Monday, 9 January 2017

Coffee chat with Amanda Howard, Aussie author of true crime and crime fiction

My campaign of spotlighting Aussie indie author coffee chats in over halfway through. We have about 11 more authors to feature, but don't miss my bumper AustraliaDay issue where I will give you the list and links to all 26+ authors.

It's my great pleasure today to welcome Amanda Howard to my virtual café. Amanda Howard is a true crime author, fiction writer and serial killer expert who has written 18 books. This includes ten books on a wide range of true crime cases. She has also interviewed some of the world's most heinous serial killers over two decades and has collected a vast pool of information on various types of killers, their motives and rituals. Coupled with this, she studies criminology, law and psychology.

Welcome Amanda,

DL: Firstly, since this a virtual coffee chat, how do you have your coffee? Are you a morning or afternoon person?

AMANDA: Hi Debbie, thanks for having me. I take my coffee black. No milk, no sugar. If only life was that simple. I used to be someone who loved the ice coffees with whipped cream and plenty of sweetener but I’ve learnt that I just need the coffee, strong, hot and intravenously if possible. 

I am a morning person, but that is not through choice, but has just how it has worked out. I have a full-time job away from my writing and also having children it worked to do an earlier shift so I could pick them from school and do all the afternoon running around. So that also meant that getting up earlier (around 4-5am most days), I can get a pile of writing done or work on my YouTube videos, speeches or Uni assignments etc before I start my day. However, my days usually run to around 20 hours, with everything I need to fit in so I guess I am an all day kind of person too. For example I was up late last night doing a radio interview just before midnight but still was up at 5 this morning. Some weeks I don’t know how I get it all done, but I live my life full of passion and I enjoy it so thoroughly. It’s a labour of love.

DL: I have to ask, how the heck does a person get involved in writing true crime? Was it from personal experience, a fascination, studies that led to it?  

AMANDA: This is something I get asked a lot. I call it my party trick. Imagine if you will, you are at a party and someone asks you what you do? I have to guess their response before I answer. For some I just say I’m a writer, but for others I’ll give the full answer, “I’m a true crime author and serial killer expert.” The response is either a look of horror and a quick exit, or one of excitement and I spend the rest of the night chatting to a new friend (and reader). 

So how did I end up here? It is a very round about story. I had dreams of becoming a singer and a dancer. I had spent most of my younger life on stage and I loved it. There was no real other choice… but then I was given the book "Silence of the Lambs" (can you see where this is going?) and it had such a profound effect on me. I had no idea people like that existed. Then it was the 100th anniversary of Jack the Ripper and I watched the film with Michael Caine (it still remains a favourite to this day), then….here in Sydney we had a man stalking and killing elderly ladies on the North Shore. They tried to profile him, saying it would be a young teenaged male but they got it completely wrong. When we got a first glimpse of the killer we were met not with a monster but a greying overweight middle-aged man. A husband and a father. I was instantly hooked. Serial killers became my life. I have gone to Uni, studied criminology, law and psychology and did a stint with the police service too. But nothing achieved what I wanted it to. So I began interviewing the killers myself and having always had a writing streak – I wrote my first story at 8 – I decided to write about the killers I researched and interviewed. 

Of course it hasn’t always been sunshine and light, there have been some incredibly dark times, I’ve had threats, and a few stalkers. I’ve seen some of the most horrific scenes that you could imagine. This is why I began writing crime fiction. No-one had to die, no-one had to lose a loved one for me to write about it. My crime fiction books are based on real crimes, but it allows me a freedom that I don’t get when writing true crime.

DL: When writing or even reading crime fiction, is it important to have the bad guy be the bad guy, or is it just as important for humanity to gain a sense of understanding for why some (not all) killers do things?

AMANDA: This is part of the fascination that people have with killers – real or imagined – they are actually more ‘normal’ than we want to think. They hold down jobs, they have families, they have a large group of friends. They aren’t all the snarling drooling mad men in the dark corners. They walk among us and I think that is more terrifying.  Think of it this way, we all slow down at car accidents, we watch the ambulance speed through intersections. We are often grateful that that wasn’t us. And we tend to want to do that to killers too. We want to know that they are abnormal, that we are different to them, but unfortunately we aren’t. The only real difference is their moral compass. We know where to draw the line in the sand and they tend to obliterate that line. They tend to live in a transient world between reality and fantasy, they act on their desires whilst we stifle ours. They take what they want whilst we know it is wrong. Yet they still are your neighbours, your friends and even your family and you might not even know it. 

DL: There seems to be an opportunity for true crime authors such as yourself to attend writers’ conventions to help make the novels of other writers come to life? Have you attended any conventions?

AMANDA: I have tried many times but most have said they aren’t interested in true crime.  However I do talk at a lot of other types of conventions and do speaking events across the country to sell-out crowds every time, so the market is there. I have about 7 events booked in the next six months, one of them has already sold out and I am in discussion on several more. I have done a fair few paranormal events too, they love true crime and so I have enjoyed being welcomed into their fold. I have done a few talks at old gaols and mental asylums to great acclaim. The ambience of those types of places really adds that extra scare factor and I love it. So though traditional conventions haven’t embraced true crime, I am still able to reach writers and readers and I have mentored some incredible emerging writers as well as meeting some fantastic fans of the genres.  

I think writers’ conventions need to embrace true crime and crime thriller writers. They are two of the most popular genres at the moment and it is a market that needs a voice, to help emerging and new writers find theirs. I would love to share my journey, share my tips and tricks to delving into the darkest regions of the human mind. I’d love to share how to get a killer to open up, how to deal with a grieving family or a traumatised police officer. These are all important features of a true crime author’s role and I’d love to share that at a writers’ convention.

DL: And last question, what is your favourite biscuit and/or cake at the moment?

AMANDA: I don’t really have a sweet tooth. I cannot even think of a biscuit type right now. I’m not a cake eater either actually. I’d prefer a nice platter of cheeses and dried fruits. It is often my Saturday afternoon ritual. The housework is done, everyone has been dropped off and picked up from wherever they needed to be, any deadlines have been met and work submitted and I can just sit and relax. I often have a selection of cheeses, fruit, meats and wine ready for those moments. I’ll watch a movie or do some research on the computer and just graze away. It is probably my favourite time of the week.

Ok… back to reality, and back to the question at hand now I’ve had a think about it… I’d have to choose a passionfruit melting moment as my biscuit of choice, and cake, probably a rich, dense sacher torte.

Thank you for these insightful answers, Amanda.


ABOUT AMANDA HOWARD

Amanda has appeared in many critically acclaimed international documentaries regarding famous serial killers, including Jack the Ripper, The Backpacker Killer, David Birnie as well as acted as a criminal consultant on many more. Amanda has worked as a consultant for many current affairs and news programs in Australia regarding vicious crimes, juvenile murderers, serial killers and sex offenders. Following on from her successful career as a non-fiction author, she has coupled her knowledge of serial killers to develop a series of novels following the life of a police detective who is an international expert on ritual crimes and ancient societies.

ABOUT HER LATEST BOOK

Book 4 in the Kate Reilly series... 
 
Detective Kate Reilly has spent her life running away, running from those she loves and running from things that scare her. The murder of a man has made her question her choices and once again she is on the run. Running to London she once again investigates the one case that remains open- the brutal torture and murder of an unknown little boy. Reilly fights her own demons as well as those suspected of being responsible for the little boy’s murder. However, back in Somerset, her home town, another killer is lurking, demanding that Reilly return.
 
CHECK OUT ALL OF AMANDA'S BOOKS
 
 
 
CONNECT WITH AMANDA

 

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