I'm a literary person you absolutely need to know!

Did you see, did you see? I'm named as one of Dead End Follies' Ten Literary People That You Absolutely Need To Know! I'm super flattered. Thanks, Ben.

Some publishing stuff:

FREAK is officially in production. After a couple of rounds of intense revisions (mostly big picture stuff – which about killed me, but the book is so much better for it) and then a couple of rounds of line edits, FREAK has finally come together... and dare I say it doesn't suck? (This is the most I'll ever be able to praise myself.) I have seen a cover and I'm dying to show you, but I'm waiting a bit because the hardcover doesn't come out till August. Want to be awesome and pre-order it already? Pretty please?

And psst... it's been hinted that the FREAK cover will have special effects. I'm quivering.

I have also seen a cover for the mass market edition of CREEP, which I'm told is also due out in August. Not sure if the cover is final yet, but if it sticks, I can tell you it looks nothing at all like the hardback cover. They went a totally different way, and it's quite feminine and sexy and haunting, if I do say so myself (and not a handcuff in sight). I'm not even joking when I say I've won the cover lottery three times so far in my short career. Those Gallery Books cover artists don't mess around.

Meanwhile, as I wait for FREAK to come back to me for the dreaded copy edit process, I'm working on first pass page edits for the mass market version of CREEP. Lots of coffee is necessary for this.

And by the way, CREEP has been doing really well in the UK and has gone into reprints. REPRINTS! *cartwheels* My UK publisher Sphere sent me copies of the newest edition, which looks the same except for one little line inside that says Reprinted 2011 (twice), 2012. Oh yeah, baby.

11 Questions:

I'm catching a flight Thursday morning for a much needed, long overdue girls weekend. Back Sunday night. But before I go, my lovely pal Nancy Thompson tagged me in 11 Questions:

1. What is the first line of your current WIP? 
There was something fucked up about a job where cocaine was overlooked, but cigarettes would get you fired.
(Okay, so I dropped an F-bomb in the very first line... but I'm still pretty sure there's less swearing in this book than the last.)

2. Would you rather have one book published that became a classic or have multiple books that sell well but eventually go out of print?
I was asked this in a workshop a few years back, and my answer is still the same. Someday, I want my own cardboard stand in Barnes & Noble and Chapters. So, I will go with multiple books, please.

3. What was the weirdest moment of writing inspiration you’ve ever had?
It happened in the bedroom. Let's, uh, leave it at that.

4. What was your favorite book in 2011?
Tina Fey's BOSSYPANTS. It made me laugh and laugh.

5. Who is your favorite author?
Stephen King. I can't imagine this will ever change. His body of work is too extensive, and he's written so many books I love.

6. Who is your favorite, Bill or Ted, and why?
No preference. I was never really into their excellent adventure.

7. Plotter or pantster?
Fortunately or unfortunately, I fly by the seat of my pants. Always. It's why my revisions are so effing painful.

8. If you could go back and do anything over again, what would it be?
I wouldn't have stopped writing in my twenties. I think I'd be a stronger writer now if I hadn't dropped out for an entire decade, though interestingly, I don't believe I would have been published any sooner.

9. What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Well, I got published. I guess that's pretty cool.

10. If you could meet the President of the United States, what would you say to him?
I'd politely ask for a green card so I'd have the option of moving back to Seattle. (Yes, it's all about me.)

11. What is your favorite quote?
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~ Anais Nin

Hope your week is going well. What was your favorite book of 2011? I'm always looking for recommendations.

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Origins blogfest: The Serial Killers Next Door

As a participant of the Origins blogfest (hosted by the wonderful DL Hammons, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and Creepy Query Girl Katie Mills), I am posting an article I actually wrote for a UK crime blog back in December. It may be cheating, but it fits!

There is a very specific reason why I write serial killer novels. 

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The Serial Killers Next Door
By Jennifer Hillier
Originally published in the Falcata Times, December 22, 2011

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
on their wedding day in 1991.
When I was 15, all I could talk about with my friends was murder.

In the early 1990s, my hometown of Toronto, Canada had its very own serial killer. His name was Paul Bernardo. He was young – around 26 at the time – and quite handsome. His victims were girls our age, and because of this, his crimes hit close to home.

Rumors were rampant at my high school. There was ongoing speculation about who might have unknowingly come into contact with Bernardo. One rumor was that a friend of a friend's student ID card had been found at his house after his arrest. The girl had supposedly lost her wallet at the local shopping mall a few weeks earlier. Did this mean that Bernardo had followed this girl and stolen her wallet?

We hung out at that shopping mall all the time. Had we passed right by him without being aware of his eyes on us? How close had we come to a killer? How close had we come to being snatched?

Over French fries and Diet Coke in the cafeteria, it's all we could talk about.

Updates about Paul Bernardo, and his wife and partner-in-crime, Karla Homolka, were on the news every day. Nicknamed by the media as the Ken and Barbie Killers, I remember following the trial that was to come with both fear and fascination. After all, Bernardo had lived close by. How could my hometown have produced a monster? This was the kind of thing that only happened in books or movies. This was the kind of thing that happened somewhere else.

I started reading books on serial killers and was genuinely shocked to realize how many there were in the world. There were the names I'd already heard about, like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Zodiac Killer, the Son of Sam. But there were also killers I had never heard of, like Aileen Wuornos (a prostitute who murdered her johns) and Robert Hansen (who supposedly let his victims escape into the woods so he could hunt them).

I've never been a huge fan of horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. They're scary, sure, but I can watch them without getting nightmares because to me, the villains aren't real. They're clearly fictional, even cartoonish. I don't expect Freddie or Jason to live next door.

But author Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter could be my neighbor. So could Chelsea Cain's Gretchen Lowell. Ethan Wolfe, the creep in my own novel Creep, could most definitely be someone who lives next door.

The scariest monsters are the ones we don't know are monsters. The ones who live among us, who could be our neighbors, our friends, even our family members. Judith Mawson never knew that her husband of twenty years, Gary Ridgway, was the Green River Killer. Ridgway confessed to murdering 48 women, though he's suspected of killing more than 70 in the Seattle area. Paula Rader was married for more than three decades to Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) Killer, who was a church-going father and an Air Force veteran. During their marriage, he murdered ten people. When he was arrested, she was stunned.

As someone who writes fictional serial killers, there's not much I can write about that hasn't already happened. The darkest sides of human nature have already been covered in real life. The challenge is making this dark nature – and the evil deeds that occur because of it – believable to the reader, because as Mark Twain said, "It's no wonder truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."

In a sensational trial in 1995, Karla Homolka, the Barbie half of the Ken and Barbie Killers, testified against her husband in exchange for a twelve-year prison sentence. She served her time and has since been released.

Paul Bernardo is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He spends over twenty-three hours a day in a cell in a maximum security prison outside Toronto. He can no longer stalk, rape, or murder anyone.

But yet he lingers with me, as he does for all my friends. One of my best friends asked me what I was writing about today, and I told her I was working on a post about Paul Bernardo. Instantly she remembered him. Of course she would. She and I went to the same high school. We were bombarded by the same news stories and rumors about him, and we talked about him endlessly. Bernardo was her Bogeyman, too.

When people ask me now why I chose thrillers as my genre, I usually answer that it's because I like the adrenaline rush. I enjoy the quick pace, and the challenge of creating fear in my readers that seeps deep into their pores and lingers.

But the real reason might just be Paul Bernardo. The terror I felt in my teens was very real, and if there's one lesson I learned from back then, it's that you never really know who your neighbors are.

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Thanks for this blogfest, guys! Can't wait to read how everyone else became a writer.  

Why I feel loved today

Two reasons.

1. CREEP fan art. Want to see what my protagonist, Dr. Sheila Tao, looks like through the eyes of the amazingly artistic Carrie Butler? CLICK CLICK CLICK! It's too good not to see! Thank you times a million, Carrie!

2. A made-just-for-me cowl neck scarf by the insanely creative Alma Katsu, author of THE TAKER (and a fellow Gallery Books girl!). I squealed when it came in the mail today.

I've been feeling extremely blue this past week, but who wouldn't smile with friends like these?

Much love, guys.

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Winners winners! Of... chicken dinners! And, CREEP.

Kidding about the chicken dinners. Although, if anyone is in the Toronto area and would like to go out for a chicken dinner, I'm always up for that.

Big thanks to everyone who commented on my last post! Random.org helped me pick 5 winners for the CREEP signed hardcover giveaway, and they are:

Guys, please email me at jennifer(at)jenniferhillier(dot)ca with your mailing addresses and I'll send your books out immediately!

Thanks so much for your support, everyone. Very very blessed to have so many great writer (and non-writer) friends. Proud to be a part of our community.

Have a great weekend!

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