Today my guest is fellow Melbourne writer, C.J Sutton whose debut thriller - think Silence of the Lambs meets Shutter Island - will be released next month.
C.J. Sutton is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Postgraduate Degree 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.
Megan: C.J, thanks for joining me. Can I get you a coffee?
C.J: A large latte with one sugar, thanks.
Megan: Sounds good. Tell me a bit about your upcoming book, Dortmund Hibernate.
C.J: Dortmund Hibernate is a psychological thriller set in a small country town. A psychologist is sent to an asylum for the criminally insane to provide an assessment on the nine remaining inmates. The facility is closing in six weeks, and Dr Magnus Paul must either recommend their transfer to a maximum-security prison or recommend a death sentence under a new government act. The nine inmates are the worst of the worst, mass murderers and joy-killers that have scarred society with the extremity of their actions. Will Magnus succeed, or will he be urged into a new life of crime by the most notorious inmate of all?
This project allowed me to let the imagination run wild, entering sick minds to create gruesome backstories worthy of an admission into Dortmund Asylum. I went to some dark places to construct this tale, and I look forward to releasing it upon the world on July 18.
Megan: It sounds dark and a thrilling read. Is this the sort of genre that you like to read yourself?
C.J: I don’t have a specific genre that I gravitate towards, as my favourite books include The Stand by Stephen King, The Beach by Alex Garland, Game of Thrones by George R R Martin and 1984 by George Orwell. A good book is a good book, and I will know within 20 pages whether I should read on or just surrender to the next option.
The last book I read was Isolation by Neil Randall, who endorsed Dortmund Hibernate. It’s a psychological thriller that is an absolute page-turner and as I was reading it on my honeymoon I just couldn’t put it down. Neil wasn’t afraid to “go dark” which generally resonates with me. “Go dark” is a term I use when writing the scenes that require a pessimistic view of the world.
Megan: Is that what you'll do with future projects 'go dark' or will you look to do something a little lighter?
C.J: I’m about half way through my next novel, which will take a different approach to Dortmund Hibernate to focus on the consequences of our actions when they escalate to a national level. It’s not quite as dark as my debut novel but it is a tale with subject areas that are not often explored on a broad scale. I’m excited about this and can’t wait to share more with everyone.
Megan: Have you always written or is it something that you've started doing more recently?
C.J: I was always a reader. My grandparents had books from wall to wall and when you’re surrounded by reading material it’s hard not to pick up a book. English was my best subject in school, and teachers often told me that my writing was strong. I’ve got my head in the clouds on most days, dreaming up stories and characters and settings, so eventually about ten years ago I started writing books. The first was a 220,000-word epic, and I soon realised that debut writers need to write a novel much shorter than that. Two years ago, the idea for Dortmund Hibernate began hatching so I applied a smarter approach and created something I believed could earn publication. But I do just enjoy writing, so anything that comes after that is really a bonus to me.
Megan: I think that's a great way to look at it. If we don't enjoy the process, there is little point. When do you write - do you have any rituals?
C.J: If I’m writing in the morning I like to open all the windows, purchase a coffee from the local shop and sit and my desk without my phone as a distraction. The fresh air and views of nature put my mind into an inspired state where creativity can breed. I generally track my progress in 1,000-word blocks – 1,000 is a decent session, 2,000 is a strong session and 3,000 is a rare and amazing unicorn. If I’m writing at night, I put earphones in and listen to instrumental music. I feel less optimistic about the world at night and it is sometimes essential to write the more horrific scenes during this stage of the day.
Megan: That's interesting to consider the time of day on what sort of scenes you might be writing. Would you say as a whole the process though energises you or exhausts you?
C.J: I remember hearing that writing is an exhausting struggle that one would not undertake unless they were possessed by some demon. I tend to agree, because the process does not end with the writing of the book. You then write press releases, you edit, you write social media posts and create marketing campaigns. This aspect is exhausting. But I love the crafting process when writing a book and I feel energised when dealing with this aspect of the profession.
Megan: Finally, of any of your characters, who would you like most to have a coffee with?
C.J: With the majority of my characters behind bars and not afforded the luxury of coffee, I would very much like to sit down and have a coffee with lead guard Walter Perch. This man has seen some horror and has grown up in a small country town. I would very much like to bring him to Melbourne and see how he acts in a crowded coffee shop. How much have the inmates impacted his life?
Megan: It's interesting to ponder how our characters can impact on one another. Thank you so much for joining me and best of luck with the release of Dortmund Hibernate.
C.J: Thanks for the catch up.
To learn more about Dortmund Hibernate and C.J's other writing projects, follow him on: