Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pro-File: Katherine Ramsland

Katherine Ramsland

Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D. has published twenty-five books. She holds graduate degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, and philosophy. Currently she teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. After publishing two books in psychology, Engaging the Immediate and The Art of Learning, she wrote Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice. At that time, she had a cover story in Psychology Today on our culture's fascination with vampires. Then she wrote guidebooks to Anne Rice's fictional worlds: The Vampire Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, The Witches' Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice's Lives of the Mayfair Witches, The Roquelaure Reader: A Companion to Anne Rice's Erotica, and The Anne Rice Reader. Her next book was Dean Koontz: A Writer's Biography, and then she ventured into journalism with a two-year investigation of the vampire subculture, to write Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today. Following that was Ghost, Cemetery Stories, and The Science of Vampires. She has also written for The New York Times Book Review, The Writer, The Newark Star Ledger, Publishers Weekly, and The Trenton Times.

Her background in forensic studies positioned her to assist former FBI profiler John Douglas on his book, The Cases that Haunt Us, and to co-write a book with former FBI profiler, Gregg McCrary, The Unknown Darkness. She has also written The Forensic Science of CSI, The Criminal Mind: A Writer's Guide to Forensic Psychology, The Science of Cold Case Files, and Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers and she pens editorials on breaking forensic cases for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Recently, she co-wrote A Voice for the Dead with James E. Starrs on his exhumation projects, and became part of the team. She also contributes regularly to Court TV's Crime Library and has written nearly three hundred articles about serial killers, forensic psychology, and forensic science. Her latest book is The Human Predator: A Historical Chronicle of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation.

Pro-File: Katherine Ramsland

1 Tell us about your current novel.

Currently, I'm writing a history of forensic science, possibly to be titled "Beating the Devil's Game," to follow-up with my 25th book, "The Human Predator: A Historical Chronicle of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation." Both involve story-telling, putting criminal history into a narrative frame.

Also, I'm following up "The Forensic Science of C.S.I." with a second volume, which goes beyond the basics into new territory. It's called "The C.S.I. Effect," which refers to the current complaint that C.S.I. has negatively impacted the legal process in our country. While it's true that people who watch tend to think that this is the way that real CSI's work (and it's not), there is as yet no evidence that it's affecting jury trials in a negative way. In fact, jury members are listening now when the scientists testify and even recognizing and understanding things they say. That's not been the case in the past. So while C.S.I. is certainly not accurate (and it does annoy a lot of people in this field), it has had a positive effect on such things as increased interest in forensic science education and better funding for investigative agencies.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Writing. Actually, having the opportunity to learn new things, go new places, and meet new people, just because I'm a writer. I use writing to learn and process the world.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

Having something go into print that I subsequently learn is inaccurate, due to some source not reporting the facts as they occurred, and not being able to do much about it except cringe and hope for an opportunity to correct it in the future. The other annoying thing about this career is the pressure to market myself. I like to talk to people, but I don't like having to put the marketing machine into gear.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Stop underestimating your reading audience. They want challenging things, not a rehash of the same old formulas. They can handle the challenge and they ought to be allowed to have more to chew on.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

I have written both novels and nonfiction, and despite having succeeded with nonfiction, I still aspire to write more fiction. My first novel was a vampire tale based on my actual experiences in the vampire subculture. Selling that and writing a story of my own creation was euphoric. I made less money, but I didn't care. The experience of living with characters who were alive to me and ready to be guided was fabulous. Especially in bed.


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