Katy Brent, the bold and fearless author of “How to Kill Men and Get Away With It,” has taken the literary world by storm with her provocative storytelling. In this exclusive interview, we dive deep into her inspiration and motivations behind her debut novel, exploring themes of revenge, blurred morality, and justice. Join us as we unravel the mind of a writer unafraid to push the boundaries of convention. Fine the book review HERE.
Mili: “How to Kill Men and Get Away With It” is a gripping and provocative title that immediately grabs the reader’s attention. Can you share the inspiration behind choosing this title and how it encapsulates the themes of your book?
Katy: The title was probably one of the things that caused us the most angst before publication. We knew it was provocative – which can be a good thing and a bad thing – and could possibly attract the wrong sort of attention. My original title was How To Kill Men and Influence People, which is a play on the famous book by Dale Carnegie (How To Make Friends and Influence People) but my publisher decided to change it. We had a few other options but went with How To Kill Men and Get Away With It after some focus groups. So there was never any real inspiration on my part, I’m afraid. I was pleased we got to keep the ‘How To Kill Men’ bit as I think this is the real essence of the book.
Mili: The protagonist in your novel takes matters into her own hands and becomes involved in a series of killings. What motivated you to explore such a dark and unconventional narrative, and what challenges did you face while delving into this psychological territory?
Katy: When I originally started writing the book it was part of a Faber Academy course I was doing. The original idea was for something much more frivolous than how it turned out. I wanted this sort of Buffy character who was taking out men who’d treated her friends badly. But while I was writing it, it became clear to me that there was a bigger message in Kitty’s story – what would the world look like if a woman killed men and walked away from those killings, like so many men have done before. I revisited American Psycho which is obviously pitch black in terms of dark narrative and wondered how I could explore a female character moving within that nightmarish vibe Easton Ellis captured. Some criticism of HTKM is that it isn’t realistic and Kitty would never have got away with the murders, but I think the same can be said of Patrick Bateman. It was never meant to be a book seeped in realism.
Obviously, Kitty never has gotten away with it because she’s a woman and we live in a patriarchy. In terms of motivation, there was a lot going on while I was planning and writing (and rewriting).
I’d seen and read so many TV shows and books which begin with either the murder of a woman or the discovery of a woman’s body, so I wanted to flip that narrative a bit. In terms of challenges, the concept of a female serial killer isn’t a new one. Readers will be familiar with books like the Mind F*ck series, the Sweetpea series, the Maestra series (which are all brilliant) so it was important to put my own stamp on the idea. Which I hopefully did with Kitty’s tone, her jaded view of men, her absolute love for her friends and her influencer lifestyle. As well as being a killer she struggles with the same issues that many women do – image concerns, relationship concerns, generational family trauma. I just also thought that a vegan serial killer could be hilarious.
Mili: Revenge appears to be a central theme in your book. Could you elaborate on the protagonist’s journey and her thirst for vengeance? How does her character evolve throughout the story?
Katy: Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read it, I think the Kitty we meet at the beginning of the story is very different to the woman at the end. When we first see her, Kitty is unsatisfied with her life. She seems to be living the kind of Gen Z dream where she’s famous for being famous, has enough money to never have to worry about it etc but she’s incredibly unfulfilled. Her first murder doesn’t come from a place of vengeance, it’s an accident, but it reawakens something inside her and we realise she’s been sitting on a lot of rage for a long time. Some of this is societal and some of it is her personal backstory and they meet in this sort of conviction that taking out the bad guys is her calling. But as we move through the narrative, Kitty’s inner life changes. She meets and falls in love with Charlie who epitomises good for her and she hopes the love of a good man can stop her blood thirst. When it doesn’t’ …. Well, this is something I’m hoping to explore in the future. How does it work out for Kitty when the one thing she hoped could ‘save’ her doesn’t? Do we all feel a bit let down by love?
Mili: The line between right and wrong is often blurred in your novel, as the protagonist commits certain acts yet manages to elude capture. What kind of moral dilemmas do you hope to evoke in your readers through her actions?
Katy: I guess it’s that question about justice and who reserves the right to dole it out. In this book (and in certain real life cases) justice isn’t served to those who deserve it, which is partly why Kitty takes matters into her own hands. We’re bombarded with stories from childhood about superheroes who basically do this same thing and are applauded for it, but does it really work like that? It also raises questions of privilege, Kitty is overlooked by the police because she’s essentially rich, white and pretty. Does this mirror real life? I think we all have our opinions on that.
Mili: “How to Kill Men and Get Away With It” blends elements of crime, thriller, and psychological drama. How did you manage to weave these genres together to create a unique reading experience?
Katy: It’s also got comedy and romance vibes! Books that are hard to pigeon hole in a specific genre have always been fascinating to me. I love a bit of genre bending. I really wanted to explore a dark and twisted narrative in the sort of rom-com voice. I wasn’t sure how it would work when I set out and worried that it could trivialise the seriousness of the content. But I think it worked out well. I think having the comedy was really important and offset the sheer horror of what actually goes on day to day in real life.
Mili: Your book raises intriguing questions about justice, consequences, and the limits of morality. What conversations do you hope your readers will have after finishing the book?
Katy: I think that grey area of morality that I hope would get people talking. Do two wrongs ever make a right? Is an eye for an eye morally (if not legally) acceptable when justice has let someone down? And if it is, who – if anyone – has the right to serve that justice. I’d like people questioning if Kitty is a hero (this is how she sees herself) or just a psychopath.
Mili: The title and premise of your novel are undeniably attention-grabbing. How do you navigate the line between shocking your readers and providing them with a thought-provoking and meaningful story?
Katy: For me, the themes in this book, have allowed for both of those aspects. The themes are extremely heavy and, I would hope, thought-provoking. I’m not sure how far I’d agree that it is overly shocking though. The most shocking part for me is the level of VAWG, which is not something I’ve had to fictionalise.
Mili: Could you share some insights into your writing process for “How to Kill Men and Get Away With It”? How did you create a balance between crafting a compelling plot and delving into the psychological depths of your characters?
Katy: I always find questions about writing process quite hard to answer so sorry if this doesn’t make much sense. I started writing How To Kill Men as part of a novel-writing course I was doing and had the huge benefit of my peers and a wonderful tutor reading and reviewing sections as I went along. Following the course I asked the tutor – novelist Julia Crouch – if she would continue mentoring me while I finished the manuscript. This was invaluable as she helped guide me with plot points and suggested places where it wasn’t working and what I could do to fix it.
It was very much a learning experience for me as I’d not written anything of this length before. It was really good to have someone experienced at long-form storytelling to work closely with me. I found the character much easier to navigate than plot.
Mili: Given the controversial and bold nature of your book’s themes, what message or takeaway do you hope readers will ultimately gather from experiencing your story?
Katy: Personally, I’d really like men to read this novel and take on board some of the messages in it as women already know them all too well as we live them every day.
Mili: With your debut novel making waves, what can readers expect from your future works? Are there any specific themes or genres you’re eager to explore further?
Katy: My next book, The Murder After the Night Before, is out in February. It’s a stand-alone and explores the concept of female shame along with VAWG. I think writing about the experience of being a woman is something that comes naturally to me so I would expect any future works to involve this theme in some shape or form. In terms of genre, I think I will always enjoy plucking a trope out of its narrative comfort zone and dropping it somewhere unexpected!
Mili: Tell me about your new novel in short, I mean the plot, why people should read this, what should they expect in this?
Katy: So The Murder After The Night Before is about Molly who wakes up the morning after her work Christmas Party to discover some terrible things happened the night before, but she can’t remember anything. She finds out she’s gone viral for all the wrong reasons. It’s essentially a murder mystery but it also looks at themes of female shame and misogyny on social media, grief and toxic masculinity to name a few. It’s very different from How To Kill Men, but there are a few similarities in terms of theme. It’s also (hopefully!) still funny in a dark way.
Mili: Your first novel depicted friendship, childhood trauma, very casually and elegantly you handled them, any struggle while writing that?
Katy: Thank you! It wasn’t actually too much of a struggle to write those parts. I’m lucky enough to have a very solid group of friends who I’ve known for over 25 years so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to write about close female friendships. The trauma was trickier and I wanted it to be revealed slowly, like peeling away the layers of an onion. It’s important that the reader learns about what happened to Kitty to be able to full understand her and I just hoped it didn’t come across as too casual. I think, with Kitty, she’s casual about it because she’s lived with it for her entire life so it doesn’t just define her, it is her. If that makes sense. I think we as humans can be quite casual about the stuff that’s always been there.
Mili: A though just came into my mind, do you like horror books? your favorite horror book?
Katy: I don’t really read horror books to be honest, although thinking about it, I suppose what constitutes as ‘horror’ is quite subjective. I enjoy BA Paris novels which, while they aren’t horror like Stephen King books, I find the themes and the everyday terror pretty horrifying. Behind Closed Doors is probably one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. I find that idea of unthinkable things going on behind white picket fences really chilling. Maybe I need to read more horror books actually because I’m a bit of a horror movie junkie. Especially B-movie monster movies. I love a monster movie.
Mili: And finally; tell me your favorite 5 books? mixed genres 🙂
Katy: This is hard and changes all the time!
I absolutely love the very first Joe Goldberg book – You by Caroline Kepnes. It was actually after reading this that I started to seriously think about creating a kind of female Joe-esque character. For me, that book is just a modern masterpiece. It’s a real subversion of the ‘nice guy’ trope we’re so familiar with in films, TV and fiction.
I recently read My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell and it’s become one of my favourite books. I love the way she explores the long-lasting effects of abuse of trust. It’s extremely poignant and beautifully written.
I also really love Believe Me by JP Delaney which is another psychological thriller. What I love most about this book is how twisty it is, you really never know where you are with the protagonist. Or the suspected murderer. Or the police. I also love that the mystery is built around Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. It’s really clever.
A bit of a different genre for me but a friend gave me a copy of Paul Auster’s In The Country of Last Things for my birthday a couple of years ago and it has become one of my favourite books. I read it while we were in that weird post-Covid place and it’s stunning how prescient it still is despite being written almost 40 years ago.
I’ve recently re-read Rivals by Jilly Cooper too, again quite a different genre for me, but I just love it. It’s so fun. She really nails that ensemble cast of characters so brilliantly which is a huge skill. I think there are something like seven or eight prominent characters in the book who all have their own individual arcs and even the secondary characters are so well-developed. I’m really excited for the TV adaptation.
Katy Brent’s literary journey is one marked by fearless storytelling and a willingness to challenge societal norms. As we eagerly await her upcoming release, “The Murder After the Night Before,” readers can anticipate another gripping tale that delves into issues of shame, misogyny, and grief, all with Katy Brent’s signature touch of dark humor. In this ever-evolving literary landscape, Katy Brent stands as an author unafraid to chart her own course and challenge readers to question the world around them.