December 25, 2014 / 2:11 PM / 5 years ago

Book Talk: Patricia Cornwell on writing about darkness, loss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the crime fiction realm, author Patricia Cornwell’s fame may be surpassed only by her brainchild and longtime heroine, forensics expert Kay Scarpetta.

In “Flesh and Blood,” Cornwell’s 22nd Scarpetta novel since the series began in 1990, Scarpetta tracks a mysterious sniper whose crimes seem tied to her.

The author said she’s already begun the next Scarpetta book while juggling other projects, including the crime drama pilot “Angie Steele” for CBS television.

Cornwell, 58, said her work is inspired by pain. Abandoned as a child by her father, she has also battled bipolar disorder and some lawsuits, including one that outed her as gay.

She spoke to Reuters about the character, coming out and the TV pilot.

Q: Why does Scarpetta resonate with readers?  

A: I think people enjoy the way her mind works. And she’s accessible. I think you’d want to have dinner with her. 

Q: Are her struggles informed by your own?

A: I am quite skilled at writing about loss, because I had my own loss, particularly my father, who left the home at age 5 and I was absolutely devastated. 

Q: You’ve said you lost readers when you created Lucy, a lesbian character. Have you gained them back as homosexuality has become more accepted? 

A: Twenty years ago, I did hear rumors of people who said they were never going to read my books again. But the other side of that is, you may get new people who weren’t your fans before. And that’s why I feel it’s a big mistake for writers to shy away if something might offend people.

Q: Is Angelina Jolie still on board to play Scarpetta in a film adaptation?  

A: She was attached to this in 2009, and we’ve been in script development for the last five years. I’m not saying she’s not doing it, but I’m also not saying she is.

Q: Will your CBS pilot be as gritty as your novels? 

A: It’ll be pretty dark. But I also think there’s some room for some levity, a little bit of comedy.

Q: Does your dark subject matter ever depress you? 

A: Yeah. There’s a key to that. If you’re going to go dark, then you’ve got to have an element of suspense to it. If you keep people on the edge of their seats suspense-wise, their curiosity overwhelms the feeling of depression. I don’t want to depress people.

Editing by Patricia Reaney and David Gregorio

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