Julia Madeleine writes real, tough Noir with great style and menace. Check out ‘Skin And Bones’ on Pulp Metal Magazine for an introduction to her work.
Her novel ‘No One To Hear You Scream’ is coming out in June 2011. It is inspired by her experience of buying a country house in foreclosure and being stalked by the previous owner. The antagonist is a former Irish gang member in exile who gets busted in a drug raid on his house and loses his property when he doesn’t make bail. He gets out and goes on a drug-induced rampage to get even with everyone who wronged him, including the family who bought his new house.
Julia is also a tattoo artist. She met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about murder and tattooing.
Do you think it is possible to commit the perfect murder?
What a great question. Of course as a thriller writer I’ve often thought of this; getting away with murder. I definitely think it’s possible and I’m sure many people have committed the perfect murder. There was a recent case here in Ontario where two teenaged sisters, dubbed the “bathtub girls”, drown their alcoholic mother in the bathtub and it was ruled an accident. Unfortunatly for them, the “perfect” in their crime ended when they started bragging to friends how they’d gotten away with it. They were later convicted of first degree murder. I actually based a short story on this case called “Stick A Needle In My Eye” which was nominated for a Derringer award this year.
I think it’s a rare person who would be able to devise the perfect murder and then if they did get away with it, be able to keep it to themselves for the rest of their lives. You would think the fear of prison would be enough motivation to keep ones mouth shut. I guess it’s either guilt or stupidity that gets them in the end. Killers are not always the smartest people, certainly not the ones ruled by their emotions. Maybe the psychopaths have an easier time of it.
Do you think murder has a primarily sexual motivation?
You ask the most fascinating questions, Richard. I don’t necessarily think the act of killing and sex are related, at least not in all cases. For instance, I can’t see how poisoning Grannie with Drano for the inheritance money could have sexual undertones. I guess if Junior got excited and ejaculated in his knickers, watching her flop around on the kitchen floor, then that’s sexual isn’t it?
They say murder committed with a knife is sexual in nature. I suppose because of the penetration aspect. Perhaps the dominance aspect as well. But just the same way rape is not about sex as much as it is about somebody’s need to feel powerful through domination, I suspect the motivation for killing has more to do with power and control, or lack there of. The motivation for such crimes is probably as varied as the people who commit them.
Do you think tattooing is tribal and are some people addicted to it?
Tattooing is traditionally tribal within certain groups of people. These days with the huge growth in popularity it’s become more mainstream, even fashionable. We go through entire families; parents, kids, grandkids. When I was a teenager, kids would skip school and sneak down to the tattoo shop as an act of rebellion. Now the parents are bringing them in and paying for it.
It is most definitely addictive, thanks to the narcotics we put in the ink (that’s a joke).
A lot of people assume they’re coming in for just one tattoo and then later they start looking at everything thinking how it would make a great tattoo. Pretty soon they’re working on a sleeve. We like to tell people that when they start phoning us just to hear the sound of the tattoo machine in the back ground, that’s when they’ll know they’re addicted.
Tell us about ‘No One To Hear You Scream’.
The best way I can describe my novel is like Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts Of Belfast meeting the classic noir thriller Cape Fear. The bad guy in the story, Rory Madden, is a former Belfast Loyalist gang member living in exile in America. Rory gets busted in a drug raid at his house–a custom home he build himself on a 20 acre wooded property. When he doesn’t make bail and can’t make his mortgage payments, the bank forecloses and sells his property. After the charges against him are dropped, Rory gets out, buys some guns and goes on a drug induced rampage to get even with everyone who wronged him, including the nice family who’s bought his house.
Do you think that women kill in different ways to men and what do the differences say about their psychology?
Women tend to think differently then men generally speaking, so it would make sense women kill in different ways to men. The victims of women tend to be more intimately known to them. Whereas men, especially serial killers, don’t always know their victim. I believe women killers are more cunning then men, plotting the details of their murders in advance and historically their weapon of choice has been poison. In fact in the mid 1800s in the UK arsenic poisoning by women was so prevalent the government tried to implement “The Sale of Arsenic Act” which would ban women from purchasing arsenic. It was rumoured there was a secret society of women who exchanged recipes for poisoning their inconvenient relatives. So what does this say about our psychology? We are better long range planners perhaps. I’m not sure.
I did read a fascinating book on the subject of women killers and it explores the psychology behind it. Peter Vronsky’s “Female Serial Killers, How and Why Women Become Monsters”.
Do you think that the best detectives have strong criminal shadows?
I suspect some have a similar mentality, or develop it, after years of working in that field. I’ve heard people who are drawn to study psychology do so because they’re trying to unravel their own psychiatric issues. So maybe it’s like that for some people in law enforcement. But I imagine the best detectives are that way because of a combination of years of experience, a passion, even obsession, for solving crimes, and their ability to get inside the minds of the perps they are after. In a way they have to become their job, not just shake off that role at the end of the day. At least that’s how they’re portrayed in the movies.
Who are your literary influences?
My influences are quite varied and probably not whom you would expect for a thriller writer. In the past I never sought out books specifically in the genre that I write in. It’s only recently that I’m reading more thrillers/crime fiction and I’ve since found some fantastic writers. I’ve just discovered Andrew Vachss and I absolutely love his style. Chuck Hogan is another author whose books I’m particularly enjoying. As a teenage my influences, like a lot of us, were Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Edgar Allan Poe. I also loved Charles Dickens, James M. Cain.
More than a good story or a particular genre, I enjoy good writing above everything. Writing that moves me, that gets deep inside me and stays there, characters that I think about long after I’ve met them inside the pages of a book. My greatest influences are probably more on the literary side of the writing realm: Margaret Laurence, Mary Gaitskill, Evelyn Lau, Janet Fitch, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Do you think that paranoia is at the root of extreme power complexes?
Ahh, you ask the craziest questions, Richard. Actually, they’re really very thought provoking. I do think paranoia constitutes a sense of powerlessness and inferiority in those who suffer from it. So it would make sense that to compensate for this, a person would seek a sense of power, or really the illusion of power, through control of their environment or other people. But I don’t believe domination of others is true power, it’s a misuse of power and the one perpetrating that misuse is often a prisoner of their own erroneous thinking. People who feel empowered within their own being don’t seek to have power over others, they often seek to help others feel empowerd as they do themselves. It’s like bullies when you were a kid is school. They’re only as big as their victims fear. And bullies are always little wimps on the inside who don’t feel empowered. It’s pretty basic when you break it down to the school yard. And isn’t life just like one big school yard sometimes?
Have you ever thought of writing a novel about a tattooist killer and if so how would they commit their killings?
I’ve got a novel in the works about a female tattoo artist whose client ends up murdered and all the evidence points to directly to her. Then when more people around her start dropping dead and the police are closing in on her, she has to go after the real killer to prove her innocence.
I wouldn’t want to make the tattooist the villian just because, in spite of tattooing becoming more mainstream and reality shows allowing the public to see that we are just regular people like everyone else, not deviants or criminals (and neither are the customers), there is still a stigma, to a certain degree, attached to this profession. I think that attitude is primarily with the baby-boomer and older generations simply because when they grew up tattooing was more under ground and was associated with bikers, criminals and sailors. And with people being slow to change their long held judgements, that attitude is maintained even though it’s completely false.
I can understand it though, we instinctively judge a book by it’s cover. I’m guilty of it too. But I think when we don’t challenge our attitudes and hold on to illusions out of fear of being wrong, then we become stagnant…crotchety and decrepit too. Just like technology, tattooing has evolved light years in the last twenty-odd years. What was unheard of two decades ago is now common. For anyone who’s interested in seeing just how far tattooing has come, Google these names: Guy Aitchsion, Nick Baxter, Jeff Gogue, Victor Portugal. These are only some of the artists who are changing the industry.
So in defense of my profession, portraying a tattooist in a less than flattering light by making them a killer is not something I could do and feel good about. I’d be more inclined to make them the hero and all those judgemental pretentious, small-minded people out there can be the villains.
Do people you know show up as characters in your writing, or have you ever made a real person you didn’t like a victim and kill them off in your books?
Yes! I think it’s true with most writers that we take traits of family members and friends and use them in our characters. I have one relative in fact that is an endless source of material for me. She’s such a unique person, I think she should have her own TV show.
As for killing off a real person in my writing, I’ve done that. In my first novel there’s a scene where the main character, Scarlet Rose, (a real hateful, murderous bitch) kills another woman with a straight razor. It’s a gruesome scene in a bathroom. The victim was a character I created based on someone who intentionally did something really cruel to me so I indulged my anger and murderous fantasies about them in my writing. It was cathartic.
However, I do think anger is a force that can be powerfully destructive and you’ve got to be careful when indulging in it. Allowing it to stay with you for extended periods of time is unhealthy. You’ve got to make peace with it inside yourself and then let it go. Channeling that emotion does make for some good writing though.
Thank you Julia for a brilliant and engaging interview.
Julia Madeleine’s website
Malefic Tattoos website