How I Came to Write Killer Story

Cover of Killer Story

I began writing Killer Story because I’m a huge fan of crime podcasts like Serial and Accused and crime documentaries like Making a Murderer and Jinx. At the same time, I’m a skeptic of these shows. I’m intrigued by how reporters sometimes omit key details or distort the truth in order to tell a better story. In this ultra-competitive era, getting clicks and followers can be more important than getting the truth.

Another inspiration for Killer Story is all the men and women I know in their twenties who are fiercely dedicated to going into journalism despite the huge obstacles they face. Journalism is such a rapidly changing field, with newspapers dying, internet news sites unable to find workable economic models, and decent paying jobs increasingly hard to get. These aspiring young journalists have a sense of mission that I admire. Their passion refuses to be denied.

A journalist, hard at work
A journalist, hard at work

I also found inspiration in my own life. All TV writers get fired at least once in their careers, or to use the industry parlance, they “don’t get their contracts renewed”; and that has happened to me as well. There are many reasons TV writers don’t get renewed – often it’s as simple as, there’s a new head writer who wants to hire people they’ve worked with before. But whatever the reason, losing your job is painful.

And it happens all the time in the newspaper industry. Will Doolittle, a reporter for the Glens Falls Post-Star, told me that when he started out twenty years ago, they had fifty reporters; now they’re down to eight. All over the country, newspapers are laying people off or going under.

So I created a main character in Killer Story, Petra Kovach, who is about to get laid off from yet another journalism job. She obsesses about all the things that just about everyone I know who’s ever lost their job, including myself, stresses about: Did I choose the right path in life? Is what happened somehow my fault? Will I ever get a job in the industry again?

Logo of Netflix series Making a Murderer.
I liked this series at first, then came to question it.

But Petra gets back up off the mat and keeps on fighting.

 As I’ve indicated, Petra is based partly on me; I identify with her feelings and forgive all her flaws. She’s a young woman who’s trying to make it in a very difficult business. Petra is also inspired by a brilliant young woman I know who, like Petra, is a first-generation immigrant with big dreams from an economically disadvantaged family. She’s working her way through law school now.

The murder victim in Killer Story is Olivia Anderson, a Harvard freshman and alt-right YouTuber. Olivia is inspired by the alt-right media figure Tomi Lahren. In the book, we meet her before she becomes a controversial young celebrity. While I’m not at all a fan of the political views that Olivia adopts, I found it intriguing to speculate about all the pressures that might have transformed this sweet, caring young girl into somebody who is, on the surface at least, a pretty unlikeable person.

Writing Killer Story gave me a renewed, healthy skepticism of the news media, along with a new appreciation for journalists like Petra who overcome all kinds of obstacles to bring us the truth about the world. I hope you are as captivated by Petra as I am, and that you don’t guess the killer until the very end! You can preorder Killer Story here.

About Admin

Matt Witten Posted on

Matt Witten is a TV writer, novelist, playwright and screenwriter who has been writing for television for the past twenty years, including such shows as House, Pretty Little Liars, Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Medium, JAG, The Glades, Homicide, Judging Amy, and Women’s Murder Club. He has written four mystery novels that were published by Signet: Breakfast at Madeline’s, Grand Delusion, Strange Bedfellows, and The Killing Bee. His movie Drones was produced by Whitewater Films. His novel The Necklace will be published by Oceanview Publications in September, 2021, and has been optioned for film by Appian Way and Cartel Pictures, with Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producer.

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