Every time I write a work of fiction, I have in one way or another exorcised a demon in my soul. Since I also write true crime books, I probably accumulate more of those little tormentors than the average person.
With non-fiction, I am stuck with the facts: the heartbreaking sorrow of the families and friends of murder victims, endings that make a mockery of justice, the irrevocable death of innocents whom even justice cannot revive. I have anguished over autopsy reports, sickened over first-hand accounts of murder and sobbed with victims’ family members.
With fiction, on the other hand, I can kill off whoever I want with the knowledge that no real person will grieve or suffer in the process. I can deliver justice without feeling pain. I can connect my first hand knowledge of reactions of all the players from law enforcement to perpetrators to bring my readers closer to understanding the impact of real crime.
With my most recent work of fiction, TWISTED REASON, it became a lot more personal. In 2005, on the very same day that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I lost my father to a long bout with dementia. In 2009, I lost my father-in-law to Alzheimer’s. The pain of watching two wonderful men deteriorate in a slow downward spiral—losing their personalities, their clarity, their essential humanity—was devastating. My most heart-rending memory is the moment my father forgot how to tie his own tie and expressed dismay that we must be ashamed of him. No amount of assurance could relieve him of the pain of his fading awareness.
As a writer, the road to recovery from these wounds was obvious: write about my loss in the context of a mystery novel. Life taught me the pain of caregivers and other loved ones in this situation. My experience with true crime gave me insight into the processes of the criminal mind, method of investigation and experiences of everyone impacted by a crime. Marrying the two together, I created TWISTED REASON, the fourth novel in my Virginia-based, Detective Lucinda Pierce series.
TWISTED REASON opens with the discovery of Edgar Humphries, neatly dressed and deceased, stretched out on his son’s front porch, one suit pocket filled with acorns. Edgar, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, had been missing for six months. Detective Pierce’s first job was to determine if Edgar died from natural causes or foul play. Her investigation leads her to a poor man’s Disneyland and a man who did all the wrong things for what he believed were the right reasons.
I knew I experienced healing in the process of writing this novel and was gratified to learn that I also achieved my second goal when I read my reviews. Publishers’ Weekly wrote: “Fanning skillfully illuminates the heartbreaking challenges facing Alzheimer’s victims and their families.”
I wrote TWISTED REASON out of love for two exceptional men, compassion for caregivers everywhere and the need of this author to find comfort for her soul. I would love to share that journey with you.
TWISTED REASON, now available in trade paperback. Also available in hardcover, Kindle, Nook, iBooks and other eBook formats.