Author draws from personal tragedy for creative non-fiction


March 10, 2011 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated March 9, 2011 at 9:10 p.m.

Beverly Lowry believes it's her personal mission to tell the stories of unsolved crimes because the same experience is part of her life.

Lowry's younger son, Peter, was killed by a hit-and-run driver, and since then, she's used the experience to fuel her writing.

Her next book, focused on the brutal unsolved murders of four Austin teen girls in 1991, is part of that same mission.

She read an excerpt of the yet-to-be published book Thursday at the University of Houston-Victoria as part of its American Book Review spring reading series.

"This one just seemed like the story I needed to write," she said.

The story creatively crafts a picture of the lives of the four girls who were murdered, stacked like wood and set on fire in a yogurt shop in West Austin.

Many refer to the murders as the night the city "lost its innocence," Lowry said, and her book examines how the city dealt with deaths of the "perfectly imagined, middle class American white girl."

"It's not just a graphic murder story, it's a story about a city. It's a story about grief," she said.

Lowry, who's been published in several newspapers and magazines, uses a journalistic approach to her non-fiction work. She incorporates months of interviews and research to tell the true-to-life stories.

Along with several fictional novels, she's also written a non-fiction work on Harriet Tubman and a Texas woman who was executed for 1983 pickaxe murders.

"I prefer to think of what I do as narrative non-fiction or literary non-fiction," she said. "The emphasis is on the narrative part of the story."

She carefully balances creativity with fact and her own literary voice to create her pieces.

"It has to balance," she said. "I don't want to stand up and be the star; the story's the star."

Lowry, now and Austin resident, is the director of the Creative Nonfiction Program at George Mason University in Washington, D.C.



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