Beware: Psychopaths Among Us (Part One)

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

By Louise Behiel (Alberta, Canada) – See all my reviews

“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.


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22 Responses to Beware: Psychopaths Among Us (Part One)

  1. Melinda VanLone May 28, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I’m pretty sure I’ve met one or two psychopaths. Why are they like that? Is it a genetic thing, a deformed DNA? I know sometimes I watch a news story and simply can’t conceive how someone could act that way. And why are these people always successful? They’re the boss, or the CEO, or the head of the bank or whatever. Rarely are they working at the corner gas station or living in a homeless shelter. It’s like we reward their bad behavior.

    • Diane Capri May 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      These are fascinating questions, Melinda, and certainly part of the reason I wrote Fatal Distraction — I had similar questions because of some personal experiences with “successful people” and delved into the research to find out why they behave as they do. Of course, on a personal level, the bigger question is how to realize a psychopath when you meet one and get the hell out of the way! Louise and I talk about this more in Part Two of this post on Thursday, but the short answer is: like almost everything from your stature to your eye color, it’s genetic. Environmental influences can make slight alterations, but mostly if you’re born without a conscience, you’ll never have one. Come back Thursday for more….

      • Louise Behiel May 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

        Totally agree, Diane. It is about development of core parts of the brain. If that does not happen, then morals and conscience are missed. I think I would give a bit more weight to environment, BUT not all psychopaths are caused by their family homes. However if the biology is on the tipping point, certain life experiences will tip the individual one way or the other.

  2. Reetta Raitanen May 28, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Fascinating insights. I already have both of your books in my Kindle and with this interview, Diane’s book became the top of To Read Pile 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more next week.

    • Louise Behiel May 28, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

      I know you’ll enjoy Diane’s book, Reetta. It’s a great read.

      • Diane Capri May 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

        Thanks, Reetta. Hope you enjoy the book. And do come back for Part Two of this series. Psychopaths among us are an endlessly engaging subject, no?

  3. August McLaughlin May 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Fascinating stuff. I’m pretty sure I’ve known numerous psychopaths, some—thankfully—at a distance. Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, taught me how to recognize and dodge them. Not all are harmful, from what I understand, but all can be…potentially in life threatening ways. Thanks both of you for highlighting an intriguing topic with such grace!

    • Louise Behiel May 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      GOF is such a good book and it warns us all so well. Psychopaths are everywhere and not all of them are killers, as you say, but we are all guaranteed to come out the loser in our interactions with them. be well, gracious lady. IT’s always a pleasure to see you.

      • Diane Capri May 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

        I really loved The Gift of Fear, August. I read it after you recommended it a while back and I wished I’d read it years earlier. It should be required reading, especially for women. His point that violence isn’t an event, it’s a process, is so true — and absolutely essential for women to understand. Thanks for bringing it up here and giving us another chance to recommend it.

  4. Julie Hedlund May 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Two of my favorite WANAs in ONE post!! I really have to read BOTH of these books. I own them both, now just need to read them!

    • Louise Behiel May 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      I know you’ll enjoy Diane’s and hope you feel the same about mine. enjoy

    • Diane May 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

      I hope you do, Julie — and then let us know what you think! Thanks for joining us and for your kind words!

  5. Sheila Seabrook May 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Diane and Louise, I may have to sleep with the lights on tonight! Your discussion on this topic is not only terrifying, but very intriguing. I love getting scared out of my wits, as long as the scare comes from between the covers of a good book. LOL!

    I’ve already read Louise’s Family Ties, which I loved. And now I’m looking forward to reading Fatsl Distraction, Diane!

    • Louise Behiel May 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

      Thanks Sheila I’m so glad you enjoyed Family Ties. I know you’ll enjoy Diane’s Fatal Distraction. It’s a keeper.

    • Diane May 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      Thank you, Sheila. I don’t think you’ll find it too scary — I hope!

  6. Debra Kristi May 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    You’ll have me looking down the street at my neighbors more closely now. Thank you for this great post and interview ladies. I believe I know at least one and it’s freaky. I also own both books. Hopefully I get some good reading time in this summer. Let’s ask the kids nicely to give mommy some free time. 🙂

    • Louise Behiel May 29, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

      tell the kids to talk to me…I’ll scare them into giving mommy reading time . Psychopaths are everywhere – it’s rather disconcerting to think about, so I don’t. Except when Diane is chatting about her hero.

    • Diane May 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

      I’ll bet you do know at least one psychopath, Debra — the odds favor it, at least. But most psychopaths are not killers. They’re emotionally dangerous, though. Be aware and that should serve you well in most circumstances. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Rachel May 30, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Lookkee at the dynamic duo!! Great job ladies. About a year ago I listened to a lecture by one of our Honolulu Police Department Psychologists and he said he’d been reading up on the subjects of psychopaths. That there’s a theory out there that they are a genetic creation, that nature has created psychopaths as a natural predator of other humans. Also, that the not-so-successful psychopaths are the serial killers who eventually get caught. The really scary psychopaths end up as CEOs of successful companies, they are so good at manipulating people. Can’t wait to read part deaux!

    • Diane Capri May 30, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Rachel. I’m persuaded psychopaths are genetically determined and I think Louise is 52% convinced (seems like I remember she told me the research supports that number). The rest of this predator theory is news to me, but I can believe it might be true.

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