• More than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year.
• Homicide is the leading cause of death for children under four.
• Eleven women are on death row in the United States for killing their children
These statistics, which I learned about through a news article from the American Anthropological Association, stopped me on a dime. They were reported in relation to a Texas news story about a mother who’d just killed her two children. I couldn’t shake those numbers or the inevitable question that follows: What would make a mother turn against her own child?
That question was the start of my journey into the fictional story of Janeology. Originally, the ideas were just a curiosity about what that mother was doing just hours before she committed the act. Did the Cheerios spill all to hell? Did she have a fight with her husband? Was she simply in a psychotic moment, and if so, were there any signs leading up to that moment?
Sometimes when an idea lodges in your psyche, you can’t shake it. So I began making notes for a larger story. I had already been writing about a man whose estranged wife was stalking him. I began to combine these ideas by asking the question, why is he so afraid of her? What does he know about her?
And because everything informs the writers’ life, I brought my own personal passion for genealogy into the story. I never knew my own grandparents. Growing up, I was always looking at the pictures of my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother (pictured here) and wondering about their personalities and what I might have inherited from them. I wondered what were their childhoods were like and in what ways did that shape the way they parented my mother and father, which might have influenced the way they would parent me – and ultimately, how I might parent my own children.
So I finally landed upon the idea that I could write about a character – about one troubled woman – from the perspective of her genealogy. I could somehow research her nature and nurture and get to know more about her through the people who shared her gene pool. And in doing so, I would unearth some of the answers about how she could go from suburban housewife one day to headline-making criminal the next. Thus, Janeology is a cautionary tale about one man struggling to achieve an understanding about Jane, the wife who murdered his son.
If you’d like to view Jane’s full family tree chart, or see more of those old photographs of my descendants that spurred my curiosity, take a look at my “About Janeology” photo album at www.karenharringtonbooks.com.
Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY. You can visit her website at www.karenharringtonbooks.com.