you do the research for this book? Did you talk to any serial killers?
CC: No, and I hope I never do. I also didn’t actually torture anyone, though it probably would have lent some verisimilitude to the narrative. Maybe I’ll consider it for the sequels. I did read a lot of case studies about psychopaths. There is a great cannon of interviews with jailed psychopaths that is incredibly disturbing and illuminating. I also read a lot of forensic pathology texts, visited a billion web sites, talked to doctors, and read police handbooks. But the great thing about fiction is that if you find a few details that ring especially true, readers tend to go along with all the stuff you make up. (She says, fingers crossed.)
AG: It seems like you have a few things in common with the character of young reporter Susan Ward. How alike are you two?
CC: Susan and I share some of the same insecurities and preoccupation with fashion. She writes for The Oregon Herald. I write for The Oregonian. But she is way, way, way more damaged than I am. And my past is not nearly as complicated.
AG: The first thing I thought about when I read the first book Heartsick was Hannibal Lector. Are you hoping to turn Gretchen Lowell into a movie star any time soon? Who do you think could play I her?
CC: Heartsick has been optioned to be a movie, so there is a production company working very hard to get it made. They’ve got a script in development right now. Honestly, I’m pretty open-minded in terms of casting. Anthony Hopkins? Sure! The names that readers most often suggest are Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie. Any of those actresses would be terrific. I also really like Storm Large (the performer who portrays Gretchen on the website). She looks exactly like the Gretchen of my imagination. Which is sort of scary.
AG: I love the Gretchen Lowell fan site. Especially all the Gretchen sightings. What kind of response are you getting from fans?
CC: The people who find it really seem to like it. I’ve always thought of that site as a sort of DVD extra – readers who take the time to look up the url that’s mentioned as a plot point in Evil at Heart get rewarded with this funny and twisted ode to Gretchen. For the Gretchen sightings, our designer just went downtown and photographed blond women with their faces turned. In about an hour she had all the photos we needed.
AG: I’m a huge fan of HBO’s True Blood series. During one of the last episodes, Maryanne was sitting at the kitchen table reading a copy of Heartsick! I was so surprised…true story…I got up and did a victory dance. Please give me the scoop, were you as surprised as the rest of us, or was this something HBO contacted you about in advance? How has being featured on the show affected the book?
CC: That was pretty fucking awesome. I had no idea. We TIVO it so weren’t watching it live, but my husband’s mother called and left a message saying that she’d seen the book on True Blood, and my husband told me and I was like, no way, she’s wrong, she just thought she saw it. And then my husband’s father called (they’ve been divorced for thirty years, but apparently still watch the same TV shows), and he said the same thing. So we ran home and watched it, and sure enough there was Maryanne reading Heartsick! I peed my pants a little. As for sales, I have no idea. There was definitely increased web chatter about the book. And people continue to see it and bring it up to me. I love True Blood, so it was a huge thrill to be a tiny part of that show for a moment.
AG: Finally, what do you hope to do after this series is over?
CC: Over? I plan to write these suckers until someone makes me stop. But I am planning on starting another series to juggle along side it – more thrillers set in Portland. So stay tuned.
If you would like to learn more about Chelsea Cain and her books please stop by ChelseaCain.com. For the hard-core Gretchen Lowell fans among you, since her escape, she’s been spotted in Oslo, Munich, Shanghai, and Ontario. Please stop by I Heart Gretchen Lowell if you need to send her a message or report a sighting.
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Det. Archie Sheridan led the Beauty Killer Task Force for ten years, before the Beauty Killer (Gretchen Lowell) caught him, tortured him for ten days and then mysteriously let him go and turned herself in. Now it’s two years later and Archie, addicted to pain pills and still obsessed with Gretchen, is called off medical leave to hunt a second serial killer. Pink-haired girl journalist Susan Ward is assigned to profile Archie. She knows he’s hiding something. But what? (It’s bigger than a breadbox.)
“In her dynamite first thriller, Cain introduces one of the most seductive and original psychopaths since Hannibal Lecter.”–Entertainment Weekly
Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
When the body of a young woman is discovered in Forest Park, Archie is reminded of the first corpse he discovered there a decade ago: it turned out to be the Beauty Killer’s first victim, and Archie’s first case. Then, the unthinkable happens: Gretchen escapes from prison, and once the news breaks, all of Portland goes on high alert…but secretly, Archie is relieved. He knows he’s the only one who can capture Gretchen—and now he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all. Even if it means becoming her last victim…
“We’ve been down Hannibal Lecter Avenue many times, and these two books shouldn’t work . . . but they do. Chalk it up to excellent writing and Cain’s ferocious sense of humor. The Portland (Ore.) setting is refreshing too.”—Stephen King
Evil At Heart by Chelsea Cain
Gretchen is still on the loose and Archie is still hospitalized after his ploy to catch her went spectacularly wrong. They’ve entered a detente of sorts: Archie agrees not to kill himself if she agrees not to kill anyone else. But suddenly there’s something else to contend with that might be worse – a zealous fan of Gretchen’s, paying homage to the Beauty Killer by luring Archie and reporter Susan Ward to the scene of a grisly murder. At least they hope it’s the work of someone new, for the prospect of Gretchen breaking her promise is more than Archie can bear.
“Cain delivers her usual blend of organ-ripping, blood-soaked gore and compelling flawed heroes—and antiheroes.”–Publishers Weekly