Home / Books / Interview: Caitlin Rother, Author of Dead Reckoning

Interview: Caitlin Rother, Author of Dead Reckoning

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Caitlin Rother is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has worked as an investigative reporter for nineteen years, for a variety of local newspapers. After a time, she decided to try her hand at writing books full-time.  

In addition to being a novel writer, Ms. Rother is also the founder of the San Diego Writing Women blog.   Caitlin Rother has many writing credits to her name, as well as having her work published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Daily Beast.

Ms. Rother has appeared as a image of Caitlin Rother crime expert on E! Entertainment, the Oxygen Network, Investigation Discovery, Greta Van Susteren’s “On the Record,” and “America at Night.” She also teaches journalism, narrative non-fiction and creative writing at UCSD Extension in San Diego.

Caitlin Rother is currently busy promoting her true crime novel, Dead Reckoning.

Please tell us a bit about your book and what you hope readers take away from reading it.

This is a quintessential story of good versus evil. Murder victim Tom Hawks was a former firefighter and retired probation officer after serving in the military along with his brother, who was a retired police chief. In contrast, Skylar Deleon, the man who killed Tom and his wife, Jackie, by tying them to an anchor and throwing them over the side of their yacht, grew up under the wing of a violent man who went to prison for drug-dealing and then taught his son how to lie, cheat and steal. But Skylar is also a complex character, whose gender confusion makes for quite a fascinating case study of a sociopath who loves his wife Jennifer so much he will do anything not to lose her – and yet wants a sex change operation so badly he’s willing to kill to pay for one. The murder-theft conspiracy scheme he devises with her is so heinous and callously carried out that it is mind-boggling.

One of the messages I’d like to convey to readers is that murderers sometimes don’t look or act like you think they’re going to — Skylar comes across as timid, with a high voice, and a charming countenance, but he is a master manipulator, just like his wife Jennifer, who was raised in a strict Evangelical Christian family. I think this book teaches folks that they shouldn’t always take people at face value because sometimes evil lurks within, and things are not always what they seem.

Who are your favorite characters in the story?

Newport Beach Police Sgt. Dave Byington and Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy were both hard-working, dedicated public servants who were witty, smart and fun to work with during the five years that I spent researching and writing this book. They had great senses of humor, but they also took their jobs very seriously and were talented professionals who put together three winning cases for trial that were almost never boring to watch.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your book?

Many, but here are two of them:

“Skylar really had a thing for boats.”

“And there, in the distance, was the deep blue scene of this horrific crime, where, somewhere, the anchor of the Well Deserved was resting on the ocean floor.”

If your current release were to be turned into a movie, who would you love to see play what characters and why?

I’d pick Ryan Gosling for the complex and bizarre Skylar Deleon, who seems so non-threatening, but has such sociopathic violent capabilities underneath, and Scarlett Johansson for Jennifer Deleon, who can seem so innocent and naïve, and yet is so controlling and demanding. Both Gosling and Johansson are very good actors, capable of playing characters with multi-layered personalities.

What are your favorite aspects of writing?

Pulling together bits and pieces from various aspects of my research to craft a moving or dramatic scene that evokes the same emotions I envisioned when I first heard about it. It’s wonderful when it comes together and is even more compelling than I’d anticipated.

Your least favorite aspects of writing?

I tend to write long and tighten up later. This allows me to weave in all the best details that I have gathered over the course of my research, but I always hate “killing my babies,” as we writers call it when we have to edit out certain parts that we love, but ultimately don’t have room for.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

For fiction: Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass;
Michael Connelly, The Poet; Jess Walter, Citizen Vince and The Zero;
Ethan Canin, Ann Patchett, and Amy Hempel. For non-fiction: Tracy Kidder, Home Town.

What are you reading right now?

A series of Sandra Brown thrillers. She is good at building suspense and tension, and I like the pacing of her storytelling, as she layers in the back story without slowing down the momentum of the present-day narration.

If you could have a dinner party and invite five authors — dead or alive — who would they be and what would you serve them?

Lewis Carroll, Tracy Kidder, Henry James, Mary Gaitskill and Elinor Lipman. I don’t know what I’d serve them, but I think I’d be too fascinated to eat, and I’m guessing most of them would rather drink anyway.

What is a book that you wish you could say that you had written and why?

Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, because it is a highly complex and intellectual book, but it can also be read by children and enjoyed on different levels by all different age groups.

What is the greatest piece of advice (for writing and/or just living) that you have heard?

Ass in chair. People who say, “I’m a writer,” or “I want to write a book,” but take no action to do so, drive me crazy. It takes great discipline and a willingness to be alone – a lot – to be a professional writer.

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About April Pohren

  • Don’t worry too much, April, we all make mistakes and it has now been sorted out.

  • I am the writer/author of this interview, and I deeply apologize for any misspelling. I had caught myself and corrected “Roth” to “Rother” before hitting submit, but obviously missed another somewhere. Again, I am deeply sorry for this error.

  • Yes, I possibly could have done that, but I was rather expecting to be able to respond to you more swiftly than has in fact turned out to be the case.

    As to common courtesy, I think reading all the comments we make here on this site will reveal which of us is the most civil…

  • Out of common courtesy, you might at least have acknowledged my email. But then, you have none of that, do you?

  • I haven’t responded to your email because I don’t have anything to say yet. When I do, I will.

  • OK, so I contacted you after I replied online. But then you failed to respond to my email! What a place.

  • That issue is still under review, Alan, and I will make my decision as to what I consider the appropriate course of action in due course.

    For your information, should you find yourself the target of what you may consider an infringement of the comments guidelines in the future, your case would be reinforced if you refrained from entering into debate with the potential infringer and contacted me as your first response.

  • And what about the unsubstantiated accusation against me by a BC “editor” in ¶1 of comment #33 here? You give your fellow editors a free pass to attack me, but then uphold the strictest standards in censoring my own comments. If there’s a principle involved here, then you’re mistaken: I haven’t grasped it.

  • Alan, If you can’t refrain from making personal attacks, then your comments will be edited or deleted. If you don’t, they won’t.

    I’m sure you have grasped the principle, if not the practice, so the ball is in your court…

  • And censors just delete my comments and move on. Business as usual.

  • Everybody is fallible, Alan, but sensible people just fix mistakes and move on.

  • What? Blogcritics publishes an interview with an author and misspells her name! If only there were editor droids at BC, they’d do a much better job than the primate “editors.” Don’t blame technology, blame entrenched human incompetence.

  • Caitlin, the typos have been fixed and the editor droid responsible disassembled.

  • It’s Caitlin Rother not Caitlin Roth…