Author Interview: Marie Sutro – Dark Obsessions Or Getting Stuck In(to) Traffick

November 7, 2022




Flawed but formidable San Francisco Police Detective Kate Barnes is forced to confront an unimaginable evil in Dark Obsessions — the follow-up to Marie Sutro‘s debut, Dark Associations. Reeling from the trauma of her last case, San Francisco Police Detective Kate Barnes ventures outside Seattle into the rugged reaches of the Olympic Peninsula, hoping to heal the present by resolving the past. When the ravaged corpse of an unidentified teen is discovered, her search for personal peace takes a back seat to the quest for justice.

Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling author. In 2018, she won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction for Dark Associations. Her stories are inspired by her family’s legacy. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the San Francisco Police Department.


When, and under what circumstances, did the idea for your latest book come to you?

The idea to have a story featuring sex trafficking occurred to me years before I ever wrote the book. While travelling to Amsterdam on business, I came across an article reporting that a percentage of the women in the red light district were sex trafficked. I later walked through the area, where I was profoundly impacted by the notion that some of the human beings on display in the storefront windows may not be there by choice.


Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?

Once I decided it was the right topic for the second book in the Kate Barnes series, I jumped headlong into the research and then the writing. As one might imagine, the research into sex trafficking was extremely difficult. I often found myself having to take breaks, or risk breaking myself.


How did you conduct your research or other preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more academic or desk-based?

When it comes to research, I’m a hybrid of desk jockey and on-the-street investigator. I usually start with a considerable amount of print and digital sources, but inevitably end up in the field. For Dark Obsessions, I traveled to the Olympic Peninsula to verify locations, interview local law enforcement, and get a general feel for the area. In the past I have visited a crime lab, a shooting range, and other law enforcement related workplaces.


If resources (money, time, whatever) were no object, what additional groundwork would you like to have completed?

I still wish I had been able to travel to Borneo. It remains on my must-see list.


When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone or use of language), or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?

There are many writers whose work I admire, but one of my favorites is Stephen King. I am fascinated by the way he describes the darker side of humanity in such poignant and powerful ways. Stylistically, I also draw inspiration from the cinematic style of Alfred Hitchcock. One of my favorite scenes is from Spellbound where he brings the audience to the edge of their seats in anticipation, only to cut away to black before the last possible moment, leaving the audience to fill in the blank.


What’s in your to-read pile – and what upcoming book (other than yours!) are you most looking forward to?

My to-read pile is extremely eclectic. There is nonfiction, historical fiction, horror, some classics and everything in between. The book I am looking forward to most in the immediate future is Kingdom of Bones by James Rollins.


Do you have a favourite character that you have created? Or if you’re writing non-fiction, do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating?

Picking a favorite character is as hard as picking a favorite child. If pressed, I would have to choose my lead character, Kate Barnes. Like all of us, she is a flawed human being. Yet her flaws never quite dim the brightness of her strengths—the most important of which is her ability to grow and evolve. Despite all she has been through she still gets up ever day with a dedication to making the world a better place.