Interview with Kathryn McMaster, author of Kids Who Kill: Austin Sigg
10 Dec 2019
What can you tell us about your new release, Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg?
“Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg” is the last book in the popular series on teen killers. The case covers the abduction, rape, murder and dismemberment of ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway from Westminster, Colorado.
This was a shocking and callous crime and I had to leave the story several times before I could complete it. Many who have read it since, have commented on how the story moved them to tears.
It was heart-wrenching to research, but more disturbing, was the intense planning that went into committing the crime by one so young. The very nature of the crime, and the meticulous effort by the killer in leaving virtually no evidence behind, the police were looking for a seasoned criminal who had killed before. When they then had a voluntary confession from a teenage boy, their initial reaction was that it was a hoax. It was inconceivable that a teen could have carried out this murder.
There is no doubt in my mind, that had they not caught the killer, he would have killed again and again.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid reader who managed a bookshop. My father was a true crime reader and the house was filled with his books no youngster should read at any age, but with the aid of a torch and some clandestine late night reading, read they were! So, with that background, crime writing was a natural progression.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl
A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
Exodus by Leon Uris
The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I would love to interview Benjamin Bennett. He was one of South Africa’s greatest true crime writers of his day and he was a methodical investigative journalist. It was his books that I first started reading as a youngster. I have always admired his ability to gain access to crime photographs and files that added substance to his cases. Unfortunately, these days many court records, that used to be available to journalists and researchers, are often sealed or unavailable for general consumption. This makes research difficult for today’s crime writers. I would like to ask him about his methods of unearthing the information in the days prior to the Internet and to get him to talk about some of his famous cases.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love researching my books. Whether the research is for my novels or for my true crimes, I enjoy hunting down the information that would make the book the best it could be. With crime stories you have to keep digging until you know for sure you have unearthed everything there is to know about the case, and making sure there have been no new developments. Then, once I have the case files, the anecdotes, and the case details, I enjoy putting it all together so that if flows in a readable, cohesive manner that is still a page-turner but making sure that the story sticks to the facts with no embellishments or suppositions from me.
There are two types of true crime writers out there. One type where the author takes enormous poetic license in supposing how scenes played out and what people said. The danger here is that one loses the ability to separate fact from fiction. At the end of such books one is left wondering: how much of this is really a true account of what happened?
The second type of true crime writers presents the case strictly using the facts available; including what was said by those involved using court transcripts, interviews, and newspaper articles, with no supposition or flowery additions. To me, this is staying true to the story. It reflects what took place. I always aim to be this kind of true crime author.
What is a typical day like for you?
I run a farm, an author group, several websites and an online business, so this takes up a lot of my day. When I can steal an hour or two, I spend the time either planning, researching or writing. Most of my writing takes place in the early hours of the morning or late at night when the house is quiet and I have no distractions.
What scene in Kids who Kill: Austin Sigg was your favorite to write?
As mentioned earlier, the story was so harrowing I had difficulty writing it from time to time. However, for me, the most important chapter was the abduction of Jessica. It was important to show the reader how the killer had planned the crime by showing where he had parked, how he had had the zip ties on the back seat, and how he had hidden himself on the back seat knowing she would cross over and walk passed the car at that spot that would enable him to complete the abduction without being seen. After being caught, the killer denied he had planned any part of the crime, but it was important to set the scene and detail his actions so the reader would be in no doubt that the crime had been premeditated.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
“Life is not a dress rehearsal. It’s the main event.” I think we so often take life for granted with the attitude that tomorrow is another day. In having that approach we plan for nothing, allow life to pass us by, achieve little and waste opportunities. I have packed a lot into my nearly six decades because I never wanted to be old with a life full of regrets, for the things I should have done, but didn’t.
Even with this attitude I have still made errors in my life. Sometimes things have not turned out the way I would have liked. So, I still have several regrets. However, without my philosophy, I am sure I would have had many more regrets than those I now have.
Never afraid to tackle new challenges and meet life head on, I have to add the other philosophy that I live by. That is: “Some people make dust, and others eat dust. I don’t eat dust for anyone!”
I have enjoyed our interview and thank you for the opportunity to share a slice of my life with you all.
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