Because the stronger the villain, the better the story, I chose a true psychopath for Jess Kimball’s Fatal Distraction nemesis. A villain with no conscience is one of the most difficult to vanquish because their behavior makes no sense to the rest of us. We simply don’t jump to that conclusion at the start. Instead, Jess and most readers would begin by seeking a more understandable human motive, such as concealing shame. But such motives are not necessary for the villainous psychopath.
My research for Fatal Distraction included a great deal of reading in the field, but also interviews with practicing psychiatrists and others who have real world expertise with psychopaths and their victims. Today, we’re going to share some of the real facts about psychopaths with you in the first of this two-part series. If you find psychopaths (and those of us who deal with them) fascinating, come meet Louise Behiel.
Louise Behiel’s work as a practicing therapist brings her face-to-face with family tragedy and informs her writing. Family Ties, her new unique romance novel, features a fascinating, complicated hero and a very real heroine, both dedicated to doing the right thing for her foster children. Can he break away from the bonds of his nightmarish childhood to reach wholeness with her help?
Readers love Family Ties because it showcases Louise’s expertise. Here’s an example:
“Family Ties is a romance novel…plus so much more. Andie Bowen, foster mother to four emotionally damaged children, buys a house and moves next door to Gray Mills, who also happens to have some issues going on. Throw in the adorable kids, a cranky neighbor, danger, a couple of mysteries, and you have the perfect combination to keep you guessing for a few hours.
“Gray Mills has all of the qualities that make for a perfect hero in a romance novel. Strong, physically handsome, caring…with a weakness that makes him more endearing. Andie is the kind of heroine you just want to see have her happily-ever-after. A genuinely nice and loving woman, you’ll be rooting for her after the first few pages.”
Sounds terrific, right?
I’ve been reading Louise’s blog for the past several months and found her psychology work with troubled families fascinating. When we were ready for advance readers of Fatal Distraction, I asked Louise if she’d read the book. She was gracious enough to agree, and I held my breath until I received her expert opinion on the villain and the story. Here’s what she said:
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, Scary Read
May 19, 2012
“Normally, I read romance, but Ms. Capri’s thrillers are slowly pulling me over to the dark side. <vbg>”
“Fatal Distraction was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I couldn’t put it down. Looking into the mind and heart of a psychopath is always frightening and Ms. Capri does a good job of keeping the reader on the edge of her seat. She clearly shows the logic and reasoning of a twisted mind. Pitting him against an intelligent and driven reporter and a smart female governor is putting a flame to tinder and it’s always fiery.”
“Tight plotting and Ms Capri’s typical well developed characters make this book a compelling read.”
After that, Louise and I began a fascinating conversation about psychopaths among us. The more we talked, the more we discovered. We’ve broken the conversation into two parts. This is part one and we’ll post part two next time. Come listen in and then tell us what you think in the comments below.
Louise Behiel: I loved your book, Diane. Your villain is one of the most realistically portrayed psychopaths I’ve seen in popular culture. What inspired you to write about a psychopath and how did you create him so realistically?
Diane Capri: Ideas that grow into novels for me often begin with something I don’t even notice at first. But it comes up and later grabs my emotions in a way that makes me realize a good story lives there. That’s what happened with Fatal Distraction.
Louise Behiel: What was that?
Diane Capri: When a retired homicide detective died, our friends reminisced about him. The most notorious unsolved case he’d investigated involved a local killer of multiple victims, dubbed The Oakland County Child Killer. Although the investigation was the largest in U.S. history at the time, it ended abruptly when he simply stopped abducting and killing children.
Louise Behiel: That’s very odd for a psychopath and multiple killer. Once they start, they rarely stop.
Diane Capri: No one knew why he stopped. At the time, people speculated that he’d actually been killed himself, or sent to prison for another crime, or maybe just moved on to another state or country. The case haunted our friend until he passed away, though. He always believed they’d find the killer.
Louise Behiel: But they never did?
Diane Capri: *shakes head* The conversation continued to nag at me long afterward. Why did he kill? How could he just stop after so many victims? What kind of killer does that? I began research into that question and the answer came soon enough: a true psychopath. Then, the real chill started. I can feel it again as we’re talking here.
Louise Behiel: Why?
Diane Capri: Because I realized I’d seen this behavior up close and personal several times. A true psychopath coldly kills or steals or lies or cheats in a way normal people don’t behave. Because a true psychopath simply has no conscience. None at all. He never feels guilt or shame or remorse. Ever. For anything.
Louise Behiel: Now you’re giving me chills!
Diane Capri: Sorry! One of the things I learned doing the research for Fatal Distraction was that not all killers are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are killers. In your therapy practice, have you treated psychopaths?
Louise Behiel: I don’t come into contact with psychopaths who are killers (thank heavens). But psychopaths are all around us. My clients are often in relationship with them, either at work or at home. Psychopaths constitute about 4% of the population, so no doubt we’ve all met one or two of them.
Diane Capri: Can you give us some common examples?
Louise Behiel: How often have you worked for a ‘jerk’ boss? A person who didn’t care about anyone but him or herself? Ever been in a relationship with someone (male or female) who is arrogant, self-centered and lives with a sense of entitlement? Whose entire life is directed toward self–gratification? Lying, cheating, and stealing are common with psychopaths. When this is combined with charm and ingratiation, psychopaths can fool even the wisest among us. They just don’t care about the rights, property or safety of others and have no remorse or guilt over their actions. Remember, they will step over you or on you to achieve their goals and they won’t give their behavior a moment’s thought, except to celebrate achieving their goals.
Diane Capri: But what motivates them to engage in such behaviors?
Louise Behiel: Psychopaths get incredible pleasure and satisfaction from humiliating, demeaning, dominating and/or hurting others. What is most confusing is that they pass for normal in our lives. So sometimes, when you think a person is taking advantage of you and playing games, they might well be.
That’s all we have time for in this post. But join us next time when we’ll cover much more about the Psychopaths Among Us in Part Two. You can buy or download a sample of Louise’s Family Tiesby clicking HERE. You can buy or download a sample of Diane’s Fatal Distraction by clicking HERE. In the meantime, tell us about psychopaths you’ve known. We’ll tell you more about them next time.