Acclaimed Des Moines author Kali White VanBaale’s new book, “The Monsters We Make,” puts a spin on stories familiar to Des Moines. Based in the 1980s, the novel extracts from the real-life disappearances of Des Moines Register paperboys during the same period. White VanBaale wanted to intertwine facts from the real cases, so she spent the first several months of her writing process—which began more than four years ago—researching and understanding these longtime Des Moines mysteries.
The resulting story follows three characters shortly after the disappearances of two paperboys in nearby Iowa towns. The first is a 12-year-old paperboy hiding a terrible secret. The second is a teenager who sees the making of an award-winning story and a ticket out of her small town in Iowa. The third is a police officer who, in the process of investigating the cases, is forced to come to terms with his own demons.
“The Monsters We Make” was published a few weeks ago, after the effects of COVID-19 pushed the release date back a few months, and the derecho left White VanBaale without power and internet for a few days. Still, the feedback so far has been positive. She says she hopes readers extract some important themes from the book and leave with a lesson on criminal motives.
“I wanted to think a little more deeply about Midwestern mindsets about child abuse and how we regard perpetrators,” White VanBaale says. “We sort of demonize them, when they could be a neighbor or someone at work. They’re people, too, with their own backgrounds.”
Hardcover, electronic and audio versions of the book are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target and more.