By: Rachael Kuper ’20
In the MLK room, rows of chairs face a lone podium. Around twenty-five people, mainly students and professors of the English Department, socialize freely. Five minutes after the official start time, Professor Kevin Carey, offers introductions and thank yous. Then the first reader of the night takes the stage.
Priscilla Swain, managing editor of Soundings East and a student in the SSU Master’s program for non-fiction writing, is tall and blond. She reads an excerpt from a piece she’s workshopping, an anecdote about bringing porn to school for her friend in the first grade. Her simile-filled, humorous writing comments on family life, her overworked father, and her relationship to a disadvantaged boy. The crowd listens and laughs and applauds as Swain engages the crowd.
Next Diane Les Becquets approaches the podium. She’s a Colorado native, a sought-after lecturer, and a renowned writer. Her bohemian style stands out on a cold New England evening. She speaks with reverence of the female spirit, the beauty, sensuality, and danger of the wild, and the challenge of writing. It’s a love affair, she says, to write. And sometimes a plague. She tells us to “let your writing roam in the magic of your mind.”
Her newest novel, a thriller based off a real life serial killer, is fiction that sounds like non-fiction. When she reads us a chapter, the tone is clear and direct, full of forward momentum and ominous descriptions. It’s matter-of-fact, ironic, and sentimental.
Throughout the talk, Les Becquets details her process: her history and motivations and research methods and the relationships in her life which fed her prose. She tells of her traumas, her regrets, and making them useful in her writing. She explains how meeting and befriending a real-life criminal profiler informed her understanding of psychopathy, and that she ended up basing her main character on him.
At the end we get to ask questions. I have two. Firstly, does she have any theories on who the real-life killer is which inspired her book? A simple nope, is Les Becquets reply. And more pressing in my mind— how does her friend, the criminal profiler, feel about a character based on him getting closure he never got? This question intrigued Les Becquets. Not too great, she admits. But she assures us he’s able to separate reality from fiction well, even though the forever open case left him depressed for a time, he’s found his own peace. Though she describes hardships and struggles in her presentation, I suspect Diane Les Becquets may have found hers too.