“What is with you and killing off young girls?” he exclaimed.
It took me a second or two to realize that he was not accusing me of being a real-life serial killer. Once I set aside the urge to go full Harrison Ford to his Tommie Lee Jones I remembered the books he’d been reading since I last ran into him. Instantly I knew which two “murders” he was talking about.
In Escaping Infinity, one character loses a daughter to a murder-suicide. In The Last, Lonely Trail a murderous gang in the Old West violently wipes out an entire family, including the couples very young daughter.
The reader was outraged at not only the deaths but also the manner of their respective demises. He wanted to know why I chose to do that. The answer is simple: It needed to happen that way.
In the case of young Audie in Escaping Infinity, her murder was needed to make her parents willing to pack up and leave everything they had ever known behind. In the time they lived in, a member of an established family just didn’t pack up and move to San Francisco without good reason. Leaving behind the bad memories of their daughter’s death counts as such and Liz needed to be heading west to advance the story.
As for young Sally in The Last Lonely Trail, her violent death was needed to establish just how even the Harrell gang truly was, why a U.S. Marshal would go on a killing spree across the west to hunt down the gang and have the reader not only accept that but cheer the Marshal on.
Trust me, those two murders were not any easier to write than they are to read. But in order to tell the story, they needed to happen the way they did. The fact that readers are so moved by their tragic ends they react as if they were their own family members means the stories were written well enough to connect to those readers.
Give them both a read and see if you agree. Escaping Infinity is even available as an audiobook.