Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.
Steven Atwater is a maintenance man and one of the founders of the Oxford Writers' Circle. Detective Armstrong spoke with him at the café in Square Books.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Steven Atwater
Detective Armstrong: Would you state your name and address, please?
Steven Atwater: Steven Atwater, 415 Washington, Oxford, Mississippi.
Detective Armstrong: And your employment?
Steven Atwater: I work for Kory Properties.
Detective Armstrong: You're a maintenance man there, right?
Steven Atwater: Yeah, I work on air conditioners, dishwashers, that kind of stuff. I also do basic construction and carpentry work.
Detective Armstrong: Busy?
Steven Atwater: Hell, yeah. Those crazy kids tear the places up about as quickly as I can fix them.
Detective Armstrong: And you're in charge of this Oxford Writers Circle as well, right?
Steven Atwater: That's right. I started the group a few years ago. I generally run most of the meetings, organize things, schedule speakers and classes, things like that.
Detective Armstrong: So you're kind of an administrator as well as a teacher in that role?
Steven Atwater: You could say that. I've been writing for a while, so I try to share my experience.
Detective Armstrong: Had anything published?
Steven Atwater: Sure. A few things here and there. I've got a collection of short stories that I'm trying to sell right now.
Detective Armstrong: I hope this doesn't offend you, but I was expecting the head of this group to be some college professor or something.
Steven Atwater: Most people do feel that way. I mean, I'm not exactly a bestseller, but I've been doing this for several years, and I personally believe that experience is the main thing. Life. That's what's it's all about. Some of these people spend too much time in classrooms and not enough time living. I guess that's what gives me the authority in the Writers Circle. Just experience.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. Can you tell me how you met Zoe Chase?
Steven Atwater: She started coming around. We had an opening at the Writers Circle, so we let her join. She had this really exciting, really vibrant personality, and in many ways, she just took over.
Detective Armstrong: How would you describe your personal feelings toward her?
Steven Atwater: Initially, I was captivated by her. She was just so energetic. Of course, as time went on, I started to see some of her negative qualities. I mean, everyone has negatives.
Detective Armstrong: And what were hers?
Steven Atwater: She could be dominating. She often took over the meetings and could be bossy. Some of the other people complained about her, but I thought her energy helped the group. Sometimes, you can get too comfortable, or people get too scared to be honest. They're so afraid of hurting someone's feelings that they don't tell the truth. Zoe had no problem with that. If something wasn't any good, she let the writer know that. And occasionally, someone's feelings would get a little ruffled.
Detective Armstrong: Did she ever ruffle your feathers?
Steven Atwater: Of course. We had our differences of opinion. Writing is a hard business, and we disagreed from time to time.
Detective Armstrong: Is that all? Just differences of opinion over a story here and there?
Steven Atwater: Sure.
Detective Armstrong: Well, we have some information that indicates there was more to it than that. That maybe there was a more specific problem between you two.
Steven Atwater: Oh, yeah. I guess you're talking about her broken promise. That's no real secret. The whole group knew about it.
Detective Armstrong: Well, can you give me more details?
Steven Atwater: She lied. Plain and simple. When she came close to signing her book deal, she told me she would help me out, pass my book along to her agent and publisher. There's so much competition out there, any small amount of help can make a world of difference.
Detective Armstrong: And she didn't actually do that?
Steven Atwater: Hell, no. Once she signed that deal, we all weren't good enough for her. She kept making excuses, saying that she had forgotten or that her agent was out of town or something. Finally, she just came right out and said my book wasn't good enough. The nerve of her. Our group made her, and then she's going around telling people they're not good enough.
Detective Armstrong: Just how mad were you?
Steven Atwater: I can't even describe it. I worked on that damn book for three years, and all I needed a bit of help. The publishers don't seem to want it, but I just need a break. And all she had to do was hand it over. I wasn't asking for much, but the little b**** was too good for that.
Detective Armstrong: From what I was told, y'all got into quite a fight about it on the night that she was murdered.
Steven Atwater: We did fight, but I'll go ahead and tell you that I had nothing to do with her death. Don't even try to twist things around into that.
Detective Armstrong: Why don't you just tell me what happened?
Steven Atwater: I asked her about it once again. We were out on the balcony here at the bookstore. That's when she told me it wasn't good enough. I kind of lost it, and we started yelling. I mean, what does she know? She isn't that great of a writer. She just got lucky. So we blew up at each other for a few minutes, and then she went inside, and that was it.
Detective Armstrong: Did you threaten her?
Steven Atwater: Of course not.
Detective Armstrong: Did you try to intimidate her?
Steven Atwater: No. I told you, I was certainly mad at her, but I didn't want to harm her.
Detective Armstrong: Mr. Atwater, we have a witness who says that you yelled at her something along the lines of "payback is a b****." Did you say that?
Steven Atwater: Uh, no. I don't think so. Maybe I did. We were arguing. I don't remember everything we said. You remember every word of your last argument?
Detective Armstrong: No, I don't, but then again, the last person I argued with didn't end up dead.
Steven Atwater: I'll tell you one more time, I didn't have anything to do with that.
Detective Armstrong: Okay. We'll see. We'll contact you if we need anything else. Thanks for your time.
Interview ended – 6:51 p.m.