Local journalist-turned-novelist talks about her bestselling books at Rancho Santa Fe Library

By Kristina Houck

Writing about some of the most heinous crimes, the world often looks like a dark place in Caitlin Rother’s eyes. Although the New York Times bestselling author’s books read like novels, they chronicle real events.

“I’m more careful. I take fewer risks,” admitted the true crime writer during a meet and greet Feb. 13 at the Rancho Santa Fe Library. “But I don’t let it take over my life because that’s not the point of these books.”

To write “Lost Girls,” the San Diego author conducted a five-hour prison interview with convicted rapist and murder John Albert Gardner. Published in 2012, the book describes the murders of 14-year-old Amber Dubois and 17-year-old Chelsea King, but also delves into the mind of a sexual predator.

“I hate to say this, but he seemed normal,” Rother said. “That’s my lesson to people: People are not always what they seem.

“I tried to pay tribute to their daughters and teach people a lesson about what a sexual predator is — how they act, how they get to be that way. What are the flaws in the system? What can we do to prevent something like this from happening again?”

A Pulitzer Prize-nominated investigative journalist, Rother worked nearly 20 years for daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and U-T San Diego.

After a brief stint in corporate communications, Rother launched her journalism career at the Berkshire Eagle and the Springfield Union-News in Massachusetts. At the time, she also joined a writing workshop, which prompted a series of short stories, one of which evolved into her first novel, “Naked Addiction.”

Although her only fiction book would later be published in 2007, Rother’s first published book was “Poisoned Love.” Released in 2005, the true crime novel covers the case of Kristin Rossum, a former toxicologist convicted of murdering her husband. Rother reported on the case for the U-T, writing 50 articles for the regional newspaper.

“That was the first case that I covered all the way through,” Rother said. “Because I hadn’t been able to get my novel published, I thought, ‘I’m going to try nonfiction and see if I can get that published. So that’s what I did. I covered it from arrest to sentencing.

“It’s been my bestselling book by far. For some reason, people just love a pretty murderer.”

Rother resigned from the U-T in 2006 to write books full time.

The author or co-author of nine books, her latest release, “I’ll Take Care of You,” is the story of the murder of Newport Beach entrepreneur Bill McLaughlin by his fiancée, Nanette Johnston Packard, and her NFL-linebacker lover, Eric Naposki.

Although she’s no longer a reporter, she still adheres to her journalism ethics — conducting her own research, interviewing all reachable parties and sitting through trials.

“I don’t want to put my name on something that doesn’t meet my standards,” she said.

For more information about Rother, visit