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CHRISTIAN COUNTY — Reading is a hobby for a large portion of the population. A recent Pew Research poll showed that 80% of people age 16 and older read at least occasionally for pleasure. Women are more likely than men to enjoy reading as a hobby, but it is a past time that nearly every facet of society accepts. Whether your guilty pleasure is romance novels, high fantasy, or a chilling murder mystery, there is always a book out there for you.
But how often do you find out that author of the latest book you are hooked on grew up in the same area as you? For fans of thrillers and murder mysteries, that could soon become reality. Nina Ayers, formerly of Edinburg, has recently released a crime novel. “Joy of Murder: Life of a Serial Killer” was released in December by Archway Publishing, a subsidiary of Simon and Schuster Publishing Company.
Ayers recently spoke with the Breeze-Courier about her book and upcoming book signing at the Sydney Lynn’s Little Book Shop in Taylorville.
“I grew up in Edinburg, and of course, you know, I frequented Taylorville, you know, quite a bit growing up,” Ayers said, “I grew up in that area, just a normal childhood, you know, with friends and so forth and so on. I loved to read. My favorite books were by Stephen King and Anne Rice, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and stuff like that.”
Given her love for thrillers and murder mysteries, it was easy to believe that Ayer’s desire to write her own murder novel grew from the books she read as a child. While her appreciation for the genre certainly comes from her favorite authors, it was a completely serendipitous event that set Ayers on the path to becoming an author.
“Back in the 90s, serial killers were a big thing,’ She begins her retelling, “I was working for the state of Illinois at the time, and then this true serial killer’s information came across my desk.”
Ayers worked in the Illinois Department of Human Services during the 1990’s, when a convicted serial killer who was being transported in a DHS vehicle for a mental health appointment managed to escape. Because of the escape, her office was alerted so they could do all necessary internal reviews. This one small moment started a chain of events that would eventually lead to Ayer’s writing her novel.
“You know, this man, how to put it, he would knock on your door, and he would tell you that either he was broken down or he was here for an interview or what have you. Then, as soon as you put your guard down, turned around, he knocked you in the head. And once he had you unconscious, he would continue to knock you in the head, take you to a bedroom or wherever he wanted to take you and brutalize you,” She explained, having learned of the serial killer’s modus operandi from the information from the state and individual research she did on her own, “And you know, I would get home and watch 20/20 and Dateline and it was like repetition after repetition after repetition of the same thing, the same crime. It was like, somebody needs to make these women aware of this stuff, you know. My book isn’t about making a profit, it’s about to making people aware. it’s a book about safety, awareness.And just, you know, if you love a thrill and you love a kill, that’s what it’s about.”
Her novel was not about glorifying the serial killer or his work. Ayers’ main focus on writing the book was to make people aware that these heinous crimes were being committed. She simply desired for people to be able to protect themselves. According to Ayers, the crimes that were happening in the 80’s and 90’s were still happening with too much frequency today. Violent crimes were still occurring, with young women often becoming the victims.
Her hope was that by writing about the serial killer, she would raise awareness. If she could help just one more woman learn to be more cautious and take care of herself, then she would be satisfied. As such, while her story is based off of the serial killer she learned about that day in the 1990’s, Ayers changed many parts of the story.
“I did change some of the story. I changed his name. I changed the victim’s names. I changed the location. For the ones that are still grieving, and the young girl that was 13 years old in the later part of the 80s that was his first victim, I did it to protect them. I changed the years and everything, then I added my own storyline to it, and I added my own characters to the storyline, and I made it mine. Because there’s a part two to this book.” Ayers shared, going on to add that she currently had plans to make the book a four part series.
Ayers did not make contact with the victims of the serial killer while writing her book. “I don’t, and I don’t plan to. I really don’t want to open up those wounds for them. It’s been over 20 years for them, right? Granted, when they read this, they’re going to know, oh, it’s about them, but there’s other stories that’s similar to them,” Ayers admitted, “But the story needs to be told. And I felt I gave some closure to some of the victims.”
One of the big parts of the story that Ayers changed in her book was finding two bodies of the serial killer’s victims. In reality, those bodies were never found. Ayers wrote the victims getting discovered as a way to offer peace and closure to those who might otherwise never get it. She also tried to tone down the brutality of the serial killer, finding some of his real-life actions too heinous to write about. That isn’t to say there is no violence in her book. Ayers did the best she could to make the serial killer feel real.
“So I was kind of, you know, here and there kind of finding articles. And I was like, well, I’m really kind of curious, you know, curiosity, that kind of thing. So I started doing some research on my own time and I started looking into the stuff,” Ayers said telling the story of how she went about writing the book. Her research went on for years, until COVID shut everything down and gave Ayers a change to really buckle down and write.
Another reason Ayers wanted to write the story was because she felt like the truth about the serial killer was being kept from the public. She wanted everyone to be aware that the serial killer was real and had lived in Illinois.
“Now, it wasn’t in the newspapers. It wasn’t on the media. It’s like, why doesn’t anybody know about this guy? What if this guy gets out again?” Ayers shared, “And then all of a sudden, there was another interview with this guy and I saw it. His death sentence was changed to life imprisonment and I’m like, how is that possible? And I was like, okay, this is enough. So that got me thinking a little bit about how to write a story about this guy.”
“I’m writing to make the people be aware that there are men like that out there and people are always like, oh, yeah, we know. No, you don’t get it because you still open the door to strangers. You still go out to your cars and you don’t check in the back seat. You don’t look around your surrounding. You still do this stuff. And there’s a man like him around. And there’s more of them today,” She stated, “You know, these kids today, and I am going to sound like my mother here, but I’m being honest. They have no respect. They have no guidance. And they don’t have fear. And that terrifies me. So I want them to be aware. That’s why I’m writing these books.”
The rest of the series will continue to follow serial killers, but will not be inspired quite so closely by a real life murderer.
“The rest of the serial killers are all out of my head,” Ayers explained, “Now, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to use actual cases. Because I’ve already had a couple of detectives that I’ve been talking with about possibly looking into some cold cases. But you know, you have red tape on stuff like that.”
She wants to keep the real feel of her story alive in the next installments by using parts and pieces of real crimes that occurred.
According to Ayers, her publishing company is looking at trying to find a company to sponsor a tv or streaming series based off her book.
“I do have opportunities to go to Netflix or Paramount.” She stated, adding, “if Paramount’s willing to do it so that everybody can enjoy what my vision in my head is to have it on screen, that’d be awesome.” She hopes to hear about that endeavor in October. Ayers wants to keep everything about her story affordable, which was why she was leaning more towards Paramount. Their streaming service was currently cheaper than Netflix.
Ayers will be at Sydney Lynn’s Little Bookshop in Taylorville on February 20 from 2-4 p.m. for a book signing event. Her book has been sold in 16 countries so far, and is available online and soon to be available in Barnes & Noble and Walmart, as well as other book sellers.
“I want family and friends to come down to the Sydney Lynn book signing. Very much so.” Ayers shared, “You know, my parents had a business in Edinburg for many years. And, you know, you respect and you live on that. That’s your livelihood. So I want to go to the Ma and Pa stores, the small business, and support the community. So please come by and see me.”