-- Julie Summers, The Midwest Book Review Bookwatch, May 2013
From the Author
Answer started with a question: What would it be like to be the mother of someone like Ted Bundy? I was living in Tacoma, Washington, when Bundy was first accused of the murder of young women in the area. No one who knew him could believe that handsome, bright, personable Ted could be a killer. I had heard that Ted's mother worked as a librarian near where I was living. I never met her, but I would often think about her, wondering what it would like to have this bright, promising son accused out of the blue of murder. That became one genesis of the novel: I would create a character whose son was accused of murder.
Another character is Jean--a simple-wise naïf, seventeen, pregnant, Southern, on her own in Tacoma while her husband is serving in Viet Nam. She "imprints" on Inga at the library where they work, drawing her into an unusual friendship. The story unfolds when Ben, the son, kidnaps Jean and takes her with him on the lam.
Though Ben started out based on Bundy, at some point I decided I didn't want to write about a psychopath. I thought of my Ben as a more complex person, with factors which one might not be able to fathom. We can't always know why people--even ourselves--do the things we do.
The book's title, The Answer to Your Question, is deceptive, suggesting as it does that the book will actually provide answers. It differs from most mystery or crime novels, which satisfy readers in the end by providing such answers as who-done-it and why. The lack of answers resulted from my own sense of human nature. To me the greatest mystery is the human heart, and it can't be completely understood.
I read a piece in The New York Times by Andrew Solomon, reflecting on Adam Lanza and the New Town tragedy. He spent hundreds of hours interviewing the parents of Dylan Klebold, convinced if he dug deeply enough into their characters, he would understand why Columbine happened. He came to view them as not only inculpable, but as "admirable, moral, intelligent and kind people" whom he would gladly have had as parents himself. Knowing Tom and Sue Klebold only made Columbine "far more bewildering" and forced Solomon to acknowledge that "people are unknowable." When I read that, I understood better what was behind my novel, even if I hadn't always known it when I was writing it. We want answers because they make us feel we're in control, when so often in life we're not.