“In the inquiry, every detail is relevant. You never know where you will find meaning in the minutia that illuminates the whole.”
This is a tenet of Victimology, the study of the life of a victim that is routinely used to help solve crimes. It is also the focus of Through the Heart, a blend of love story, tragedy, and mystery told from three very different perspectives: Nora’s, Timothy’s, and the findings of a police report.
From the beginning of the novel, we know this much: Someone will die. But over the course of the story we also come to know Nora and Timothy, a couple who, against the odds, manage to find one another and fall in love. Nora works as a barista in a Starbucks knockoff in a tiny town in Kansas, caring for her terminally ill mother; Timothy is a money manager on Wall Street, where he oversees his family’s millions. They are the most improbable couple in the world, and yet fate brings them, slowly and not-so-gently, together. And then destiny strikes again, and as definitively: with a death.
Kate Morgenroth is a powerful storyteller and the practiced author of two thrillers in addition to other novels. Here she combines the genres of romance and mystery and plays skillfully with elements of narrative fiction. With Through the Heart she takes a traditional whodunit and makes it a modern contemplation on fate, love, friendship, and family.
The idea for having information about police investigations within the novel came from the place where all my best ideas come from—my mother. Well, it wasn’t exactly her idea, but when she read the first draft, she mentioned that the book didn’t have as strong a mystery element as my last book (because the early version didn’t include the research chapters) and as a result of her feedback, I ended up adding in those chapters. So they were not part of the background research—they were researched specifically to be put in the book in that format.
A certain amount of research is critical to make the story believable, however the most important component of believability is, Do you believe the characters and their choices?
Q. Your research and your novel points out that most victims know their murderers. Did you feel it was important to point this out to your readers? Did you develop a greater sympathy or even empathy for victims and/or their killers?
I wanted to point out that most victims know their murderers because that fact highlights a big theme that emerged—how difficult close relationships can be. Of course in normal life, a difficult relationship doesn’t usually end in murder. But when it happens, it’s the result of the same emotions we all feel, but just more extreme. Once I looked at it from that perspective, I had a lot of sympathy for both victim and killer. (Though of course it’s easy to have sympathy for the victim, harder to do that for a killer. But I think that no one would hurt another person if they weren’t suffering themselves.)
Q. Timothy and Nora both end up believing in fate, and it plays a large part in one of the themes of the novel. Why were you interested in exploring the subject of fate? Do you believe in fate yourself?
When I write books, I almost always start with a question that I don’t actually have an answer to. This was no exception. I don’t have an answer to the question of what role fate plays in our lives. I don’t believe in fate in the classic sense—that it’s all planned out and we live our lives as if we were following a script. But I don’t think the universe is random either.
My ideas about fate are mostly inspired by the scientific breakthroughs of the last century, including Einstein’s mind-bending revelations about time and even stranger discoveries that have come from quantum mechanics. Science has proven that the universe is much stranger than we can fathom. I like a quote from Einstein where he says, “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” What is the meaning of fate if one of the world’s greatest minds says that past, present, and future are only illusions?
Q. What’s the most enjoyable part of writing a mystery novel? Do you know the climax and resolution before you begin writing? If you do, does it ever change as you’re further into drafts of the novel?
My favorite thing about writing a mystery is the logistical challenge of giving the hints in a way that a reader could figure it out (though hopefully most don’t) and when the reader reaches the conclusion it is both surprising and yet somehow obvious when looking back at the story. Of course when you give enough clues so that it is possible to figure out the mystery, there will always be some people who do. But my books are never just about the mystery, so my hope is that those who figure out the mystery enjoy the rest of the story as it unfolds. In a way the story unfolds for me as well as I’m writing. I always know certain key elements from the beginning, but I also leave room for surprises.
Q. You write both adult and young adult fiction. Which do you prefer writing? What are you working on at the moment?
The funny thing is that I don’t make much of a division in my head between adult and young adult. Really the only difference for me between the two is the age of the main characters. When I write YA books, I have teenage protagonists. For adult books, I write adult protagonists. But I hear from lots of teenagers who have read my adult books, and adults who have read my YA books.
It’s not that I like one more than another, I just like the contrast, so I tend to alternate between writing adult books and YA books. It keeps it interesting.