C.J. Sutton is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Master of Communication with majors in journalism and creative writing, and supports the value of study through correspondence. His fictional writing delves into the unpredictability of the human mind and the fears that drive us.
As a professional writer C.J. Sutton has worked within the hustle and bustle of newsrooms, the competitive offices of advertising and the trenches of marketing. But his interest in creating new characters and worlds has seen a move into fiction, which has always pleaded for complete attention. Dortmund Hibernate is his debut novel.
What inspired you to write the book?
I wanted to tell a dark and disturbing tale that hadn’t been told before. Dortmund Hibernate began as two characters on different sides of an asylum cell talking to one another, criminally insane inmate and renowned psychologist. From there I became deeply interested in cases of the criminally insane, developing nine unique and deranged individuals to demonstrate how the world deals with the condemned. I was inspired by the need to craft originality and depth to storytelling, and to enjoy the writing in the process.
Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
My grandparents read to me as a child, which means I likely borrowed a book from them. They had a library room and I wish I had the space to have my own; my house is full of books. In terms of the first novel, I do remember reading Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series at quite a young age. I was just absorbed by these kids climbing a tree into a new world, and I probably read them over and over until The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter stole me away.
How did you feel when the publisher accepted your draft for the first time?
As my publisher is overseas and the time difference is eight hours, I woke up for work at 6am and noticed the email from Crooked Cat to say they would publish Dortmund Hibernate and sign me as an author. I was half asleep and I don’t think it really sunk in until the weekend arrived I could reflect on what had happened. I always believed I would get published at some stage, and it felt like all the hard work had finally manifested into something beyond my computer screen.
Tell us something interesting that has occurred since you became a writer?
People take your writing more seriously when you’re announced as an author for a published book. I am a writer for a health care company and I have a Master of Communication degree, but still there was this feeling that everyone thinks they can do it better than you. Once colleagues found out about this, the started to accept the writing without trying to pick holes in sentences.
As an author what do you see in trends in the thriller genre and sub genres right now? Whether you like them to appear or disappear?
The thriller genre is so expansive that it can be difficult to pinpoint trends. I focus predominantly on the subcategory of psychological thriller, which is renowned for twists and turns and tormented characters facing inner demons. It is a darker genre, but the unfortunate aspect of the current trend is that we’re seeing romance push its way into the category. Psychological Thriller has been stretched to mean “deceitful lover gets caught” which is really a punch to the guts of novels like Fight Club and Shutter Island that really reward a reader. Dortmund Hibernate falls within the categories of those examples and challenges the reader with some unexpected reveals. I would like the romance thrillers to separate themselves from psychological thrillers to provide potential readers with more information before they make a purchase.
Also as an author of thriller genre describe the thriller community with your perspective?
I believe the thriller community is varied in aged, gender and preference. This makes readers less inclined to challenge the reviews of others. Whether it be psychological thrillers, crime thrillers, dark thrillers or action thrillers, the variety creates a very supportive community focused on the twists and turns of a good book. Everyone is determined to create something original, which can’t be said for many other genres in 2018.
What are your hobbies, passion other than writing?
Football, reading, open-world video games and hikes/walks are my hobbies outside of writing. I can be seen at a sporting stadium most weekends watching my beloved North Melbourne Kangaroos play AFL (Australian Football), I read every night before bed, I play exploration games when the wife is out of the house and (weather permitting) I love a good walk. I live in a suburb with parks and tracks, so getting stuck while writing will generally push me outdoors.
What does your writing/reading space look like?
My reading space is my bed, and this rarely changes. I only read at night, I’m not sure why but that’s the way it has always been. My writing space is on the second level of my house. It is a desk with three surrounding walls, so I can’t look out of windows and get distracted. Resting above my laptop and second screen is an abstract portrait of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but everything else around the frame is just white walls. We have pet rabbits at home, and a balcony not far from the writing space, which means I need to stay focused. I write best with a store-bought coffee on one side and a glass of water on the other. This keeps me well caffeinated and well hydrated.
What are your top three favorite books of all time?
A very hard question to narrow it down to three. I would settle with 1984 by George Orwell, The Beach by Alex Garland and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.
If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
If I had a book club of six, I would choose Stephen King, George Orwell, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Alex Garland and Bret Easton Ellis. Despite being the only female, I think Rowling would more than hold her own against the other literary heavyweights. While the first four are legends, I felt compelled to add the last two. Alex Garland wrote one of my favourite novels (The Beach) and Bret Easton Ellis published his first novel at the age of 21. They create such driven and disturbed protagonists which in some way would reflect their own lives and beliefs. I’m guessing there would also be a fair amount of alcohol available at this book club, judging by the names.
What does literary success look like to you?
Living my life as a full-time novelist. No 9-5 job, no submission to a boss, just working from my writing space earning enough money while living the artist lifestyle. We all want great reviews and movie deals and recognition, but I would be completely happy waking up in the morning and writing from my laptop all day. Open up all the windows, move to the countryside and just let nature inspire me.
Did you ever have a rough patch in writing, where nothing in the story seemed to fit or make sense?
Often. I can’t imagine there would be many authors who have finished a book without struggling through writing certain aspects of the story. As I prefer to let the characters do their thing without too many restraints, the lack of a road map can cause me to pause for a few days to think about what’s next. I find that if I just keep writing, eventually the rough patch will pass and I’ll find my rhythm once more.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?
Many people place thrillers alongside horror. This is generally a misconception, as scares and thrills are quite different. The horror genre has become somewhat of a noir genre, and when a horror is popular it is added to the thriller section. Horror enters the areas of paranormal and monsters, whereas a good thriller will generally focus on possibilities in real life.
What sort of research did you do to write this book?
Dortmund Hibernate takes place in an asylum, so research was extremely important. Understanding the types of people that end up with the label ‘criminally insane’ took me down some dark and challenging roads. As the lead character is a Doctor of Psychology, I needed to have enough knowledge in the bank to craft his personality and his reactions to the behavior of the nine insane patients. Research is essential in all writing, and I very much enjoy the process.
Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?
Most of my ideas come to me while I’m lying in bed at night. If I wrote them down I would be waking up my wife every five minutes. I find the best method with ideas is to let them stew for a day or so in the mind; if they are worth using, they’ll remain at the forefront of your mind until you use them. But if I’m writing I will jot down ideas on a notepad to keep the well full.
What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
All my writing is performed on my laptop. I can take it anywhere with me, it stores everything I write, and research can be accessed whenever necessary. I jot notes down with a pen if I’m at work or away from a computer, but I prefer using my laptop to any other method. Typewriters hold the history of writing, but I can’t imagine using such an outdated form of typing when technology is providing us with such powerful tools.
What is the main thing you want readers to take away from this book?
I want readers to assess their own fears and to contemplate how they would react if placed in the protagonist’s shoes. If they are challenging their beliefs on incarceration and the criminally insane I will have achieved something beyond publication. But if each reader has a good time reading the novel, that is all a writer can really ask for. First and foremost I hope for an enjoyable reading experience; anything that follows is simply a bonus.
What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?
To create a novel that will be remembered once I’m gone. In 50 to 100 years I want someone to pick up one of my books and be able to enter a story that was such an important part of my life, and hopefully find out something about our world that has improved by then.
A message for aspiring writers?
Just keep writing. Just keep reading. Submit your work to publishers and keep submitting to publishers until you’re accepted. Writing is a long game, and you’ve just got to outlast the doubts. Always write what you enjoy reading. But most of all, have fun with it.
It was really a privilege interviewing you. Hope you enjoyed the interview.
Thank You 🙂
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 acts.
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.
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, urging Magnus towards a new life of crime…
The rural western town of Dortmund and its inhabitants are the backdrop to the mayhem on the hill.
It’s Silence of the Lambs meets Shutter Island in this tale of loss, fear and diminishing hope.
Links to buy his books- Dortmundhibernate
This Tour is Hosted by