The Psychopath Next Door

By Thorne & Cross

There are all sorts of horrific monsters to write about, from ghosts to vampires to zombies and werewolves, but we think the most frightening thing of all is a living, breathing, human psychopath. Most supernatural monsters are easy to spot – you can see them coming and take appropriate action. You know what you’re up against. But psychopaths are so good at what they do that you might sleep next to one for decades and never even know it. They are consummate actors. The head of the company you work for may be a psychopath who is able to crush the competition and take his firm to the top without remorse. The surgeon who removed your appendix may be as unfeeling and cold as a snake, but that often makes him a better surgeon.
But it’s important to remember that most psychopaths and sociopaths do not commit murder. However, they are often found doing something shady, one way or another. Whether it’s a car salesman who convinces a little old lady to buy a lemon, or the realtor who talks you into buying a house riddled with termites and a backed-up cesspool, these folks are crooked. And they don’t feel a drop of remorse – how can they? They don’t even know what remorse is.
That type is plentiful. But the psychopath we want to talk about is the most invisible of all. As with the less dangerous psychopaths, power and control is about the only thing that motivates and excites them. But sometimes, scamming you into buying property in a swamp isn’t enough excitement for them. They might need to destroy your life … or take it. They seem like nice people and that’s why they’re extremely dangerous. They are invisible.
When writing our latest thriller, Mother, we wanted our psychopath to be the kind most people wouldn’t see coming. Priscilla Martin is not a likely candidate when one thinks of psychopaths. However, that is often the case. Psychopaths come in all shapes and sizes, and we deliberately crafted Priscilla into an innocuous figure – on the surface, that is.
Sure, Priscilla Martin has some control issues – she likes taking charge of all the neighborhood events and church activities, and is very persnickety about the way things are done – but she isn’t dangerous, is she? That remains to be seen by the readers, whom we invite to make up their own minds about what’s really going on at Mother’s house. But we sure had a good time creating this character and exploring all the various avenues she would travel in order to obtain what she wants most.
When developing a good psychopath, we recommend a few books that have really helped us out. The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout is an incredible read that will change the way you see the people around you. We also highly recommend The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. This book will teach you why you must learn to trust your instincts, and how you can deal with problematic, unbalanced, and potentially dangerous people. Thanks to these books, we no longer ignore those very early warning signs that tell us something is “off” about a person, and we’ve learned effective ways of disassociating ourselves from the ones we weren’t able to avoid. And that has helped us write about these virtually invisible monsters among us.
That being said, there are few things we enjoy more than creating fictional characters who are a few bricks short of a load. Writing about psychopaths allows us to really delve into the darker part of the human psyche, to analyze it, and to put it to good use in our fiction. And nowhere is this truer than in Mother, where we really brought the crazy home, so to speak, by making our psycho into the most beloved icon of all: the maternal figure.
And in researching Mother, we should add that, despite the sense of love and safety we generally associate with the word “mother,” we found no shortage of real-life motherhood-gone-wrong stories that had us gasping in shock and disbelief. Who could believe that a person’s worst nightmare could come in such an unlikely package? And that’s what we wanted to address in Mother. We wanted to ask the question: Where do you hide when the monsters all live at home?