Interview with Jennifer Hillier, author of The Butcher
What makes you drawn to write in this genre?
“The first adult novel I ever read was Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. I was 10 years old, and I had run out of Sweet Valley High books to read, and that was the book on my mother’s nightstand. There was a cat on the cover, and I wasn’t sure what it was about, but my mom said I could go ahead and dive in. I did. I was scared to death, but it was in such a delicious way that I addicted to dark stories from then on.
When I started writing fiction as an adult, it was natural for me to go right into that darker place, because writers write what they love to read.”
Have you researched any particular serial killers for your writing?
“I research serial killers all the time, whether I’m writing anything or not. I can’t help it, I just find them interesting. (I know, I’m weird.) And sometimes in my work I’ll be creating a new villain, and then stop and think, “Wait. Has this been done before?”. And usually it has. There’s really nothing we can create in fiction that hasn’t happened in real life, so I draw inspiration from serial killers like Paul Bernardo, Ted Bundy, and Aileen Wuornos.
I also spend a lot of time researching murder weapons, crime scenes, psychopathology, prisons…
Gee, I hope the FBI isn’t reading this.”
If you were to write in another genre what would it be?
“I change my mind on this one all the time, but I think I would love to write a thriller for a younger audience. I definitely write for adults and there’s freedom in that, but I think it would be an interesting challenge to write a thriller like Creep (my first novel) that would be suitable somehow for kids in high school or even younger. I know that when I was 13 or 14, I would have loved something juicy to read that had just a touch of violence combined with a good dose of teenage angst.”
Who are some of your favorite authors or influences?
“For sure Stephen King, because he’s a master storyteller and his novels are all character-driven. I’m also a fan of Chuck Palahniuk, and whenever I re-read one of his books, I’m reminded of how wordy I can be (because he is so not). Chelsea Cain and Jeffery Deaver will always be my favorite thriller writers, though, and I’ve learned a lot about series writing from their books.”
What projects are you currently working on?
“I’m in the midst of drafting a synopsis for the third Sheila Tao book. She was my heroine in Creep and Freak, and I’ve been getting a lot of emails from readers asking what she’s been up to. It’s been two years since Freak was released, and I have to admit, I’m dying to find out what she’s been doing these days myself. I have a feeling that wherever she is, her old nemesis isn’t far behind…”
What is your favorite book of all time?
“It would have to be IT by Stephen King. The book – a true horror story – has seven protagonists, and they’re all 11 years old, with distinctive voices and personalities and backstories and motivations. I re-read it every few years, and it never fails to amaze me with its authenticity and complexity. Plus it’s just plain scary. And courageous. And beautiful and sad.”
How long would you say it takes for an initial idea to become a full blown novel for you?
“My timeline has been getting shorter, and I truly think that just happens with practice. Creep took 14 months to write, Freak took 8 months to write, and The Butcher (out this July 2014) took 5 months to write. I usually start writing immediately once I get a good idea… and I really only get good ideas once a year, so when they happen, I jump on them and don’t stop writing till the book is finished.
What has been the most exciting moment in your career?
“It’s a toss up between receiving a blurb for Creep from Jeffery Deaver (whose work I’d been reading for years and years, and whom I’d met at ThrillerFest while I just a knock-kneed fan attending the conference) and Chelsea Cain, with whom I was on a panel at Bouchercon 2012. But the day my agent offered me representation, along with the day I heard that Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books bought my first book, are of course right up there, too.”
What are you reading right now?
“I’ve just started reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I know, I’m so late to the party. But the movie just came out, and I want to make sure I’ve read the book first!
Thanks for having me!”
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