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Why I Write

View from the Writer's Desk in the NC Outer Banks

Seventeen years or more ago, I began to consider writing a contemporary murder mystery. In reading Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Per-cent Solution, Freud explained to Holmes, “I’m a detective of the mind.” That summary rang a bell. That’s what I do. That’s what any good forensic psychologist does: he or she tries to use scientific methods to “detect” and explain, as accurately and reliably as possible, why people do what they do.

The stories underlying the cases in which I have been privileged to be involved or with which I have become familiar reinforce the oft-cited view that truth is stranger than fiction. Human beings do some strange, odd, cruel, and seemingly inexplicable things to and with one another. I decided to write some fictional accounts of the themes and types of cases I have encountered.

Today, there exists what has been referred to as the “CSI Effect.” When the average person hears I am a forensic psychologist, he or she wrongly assumes I somehow deal with dead bodies. I seek to write entertaining, exciting stories, but ones that also provide the reader a fuller understanding of what a forensic psychologist really does.

When I am retained in a criminal case, it is often by the attorney whose client has been charged with murder. That means there is a dead body in the case, but the story I pursue is to understand and help the attorney, the court, the prosecution, and the jury comprehend the murderer’s state of mind at the time of the crime. What might explain psychologically why a man would bludgeon his grandfather to death with a claw hammer? What might be the psychopathological underpinnings of a relationship leading a mother to poison or drown her child?  Or, a child to kill his father?

When I am appointed by a family law judge to evaluate a high-conflict child custody case, the court may be seeking help not only as to the custodial arrangement that might be in the children’s best interests, but also in understanding why parents, who once used to love one another, are now engaged in all-out-efforts to annihilate one another to such a degree their children’s welfare and emotional safety are consumed by the parents’ desire for revenge and multiple pounds of flesh?

What turns a person into an incest perpetrator or a serial child molester?

Listen to an interview with the author by Dr. Ann Ehringhaus, “Interviews with Real Live People,” recorded October 2011 in the waterside studios of WOVV (90.1 FM), Ocracoke Community Radio, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.