Thu
Jan 26 2017 2:00pm

Q&A with Claudia Rowe, Author of The Spider and the Fly

Claudia Rowe is a current reporter for the Seattle Times that spent 5 years in correspondence with serial killer Kendall Francois—a man convicted of killing eight sex workers and piling their bodies in the attic of a house he shared with his mother and two sisters in Poughkeepsie, NY. The corresponding memoir/true crime tale, The Spider and the Fly, is the story of Claudia's obsession with the case and the result of her 5-year examination into the mind of a serial killer. 

While we here at CrimeHQ aren't serial killers, Claudia took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us as well! Read an exclusive interview with the author and reporter, and make sure to sign in a comment below for a chance to win a copy of this gripping true crime story! 


When did you realize that the Kendall Francois case would turn into a book? 

Pretty much from the moment I found myself standing in front of Kendall Francois’s home the morning after he’d confessed. For years I’d wanted to write about issues that The Spider and the Fly explores—cruelty, denial and the refusal to talk about decay in the center of town, under our very noses. As soon as I stood in front of that house, I had the very strong feeling that I’d walked into a story embodying all of those things. It was visceral, physical. 
 

Who is your favorite fictional crime-solving sleuth?

 I read mostly nonfiction now, but in younger days I devoured Ross Macdonald’s books, featuring the weary, somewhat depressive detective Lew Archer.
 

Tell us about some of your favorite true crime books. 

The true crime I like gets inside people or opens up worlds in the way of great fiction. My favorites are also forms of social commentary. I was captivated by The Executioner’s Song as a younger writer. More recently, I’ve been fascinated by People Who Eat Darkness, which depicts the Tokoyo underworld; One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norwayand Its Aftermath, an amazing examination of the political forces driving a mass murderer; Lost Girls, on sex workers in the internet age; and Blood Will Out, which examines the motivations of its author even more than his purported subject and tells a story of aspiration taken to extremes.
 

Between Serial, Making a Murderer, The Jinx, and others, true crime has never been more popular. Why do you think people can't get enough?

I think about this question constantly. And I think different things are at play for different people. For some, these tales provide a survival-story thrill—a sense of “What would you do?” if confronted with such a person, with the implication that by learning enough you can protect yourself. Others I think are reminded of traumas in their own lives, replaying them through these stories in a search for new answers. 

For me, it’s about trying to understand the logic involved—because there is almost always a logic to these acts. It may not be a logic that makes sense to us or is comprehensible in any standard sense, but the men (mostly) who commit these acts are saying something with their crimes. They are acting out a long chain of influences stretching back through their lives, and understanding this path—the question of “How do you get there?”—has mesmerized me most of my life.
 

It's hard not to draw comparisons to Clarice Starling when reading your bio. Did you know that you'd be entering a four-year conversation with a convicted serial killer when you first approached Francois? 

I had no idea at the beginning that the conversation between us would evolve into the powerfully formative relationship that it did. I thought, naively, that Francois would be happy to lay out his history for me and tie it all up with a nice, neat bow. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. But once I recognized that there were recognizably human aspects to him—his rage, loneliness, and paranoia, as well as his sense of humor and appreciation of the absurd—I was drawn in even more, I suspect, than I would have been if Francois had acted as I’d imagined at first.
 

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I hope people are moved to look closer at those who repel them, to push past revulsion and get beneath the surface. If more people truly felt seen, we might save ourselves a great deal of heartbreak. I’m surely not the first person to point this out, but the people we call monsters do possess varying degrees of humanity; and nice, normal folks are capable of inflicting great cruelty. 
 

What are you currently reading?

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, about New York in the ‘70s, when I was a kid.  
 

Describe The Spider and the Fly in five words.

An effort to understand darkness.
 

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Spider and the Fly Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/01/qa-with-claudia-rowe-author-of-the-spider-and-the-fly-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) January 26, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET February 9, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Claudia Rowe is an award-winning journalist who has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Woman’s Day, Yes! and Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger. Currently, Claudia is a staff writer at the Seattle Times. Her coverage of social issues, race, and violence has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, and the Journalism Center on Children & Families, which awarded her a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

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58 comments
John Smith
1. jsmith2jsmith
Sounds like an intriguing story, although I prefer things fictional and quaint and adorable.
Tracy Deveau
2. Sproutattack
I found Your Q&A with Author Claudia Rowe Intriguing and Riveting. I can't wait to read The Spider And The Fly. I am a Fan of CLaudia' works. I think Claudia is a Brave and Strong Woman to take on such a person and then be able to write about it.
Joanne Mielczarski
4. jtmswim
This sounds like an insightful look into the actions of a serial killer.
L Peters
5. leepcat
Thank you for this insightful interview. Can't wait to read The Spider and the Fly.
Deb Philippon
7. DebP
I enjoyed reading the interview. Wish me luck!
Kay Zarrugh
9. mskayz
I truly enjoy reading true crime. It is fascinating to learn the psychology behind the killer. I look forward to reading your book and enjoyed your personal insights!
Michele Lawrence
11. rlawrence110
I've never heard of this case. I'm looking forward to the book!
pearl berger
12. beach
Thanks for this captivating feature and giveaway.
Laura McLendon
15. LMcLendon
Describe The Spider and the Fly in five words.An effort to understand darkness.

WOW
LabRat517
17. LabRat517
This looks like a fascinating read. Writers can portray killers but hearing the real story is often more chilling than the best fiction.
Henry Ricardo
18. odedude
This sounds like a fascinating book. Another In Cold Blood?
Henry Ricardo
19. odedude
This sounds like a fascinating book. Another In Cold Blood?
Robin Weatherington
21. rawfish
I love non-fiction books! Pick Me Pick Me!
Deborah Dumm
22. deb730
This sounds like a book that I won't be able to put down.
Vernon Luckert
23. vl4095
Should be an interesting read, but a little dark perhaps.
lynette thompson
25. LYNETTE52
This sounds very scary, but hey who needs sleep. I would love to read it.
Janice Milliken
26. msjiva
Courage and curiosity-Ms Rowe had both!
28. Linda A
I also try to understand the mind of a killer.
Janet West
30. janetwest
True Crime is always stranger than fiction.
Janet West
30. janetwest
True Crime is always stranger than fiction.
susan beamon
31. susanbeamon
I have enjoyed many different true crime books, from the mashups taken from stories from the true crime magazines to the works of major writers. It's all interesting.
Lori Provenzano
32. Mountainesque
Noble effort to explain the inexplicable. Sounds like an intriguing though disturbing read.
Michael Carter
33. rubydog
This sounds really good!
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks ---
vickie dailey
35. kidcurry
great Q & A - I too feel the need to understand the criminal mind and why they do what they do.
Mary Ann Woods
42. puttputt1198eve
I really enjoy reading true crime books and this one sounds especially chilling.
Laurent Latulippe
43. krag48
Thank you for bringing my attention to this book.
Steven Epstein
45. KOSHERPICKLE
fascinating interview and the new book sounds fascinating. Would love to read it.
46. pegnittskoff
it boggles my mind that this person could have any human characteristics. I find you to be most brave. Are you sure it wasn't just a made up persona to appear normal?
Andrew Beck
47. queerbec
I remember this case. I was amazed that he could have gotten away with it for so long. I'm sure this book answers some of the questions I had at the time>
Saundra K. Warren
48. shortiew
I always wonder how anyone can do horrible things to another person
Karen Terry
49. bblol65
I like books about serial killers and your book sounds interesting.
50. volmann45
The lifestyle continues to facinate those of us 'normal' folks. However, who knows when someone's point will be broken....
Remy Tankel-Carroll
51. relita
I've been captivated by true crime stories for as long as I can remember. My favorites are ones that, like The Spider and the Fly, tell the story from the perpetrator's perspective. I can't wait to read this book!
Kathy Iwasaka
52. krbiwa
I always love the chance to find a new favorite author.
54. Polly Barlow
You really can't judge a book by its cover; people either.
Melissa Keith
55. melly801
I am a True Crime enthusiast. I would love to interview a serial killer and write a book. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I really want to win and read this book!! COME INTO MY PARLOR.......

PS. I have PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS and CITY ON FIRE in my TBR pile.
jean olaughlin
56. kerrigans
I think this book will be a must read! I always wished I would have gone to school to become a criminal profiler. I always wonder what led killers to become killers as this author said intrigues her.
L
57. LStirling
I've long been interested in the exploration of a kiler's mind and personality. The psychology behind why he does what he does. What makes him different from you and I. I definitely want to read this book!
zarah
58. zarahf
Truth is so often stranger than fiction. Looks good.
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