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Cain reads from her bestseller at Prairie Lights.
Chelsea Cain (M.A. 1995) sat comfortably sporting cowboy boots and an "Iowa Girls Rock" t-shirt. With her right leg tucked up under her, she smiled while listening with interest to the question presented to her.

As she thought about her answer, she flashed another smile and chuckled softly as she began reminiscing on the moment she found out her latest success "Heartsick" had claimed the number eight spot on The New York Times' fiction best-seller list.

When Cain got the call informing her of the good news, she was alone in her hotel room in San Francisco eagerly awaiting her room service pizza. When her phone rang, Cain ignored a call from her editor without even wondering what the call was about. A more pressing matter was at hand: her pizza had arrived. After eating a slice, she finally returned the call.

"By the time I called back, everyone who had worked on the book was already at the bar celebrating," she said, laughing at the memory.

Cain answered many questions during her book reading in honor of "Heartsick" at Prairie Lights, in the town where she was born, Iowa City.


"Heartsick" plays off the Green River serial murder series that occurred around the Seattle area about an hour away from where she grew up in Bellingham, Washington. Cain crafted what she calls, "a very twisted love story between a cop and serial killer."

Cain's bestseller, which has been translated into 16 different languages, revolves around a female serial killer who gets pleasure out of torturing her victims. Gretchen Lowell, known as the "beauty killer," captures her biggest prey with the kidnapping of Detective Archie Sheridan who had been tracking Gretchen for 10 years.

After 10 days of excruciating torture to Archie, Gretchen steps out of character turning herself in and setting Archie free. Now two years after his capture, Archie still visits Gretchen in jail with lingering feelings of entrapment.

At her book reading, Cain painted a perfect picture with her gruesome descriptive details that accounted for every second of Archie's torture as she read the first chapter of "Heartsick." She gazed up periodically playing with a smile on her face as she watched the effect her twisted tale had on her audience. When asked if she made up the detailed torturing or researched it, Cain replied with a laugh, "I actually tortured someone."

As one of only a handful of University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication graduates that have graced The New York Times' best-seller list, Cain was welcomed back on campus with great enthusiasm.

Judy Polumbaum, a former professor of Cain's, commented that in school Cain was constantly writing. This observation goes hand in hand with Cain's advice to aspiring novelists. "It's so cliche, but just do it everyday. You'll never be able to write for a living if you don't write when you don't want to," Cain advised.

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