Q&A: Serial's Asia McClain Sets The Record Straight In Her New Memoir

PHOTO: DANIELLE MIZE.
One reason that Asia McClain Chapman — famed alibi witness and accidental podcast celebrity — decided to write a book? "I wanted to bring certain people down to Earth," she told Refinery29 over the phone one afternoon in May.

By that, McClain meant that she wanted to dispel conspiracy theories running wild on the internet — two she remembers are that she was somehow involved in Hae Min Lee's 1999 murder, and that she had a crush on Adnan Syed back in the day. She also felt that it was time to set the record straight in her own voice.

"Things had gone off the rails in terms of reality," she added. And so she began jotting down her own thoughts and memories, one bit at a time. Eventually, she had written enough that she realized she could publish a memoir, which became Confessions of a Serial Alibi, on sale June 7. We spoke with the newly minted author about her book, her high schools days, and her stance on Adnan Syed's innocence.

Can you talk a bit about why you wanted to write Confessions?
"I’ve always wanted to speak out, from the moment I wrote the affidavit. Setting the truth free — and getting a portion of my side of the story out and available to the court, in addition to the public — was always important. I don't like people assuming things, or putting words in my mouth, or making up reasons behind my intentions that aren't based in the truth.

"The idea of writing an actual book came a lot later [in terms of the Serial process]. It wasn’t until late summer, or possibly the fall of last year, when I began to start writing in the form of manuscript. I basically wrote the book in chunks, based on what I was going through, or emotions or opinions I had at the time. It organically came together, and then it just took on a life of its own."

Why do you think people are so obsessed with Serial and true-crime drama?
"You have to give credit where credit is due: Sarah Koenig is an awesome narrator. I found myself drawn in [to the podcast], and I was even enlightened about things I didn't know about [the case]. I think the major reason people get so enveloped is that, from an outsider perspective, it feeds into the fear of, 'What if it were me? What if I were Stephen Avery? What if I were Adnan Syed?' It’s just so easy to put yourself in the situation, where you can see the injustice, especially with everything that’s been going on here lately in terms of the criminal justice system and our public officials on every level. There’s so much corruption. It’s hard not to put yourself in a situation where you can see it being you."

Even though Hae wasn’t a close friend of mine, it was still a very early reminder that death existed. And not just old-age death, but gruesome and horrible tragic death.

Asia McClain Chapman
Do you think that people often forget that they're listening to real people, not just a story?
"Definitely. That’s been one of the motivations behind writing the book — to remind people that we are real individuals. All of us: Hae, Adnan, Jay, myself, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys. We are all real people. We are not characters. I still see people refer to me as a character from the Serial podcast [on Twitter]. I’m just like, really, a character? Like, Harry Potter? [Laughs] By writing the book, I hope that I was able to convey my humanity... A lot of people don’t see me as a normal person."

How did Hae Min Lee's murder affect you personally?
"I wouldn’t say that it changed my life. But it did have an impact. I come from a young family: My mom was 20 when I was born, my grandmother was, I believe, 16 when my mom was born. With that being the case, I don’t have a lot of experience with death. Even though Hae wasn’t a close friend of mine, it was still a very early reminder that death existed. And not just old-age death, but gruesome and horrible tragic death. Murder.

"At the age of 17, 18 years old, that’s not necessarily something that’s floating around in your head. You’re thinking about life. You’re thinking about your future. You’re not thinking about the fact that someone could snatch you and murder you in a heartbeat. It was a rude awakening for myself and for a lot of my close friends and classmates... Here we were graduating from high school, ready to embark on our lives, and we had this blatant reminder of the dangers of the real world."

Are you hopeful that Adnan Syed will be exonerated of the crime he's been convicted of?
"I can’t say that I am, only because I have no idea of his guilt or innocence. The best that I can say is: I hope that there is a final decision made. Because this case does not only affect me. It affects many of my friends, and Adnan and his family.... I think at the end of the day everyone may have their own desires for the outcome. But we all just desire to have some type of finality, to put this issue to rest.

"There are two optimal outcomes: Of course, the first and foremost important [thing] would be to know without a shadow of doubt who murdered Hae. The other is to know, without a shadow of a doubt, whether or not that person was Adnan. Once you solve those two questions, everything else is going to fall into place... Hae's family will have their resolution. Adnan's family will have their resolution. And all the public viewers and critics will have theirs. That's optimal: for everyone to be able to walk away from this situation feeling resolved. But whether that's going to happen? Who knows?"

Confessions of a Serial Alibi by Asia McClain Chapman debuts on June 7, 2016. Check out Refinery29's exclusive excerpt of the book here.

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