By Isaac Cubillos
What does it take to write a New York Times best-selling book?
When we first began looking for authors to present for the Military Writers’ Conference, we wanted a wide range of talented people who have a reputation of working in this military-writing genre, and had paid their dues as authors.
Caitlin Rother doesn’t fit the first criteria, but has the credentials that show she has paid the dues, and then some, in the latter.Rother a reporter who worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers, moved on to become one of the top true-crime writers in the country.Her journalism background is well-suited to getting deep into the background of her subjects before she starts to write the manuscript.
In her latest book, “Lost Girls”, Rother chronicles the missed opportunities law enforcement agencies had to keeping a killer of young girls off the streets. She also got into the mind of the killer who is now serving a life sentence in a California prison.
While the book has been controversial in the San Diego area because emotions are still raw, Rother is compelled to write these kinds stories so we can better understand these killers. Mistakes were made, and as Rother points out, there are lessons to be learned to prevent this from happening in the future.
Telling the stories in a New Journalism fashion, where techniques used in novel-writing are incorporated with true facts, has been around for along time. Journalists such as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Gay Talese, Barbara L. Goldsmith and Truman Capote perfected the art in their heyday. Putting details into a dramatic scene, people’s expressions and dress, extended dialogues, points of views, delving into the emotions of a person, are all techniques used by these writers and Rother.
“It’s getting into people’s minds,” said Tom Wolfe. “I figured that was one more doorbell a reporter has to push.”
And push Rother does.
“Lost Girls” is one of many of Rother’s books that utilizes these techniques. For an aspiring author to write their wartime memoir, or a history/biography in this manner — like Civil War historian Shelby Foote who also wrote similarly — we invited Rother to teach the conference attendee how to think like a journalist, then write like a novelist. Taking the extra time to learn how to detail out your subjects or a scene, could turn a manuscript from a flat one-dimensional piece to one that finds a top spot on a best-sellers’ list.
Join us at the Sangria Summit: A Military Writers’ Conference in Denver from Sept 12-14, 2012, and learn from one of the hottest true-crime authors on the circuit today.
For more information, visit www.sangriasummit.com.