By Caitlin Seida
Chelsea Hoffman is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a taco shell. Okay, really she's an ace criminal profiler and author, but the above description sums up her personality - a mix of sincerity and humor - perfectly. When asked how she got into criminal profiling, her first answer was "I was visited by three ghosts." The real story is much more interesting.
"I've been interested in serial killers since I was a child." Chelsea tells us. Her grandmother started her on the path of analyzing criminals by reading true crime books a lot. But her interest is also personal - "I've been the victim of at least one sex crime in my life and the victim of domestic violence." Her own experiences with surviving abuse and violence, as well as her life-long interest in how the criminal mind work, shaped her into the well known author, blogger, and advocate the world knows today.
Being fairly well known in her field, Chelsea has been subject to her fair share of online harassment and criticism, including a notable call out by Shirley Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. "Hiya Shirley!" she quips. It hasn't always been easy, though.
"In the beginning, when I first started blogging about my analysis on different crime cases and disappearances, I didn't quite get the aggression in many people's comments." Chelsea tells us. But eventually it started to click: "Over the past few years, though, I've realized that people who seek out these stories and get offended are likely to *look* for *any* reason to be offended -- therefore, they're looking for reasons to harass someone else."
"Being a crime writer and profiler not only attracts intelligent and interesting people, but it attracts nutbags and weirdos that "get off" on harassing others, especially when sensitive topics like death and murder are at hand."
Chelsea's experience with online harassment isn't unique - writers of all sorts get targeted for their works, and Ms. Hoffman recognizes that. "It's part of the job, I guess."
Criminal profiling has been a pretty traditionally male dominated field - at least in the past. This, too, has been an obstacle for the talented and vivacious Ms. Chelsea Hoffman. ". I think it helps that the most famous and talented of criminal profilers have been women (i.e. Jones, Candice DeLong, Pat Brown, et al)." She told us she's never really felt like she's needed to "keep up" with her male peers, but she has experienced misogyny and sexism from her "colleagues" and those who are unfamiliar with the details of any given case - using her gender to discredit her work because she's just a girl. Roll your eyes with me, folks. As for how she handles it? "I wouldn't say that these experiences have affected me other than opening my eyes to the insecurities of those who don't appreciate successful women."
Speaking of successful women, Chelsea offers this advice for women looking to break into the writing world: "Breaking into writing is easy, contrary to what a lot of people will tell you. Yes, it's also very competitive and it's hard to maintain relationships when you're serious about your craft and devoted to it. But there are always ways to get your work out there to make money and get exposure. Just find your niche, hone your skills and dive in. Just do it."
And for those young women looking to become criminal profilers like Ms. Hoffman? "It takes a special type of person with the gut to stomach crime scenes and other gruesome imagery and details. You've got to be damn sane to handle it without many emotional issues. You've got to have a very literal sense of reality versus what you've seen in movies, television or literature." But it isn't as simple as being able to handle gruesome crime scene details. Chelsea tells us: "At the same time you've got to walk that fine line between total empathy and total apathy to connect with the fact that you are dealing with victims without getting so attached that you end up killing a piece of you each time you cover a murder. To be a good criminal profiler you've pretty much got to know how to turn off your ability to feel sometimes and work on pure analytics, pure brain power." Beyond that, it's education, education and education. The fields she recommends are psychology, criminal justice and related courses.
Chelsea Hoffman's newest book, "The River of No Return: On the Trail of Hannah Anderson and Jim DiMaggio" focuses on the recent case of the alleged kidnapping of San Diego teen Hannah Anderson. "Throughout the book I share the factually known timeline of events as well as transcripts of Hannah's own words with interviews from her family, family members of Jim DiMaggio and experts in forensic pathology." The story focuses on the many inconsistencies in Hannah Anderson's story that point toward the possibility that she may have been a partner in the murder of her mother and brother, or at the very least involved in a sexual relationship with her kidnapper/uncle, Jim DiMaggio.
"River of No Return" is being released by Taylor Street Publishing and will be available November 2nd, 2013 If true crime isn't your bag, Ms. Hoffman has also written a veritable catalog of works, from horror to romance to fantasy. You can check out her works at http://www.chelseahoffman.com.