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  • Susan May

Behind Dark Minds

This week I received an invite to the film Jigsaw, which is the eighth in the Saw horror series. If you haven’t seen of these, they are a gore fest. Truly horrible films with more terror than a Stephen King tale. I decided to attend because I admire the directors The Speireg Bros (Predestination,their last film is one of my fave). However if it's too graphic I'm leaving early.

If you’ve read any of my stories, you're probably confused because my stories, without fail are about dangerous, dark people and when it comes to the violence I hold little back. A few readers have said they skipped passages because of this.

You'd be forgiven for thinking I love these violent thrillers and that maybe I'm living out a fantasy of inflicting harm on others. You know, getting out all that angst kids create from time to time. Stephen King has been asked the same question for decades. “Why do you write what you do?” His responses have ranged from, “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones" to “What makes you think I have a choice?”

I’m with him. Nothing else springs to my mind when conjuring plot ideas, although I read widely and enjoy many genres.

When I was ten, I found a book about death in a bookstore. After much pleading with my mother, she bought it for me. Inside were pages and pages of glossy pictures displaying how people had died. I remember vividly a picture of a man who’d fallen from a height and the impression of the mat on which he’d landed, embedded in his scalp. The picture of an impaled body on a metal spiked fence, strangled, stabbed, you name it, they showed it, along with stories of the persecution and torture of those accused of being witches.

In hindsight, I'm surprised my mom didn't cart me off to a psychologist. However, what fascinated me was the people, not the pictures. I wanted to know what preceded their untimely deaths. What where they thinking in their final moments? Why didn’t the women accused of witchery run away and hide? And what about their children or husbands? Did they believe they were witches?


I think nice, everyday placid people, just like me, read these dark thrillers, or write them, because we want to understand. I can barely kill a fly, let alone an animal, even a mouse or a rat. Yet, I can happily hop inside the head and totally see the point of view of a demented killer like the Trepan Killer in The Troubles Keeper or the mom in Mitigating Circumstances from Behind Dark Doors (the complete collection).

There’s no flinching when they raise the knife, gun or whatever their weapon of choice and take another’s life. I see it all in my mind’s eye and I don’t turn away because what they’re doing is their business. If they’re not horrified by it, then as a writer neither am I.

The question is why would any of us want to know how these terrible people feel? Possibly its because violence is as far from our natural behavior as you can get. Because of this, we have an innate curiosity to understand why someone could inflict such horror on another.

One reason I write is to understand and learn because it's the safe way to make sense of violence in the world. Curiosity drives me and, like Mr. King, I don’t have a choice. What sparks a murderous thought, now that is a mystery to this soccer mom.

So I'll continue to travel into the dark minds of killers and be grateful that I use only my imagination to do so. I hope you'll continue to enjoy the journeys as much as I enjoy creating them.

If you would like to read Mitigating Circumstances, I’m offering for free the collection of Behind Dark Doors (one), which contains the story, when you join the Susan Mayhem Gang Club. Just click on the button to join and welcome aboard.


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