I love and cherish many writers and many styles of writing. Yet I confess a serious addiction to a well written true crime book. One day we'll sort out the why of it. For now, it is very exciting to introduce one of my absolute favorite writers.
Diane Fanning is a master of the art. With ten true crime books, five novels, several short stories and blog contributions; the growth of her fan base has positioned her into the literary equivalent of rock star status. Her latest book, MOMMY’S LITTLE GIRL, about the murder of three-year-old Caylee Anthony, is an Edgar Award finalist. If you're a fan, you know I'm thrilled to have some of her time. If not, read on. You'll get it.
Perry: Thank you so much for visiting Madame Perry's Salon, Diane. Because I like to keep a conversational feel here, I've invited author Aura Imbarus, PhD, whose memoir, Out of the Transylvania Night, has just been published.
Aura: I'm very happy to be here and to meet you also, Diane. I also have questions about your latest book.
Perry: I've read several of your true crime books. Do you always choose the cases you write about, or are some suggested by your publisher or someone else? What factors make you really want to write about a particular case?
Diane: Sometimes I choose the subject, other times they are suggested by my agent or the senior editor at St. Martin’s Press. For me to agree to accept a contact, there always has to be something in the story that I find intriguing—often, for me, that means that I perceive a challenge, a piece of the story puzzle that can teach me something new. I’ve learned about all sorts of things—from the space program to cosmetic surgery to red neurons.
Perry: As you wrote in the afterword of MOMMY’S LITTLE GIRL, "An innocent child deserves the opportunity to stretch a long shadow into the future." This is what makes the murder of a child all the more heart-wrenching. The heavy media coverage of the disappearance of little Caylee, and the seemingly non-stop party life of her mother Casey, truly seemed to shock and horrify the public. You've written about, and interviewed, people who have committed cruel murders. What was it like to make discovery after discovery of a mother who couldn't even fake being sad? A mother who seemed more irritated at having her lifestyle disrupted than losing her child.
Diane: It is disturbing to encounter people who seem incapable of experiencing normal human emotions. We all try to understand sociopaths and psychopaths from our own personal perspectives. Those efforts are doomed to failure because their brains are wired very differently. Sociopaths and psychopaths see a world that is so different from ours that it might as well be in another universe. It is only be accepting that reality that we can comprehend their reasoning.
The commonality I’ve found is a coldness, a sense of disconnect from others, a deeply ingrained narcissism, an inability to accept responsibility for their own actions and a practiced ability to lie without any regret.
Aura: From a psychological point of view, Casey Anthony is totally disturbed. Were there previous signs to pinpoint to a future potential crime or act of violence?
Diane: Her habitual lying and willingness to always blame others for her own shortcomings were evident from the time she entered adolescence. She is not mentally ill as much as she is emotionally flawed. I do not believe, however, that anyone could have foreseen her murdering Caylee. I do think that the negligence of Caylee could have easily been predicted.
Perry: Casey's parents covered for her to such extremes. She stole from friends and family without a pretense of remorse. One man she slept with said she made him feel like a jilted female when, after sex she got up, dressed and left. Casey cares for no one but Casey. What do you think causes parents like George and Cindy Anthony to continue to carry on publicly as they have about the innocence of their daughter, especially in the face of so much evidence to the contrary?
Diane: It is difficult for a parent to accept that they created a monster. I think initially, George and Cindy’s denial was understandable and perhaps essentially for their own mental health. However, it reached a point where they made a conscious decision to reject any and all information that pointed to Casey’s responsibility for Caylee’s death. Cindy has taken it so far to recently suggest that Caylee might still be alive—as if she could will away the tiny skeleton found in the woods. It is difficult to empathize with them when you know that cannot possibly believe anything they are saying.
Aura: On Oct. 14, a grand jury indicts Casey Anthony on seven charges related to Caylee’s disappearance, including a first-degree murder charge. On Nov 26 released documents show that on Google there was a search for the phrases “neck breaking,” “shovel,” and “household weapons.” So if this was a premeditated crime and not a pure accident, how do you explain that on Dec 5, the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s office announced that they would not seek death penalty against Casey Anthony?
Diane: They decided they would not seek the death penalty because at that time, they did not think they had the conclusive evidence of premeditation they would need to get a death sentence. However, they have since come to a different conclusion and the death penalty, once again, is on the table. In MOMMY’S LITTLE GIRL, I have analyzed the evidence and presented what to me seems the most likely scenario for Caylee’s murder.
Aura: In nowadays’ society with a media encouraging violence from the early morning shows to the movies released each and every month, is Casey Anthony’s a result of what they are promoting on each and every channel?
Diane: No. If it were, we would have a generation of blood thirsty monsters out there killing their families in their homes and strangers in the street, every minute of the day. Just the act of walking out your front door would be suicidal. The fact is that the vast majority of kids and adults watching the same movies and shows do not ever commit a single act of violence. I do think that sociopaths and psychopaths do try to blame society for their own actions. Serial Killer Tommy Lynn Sells has done just that over and over again in the conversations I’ve had with him.
|Rick Riordan, Diane Fanning |
and Harry Hunsicker on a panel
at the 2007 Texas Book Festival
This year, I have completed two manuscripts. In fiction, I wrote the fourth Lucinda Pierce novel, TWISTED REASON. An elderly man with dementia who was missing for months, suddenly shows up neatly dressed, stretched out on the front porch and definitely deceased. Detective Pierce doesn’t know if she has foul play or the oddest death by natural causes she’s ever encountered. This book will be released September 30 in the UK and January 1, 2011 in the U.S.
In true crime, I’ve written a book about Raynella Dossett Leath of Knoxville, Tennessee. My working title is THE PROSECUTOR’S WIFE because her first husband was the Knox County District Attorney General. This book has some amazing threads running through it: a cattle stampede, a three-shot suicide, two medical examiners threatening to shoot law enforcement, the murder of the first African American prosecutor in a judicial district, a secret city and a love child. At this point, I don’t know what the final decision will be on the title and I don’t know when the book will be released.
Aura: It was a pleasure, Diane, thank you.
Perry: Indeed. I’m excited about your next books. We wish you much continued success. And I love the pictures of you in the dark shades - like The Avenging Author! Wait, I think that's my next project. A graphic novel about lady true crime writers.
You can purchase MOMMY'S LITTLE GIRL, and all of Diane Fanning's books at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore. Visit her blog Writing Is A Crime, and follow her on Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook.