For an Exclusive Interview about his Debut Psych Thriller, Dortmund Hibernate…
Thank you SO much for joining me today C.J. Your book sounds like an absolute page-turner, and that cover makes me want to dive right in!
Can you tell us a little about your debut novel and why we should all go out and buy it?
Dortmund Hibernate is a story about a young psychologist who is sent to an infamous rural Asylum. Due to his success in the field, he is asked to provide advice on the nine most severe “criminally insane” cases in the country; send them to prison, or stamp a death sentence. The world is changing, and as Asylums are a symbol of the past it is up to our protagonist Dr Magnus Paul to assess each case. He wants to cure their “sickness”, and he will do all in his power to save these souls.
If you’re a fan of Silence of the Lambs, Shutter Island or just a dark tale with unstable characters, this book is for you. It is a psychological thriller with twists, turns and an analysis of our deepest fears. But at the heart of the story is the issue of diminishing hope, family and the problems with holding on to the past.
How long did it take you to write this book?
As I was working full-time and spent most weekends sitting at my desk typing away, this book took about 6-8 months. Building the nine most disturbed people possible took research, thought and a range of drafts. Their dialogue was particularly time consuming, but extremely enjoyable. I finished the book mid-2017 and left it alone for a while. I like to let my writing air so I can discover any issues on the next read, and after a few more edits I sent it across to Crooked Cat.
Which authors have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I’m a Stephen King fan and I must say reading his horror tales as a teenager sparked an interest in writing. Low Men in Yellow Coats (otherwise known as Hearts in Atlantis) resonated with me in a way that was both unexpected and powerful.
Another, which many may find odd as he is not an author, is Leonardo DiCaprio. The roles he has played on screen have demonstrated the torment a person feels both inside and out. My lead character deals with his own demons as he assesses the gruesome details of others, and knowing how to construct such a character has come through many viewings of The Departed, Blood Diamond, Inception, The Revenant, Shutter Island, The Basketball Diaries and even The Great Gatsby. We all need someone to look up to, and Leo remains my biggest influence despite his artform being on screen.
I once indulged in a “salted caramel latte” cake and it felt like I grew another limb. I’m a coffee nut, so anything infused with coffee flavours will usually attract me. I’m not a sweet-tooth, preferring a latte or a beer, but if I’m at a special occasion such as a wedding I will usually dig in to anything!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For the story I was a plotter, but for the characters I was a pantser. Knowing the start, middle and end of the story is important in the planning process, but I wanted to create these insane individuals by sitting at the laptop and just letting my mind delve into darkness. I was up on countless nights at 4am when the rest of the city was sleeping, typing out gruesome scenes of massacre and torture. For each introduction to a character, I set myself the task of writing out their full chapter without lifting my hands off the keyboard or taking a break.
Need a drink? Not yet, keep writing.
Need a break? Not yet, keep writing.
By putting myself in this frame of mind, I utilised my frustrations in the tale of the character. This was a new method to me, and one I won’t need to use for future novels. But I wanted to try something different here and I believe it gave the writing the edge it needed.
Favourite characters in your book?
When I created the nine inmates of the asylum, I used my own fears to mould their personalities and their crimes. But I think my favourite character is the lead guard at the Asylum, Walter Perch. Here is a man that holds the safety of the town on his shoulders, and he leads his team with pride despite not having a title to outline his importance. When Magnus Paul arrives to the Asylum ready to make a difference, it is Walter that introduces him to the nine inmates and it is Walter who tries to keep him on a steady path. I found writing Walter to be an immense joy, a beacon of light in the darkest tunnel.
Of the nine inmates, I can’t help but choose Jasper James. He’s the rock star, the most infamous case, the leader of a cult biker outfit who has spent nearly a decade in the Asylum. He draws Magnus to the task, and his personality is the greatest challenge of our protagonist’s career. He’s a mysterious man so I’ll leave the rest to the reader.
Who from the literary world would you put top of your list if you were throwing a cocktail party?
I would probably put George R R Martin at the top of the list so I could hold him captive until he finishes the Game of Thrones series. He has created this phenomenon that has changed fantasy forever. Martin is the Tolkien of our generation and I think it is so important to have authors in the limelight. Actors, singers, athletes and politicians steal all the press, but writers contribute creativity to society in an artform that cannot be pushed to the side. We need more George R R Martins, and J K Rowlings, and Stephen Kings. To have these writers at a cocktail party would be an opportunity to find out how they did things different…and to see who is the biggest alcoholic!
Nicest thing anyone has said about your writing?
When I was at university studying something unrelated to writing, a tutor said: “When I mark essays I always read your essay first because you write beautifully. It puts me in the mood to read.”
To put someone in the mood to read really made me smile, and even though this was a decade ago I have never forgotten those words. On those dark days all writers have where we don’t feel good enough, I remember these words. This can be hard when I start a chapter with “He killed his boss with a MacBook”. I can’t imagine many people smiling at that!
And the not so nicest?
“Your writing is not for us.”
This is vague, but I believe good writing is for everyone. When someone working in the industry tells you that your writing is not for them, you immediately think there is something wrong with your style. I’ve since understood that this can mean they simply didn’t care enough to read your writing, or that they don’t particularly like your author profile (or face?) but negative words will never be easy to accept.
What can we expect to see from you next?
I’m currently writing a new thriller which should be finished mid-year. I’m pretty excited about this as it takes a completely different direction to anything I’ve ever written. I will be taking some time off writing as I’m getting married and jetting off on a relaxing honeymoon, but a writer never stops writing. Keep an eye on my social media pages for more!
Here’s the Universal Amazon link for Dortmund Hibernate: Mybook.to/dortmundhibernate
Psychologist Dr Magnus Paul is tasked with the patients of Dortmund Asylum; nine criminally insane souls hidden from the world due to the extremity of their cases.
Magnus has six weeks to prove them sane for transfer to a maximum-security prison, or label them as incurable and recommend a death sentence under a new government act.
The rural Western town of Dortmund and its inhabitants are the backdrop to the mayhem on the hill.
As Magnus delves into the darkness of the incarcerated minds, his own sanity is challenged.
Secrets squeeze through the cracks of the Asylum, blurring the line between reality and nightmare.
And the most notorious man of all is strapped to the floor of his cell, urging Magnus towards a new life of crime…
It’s Silence of the Lambs meets Shutter Island in this tale of loss, fear and diminishing hope.
C.J. Sutton is a writer, freelance journalist and author based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Master of Communication degree with majors in journalism and creative writing. His fictional writing delves into the unpredictability of the human mind and the fears that determine our choices in life.
As a professional writer C.J. Sutton has worked within the hustle and bustle of newsrooms, the competitive offices of advertising and the deep trenches of marketing. But his interest in creating new characters and worlds has seen a move into fiction, which has always pleaded for attention. Dortmund Hibernate is his debut novel.