I get asked this a lot, especially family members. How can you research and write about these gory crimes?
I've be taught a long time ago to detach myself from "what I have to do or see". Sorry, that's vague but I'm not permitted to elaborate. I've seen the worst of the worst in criminals, serial and spree killers....up close and personal. The worse kind of crime scenes you can possibly imagine. To separate your emotions is not easy...that's why since retiring I write and publish so that my mind is active and doesn't drift back. Most people are fascinated with the criminal mind. That's why shows like Dexter, Criminal Minds, Cold Cases, CSI are so popular. We don't want these killers in our neighbourhood or course but to learn what makes the dregs of society tick is curious to most people.
What is the hardest part of writing true crime novels?
Gathering information. I've contacted the FBI and have been given quite a bit of information, as well from their archives. You can obtain a great deal of information from the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). Some things get blacked out however. The FBI policy on extracting information is that you have to rephrase or edit every paragraph, or, every 40 words. If the perp is captured and sentenced, than court documentation is a great source and very explicit in detail. If someone is interested in writing, those are two avenues plus, contacting the local police station that investigated the crime and if the case is closed, they will give you a summary of the crime but not crime scene pictures unfortunately.
What is the most heinous crime you've written about?
Writing about school shootings. When I was writing No Killing in the Hallways, I was an emotional wreck. Being a parent of two teenage girls in school, and to research and write about what happened at V. Tech and Columbine, was emotionally draining.
Is there one crime that sticks in your head and heart and haunts you?
My most memorable time was writing about Jeffrey Dahmer. The following is an excerpt from Case Closed: Serial Killers Captured and it broke my heart to write it, it haunts me every day:
“In the wee hours of May 27th, 1991, Konerak Sinthasomphone, fourteen, was discovered wandering naked on the street, heavily drugged and bleeding from his rectum. Two young women from theneighbourhood found the confused young boy and called 911. Dahmer chased after the boy to take him back to his apartment, but the women stopped him. When the police arrived, Dahmer told them that Sinthasomphone was his nineteen-year-old boyfriend, and they’d had an argument while drinking. The two women were not pleased and protested, but the two police officers turned the boy over to Dahmer. The police later reported a strange smell inside Dahmer's apartment, but did not investigate it. The smell was the body of Tony Hughes, Dahmer's previous victim, decomposing in the bedroom. The two policemen did not try to verify the boy’s age and also failed to run the background check that would have revealed Dahmer as a convicted child molester, registered sex offender, and still on probation. Later that night, Dahmer killed and dismembered the young lad, keeping his skull as a souvenir. Author Note: Officers Joseph P. Gabrish and John A. Balcerzak were fired after this incident but appealed and were re-instated.”
What authors or books have greatly influenced your own writing?
First and foremost, John Douglas is my favourite. Since I was a young boy, I always wanted to be an FBI Agent from watching the show at the time, The FBI starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (who is 93 years young). I found out in my early teens that I couldn't be with the FBI because I was Canadian...what a disappointment, I still remember it. Getting back to John Douglas, I really enjoyed his books: Mind Hunters, Inside the Mind of BTK, Obsession, and The Cases that Haunt Us. He has other books, but those were my favourite and inspiration to write. Other great authors are: Peter Vronsky, Michael Newton, Mark Olshaker, Sylvia Perrini and Dane Ladwig just to name a few.
Have you considered writing books in any other genres?
Nah. I'm well known as a true crime writer and it would be hard to change now. I did however write a children's book for my grandson. I'd love to write an action packed thriller but I just don't have the imagination.
Some seem to label or think of serial killing and mass murder as mainly an American phenomenon. What is your take on this?
Yeah, I've heard that. According to the FBI, 85% of the world's serial killers are American. Yet, the U.S. accounts for only 2% of the world's population. That being said, the worst killers actually are from other countries, ie, Dr. Harold Shipman killed 250 plus people. How about Hitler as a mass murderer, and Stalin? At any given time in America, there are between 30-50 active serial killers. That is scary.
You offer your Kindle books for free to law enforcement, firefighters, Allied soldiers, correctional officers, EMTs, etc. What prompted you to do this? And do you have a background in any of these fields?
I dont have a background in law enforcement like a police officer per se, but I do have a background in national security and have worked with many alphabet agencies over the years. Sorry for being vague but I can't elaborate. Many of my family members are or have been soldiers, police officers and firefighters. I am a very patriotic person. I'm Canadian, and we are part of North America so I am patriotic to both Canada and the US. Before I published, I promised myself that no soldier, or men and women in uniform who do so much in protecting and serving their countries, will ever have to pay for my books. I have gifted over 1,800 free eBooks and paperbacks to men and women in uniform as well as wounded warriors and have gotten hundreds of beautiful e-mails in return. I always write back and thank them personally for their service. I've met a lot of beautiful people this way. I've been Blessed by God with very good sales so that I can afford to gift these books. By the way, I have to pay full price for every book I gift.
What is it like to interview a serial killer?
Interviewing a serial killer is not as glamorous or intriguing as one might think... looking into the eyes of a madman as he rambles on, gleefully recalling one horrific scene after another, while exhibiting zero remorse or shame. He will tell his stories to anyone who will listen for the sheer pleasure of being able to relive his henious killings. These madmen and women, they weren't born to be killers. They are sculped and made into cold blooded killers. Sculpted by society, the by-product of their parents, or lack thereof and in particular the mother, and the life they've been dealt. You have to talk to them on their level. Dress down, unshaved, laugh, high-five them, all while getting them to open up. Then you go to your hotel room and break down crying for the victims and their families.
What are your current writing projects?
I have so many 'iron's in the fire'... I'm publishing the first ever written Serial Killers Anthology in December, as well as, Dr. H.H. Holmes and the Whitechapel Ripper by True Crime Author, Historian and Investigator Dane Ladwig. As his agent, I'm working on a movie option with this book with the most prominent actor in Hollywood. In 2014, I am co-writing a book about 'Filicide', Parent's who killed their children. Then there's the second annual Anthology plus a biography about Motown that I may be producing. I'd still like to write volume two of Top Cases of The FBI but it keeps getting pushed to the back burner.
I love weekends because?
When I worked for the Feds for 25 years, I looked forward to weekends. Now, I don't know the days of the week. Everyday is a work day for me.
My favorite song is?
Don't Forget to Remember Me by the Bee Gees.
I want to travel to? Why?
Arizona. It is warm and dry. I have bad arthritis and every specialist I've seen said I need to move to Arizona. Winters are terrible on me here in Canada.
Favorite TV Station: AETV
Favorite reading genre: Action/Thrillers
Favorite color: Purple
Favorite food: Porkchops smothered in mushroom soup and onions
Favorite snack: Fruit
What are the optimal writing conditions for you? Quiet/being alone