Get to know true crime writer Cathy Pickens & other North Carolina authors

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Charlotte resident Cathy Pickens is the author of the Blue Ridge Mountain Mysteries, formerly the Southern Fried Series and Carolinas True Crime Stories. Her foray into true crime has led her to believe that North Carolina has more serial women poisoners than anywhere in the nation. 

Pickens is a lifelong native of the Carolinas and has worked in education, law, and leadership development. 

We spoke with Pickens by phone to ask her all of our burning questions. 

Our chat with NC author Cathy Pickens

Good Info News Wire: Where do you write?

Pickens: I always had this fantasy about a cabin in the woods somewhere, but I write everywhere: the sofa, my living room, the desk in my study, the table upstairs in the guest bedroom. I can write on airplanes. I’ve written on ocean liners. You have to be able to write everywhere, at least I do.

GINW: Who reads your first draft?

Pickens: I have a group of friends. We started together about 25 to 30 years ago. And we grew up together as mystery writers. One in particular, a professor at UNC Charlotte, still reads my stuff first. One of my sisters, I have three, has quite a good developmental eye for a book. 

Everyone needs an editor and everybody needs other eyes on what they do, just to catch things that don’t make sense, need to be flushed out or cut. I never send out anything that someone hasn’t read. I’m quite dependent on the kindness and genius of my friends.

GINW: Why do people enjoy true crime?

Pickens: By far, in true crime, women are the largest demographic (of consumers). It’s like 80% or 90%. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this: A lot of it has to do with the sense that we need to understand and recognize these people so we can protect ourselves and the people we love.

I think there’s also that tiny little seed of, do I have that in me? And we all do. We don’t acknowledge that part of this.

There’s a part of our brain, that is activated by the emotions and circumstances in fiction, as well as, in nonfiction that lights up just as if we were experiencing that emotion or situation in real life. Reading is rehearsal for life. I don’t get chased down a dark alley by a monster in real life, thank goodness. But I can activate the parts of my brain and my neuro system as if I were. So I’ll be ready for it. 

GINW: What’s something readers may not know about you?

Pickens: My other vocational option was as a church musician. I worked my way through college and law school as a church musician: organist and choir director. 

Pickens will speak at a Book Buyers event in Charlotte on May 4 at 7:30 p.m. 

Photo courtesy of Cathy Pickens.

Bookstore events featuring North Carolina authors

As you prepare your summer reading list, remember the award-winning authors who hail from North Carolina: Sarah Addison Allen, Taylor Brown, Hannah Carlson, AJ Hartley, Jason Mott, Etaf Rum, James Spoonhour, and many more. 

Independent bookstores and local libraries feature local authors throughout the year. Pair your new favorite book with an IRL (in real life) introduction to the author. Often the events are free and open to the public — check the links for details. 

The Country Bookstore, Southern Pines

Tommy Tomlinson, “Dogland”

May 15, 5-6 p.m.

Mesha Maren, “Shae”

May 22, 11 a.m.-noon

Page 158 Books, Wake Forest

Lee Clark, “Forbidden Relics”

May 5, 2 p.m.

Dr. Lauren Bridges, “Take Me Or Leave Me,” and Laura C. Rader, “Hatfield 1677”
May 16, 6 p.m.

Pages Books & Coffee, Mount Airy

Patti Frye Meredith, “South of Heaven”

May 19, 2-4 p.m. 

Park Road Books, Charlotte

Tommy Tomlinson, “Dogland”

May 23, 7 p.m.

Kathy Izard, “Trust the Whisper”
May 30, 6:30 p.m.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton, “Shake it Off”
June 8, 11 a.m.

Alissa DeRogatis, “Call it What You Want”

June 18, 7 p.m.

Plott Hound Books, Burnsville 

Shannon Hitchcock, “Of Words and Water”

May 3, 5:30 p.m.

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh

Karey Harwood, “Wake”
May 21, 7-8 p.m.

Pete Candler, “A Deeper South”
May 28, 7-8 p.m.

MK Asante, “Nephew”
May 30, 7-8 p.m.

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  • Vanessa Infanzon

    Vanessa Infanzon moved from New York to North Carolina for college and never left. When she’s not writing, she’s paddle boarding on a river.

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