The Bethlehem Area Public Library is thrilled to host author Katherine Ramsland on October 25 (6:30pm, Main Library). Dr. Ramsland has published 58 books (with more in the works) as well as countless articles on topics such as serial killers, criminal psychology, and the paranormal. At BAPL she will be signing and discussing a new non-fiction book about Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (Confessions of a Serial Killer) as well as her new novel The Ripper Letter: Book One of The Hearts of Darkness Series. Library Director Josh Berk interviewed Dr. Ramsland about these new books and her fascinating career. Read their interview below and make plans to see Dr. Ramland’s event at the library, “Who’s Out There: The Menace of Ghosts, Rippers, and Serial Creepers” on 10/25.
JB: Thank you for joining me! You have written many works of non-fiction but your newest book is a novel. Is The Hearts of Darkness Series your first foray into fiction? What accounted for your desire to write a novel?
KR: Actually, I wrote two vampire novels some time ago (The Heat Seekers and The Blood Hunters), so it’s not my first, but I had an idea based on a significant missing letter from the crime scene items associated with Jack the Ripper, so I created a supernatural world and a series of crime investigations for explaining its disappearance. It involved a lot of medieval codes. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to make it a series. For The Ripper Letter, I went to London, and for Book 2, Track the Ripper, I’ll go to Paris. My agent had urged me to write a romance, but it turned into a crime thriller instead — with some romance. And some great settings and Ripper lore.
JB: Why do you think that Jack the Ripper continues to be so fascinating over 125 years after those murders?
KR: It presents a puzzle, it’s about a “fiend” who got away, and it evokes an era of foggy bleakness that gives us delicious chills. The Ripper murders are like a good horror movie that has more than one interpretation. The murders were brutal and mostly quick, and the killer seemed to melt away on the streets of a bad part of London as if by supernatural means. So, it’s a challenging set of crimes. If it ever really gets solved, the solution will probably be disappointing compared with the current intrigue.
JB: Thinking back to the beginning of your career, what do you think originally sparked your interest to write about crime and other “dark” subjects?
KR: I’m fairly sure that my mother had a hand in it, since she gave me my first ghost stories to read and introduced me to Dracula, etc. But the crime aspect probably derives from a serial killer at work in my town when I was growing up. Dark subjects call to me and I particularly like the psychological aspects. But I don’t try to solve my own mystery, because that’s an energy leak. I prefer to just keep exploring and writing.
JB: What was the research like in working on Confession of a Serial Killer? Did you spend much time with Dennis Rader?
KR: I spent 5 years working with the “BTK” serial killer, Dennis Rader, who wanted to tell the story of his “dark journey” while also trying to understand it. So, it is a guided autobiography, with me using what I know from forensic psychology to help guide him in thinking about the influences in his trajectory toward violence. I had 10 years’ worth of letters from him, many drawings, and well over a year of regular phone calls with him, working out the whole thing through codes. That was challenging but also interesting, and now we have a rare book that is 80% his words, but structured in a way to provide benefits to criminology, psychology, and law enforcement. Also, the victims’ families will receive most of the proceeds. For me, it was a professional accomplishment.
JB: So what scares you?
KR: As mentioned, I don’t solve my own mysteries. But I do hate clowns and mimes.
Register now for “Who’s Out There: The Menace of Ghosts, Rippers, and Serial Creepers” on 10/25 at BAPL