I’m so excited to be hosting Geoffrey Girard today, author of the extraordinarily creepy and disturbing Project Cain, which I recently reviewed (you can read my review here if you missed it). If you are a fan of the thriller/horror/science fiction mash-up, then this book is for you. After the interview you can enter to win a hardcover copy of Project Cain, so keep reading!
Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff’s life changes forever when the man he’d thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called ‘Project CAIN’.
There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA. There are others like Jeff—those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy . . . even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from.
When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it’s too late. But will he catch the ‘monsters’ before becoming one himself?
Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy. I’m thrilled to have you visiting today, Geoffrey! OK, this may be an obvious question, but how the HECK did you come up with this crazy idea for Project Cain?
Thanks so much for the invite and giving Project Cain an early look. It was a very practical inspiration. Apex Magazine (which specializes in tales that combine horror and science fiction) had rejected a couple of my stories because they were perfectly fine horror or sci-fi but not both. On the drive down to an Apex event in late 2006, I had an hour alone in the car and eventually took something very horror (serial killers) and hitched it to something very SF (cloning and genetic warfare). I was totally “writing to market” and pitched a serialized novella which the publisher bought that same night. Jurassic Park with serial killers was how I thought of it, and pitched it, for a long while.
Your unusual narrative style, of having your main character Jeff speak directly to the reader, has drawn lots of attention from reviewers. You also avoided dialog, in the traditional sense. What made you decide to use this approach?
Jeff uses maybe half a dozen direct addresses in the whole book, so it’s a minor device. Maybe I should have used it more, and it may have proved less jarring for some. I use these because (a) that’s sometimes how people talk (You know what I mean?) and (b) because asking a question of the reader can sometimes get him/her to stop and look at a fact/scene differently. This is a book written for fourteen year olds (not adults), and I wanted a few moments for a chance of personal introspection about some pretty heavy issues. Direct address appears effectively in several adult novels I enjoy (from Kundera to Vonnegut) and the teacher in me wanted to give it a go for teens.
The dialogue tags, I didn’t want them getting in the way of the form. This is a journal written by a sixteen year old kid. Most teen’s journal writing doesn’t capture dialogue as quoted in the traditional way. It’s always: And then Fred starts screaming I should join the circus or something, and I was like: Yeah, not gonna happen. Were there times I wanted to use quotations? Yes. But it wasn’t my book anymore. With first-person narratives, I’m always fanatical about WHY the person is telling the story and WHEN. Is it during the event? A week after? Ten years after? Is it a confession of some kind? A letter? In my mind, Jeff Jacobson (16) has been tasked as part of his therapy (kid’s been through a lot and is working with a therapist) with writing down everything that happened to him, maybe six months after that fact. I imagined he was writing this down to give to another clone who has just joined their group. Some kid who has just found out what he is, and the more-experienced Jeff is spelling it all out to him. Any weirdness in the delivery or form chosen comes from that. It’s the journal of a sixteen year boy. Not the novel of some middle-aged writer (re: Cain’s Blood).
One of my first thoughts when I started reading Project Cain was “Wow, this would make an awesome audio book!” because Jeff’s voice is so distinctive. Are there any plans for one?
Yes. Audible.com. Should be ready by Sept. 3. The narrator we picked sounded perfect. And, thanks much. Jeff’s voice is distinctive, which is partially why the book is getting such mixed reactions. You either like Jeff, or figure I’m a total hack. And I was always ok with that risk/price with this particular book. This poor kid is the genetic offspring of Jeff Dahmer, and Dahmer wasn’t just “some weird guy.” There was a physiological/functional variance there; one I wanted to write from. Jeff quietly and without “normal” emotion still, I think, delivers some heavy observations amidst all the story and history lessons. It’s not how I would ever tell a story, but I’m not Jeff. That may sound like writer bullshit, but the form differences between Project Cain and Cain’s Blood (the adult book) weren’t an accident.
I imagine there was lots of research involved for Project Cain. I can only imagine the kinds of nightmares you must have had while reading about serial killers! Tell us a bit about your research, and please tell me you didn’t actually interview any real serial killers…
Lots of biographies, taped interviews, court transcripts. Those taped serial-killer interviews were close enough for me. I talked to teens plenty to get specific reactions, insight (both my sons and students). Research is 100% my favorite part of writing. I’ve written books on pirates and Native Americans almost solely so I could learn more about these topics. For a 3,000 word story, I’ll read two entire nonfiction books and maybe only work in a handful of facts. This book was no different. A lot of stuff on serial killers’ early lives, military conspiracy stuff, and the science of cloning. I’ve read/heard a hundred times that male readers “prefer non-fiction,” so I work in plenty of facts and history for that group of readers.
I was intrigued (and horrified!) to see actual photos of real serial killers scattered throughout the story. How did you decide to incorporate these elements?
It’s a book written for teens. If you’re thirty and love serial killer books, the last thing you need to see is another picture of Ted Bundy. If, however, you’re fifteen and have just kinda heard the name before, are checking out serial-killer lore for the first time, etc… here’s your pic. My students spent an hour in class one day just kinda looking up pictures of famous serial killers and discussing them. That may prove cheeseball to some, but I once had a room of smart, interested teens who wanted to know what these guys looked like.
You have a companion novel (to Project Cain) called Cain’s Blood (which I need to read!). I understand this is the “adult” version of the story. Can you give us some background on how Cain’s Blood came to be? Was this your idea, or your publisher’s idea? Which book came first?
I wrote that novella in 2007 for adults. R-rated, well-received. The end. Years later, I was teaching and the serial killer thing came up (as described above). I thought: hmmmm. These guys seem interested in serial killers and that’s something I know a lot about; I bet I can make that old story new for teens. I rewrote the original novella specifically for teens in a strange first-person telling (if you think reactions are mixed now — woo hoo! – you should see this one.) Sent it to my future agents, who liked my writing, but thought the bigger story would work better as a traditional thriller for adults. So I wrote that, and got signed to their agency. In that same phone call, they asked if I’d have any interest in writing a teen version just from Jeff’s POV, then trying to sell both. I said, sure because I still thought I could do some interesting things with a teen book with such a specific POV. When the books went to auction, Simon and Schuster was feeling creative and went for it.
I hope you get around to Cain’s Blood. I’ll be curious if the two books have enough new twists for you, to keep it worthwhile. In short: IF you’re over 18, read Cain’s Blood. If you’re younger than 18, an educator looking for teen fic, or just like to have some fun with a YA book, then check out Project Cain.
Completely off topic (actually, it’s not!): If you could be cloned from anyone in history (dead or alive), who would you choose?
Fun question. First guy who came to mind was Thomas Jefferson. Probably the best mind of his age (and consider that age). Writer, musician, scientist. Couple inches taller than 6’. Lived to 83 back in the day. Yeah, I could get some stuff done with that DNA. I wouldn’t care for all the ginger/soulless jokes, but it’d be worth it.
Please tell us three things about Geoffrey Girard that can’t be found on your website.
1. My oldest/first memory is a nightmare I had.
2. Vivaldi’s concerto for guitar in D, 2nd movement, always makes me cry.
3. I greatly wish Fuddruckers would come back to Ohio.
You can come visit me in Burbank, we have a Fuddruckers! Thanks for a terrific interview!
Geoffrey Girard writes thrillers, historicals, dark fantasy, young adult novels, and short speculative fiction for publications including WRITERS OF THE FUTURE and the recent Stoker-nominated DARK FAITH anthology. Born in Germany and shaped in New Jersey, Geoffrey graduated from Washington College with a literature degree and worked as an advertising copywriter and marketing manager before shifting to high school English teacher. Since, he’s earned an MA in Creative Writing from Miami University and is the Department Chair of English at a private boys’ school in Cincinnati. Simon and Schuster will publish two Girard novels in Fall, 2013: CAIN’S BLOOD, a techno thriller, and PROJECT CAIN, a spinoff novel for Young-Adult readers.
Project Cain and Cain’s Blood will be released on September 3rd. I have (1) copy of Project Cain to give away! Giveaway is international provided The Book Depository ships to your country (please check here before you enter). Everyone gets one entry, but you can do extra things to increase your chances of winning! For your chance to win a copy, please fill out the form below: