Three whole years. That’s how long fans of Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series have waited for a new thriller featuring that tall, what’s-not-to-like agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
But Atlanta’s Slaughter was hardly idle during her longest Will Trent hiatus since launching the series with “Triptych” in 2006. In the past two years, she produced “Cop Town” and “Pretty Girls,” two stand-alone thrillers. The latter, dealing with unspeakably violent crimes against women, was voted favorite crime and mystery book of 2015 in the People’s Choice Awards.
We spoke with Slaughter by phone from Wichita, Kan., where she was on tour for “The Kept Woman,” her eighth full-length installment in the Will Trent series. She’ll discuss the book next week in Norcross.
“The Kept Woman” is fast-paced, intricately plotted and as Atlanta-centric as you’ll find. Slaughter zips readers from a grisly crime scene near abandoned Chattahoochee Avenue warehouses in the city’s northwest section, to the glittering offices of professional sports management, to a pulse-racing showdown at Phipps Plaza.
Highlights from our conversation:
Q: Why did you put Will Trent on hold for a while?
A: I always want to make sure that the stories and characters are compelling and that I’m challenging myself. I needed time for the right story to brew.
Q: What do you most enjoy about Will?
A: Of all my characters, he probably shares my quirky sense of humor more than anyone else. One of the things I like about Will is that he has a disability. I think his dyslexia helps him be a better detective.
Q: I made a list of words to describe Will, but let’s hear yours first.
A: He’s smart and thoughtful. He sees things other people don’t see, partly from his dyslexia. He’s always afraid he’ll miss something, so he really pays attention to other people’s emotional cues better than most. I also think he’s very sexy.
Q: I wrote these words: raw, damaged, vulnerable, good, sexy, insecure.
A: Yes, all that.
Q: And “kind to animals.”
A: Right. In fact, that’s how I found my way back into his voice. I was taking my cat to the vet, and you know where you need to sign that form saying she can be anesthetized? I decided to put Will in that position with his dog. I had needed a place to start from, and that’s where I found it. Here’s a 6-foot-4 guy with a gun on his belt, and he’s worried about his Chihuahua.
Q: How do you always stay three paces ahead of your reader?
A: I love thrillers and grew up reading them. I think I know the pitfalls in plotting a thriller. Whenever I get to what I think is a predictable thing, I try to do the unpredictable thing.
Q: You never shy from describing violence, even the most brutal crimes against women.
A: For so long, women couldn’t talk about these crimes, even though we’re more likely to be the victims. I think it’s time we started talking about rape and violence against women in a realistic way. I don’t want to sugarcoat it or glamorize it or make it titillating because it’s an awful thing.
Q: Your strongest Southern lit influences?
A: Flannery O’Connor has been a huge influence. Her stories have such deep meaning behind them. I love how she uses words as a tool to talk about the Southern condition. I especially love her essay collection, “Mystery and Manners.” She was an amazing craftsperson who worked very hard because she cared about everything and knew how important it was.
Also, Margaret Mitchell. The way she wrote about women in the 1930s was very progressive. She was a brilliant storyteller and writer, and in her views, she was far ahead of her time. She funded scholarships so that African-American men could become doctors and she did it because she thought it was right.
Q: OK, please name one living author, and one no longer alive. Each would join you for a stroll on the Atlanta Beltline, complete with King of Pops frozen pops.
A: J.K. Rowling, because she’s a fantastic author and I just want to meet her. And Flannery O’Connor for reasons we already mentioned and more.
Q: Do you have Atlanta authors in your friendship circle?
A: I’m friends with Kathryn Stockett, Kathy Hogan Trocheck (who writes as Mary Kay Andrews), Susan Rebecca White. But we’re not a writers’ group per se. We talk about “my back hurts” or “I have to go to Wichita today.” It’s not the Algonquin Round Table!
Q: What can Slaughter fans look forward to after “The Kept Woman”?
A: Another stand-alone psychological thriller. It will be called “The Good Daughter,” and will be about a family of lawyers who don’t agree with each other on anything.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to your vast Atlanta readership?
A: Yes. Atlanta, we need to support our library system. People should buy my book, but also be sure to support your library.
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