Interview With Author Dr. Joni Johnston

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

Hi, I’m Dr. Joni Johnston, a clinical/forensic psychologist, private investigator and the author of Serial Killers: 101 Questions True Crime Fans Ask. I live in southern California, where I can often be found either traveling to various prisons and jails to evaluate inmates who are up for parole or in court testifying about what I’ve found. I have four kids, 2 Russian blue cats, and am a mountain person who happens to live close to the beach.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

The idea for this book came from my Psychology Today blog readers, who, over the years, would write and ask me various questions about serial killers as I often write articles about the psychology of crime and violence, including serial murderers. A few years ago, I started keeping a list of them and then, when Covid hit, I decided to organize the questions and answers and – voila! – a book was born. Unfortunately, the answers to the questions in my book come from stories of real-life serial killers who’ve wreaked havoc on the communities in which they lived (or travelled to). But there’s some heroic stories in this book as well, especially from the victims and their families who’ve sometimes gone to extraordinary measures to put a killer away, support other crime victims, or pass legislation to protect others. One family pretty much single-handedly tracked down the serial killer who murdered their daughter/sister!

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

Being a forensic psychologist first and foremost, I have a hard time seeing myself as “creative” but I guess my inspiration for this book as well as the other writing/media stuff always starts with curiosity. Maybe I notice some commonalities among certain inmates and wonder if there is research that supports what I’m seeing. I was being interviewed on a few documentaries about serial killers about a year ago and I got so angry and sad reading about the victims who died and the trauma of those who survived and I started wondering if there were ways to increase the odds of survival in (the extremely rare) event that a serial killer approached you.

# How do you deal with creative block?

It’s a blessing and a curse that I am interested in so many things but it does help with writer’s block. I am always working on at least two writing projects so, if I get stuck on one, I just switch to another one!

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I hope that my writing has improved over time. Getting older has helped me in that I feel freer to express my opinion than I used to. When I was younger, I felt like everything I said had to be backed by a ton of research studies and I tended to leave my own voice out of it. But I’m becoming a little more confident to be myself in my writing and not take criticism so personally. I’m also working hard to erase some of the psychological jargon that might be expected in forensic reports but bores an audience to tears. I always remind myself, “Never use a three-syllable word when one syllable will do.”

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I wish! But I do love to learn, so I’m always taking courses, watching youtube videos on writing, love to read, etc. So I guess my “trick” is to be a perpetual student.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

Some of these are just unusual and some of these are downright quirky, so here goes:

  1. My dad was a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Sox.
  2. I think I have a language learning disability – but only for foreign languages! 😊 I have taken years of various languages but – sadly – no one would ever know it.
  3. We’ve had 62 foster dogs (so far!)
  4. I love all species of monkeys and could spend hours watching them. I have probably traumatized all of my children with the number of animal videos I have forced them to watch. This was the latest.
  5. I flunked out of scuba diving school.
  6. In spite of what I do for a living, I am an optimist when it comes to human nature.



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