Theresa Schwegel released her first novel just four short years ago, but she's already solidified her reputation as a talented writer. As with her other novels, Officer Down, Probable Cause, and Person of Interest, her new book, Last Known Address, is a procedural thriller. The story centers on Sloane Pearson, a detective with the Chicago Police Department's Sex Crimes Division. Working on a series of violent rapes, Pearson finds herself personally involved when someone she knows becomes the latest victim. Schwegel spent months researching sexual assault, learning how the system treats victims and why rape is one of the most difficult cases to solve. The effort seems to have paid off. Early reviews about the book are glowing. Hair Balls spoke with Schwegel during her recent visit to Houston. Here's what she had to say:
How did you approach writing Last Known Address?
I took a page from Silence of the Lambs. In the film, every male character has an agenda, whether it be good, bad or otherwise. In every single scene where you see Jodie Foster, there is some man manipulating her. The same is true here. This book is about the main character's confrontation with all of the men in her life. She's not only dealing with victims, but she's dealing with an ailing father, an indifferent lover, and pressure from men at work who treat her like she's useless.
More with author Theresa Schwegel after the jump ...
It would be easy to sensationalize the attacks in the book. You choose instead to focus on the effects the rapes had on the victims and the police officers investigating the cases.
"I did. I just led up to the moment before and after, so that you would know more about the person and feel more of the emotion about what happened, rather than the details of the act."
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What did you do to help readers identify with the victims and not just feel sorry for them?
"I write about it from the perspectives of a couple of the victims and of the detective trying to solve the case. I think using different points of view is helpful in helping the reader to see it from all sides. And to understand that there can be all sorts of victims. I haven't ever been raped or attacked, but I know what it feels like not to be able to say no. Most of us have."
You say that people have a misconception about the motives behind rape.
"There was a social movement that said it had nothing to do with sex, but if it doesn't then why is there sex in it? I think there are all sorts of motives, including that these guys believe that what they're doing in okay. A sadist believes that it's normal for him to hurt people in order to feel good. A pedophile feels that children are okay [to have sex with]."