Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Killing Beauty

My novel Killing Beauty is out. I hope you'll take a look at it. It has been many years in the making. I had the idea 15 years ago when a mentally ill woman from Clark County drove into Skamania County in Washington where I lived, drove her children into the forest, and shot them. It was such a stunning and senseless act, and I wanted to understand it. The story didn't end with the murders. Her husband, who apparently was not mentally ill but "just" religious, wouldn't bury the children at first because he believed God would revive them. Finally, after two months, he allowed the burial. I was haunted by this crime and another in my community.

Years before these murders, a young woman was raped and murdered in the forest. The young man who did the killing said something just came over him, and he had to rape and murder her. To me, that is absolutely terrifying. Could that really be the truth? I talked to people in my town who knew the kid. Apparently he was known to torture and kill animals. But no one had done anything to stop him? That was stunning to me.

When I was a teen growing up in Michigan, a classmate of mine was murdered. She was someone I admired immensely, and I learned of her death when I was babysitting and listening to the news one night. Bill Bonds mispronounced her name and described vividly how she had died. I almost lost my mind. I ran around the house trying not to scream. The world tilted. And I don't think it has ever untilted. I phoned my dad, and he came and sat with me until the parents of the children I was babysitting came home.

I believe murder and other acts of violence and betrayal can affect communities for decades, maybe forever. I think these events reverberate through time and space, perhaps. In any case, I wanted to write about how these acts of violence can affect the individual and the community. In Killing Beauty, the town is dying. Which came first: the violence or the end of a viable community?

I hesitated to write this book for a very long time. I didn't want to do anything to exploit someone else's tragedy. I didn't want to "cash in." Then one day I talked to a friend of mine about my reluctance. She said, "Kim, it happened in your community, so it happened to you, too. You get to decide how to deal with it." I knew she was right. Of course I had a right to figure out how to deal with it. Writing fiction is how I do that. So I wrote Maternal Instincts, the first part of this book first, as a standalone novel. Then I wrote Beauty Falls and realized it was all one novel.

I wrote Killing Beauty from the viewpoint of a retired cop, Katie Kelly. She was part of a group of teens who went out to the woods one night, and one of them was killed. Katie lived the rest of her life trying not to think of that night—and trying to keep everyone she knows or meets safe. And she has esssentially kept life at bay. And then one day, everything begins to unravel for her and her community, Beauty Falls.

Read more here...
All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.