Author Q & A
Tell us about Kathryn Caraway.
Kathryn is a pseudonym, a fictitious name commonly used by authors. It is a combination of two people that are very dear to me, but who passed away long before the stalker entered my life.
Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym?
To escape the stalker, I knew I had to change my life completely. I sold my beloved home of over seventeen years and quit my job. In eight months, I moved three times to different states opening a series of rented mailboxes to create an undiscernible trail. Once the last court case ended in 2022, I changed my name. I had to wait until the final court case was resolved because if it went to trial, I would need to disclose the new legal name rendering the change useless. Writing under a pseudonym affords me an extra layer of insulation to protect my new identity and location.
With the court cases settled, why did you choose to change the names of the characters to protect their identity?
This was a difficult decision for me because I was afraid that, once again, people would not believe my story. I had endured so much disbelief throughout the experience from law enforcement, family, and friends that I wasn’t sure I should protect the criminal. Then I met with an attorney to discuss my risk of a defamation (libel) lawsuit. Although the novel can be factually proven, there is nothing to prohibit the criminal from filing a frivolous lawsuit that could drag on for years and cost me thousands of dollars to be represented in court. Once again, the potential for this to expose my new identity and location is simply too risky. Not to mention, the mere thought of having to face the stalker in court again were overriding factors in the decision to change the names of characters.
Why did you choose to write your story?
The judicial process was not at all what I expected and the only evidence they included was directly related to stalking incidents during a specific period. After all cases were decided, there came a point of realization for me that nobody knows the whole story, except the stalker and me. He had done such a great job at getting his narrative out publicly that, with all the court cases now settled, I felt a sense of freedom to tell my side. Going through the public humiliation, I was advised not to respond and allow the judicial system to work. I was confident he would get convicted, which should have been my public exoneration, but I am not sure it ever was.
What did it feel like as you wrote about your experience?
This is a difficult question to answer. Most people might describe it as cathartic, but I wouldn't. Since writing was an opportunity for me to purge six years of trauma from my body as part of what I hoped would be my healing process, I disregarded caution and wrote freely. In this regard, it was liberating, and I did feel better once the story was finished.
For those 19 days that I dedicated to writing, it was not so pretty. Bringing up the incidents and forcing myself to remember details was like a constant replay of a devastating movie in my head. I felt the emotions resurface and had to constantly reassess my emotional fitness to continue. I had to be honest with myself and how I was feeling regardless of whether the words were racing through my head like a freight train or not. I was never in danger of losing my train of thought because I lived this nightmare, so I never put pressure on myself to write.
Compound the emotional turmoil with facing the hard reality of my own bad decisions, flaws and moments of stupidity, and depression was once again at my doorstep. I felt as if I were regressing from the progress I made to heal, but it was important to me to acknowledge my own faults.
At what point did you realize that you were no longer writing for yourself, but writing a novel to share with the world?
I distinctly remember while I was going through the stalking experience and searching for resources, the internet was limited. Every website on stalking advises you to keep an "Incident Log", which I was already doing yet my case was still not being taken seriously by authorities. What makes stalking so difficult to prove is this crime is a pattern of behavior, often with an incident in isolation not rising to a criminal charge.
At the end of those 19 days, I stared at the word count and searched the internet to see what the length of a novel is and was stunned to learn I had exceeded the minimum count! Though the actual writing was not altruistic, the decision to publish it to help others was.
Why do you refrain from referring to yourself as a "Survivor" of stalking?
By my count, I was his sixth victim and while going through the judicial process, his seventh victim reached out to me. After an exhausting amount of research, I learned the recidivism rate of stalkers is high because the underlying mental health issue(s) often go unaddressed. As such, I can never be 100% certain that he is not out there looking for me.