Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 21 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling stand-alone novels Pretty Girls, The Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her. Slaughter is the founder of the Save the Libraries project—a nonprofit organization established to support libraries and library programming.
Q. Your 2018 bestseller, Pieces of Her, has just launched as a Netflix crime drama starring Toni Collette, David Wenham, Bella Heathcote, and Omari Hardwick. How involved were you with the production?
Karin: I felt so lucky to be included in a lot of the early discussions. Early on, the producers and the showrunner in particular reached out to me with questions about characters, motivations and various plot points. I got to read the scripts in various iterations. Before the pandemic, I flew to Los Angeles and met many of the writers and got to see all the spectacular snacks used to keep their brains chugging along. When they were filming in Atlanta, I went to the set and met the director, Minkie, Spiro, who is an amazing lady, and got to see Bella doing a scene in a bookstore. As someone who basically sits for a living, it was amazing to see how everything comes together on film. There are so many moving pieces. And I have to say as an early fan of Matchbox cars I was delighted to see them working out where the cars go on the streets of downtown Atlanta by positioning toy cars on a table.
Q. The story of Pieces of Her, well-known to crime readers, starts when a woman’s trip to a diner explodes into violence. How does the Netflix adaptation change to accommodate the screen?
Karin: There are only slight changes to the nuts and bolts, but I have to say I was awed by the emotion that Toni Collette and Bella Heathcote brought to the sequence. Bella has nailed Andy’s ennui and self-deprecating sense of humor. She captures her aimlessness without coming across as feeling sorry for herself, which is a very delicate balance. Toni actually startled me in the opening because she did this wonderful thing that I hadn’t even considered when I was writing—she puts her hand over Andy’s eyes to protect her daughter from seeing this sudden flash of violence. That’s a real “mom” thing to do, and I thought that set the tone for what happens next in a really fascinating way. When I am writing, I see it all in my head, but there’s something more that an actor can bring to the interpretation that blows me away. If there’s one thing about this experience that I’ve learned it’s that so many more layers can be added in the hands of exceptional people.
Q. We’re here to talk about Pieces of Her, but you’ve got a new standalone thriller, Girl, Forgotten coming this summer. What’s it about?
Karin: It’s about two things, really. There’s one story set in the 1980s that follows a teenage girl named Emily Vaughn and her clique of friends. Then there’s Andy’s story—we meet her two years after the events of Pieces of Her. She’s on her last day of training to become a United States Marshal. She’s in a much more powerful position, and we see her learning how to be a good investigator. Her first case gets thrown at her by her scheming uncle Jasper. He wants Andrea to go back to Nick Harp’s hometown and find evidence that Nick killed a girl forty years ago. That girl is Emily Vaughn.
Q. You grew up in a small town and now live in Atlanta. What does being a Southern writer mean to you? What do you love about Southern crime as a genre?
Karin: The thing I love most about the south I was raised in is that we were constantly reminded and taught about our history. I had amazing teachers who strived to give us a worldview outside of our small-town experience, and librarians who put exceptional books in our hands. Not only from a writing point of view, but from a human being point of view, I think knowing where you came from gives you a deeper understanding of where you are in the present.
As for Southern writers, we’re all story tellers in some way. You can’t even stop to get directions without hearing a story—“Go left at the house with the big dog, but be careful because that fella bit Mrs. Peterson last year and bless her heart, she’s still walking with a limp…” I grew up idolizing Flannery O’Connor. That southern gothic blend of darkness and humor is writ large in my own work. I clearly remember reading the Color Purple by Alice Walker when I was a teenager and it totally changed my perspective. I think that’s what good literature does, especially to kids—challenges who they are, makes them consider their place in the world, tells them that there are other points of view. And of course I think that Southern writers are particularly good at picking at the scab of the human condition.
Q. Beyond being a writer, you also started the non-profit Save The Libraries. What does it do, why is it important, and how can others help?
Karin: Primarily, my motivation is selfishness. I love the library now as much as I did when I was a child. I didn’t come from a reading family, but my dad made sure I spent every Saturday in the library. It was my haven, a place where I could explore a life that I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance to live—sailing a boat in the Mediterranean, exploring the Pyramids in Egypt, drinking tea in London, solving crimes with Nancy Drew, learning about how terrible it is to be a girl with Judy Blume. Books opened up a world to me that I would’ve never known existed. I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me if I hadn’t had my local library. With Save the Libraries, I’ve got a chance to give back to the system that helped make me who I am.
Q. What are you working on now? What’s next?
Karin: I’ve been talking to the GBI about a new story for Will and Sara. It’s very exciting, but I can’t tell you any more than that someone dies in the beginning, and by the end Will and Sara figure out who did it.
Karin Slaughter's Latest
A girl with a secret…
Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for the prom. For an athlete, who is smart, pretty and well-liked, this night that should be the highlight of her high school career. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, that secret will be silenced forever.
An unsolved murder…
Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains a mystery. Her tight-knit group of friends closed ranks; her respected, wealthy family retreated inwards; the small town moved on from her grisly attack. But all that’s about to change.
One final chance to uncover a killer…
US Marshal Andrea Oliver arrives in Longbill Beach on her first assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But, in reality, Andrea is there to find justice for Emily. The killer is still out there – and Andrea must discover the truth before she gets silenced, too