Author Katherine Ewell on “Dear Killer”
Stanford University Freshman Katherine Ewell’s chilling novel, Dear Killer, is a shocking and elegantly written psychological thriller about Kit, a teenage serial killer in London. Katherine stops by to answer our questions about her debut, which she wrote when she was only 17.
Dear Killer features a teenage serial killer. What kind of research did you do to make that kind of character realistic?
In terms of research, most of my attention went to fighting styles and philosophy—two of the things that are most important to Kit. I had to figure out how she physically did the things she did, and how she reasoned those things away, so for a while Google searches about martial arts and nihilism were my best friends.
What authors or books inspired your writing?
Weirdly enough, the books that have inspired me the most don’t seem to have much to do with Dear Killer at all. The Book Thief, V for Vendetta (the graphic novel) and Sabrielare the books that I think have affected my writing the most, in terms of style and feeling—the stories are very different than mine, but they all have something of the same eerie, thoughtful melancholy.
You wrote Dear Killer at 17, when most of your friends probably had their plates full with applying to college. How did you balance writing with the more typical high school demands?
Honestly, I just didn’t get much sleep—I don’t really recommend it! I worked really hard in high school both at my schoolwork and my writing, and I ended up being a bit of a zombie because of it. Once I sold Dear Killer and was on deadline, I sometimes had to sacrifice my social life for my writing, but I loved my writing enough to do that. My friends understood, so it was all okay!
Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
Generally, when I start out writing something, I know two things about the story I’m going to write: the beginning and the end. I usually have a few ideas about what happens in the middle, but for the most part I sort of wing it, and just fill in the blanks as I go. I like to write at night before I go to sleep, usually with a nice cup of tea, wrapped in a blanket. Listening to mood music usually helps me too.
Now you’re in college. Do you have plans to continue writing or will you take a break for a bit?
I took a little bit of a break during the first part of the year because I was so busy, but now that I’m less busy, I’m ready to get back to it! I missed writing a lot when I didn’t have much time to do it.
What books are on your to-read pile?
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley(re-read), Clariel by Garth Nix (It’s not out yet, does it still count?).
Learn more and order your copy of Dear Killer here.
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