Thursday, October 5, 2023

Q&A with Daniel Sweren-Becker




Daniel Sweren-Becker is the author of the new novel Kill Show: A True Crime Novel. His other books include the novel The Ones. Also a television writer and playwright, he lives in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write Kill Show?


A: The fact that I was getting into nonstop debates with family and friends about true crime!


More specifically, I kept coming back to the paradox faced by the creators of true crime content: are they objective documentarians or subjective storytellers? Is their ultimate allegiance to the truth, their subjects, or their audience?


Once I became obsessed with these questions, I wanted to find a way to dramatize them.


Q: The Publishers Weekly review of the book says, in part, “Sweren-Becker...tackles America’s obsession with true crime in this searing whodunit.” What do you think of that assessment, and why do you think so many people are obsessed with true crime?


A: I am flattered to hear this story called "searing"! And grateful, as I was definitely trying to shine a light on the role that audiences play in these tragedies. We demand more and more of them, and hope the stories get even more salacious. I'm not sure that reflects very well on us!


But I do get why we are all so obsessed with true crime. There is a voyeuristic thrill in knowing that these sensational events actually happened...and with that the implication that something similar might happen again.


These stories allow us to put on our proverbial detective badges and look over our lives with a whole new lens.


Q: The novel is presented in the form of a true crime podcast. Why did you choose this format?


A: I found this technique created an incredible intimacy with the characters. Instead of me having to describe what they are thinking and feeling, the characters speak directly to the readers.


On the surface this leaves less room for ambiguity...but also a lot of room to play with how people are always manipulating an audience when conveying their own stories.


And, more plainly, I love reading oral histories, and find the pages flying by whenever I start a new one.


Q: The writer Andrew Gross called the book a “truly modern morality play, in a unique and compelling style, that reflects on the uncomfortable connections between greed, ambition, and violence.” How does that characterization strike you?


A: It's clear he saw the broader cultural themes I was trying to reflect on. True crime stories are tragic, violent, horrifying. The fact that they are so popular, and have become such big business, strikes me as an uncomfortable indictment of our society.


I don't know how to change it, and I am as guilty as anyone in participating, but I wanted to acknowledge this bleak reality and prompt readers to examine it as well.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I was working on the TV adaptation of Kill Show, but the WGA strike put that on hold. Right now I am outlining my next novel, which will be very different from Kill Show. It's a love story, hopeful and romantic, but I am discovering that even a love story can benefit from the plot momentum provided by a dead body.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Shout out to my little sister, Eliza, who unknowingly came up with the title for this book when she was 5 years old!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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