What inspired the unique plot device you use in Darkly Dreaming Dexter?
I don’t know, I just thought that if I was going to tell a killer’s story from his own point of view, I had to do something to make him seem vulnerable. Serial killers are usually so sure of themselves, and I needed him to have some self-doubt.
Dexter is extremely charming for a murderer. What is it about Dexter that is so appealing?
Part of it is the bad boy thing, I think. But he’s also very smart and funny and honest, which can be endearing traits. And don’t forget that he tells you several times, he’s worked really hard to learn how to be charming. He’s gotten good at it.
Do you think part of Dexter's appeal is the secret vigilantism in people's hearts, the thirst for justice without legal trappings?
That’s definitely part of it. We’re all frustrated with our legal system, and we’ve all butted heads with the huge difference between real justice and legal justice. But there’s also a sense that Dexter is catching the people that slip through the cracks, and protecting us in ways that the cops and courts can’t.
Rationally, I know it isn't true, but Dexter has many characteristics of an "other", a different species altogether. In any case, is he not the perfect sociopath?
He certainly thinks of himself as an “other;” he doesn’t really understand Humans and feels like he has always watched them from outside. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect sociopath, but Dexter has a very large flaw – he is nearly crippled by The Harry Code of Ethics, which prevents him from doing things that a normal, rational sociopath would do without hesitation.
Dexter has honed a careful persona, not likely to be suspected of the crimes. How does the sudden interest of the female lead detective jeopardize his profile?
His artificial “daytime” personality can’t really stand close scrutiny. It’s really lucky for him that he avoids intimacy, because anyone who really got close to him would be bound to notice that he was faking it; sooner or later he’d hit a false note– like the fact, for example, that he doesn’t really like sex. So when the female detective makes a move on him it’s very dangerous. He has to decide whether to push her away, which is a bad move politically, and letting her get close, which might allow her to unmask him.
Why did you choose Miami as a location for the crime sprees?
I grew up in Miami and still think of it as my home. Unfortunately, it’s the Miami of 25 years ago that’s really my home. So I set the book there because it’s a place I know and love. The fact that it still has a reputation as a place where Dexter is plausible was a bonus.
Dexter’s step-father, Harry, believes that whatever horror happened when Dexter was three-years old set the course of the boy’s life. Why did Harry believe he could direct Dexter’s negative energies?
Because he thought he got there early enough to mold Dexter somewhat. Harry was smart enough to know there was no “cure” for what Dexter is, but he was enough of an optimist to think that he could develop a bond that would shape Dexter’s personality enough to make him a positive force – a bad guy for the good team.
In the beginning, Dexter is calm and cool, but loses some of his poise as events spiral out of control. Why does this other murderous presence so disturb and excite him?
Being a sociopathic serial killer is a very lonely existence. The idea that there might be somebody out there doesn’t just do the same things but does them in the same way is a little like Robinson Crusoe seeing the footprint on the beach. It’s a signal that he might not be alone.
Dexter calls his alter ego “the Dark Passenger”. Won’t Dexter have trouble controlling this aspect of himself, once unleashed? Or is the urge so strong that it is out of his control?
The urge is nearly overwhelming – and that “nearly” is of critical importance. A lot of that ability to control it comes from Harry, of course. But there is also the fact that unleashing the Dark Passenger is a lot like having sex. Nobody can do it forever, and once it’s done the Dark Passenger – like the rest of us – is content to wait until next time.
Dexter is honest about his lack of emotions, that he pretends to experience the same feelings as others. How does he fool people so easily, especially women?
Most people spend so much time and energy and focus worrying how others perceive them that they don’t notice what those others are actually doing. And if somebody is polite, attractive and charming, we tend to believe that they must be nice. Besides, you really can fool most of the people all of the time.
Do these human monsters, these murderers really recognize each other, as when Dexter “sees” the nurse caring for his step-father? What characteristic do they recognize?
I haven’t seen any evidence that this really happens. I just thought it would be kind of cool if it did.
Another serial killer is duplicating Dexter’s methods. Is this killer Dexter’s nemesis or a potential playmate?
Both, of course. And much more, too.
Dexter is somewhat unnerved when his coworkers mention that he has “a feel for these things”. Has Dexter been careless about covering his tracks in this regard?
Not really careless, although he certainly doesn’t have a lot of respect for human ability to notice things. But he does decide right away after hearing this that it’s time to make a few mistakes.
Dexter has rigid ethical standards for selecting his victims. Why doesn’t he take issue with the random choices of the other murderer? Unlike Dexter’s victims, these women aren’t inherently evil people.
In the first place because he truly doesn’t care, and in the second because the whole style of these killings is very intriguing.
Does Dexter’s half-sister, the policewoman who wants to be a detective, appreciate his “unique” qualities? Does she sometimes turn a blind eye to the obvious?
She has been struggling with the obvious for a number of years. She knows he has slightly off in some way, but the nickle just hasn’t dropped. She loves him and doesn’t want to believe he’s capable of being like that.
Would Dexter be just a common killer without his murderous raison d’etre?
Dexter would never be common – heaven forbid. But without Harry he would choose his victims very differently, probably more in line with whoever he sees as the key figure in his early traumatic experience.
Once the copycat killings begin, Dexter experiences strange dreams or fugues. Are they triggered by anticipation or anxiety? Some other dark force?
They’re triggered by a semi-psychic bond to the killer.
The crime scenes are virtually bloodless, remarkable for such violent crimes. How is this significant for Dexter?
He doesn’t really like blood – it’s obvious this other killer doesn’t either.
Why does the lead detective’s second-in-command, the grim Sgt. Doakes, have such hostility towards Dexter?
Doakes knows Dexter for what he is and wants to kill him for it.
Can we expect to see Dexter in another book?
Absolutely – and Debbie and Doakes, too, along with Vince Masuoka and Captain Matthews and a couple of new and interesting people on both sides.
Are you currently working on another project?
I have just finished the first draft of the second Dexter book. I also have a couple of other non-Dexter projects I’m tinkering with.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
I have always told aspiring writers that the most important thing is to try to do something else instead, because it’s a lonely, miserable, uncertain and unlikely way to make a living. But if all else fails and you have to write, make sure you get really good at some marketable skill like arc-welding or computer repair so you can make a living and set your own hours.
Contributing reviewer Luan Gaines conducted her interview with
Jeff Lindsay via email for curledup.com. Click here to read her review of Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Jeff Lindsay lives in South Florida with his wife and three daughters. He is currently finishing a second novel featuring Dexter.