Deciding To Become A True Crime Writer Came With Risks, Work And Reward
From what I can tell, there’s a bit of the adventurer in most writers. Indeed, this term can be applied to writers of both fiction and nonfiction. It can be clearly seen in the life of Ernest Hemingway who, after reporting for the Kansas City Star for several months after graduating high school, traveled to Europe during World War One where he transported by ambulance wounded Italian troops away from the battlefront, and was himself seriously wounded in 1918. This penchant for “action” was a hallmark of Hemingway’s life, and he made sure he was in the thick of it once again when the Second World War engulfed the planet. These decisions had consequences for his personal life, of course, but that’s for another article.
Space will also not permit me to delve into the lives of other scribes who pushed the limits – many of whom began their careers as journalists – but they are legion. Indeed, the desire to go outside the normal, everyday experiences of life, to both capture and then tell an important story through the medium of writing has been with us for thousands of years.
But that adventurous spirit of the writer doesn’t wait for war or other disasters before rising to the surface of our personalities. It’s actually operating all the time. It’s there whenever we begin a new major project; a project that might take a year or two to produce: For example, when I wrote my book, The Bundy Murders, the researching and writing involved over two and one half years of labor. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Well, for a book, that seems a bit right’. But what you don’t realize is that once it began, I worked both day and night, where sleep came in bursts of four or five hours at a time and then it was back at it again. Unlike most jobs, it wasn’t a 9 to 5 effort, but a night and day Herculean task, that included every weekend (and I mean every weekend!) until the book was completed.
Now, no one was paying me to do it, so it came with financial risk, for I knew once the book was completed I still had to sell it to a publisher – a usually daunting task for any writer without an established name. Early on, I also encountered the ‘naysayers’ who said I shouldn’t write a book on Bundy in the first place – that I should pick another killer, but I didn’t listen. I followed that inward ‘dream’ or ‘nudge’, knowing that it would pay off in the end. And it did! I sold the book within weeks of completing it (without, I might add, the use of an agent), and once it was published, not only did it start selling (it continues to sell well today), but it began receiving great reviews from my peers in the true crime genre!
In the end, it was that spirit of adventure that drove me forward. No, I wasn’t dodging bullets or bombs, but I was maneuvering through the minefield of life as I attempted to do something meaningful, lasting, and substantial about my subject, the murders, and his many victims.
It was about knowing internally what to do, and when to do it. It was about walking through that minefield and not setting one off with the next step. It also required being able to filter out all the “junk” advice people were giving me while retaining all of the many good suggestions that came my way from well-meaning individuals.
And yet, none of this would have come about with that spirit of adventure!
Kevin Sullivan is the author of the new WildBlue Press Feature VAMPIRE: The Richard Chase Murders