Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Catherine Astolfo - Mesmerized by Evil

What Inspired Me to Write Mysteries 

Most people who’ve met me can’t believe that I write about sordid crime, involving puppy mills and animal torture, murders by knife, gun and fire, neglect and abuse of children. They often think there must be some deep dark secret, some childhood trauma of my own, that I am hiding. Something so horrible awful that I can only allow it into daylight through my writing. Perhaps I am a psychopath who’s found a way to do my evil deeds without actually harming anyone, akin to a Dexter but without the knives.

I am here to confess what really did happen.

The event occurred in the fall of 1969 and, almost immediately, I went scurrying off into the dark and evil world of crime/mystery writing.

I became an elementary school teacher.

Not that every classroom was a breeding ground of future criminals. But the schools in which I taught and later managed definitely were hives of humanity, with all its dark and light, so I did find plenty to foster my fascination with evil. I can’t help it – I was and still am absolutely mesmerized by the evil that human beings inflict on one another, our fellow Earthlings, and the planet itself.

What causes that lack of empathy? Those empty, manipulative eyes? Deceptively charming smiles? Are truly evil people born that way or created by life experiences?

Until I retired, my “hobby” resulted in short stories, character sketches, and scribbles about life in general and bad people specifically. Book One, The Bridgeman, was based on a character sketch about a very ordinary person who hid a despicable secret. As an aside my heroine, the elementary school principal, Emily Taylor, also hid a dark past. Victim continued in somewhat the same vein, except the evil was born of greed and was partly perpetrated on the environment. Legacy is, at its heart, about many of the children who often caused me heartache as a teacher. Why does one child from terrible circumstances rise about it all, while the other becomes evil beyond all imagination? In Seventh Fire, I return to the scene of Emily’s secret.

My books are somewhat dark and tend to deal with very grim circumstances in life. (Similar to Minette Walters, I’d like to think.) Although that sounds perhaps very pessimistic and depressing, I am at heart an optimist. Thus writing mysteries is very satisfying because, in the end of my novels at least, good always triumphs. The bad guys are always caught and punished.

Catherine Astolfo is the author of The Emily Taylor Mysteries, published by Imajin Books. Her novels have been optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc. Catherine is a Past President of Crime Writers of Canada and a member of Sisters in Crime Toronto.



  1. Cathy, you are one dangerous person! And you've found the perfect path.

  2. Interesting post, Cathy. I, too, find evil and the human psyche fascinating and worry about what my readers think of me. I guess as long as they think we are good writers, nothing else much matters, right?

  3. Ain't it the truth, Lou? Always a wolf in sheep's clothing ha ha. Good point, Eileen - as long as they read our books, who cares? Besides, I like showing up all middle aged and mild, after they've read one of my books mwaaa ha ha.

  4. Wanting to understand that evil is a good bet for what drives many of us. Terrific article, Cathy!