By L.J. Sellers
“Undercover work is a great opportunity to be somebody else and be someplace else,” says Karin Slaughter about her new thriller UNSEEN, the eighth in the Will Trent series. The title comes from the protagonist’s assignment, in which he disappears, even from his love, Sara Linton, and the novel pits detectives, lovers, and enemies against one another in an unforgettable standoff between righteous courage and deepest evil.
Slaughter says a main motivation for writing the story was to see her character in the undercover role, both for herself and her readers, who know about his background as a UC agent, but had never seen him act out that role. “It was challenging for him,” Slaughter says, because his character had “finally reached a good place and he had to temporarily walk away from all of it.”
Talented writers like to challenge themselves and their characters, so in addition to putting Will into a new role, the author also set the story in a new location, Macon, Georgia, and brought back Grant County series character Lena Adams. “Lena has a habit of making readers really pleased or really annoyed,” Slaughter says, then adds, “But there’s lots of sex and violence, so readers looking for that should be happy.”
For the uninitiated, here are two chunks of the back cover copy: Will Trent is a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent whose latest case has him posing as Bill Black, a scary ex-con who rides a motorcycle around Macon, Georgia, and trails an air of violence wherever he goes…. Although she has no idea where Will has gone, or why, Sara herself has come to Macon because of a cop shooting: Her stepson, Jared, has been gunned down in his own home. Furious, Sara finds herself involved in the same case that Will is working without even knowing it, and soon danger is swirling around both of them.
The lucky readers who got their hands on advanced copies nearly all gave UNSEEN five stars, calling it “gripping,” “electrifying,” and “exceptional.”
All of Slaughter’s fans will be pleased to know that both series, Will Trent and Grant County, have been optioned for television, and that Slaughter is writing a pilot episode for the Will Trent series.
“I’ll probably write the first couple to make sure that the tone and characters stay true to the books,” Slaughter says. “Fortunately, the people I am working with want my input.” She hopes to see some of her work developed for TV in the next few years, but she won’t believe it until she sees it. “How long did it take Lee Child to see his Reacher movie developed?” she asks. “Ten years?”
Although Slaughter plots two or three books ahead and has another Will and Sara story lined out, the next thing readers can expect from her is a standalone thriller called COP TOWN, which she hopes will become a series. Set in the 70s, the story features two female patrol cops in Atlanta.
She says in writing from that time period that it was “a relief not to have all the technology in the story” but that it was “shocking to discover how vilified women were back then.” She adds that many of the crimes she researched—rape, domestic violence, and pedophilia—were treated very differently then, almost as if they weren’t really crimes. She says that attitude could be seen in much of the crime fiction of the 80s and 90s, which she says “was just an excuse for snuff porn” and in which “women were only included in stories either to be screwed or saved.” Slaughter is pleased that current crime fiction writers include strong female protagonists and tell stories that have social meaning.
For her, the secret to staying happy as an author is to write the stories she wants to tell, do the best she can with each one, and measure her success against her own standards. Having legions of faithful readers is a bonus and not something she takes for granted, so she still does a book tour with every new release, a daunting schedule when you consider her popularity in Europe.
Slaughter says she loves hearing from readers, but is still surprised when she gets offers from fans to come stay in their home while she’s on tour. “I often think ‘Have you read Misery?’ Do you know the kind of stories I write?'” Slaughter says with a laugh. “Those people mean well, but I could never take that chance.”
Like most crime fiction writers, she has come to see the world with a bit of suspicion. But Slaughter has taken her fears and turned them into a stunningly successful career.
To learn more about Karin, please visit her website.