What do you figure people are obsessed with learning about serial killers?
Serial killers don't possess the same moral compass that we do, and that’s what makes them both fascinating and terrifying. If you were a fan of DEXTER, you might remember that his adopted father saw Dexter’s tendencies very early in his childhood and made a point to teach him a “code” that he should live by, so that he could exist as a functioning member of society. That’s what made Dexter unique, because most serial killers (real or fictional) will never have that. I think what intrigues people about serial killers is that they can say and do whatever they want without being weighed down by a conscience. They feel no remorse or guilt, and as twisted as that is, I imagine it’s also very freeing.
In The Butcher, you have Matt who realizes someone who is close to him is actually a serial killer. How important do you feel it was to look at the family aspect of the serial killer and not just the victim's perspective?
When writing a thriller starring a serial killer, it’s natural to focus on the victims to an extent. Their fear becomes the readers’ fear, and it helps readers to see what’s happening inside the mind of the villain. But what about the families of the serial killers? They’re victims too, and while they may not always get murdered, they’re forced to live with the aftermath of what their serial-killing relative has done. It's this conflict that drove THE BUTCHER forward. What would Matt do when he realizes his grandfather is a serial killer? Does he turn the old man in? Or does he keep the secret? He has a lot to lose himself if the secret ever comes out. I wanted to explore the answers to these questions.
When working on The Butcher were there specific things you felt needed to be included in learning about this specific type of serial killer?
What makes Edward Shank different from other serial killers is that he’s 80 years old, so the brunt of what I researched had to do with him being elderly. What physical limitations would he have? What was his life like in the retirement home? How would he spend his remaining days? But he was so much fun to write, because at his age, he said whatever he wanted, and did whatever he wanted, which gave me a lot of freedom as a writer.
Some believe that a tendency to be a serial killer is learned and not inherited, do you think based on any research you have done that maybe the case?
I think it’s a combination of both, and I know that’s the easy answer. But I think there are just some people who, no matter how they grew up and no matter what they’ve experienced, will never possess the ability to kill someone else. At the same time, there are people who were raised “normally” who will, no matter what they’ve been taught, hurt others. The rest fall somewhere in between, and have experiences that may bring out their inherited tendencies.
How do you feel The Butcher is different than your previous two books, Freak and Creep?
THE BUTCHER is a standalone, though set in the same Seattle world as CREEP and FREAK. The story is truly villain-centered. Everything stems from Edward, and what he’s done, and what he continues to do. It’s his world, and everybody else revolves around him.
If there was anything you wished readers to get from reading The Butcher what would it be?
All I hope is that readers are entertained! That’s the only goal I ever have when writing a novel. If I can pull you out of your everyday life and entertain you with a fun story, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
Do you have any future writings in the works you can share with readers?
I’m currently working on a new standalone thriller, also set in Seattle, starring a new female villain… but that’s all I can say right now without jinxing myself!
Where can people find out more about you?
My website: www.jenniferhillier.org
My blog: www. serialkillerfiles.com