From secretive online followers to jealous ex-lovers and obsessed admirers through to random strangers and crazed criminals, this unnerving book will provide an insight into the minds of stalkers, and reveal how their sinister actions affect their victims.
Inspired to write the book after being a victim of stalking herself, Victoria Heywood researched the globe speaking to victims and perpetrators who tell their stories – both in person and through court records. Enlightening interviews with police, psychiatrists, doctors and support workers highlight the sometimes deadly but always distressing consequences of stalking.
Victoria Heywood is a Melbourne-based writer and the author of 25 adult non-fiction books. She has written extensively on relationships, food and travel. Victoria previously worked as a journalist in Australia and overseas.
Every Move You Make
Author: Victoria Heywood
Question: What inspired you to write Every Move You Make?
Victoria Heywood: Attracting a stalker myself first sent me down the Internet rabbit hole in search of answers. Why did he target me? Was I in danger? What could I do to stop him? What records should I keep? What were my legal rights? Who could I turn to for help?
I spent quite a bit of time making my home secure, changing my routine and at my local police station, reporting incidents. It was all very time consuming and frightening, and when I happened to mention to my publishers that I might be late in delivering the manuscript for my previous book (Lethal Lovers), they suggested that I had the perfect topic for a new one. I had written extensively about crime before, but this time it was personal.
Question: What did you learn from the experience?
Victoria Heywood: Stalking is a common phenomenon and can affect just about anyone: young, old, male, female…Sometimes the victim has been in an intimate relationship with the stalker; sometimes, they have never met or the victim has no idea who is targeting them. The important thing is to recognise your stalker's behaviour for what it is and to seek support - legal and psychological. No-one has the right to harass, monitor, control, track or frighten you. And don't let anyone dismiss it as 'a nuisance". Stalking is a serious criminal offence, and the impact can be devastating on the victim and their family.
Question: What research went into Every Move You Make?
Victoria Heywood: It's amazing what talent a dinner party or school gate pick-up can unearth. I turned out that stalking is way more common than I had ever imagined, and certainly didn't just involve celebrities or those of uncommon good looks. (I'm a case in point!)
But while finding people who had been stalked was surprisingly easy, getting them to talk on record was much more difficult. Some had left the experience behind in the past and had no wish to revisit it (like the university lecturer whose male student stalker committed suicide in front of her). Others were too close to the experience and didn't want agitate their stalker by going public. And one woman I interviewed had been in hiding from her stalker for decades and would only speak to me under the very strictest of conditions.
And then there were the stalkers themselves. For obvious reasons, I wasn't too keen on interviewing my own stalker, but I managed to track down one notorious British stalker who shared his perspective with me by Skype. Other stalkers preferred to share their stories in writing – not wanting to be identified, even by voice. I can understand why, given that stalking is a crime in most jurisdictions. It's not really the sort of thing you want to -fess up to a stranger.
I also devoured everything I could find that related to the subject – from weighty tomes on the psychology to research papers from domestic violence support services, court records and newspaper reports stretching back for decades. I interviewed lawyers, psychiatrists, cyber security experts, law enforcement officers and also private detectives (who can help capture evidence of stalking).
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Victoria Heywood: The more I looked into the phenomenon, the more intrigued and frightened I became. The many sinister ways in which technology can be used by stalkers really took me by surprise – from social media to the CCTV cameras and stealth apps that can be installed on a mobile phone and will log every key stroke, every call made, every website visited. People think of their phones as a lifeline, but they can also prove to be a death trap should a stalker choose to take the ultimate revenge. (Simon Gittany, who was convicted of murdering his fiancée Lisa Harnum, used both. He had hidden cameras installed in their apartment so he could monitor her when he wasn't there; and he installed an app on her phone that logged her every interaction. He murdered her after seeing a text she'd sent her mother saying that she had made the decision to leave him.)
Mental health was another big issue. I'd started out assuming that all stalkers had to be nuts in one way or another, but it soon became clear that many of these people were eminently sane: just domineering control freaks or social misfits who were incapable of reading social cues that most of us take for granted.
The links between domestic violence, relationship breakdown and stalking was another key theme. It makes sense that an individual who seeks to exert power through physical or emotional abuse is unlikely to take the victim's decision to leave lightly, and will do whatever they can to track them down.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Victoria Heywood: Choose a subject that you are passionate about. If you're lukewarm before you even start, imagine how you will feel after some thousands of hours immersed in the topic. And don't fool yourself: it really will take that long.
Starting a massive project like a book can be daunting, so I always prepare a detailed outline that breaks the book down into manageable chunks. Then I start with the easiest bits – perhaps the dedication, the acknowledgements – and in this case, my own experience (yay, no research or interviewing required!) Ticking off items on a checklist keeps me motivated and helps to focus the mind. (One week, I'll concentrate on predatory stalkers and the next, for some light relief, I'll do Hollywood stars).
There's an excellent book 'Bird By Bird" by Anne Lamott that is a must-read for any aspiring writer, and on the bookshelves of many of my established author friends.
Interview by Brooke Hunter