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May 15, 2015

You get all sorts of female protagonists in YA literature, whether they’re fighting to save an empire, overcoming a difficult family situation or trying to summon the guts to talk to their crush.

Lane, the protagonist of KILLER INSTINCT and KILLER WITHIN by S.E. Green, is a slightly rarer breed --- she’s obsessed with serial killers, and struggles with an urge to kill, herself. We talked to Green about her series, and she revealed the most difficult scenes to write, at which point in the writing process she determines the identity of the serial killer and the inspiration for Lane’s character.

Read below, and be sure to check out KILLER INSTINCT and KILLER WITHIN! What compelled you to create a series with a teenage female --- rather than male ---protagonist who’s struggling with an urge to kill?

S.E. Green: Being dark and violent isn’t about gender, yet society has somehow pegged the male with these characteristics. I wanted to explore a female sociopath. Why would she be that way? What made her into the person she is? What happens when both nature and nurture influences the woman she becomes?

TRC: What inspired you to write such a dark, flawed protagonist?

SEG: I love the TV show “Hannibal”and it inspired me to write psychological thrillers. Watching the show, I found myself cheering for both Hannibal’s capture and his escape. I wanted to create a character that would give my readers the same experience.

TRC: How do you accomplish that?

SEG: Lane knows how to channel her impulses. She doesn’t haphazardly pick a victim. She is methodical in her choices, selecting a person who truly deserves her type of justice. We’ve all read about terrible people and seen them in the news; people who hurt children or animals. Lane personifies those dark urges that wish those type of people get what they deserve.

SEG: Lane channels her dark urges through her vigilante alter-ego, the Masked Savior. Were you inspired by comic books and superhero stories? Actually, Lane hates the whole superhero/Masked Savior thing that everyone else seems to love. She’d rather exist in the shadows and beneath radar than be elevated to some Super Man (or rather woman) status.

TRC: Speak a little about your writing process. How much preparation did you do before you started writing KILLER INSTINCT?

SEG: I tend not to do a whole lot of anything before I write. I get an idea and then I sit down and start. All of my plotting and character development comes as I go along. I also keep a flow chart (I am a math teacher after all!) so I can keep track of all the sub-plots and various conflicts. And then of course when I’m done I start all over and flesh the story out so the beginning makes sense with everything I’ve decided to do along the way.

TRC: So you don’t know who the killer is until you’ve written it?

SEG: For KILLER INSTINCT, no, I didn’t know who the villain was until I was well into writing. For KILLER WITHIN, I knew from the start, but as I wrote I decided to introduce two characters I wasn’t planning on. When I did that, I suddenly realized the villain shouldn’t be who I planned. This was a relief to me because my heart just wasn’t into making the initial person the villain. I guess those two other characters being introduced was my subconscious agreeing with my heart.

TRC: These novels are written in first person, from Lane’s point of view, which gives the reader insight into Lane’s emotional processes as they unravel the mystery along with Lane. What, as an author, do you see as the benefits and challenges of writing this series in first person?

SEG: I used to write in third person point of view, but I felt so distant from the characters. For me, first person is the only way I can truly connect with the voice. I admire those authors who can write in third person POV. It’s hard!

TRC: Are there any other aspects of writing you find difficult?

SEG: Writing a gut wrenching emotional scene. The FEELS. I’m great at the violence, the action, the twists and turns, but the feels always get me. Recently, I challenged myself to write a romance that was all about the feels. It scared me to death and challenged me, but I’m so glad I did it because I learned tons. And I discovered a softer side of my writing that will only make my rougher side stronger. 

TRC: At what point did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

SEG: I actually had no clue I wanted to be a writer. It happened quite by accident. I literally picked up a pencil and started writing and was like, “Hey, I’m creative!” And when I told my father I had written a book, he said, “What, you mean like with words and sentences?” Ha! I love my dad!

TRC: What hints can you give us about what you’re working on next?

SEG: I’m writing a YA suspense that involves a satanic cult. The research I’m doing is really freaking me out, but I am loving the way the story is developing! SO creepy!!