The Wizard of Oz and tornadoes: In all my travels, those are the two things people will think of immediately when I say I’m from Kansas. But when their comments bring up other connections to Kansas, I really perk up and start listening.
So it really caught my attention, as I’m reading Never Tell by Alafair Burke (set in New York City) when the author begins mentioning specific Kansas details.
Nothing too obvious, just a part of developing the backstory of this fictional New York detective. Things like the character living in Wichita, Kansas where her father was on the police force hunting a serial killer that eluded them for 30 years. Ding, Ding, Ding! While these details may not be meaningful to others, folks from around the Wichita area immediately begin to think of BTK, a serial killer who killed 10 people between 1974 and 1991.
Upon further exploration of the author’s website, I discover that as child, Burke’s family moved to Wichita. They had barely finished unpacking the boxes when police officers knocked on their door. There was a murderer targeting their neighborhood and already had claimed the lives of seven individuals.
30 years later, after the eventual arrest and conviction of Dennis Rader, Burke created a main character (and eventually a series) around a female police detective that was irrevocably changed and developed by these same tumultuous events that had marked Burke’s childhood.
You never know what you will find when you start asking about someone’s life experiences. Burke’s connection to Kansas developed interests and passion that drives her professional career. Sometimes the most interesting stories aren’t in between the covers of books but are the lives of those who write and inspire them.