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Graeme Cameron is the author of almost three short stories, two country songs and literally dozens of angry emails, including such classics as This Doesn't Taste Like Chicken, The Car You Sold Me Is On Fire, and the hilarious and moving Re: Restraining Order (I'm in your house LOL). NORMAL is his first full-length novel and is being published in the UK and the US in April. It has already had rave reviews from fellow crime writers Lee Child and Jamie Mason. Graeme lives in Norfolk and has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist.
Author photo © Sophie Cameron
Below is a Q&A with this author.
What inspired you to write Normal?
It was a radio interview with an FBI profiler that inspired me to write a novel about a serial killer, but I never really felt I had anything new to say on what’s a very well explored subject. In the end it happened entirely by accident; frustrated with a story I couldn’t seem to get my teeth into, I came home from a walk in the forest one day and sat down with a clean sheet and no plan except to blow away some cobwebs by writing something lurid and unprintable for my own amusement. And as is the wont of things, one led to another.
How did it feel to get inside the mind of a killer?
It’s an author’s job to shine a torch into every dark corner of human nature. We’re all made from the same basic components, so I think if, as a writer, you’re uncomfortable exploring how those pieces fall within minds that are unlike your own, then you’re in the wrong job.
You never name your main character or really describe him in any physical detail. Tell us about your thinking behind that?
I grew up watching films like Jaws and Alien, in which part of the monster’s power was that you couldn’t see it. Your imagination filled in the blanks with its own worst case scenario, which was inevitably far scarier than the hokey rubber puppet they wheeled out in the third act. With Normal, I wanted to invite you, the reader, to similarly fill those blanks with a monster that’s exactly that: normal and familiar and individual to you. Everyman. Because that’s who this killer is: he’s someone you served a coffee this morning, or who sat behind you on the train, or brushed up against you in the supermarket while you were choosing a flavour of ice cream. He wouldn’t be able to hide in plain sight like that if I told you what he looked like!
Is there a character in the story that you identify with? Or a favourite character among the varied cast?
All of them! Unfortunately (for my chances of dropping them back there), I didn’t find the cast in a dark alley behind the bus station. Each character is a product of my imagination, so naturally they all share a little something of me, be it a simple memory or a catastrophic personality flaw. However, I’d say the one I’d most want to set about drinkin’ with is Annie. I like her dry sense of
humour, and she has a say-yes, crack-on attitude that I’d love to explore further.
What kind of research, if any, went into writing Normal?
I learned to make a delicious stew. Don’t print that.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book? What was the most enjoyable?
Making a serial killer sympathetic enough to keep you reading was both of those things. The most challenging by far for obvious reasons, but also the most enjoyable because (for me at least) the only way to really achieve that is through humour, and by playfully exploring the
boundaries of what is acceptable to laugh at.
Normal is the first full-length novel you’ve published, but you’ve been writing for quite some time. How is this book different from anything else you’ve written?
I finished it! I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil, but I’m all beginnings and ends. The patience to craft a middle bloomed late in me. Actually, Normal is technically my second novel. Shortly after leaving school I wrote an action-packed thriller about an ex-cop private detective with a tragic past, an awkward family secret and a long-suffering ex-wife who took him back in the end. It was as good as it sounds and all known copies are buried under concrete in a landfill in New Mexico.
Is the anti-hero a theme that particularly interests you, and does it feature in your other writing?
Yes. I find a wrong’un altogether more relatable.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you tend to outline first or dive right in and figure out the details as you go along?
I gave Normal a rough outline once I was well into the story, but writing a novel is a long process and during that time I’m out in the world living my life and learning new things, having new experiences and new ideas, which inevitably are brought to bear on my writing. At the same time, I’m becoming more intimately familiar with the ways my characters work and think, and inevitably that makes them less inclined to stick to a tight plan I cooked up for them six months ago. So it’s a very fluid process; I set out knowing where I want to go, but the route is often plagued with diversions!
Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on right now?
I may or may not have given you a clue already.
Our narrator serial killer randomly selects his female victims, killing without compunction, dismembers the bodies and buries the parts. Sometimes he incarcerates them in a purpose-built cage bolted to the floor of his basement and then releases them into woods where he can enjoy hunting them down. Expect the worst … but no, this is not a serial killer thriller as such, although lots of killing does go on, but a story of two damaged people finding love! Told in the first person by the nameless killer whose façade is that of a regular guy, this is his tale. Extraordinary. A most impressive debut where witty observations and a dark humour have you almost rooting for him to evade detection. An excellent first entry into the world of crime fiction.
`Utterly compulsive' Fiona Cummins FIVE MISSING. THE HUNT IS ON FOR NUMBER SIX. THE SERIAL KILLER With five girls already missing and two dead police officers to add to the body count, the hunt is on. But how do you catch a man who doesn't exist? THE VICTIM Held captive for months, Erica Shaw has now vanished. In the race to find her, the police uncover evidence that leave them wondering, was she ever actually a victim? THE DETECTIVE This isn't DS Ali Green's first murder case. But only recently recovered from her near-fatal injuries and battling some personal demons of her own, she's out for justice. One thing's for sure. Not everyone is going to make it out of this alive.