Barnes and Noble to host Karin Slaughter

Fans of the crime novel genre will have a special reason to visit the Norcross Barnes and Noble store this coming week.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the store will host Atlanta crime novelist Karin Slaughter as she launches her book tour in support of "Undone," her latest work.

Slaughter is only 38, but she has already sold more than 17 million books world- wide and has received numerous awards. Her stories are situated either in fictional Grant County, a South Georgia locale, or in metro Atlanta. Her work goes well beyond the easy summer read. Packed with characters you might meet on the street, horrifying crimes and police work lifted from the mundane to the humane, her books are breathless reads. She is more than a writer; she is truly a literary artist.

In an interview with her recently, Slaughter explained what matters most to her in her writing.

"I hope my books are fun to read, but I always try to give the reader a little something extra," she said. "I like to examine issues involving women and children. I like to write stories that have a moral compass."

Slaughter is a master at developing characters, and as a writer, this is one of her areas of focus.

"Depth of character is so important to me," she said.

In "Undone," Slaughter has continued the stories of her Atlanta-based criminal investigators Will Trent and Faith Mitchell as they try to unravel who is kidnapping beautiful, brunette, "bitchy" women and torturing them. Into the mix is thrown a favorite character from her Grant County series, Sara Linton. Grady Hospital and many other familiar Atlanta locales are perfectly brought to life as the suspense builds from page to page.

Why is murder and mayhem so important to this gifted young woman? The answer is a philosophical one.

"Murder," Slaughter said, "is found in all the most enduring works of literature throughout history, from Shakespeare through Dickens until today. Writing about murder can change your perception of characters, and characters are defined by how they respond to violence."

Dancers take classes, musicians practice. What do writers do to stay on top of their craft? According to Slaughter, they read.

"Writers need to continue to read," she said. "You are training your mind to become a better writer when you read the works of others."

Another way Slaughter hones her skills is through writing short stories.

"I love writing short stories," she continued. "It's good to have a short space in which to develop characters. A short story means I have to define a character quickly."

Slaughter is also a proud Southerner, with her favorite author being Flannery O'Conner and her favorite book "Gone With The Wind." Although she will be touring the country, she is happy to be starting in Norcross.

"The Barnes and Noble Norcross store has a great Writer's Club," she said. "They have some wonderful writers there."

How can such a bright, cheerful young woman write such dark material?

Slaughter laughs.

"I leave all the darkness on the page," she said. "Most crime writers are the happiest people I know."

For more information about Slaughter's book "Undone" or her appearance Tuesday, call Barnes and Noble Norcross at 770-209-4244. For more about the author herself, visit www.karinslaughter.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.