Carla Norton’s first thriller, THE EDGE OF NORMAL, will be released this month from St. Martin’s Minotaur. Norton is an accomplished journalist with a number of non-fiction publications out there. This is her first attempt at fiction and it has garnered some great reviews.
Please give us an elevator pitch for THE EDGE OF NORMAL.
“Reeve is a survivor—not a victim—of kidnapping and captivity. True, this 22-year-old is a damaged individual. She’s scarred. She’s flawed. She’s psychologically unbalanced. But when a lurking predator threatens her young friend, Reeve quells her fears, sidesteps the law, and follows her instincts down a dark trail. But he’s watching her every move. He’s more deadly than she knows. And when she treads to close, she stumbles into the predator’s trap.”
That’s the long elevator pitch. The short one? “Think Elizabeth Smart meets Clarice Starling.”
THE EDGE OF NORMAL is your first published novel, but you have a few non-fiction books published. Did that earlier writing experience help or hinder your fiction and how?
THE EDGE OF NORMAL is actually inspired by the crime I wrote about in my first book, PERFECT VICTIM, which is about a true case of kidnapping and prolonged captivity. That case haunted me,that was the seed. But this transition from nonfiction to fiction took a while. THE EDGE OF NORMAL is debut fiction, but it’s also the fifth novel I’ve written. The others never made it to publication. It’s been a long road, and I’ve given up many times, but writing is like an addiction I can’t quit.
Has your work as a newspaper and magazine journalist helped or hindered your fiction writing and how?
The best part of having started with journalism is that I learned to do research. There’s an axiom that, once you start hearing the same things over and over, you’re done. And there’s another saying that you shouldn’t subject your reader to every single fact just because you’ve taken the trouble to learn it. All your research has to be in service to the story. Who was it that said a book is like life with the boring parts left out?
THE EDGE OF NORMAL, and your non-fiction work, seems to focus on the darker side of life, the various evils in life, why is that?
There’s a saying that we write what we fear. Maybe so. I started in the true crime genre because of a shocking crime that took place very near my hometown. And once that story got its claws into me, there was no going back.
What kind of research went into the fiction writing? How much time did you dedicate to the research before you felt you had enough knowledge of missing and exploited women to begin your book?
I think I started researching with my first true crime book and never stopped. That was a powerful experience, working with the prosecutor, researching an almost unbelievable story of kidnapping and captivity. When I started, I didn’t even know what Stockholm syndrome was. Now I’ve accumulated a lot of information about the psychological impacts of prolonged captivity. But THE EDGE OF NORMAL isn’t a textbook, it’s fiction.
Where did the idea for THE EDGE OF NORMAL come from? And how long did it take from idea to completion?
The idea of having a kidnapping survivor as my protagonist had been rolling around in my head for years. I wanted to transform thatfirst true crime story into fiction, and whenJaycee Dugardwas rescued, the idea started to gel. Then I moved from Seattle to San Francisco, and my settings beganmaking sense. And once my villain appeared, Iknew I had a thriller on my hands. It took about a year to finish the novel, but then I got feedback and undertook months of revisions.
Your non-fiction books have done well and judging from early praise, THE EDGE OF NORMAL, will too. Jeffery Deaver said, “. . . psychological insight and edge-of-the-seat thriller.” Did you expect to be well received by the mystery/thriller community? Has it surprised you?
That’s an understatement. It’s mindboggling. We writers work in our quiet little corners, sending off manuscripts, getting rejected so often that we come to expect it. So it’s phenomenal just to get published. No one expects to get starred reviews. And that quote from Jeffery Deaver? That’s the cherry on top. He’s a powerhouse.
What is the best part of writing for you? The hardest part?
The best part is when the story is really coming together, when the scene that was so murky yesterday becomes crystal clear today. The hardest part is when it just doesn’t work and you have to start over.
Of course, the absolute best is finishing the novel and sending it off to your editor.
Do you have another thriller in the works? Is THE EDGE OF NORMAL a standalone or the beginning of a series? Why?
I initially wrote the book as a standalone, because I figured I’d be lucky to sell even one manuscript. But I always had a trajectory for Reeve in mind.I knew what I wanted to do in the sequel. Luckily, my editor loved the idea, so I’m neck deep in finishing that now.
What are you doing for the book launch of THE EDGE OF NORMAL? Are you having book signings and are you attending any conferences?
Things are cooking! I’m launching in California, and I just got booked at the Poisoned Pen in Arizona. Then I’ll be heading to Albany for Bouchercon and then to Florida for an event at Murder on the Beach. It’s all beyond exciting!
How can readers find out more about your books, your appearances and you?
Thanks to my new designer, I’ve got a pretty cool website. Also, check out my book trailer (below)! I’m afraid I’m a bit of a Luddite, but now I’m on Twitter (@CarlaJNorton) and Facebook and I’m getting set up on Goodreads.
Carla Norton’s debut fiction, THE EDGE OF NORMAL, won last year’s Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Unpublished Mystery. It is now slated for international release in September, and is featured in BOOK BUZZ 2013 as one of the most anticipated books of the coming fall/winter season.
Carla is also a #1 New York Times bestselling true crime writer, and her book, PERFECT VICTIM, was put on the reading list for the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit. That haunting true story of kidnapping and captivity inspired Carla’s coming novel.