Q&A with August Norman “Come and Get Me”
Q: You’re originally from central Indiana, but have lived in Los Angeles for two decades. What drew you back home for your debut thriller?
A: It’s easy to associate shocking crimes and high murder rates with cities like Los Angeles or New York, but large population centers often mean large witness pools, modern policing, and neighbors who will come running if someone screams for help. I grew up in the suburbs of Indianapolis one set of railroad tracks from cornfields, and mere miles from uncovered wells, stone quarries, and deep forests. The neighbors were just as nice, but the distance between friendly spaces meant all kinds of mischief could happen without anyone ever knowing. Whenever I’ve wandered back home, I’ve been reminded of the words Arthur Conan Doyle gave Sherlock in the Copper Beeches:
“It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”
I’d already created Caitlin Bergman, a female investigative journalist and Los Angeles native, for another project, and wanted to explore her backstory. When a series of horrible crimes, some still unsolved, happened back home in the Midwest, I cast Caitlin as my virtual investigator. Since I wanted her to have a big city mentality, but small-town roots, I made her an alumna of Indiana University, a beautiful Big Ten school with an amazing journalism program.
Q: Come and Get Me is set on a modern college campus—was there any extra research you needed to do to get into the heads of young adults today?
While I tried to keep the story timeless, I did need to contrast Caitlin’s time in college with the experiences of students on the same campus twenty years later. Luckily, the comedy troupe my friends and I started twenty-five years ago still exists today, and many members have moved to Los Angeles post-graduation. My youth pipeline (feel free to snag that for a band name) kept me up to date on campus life, dating, and overall communication methods throughout the process. Otherwise, the main thing I’ve learned, or should I say, remembered, about being twenty years old in today’s world is something that hasn’t changed throughout time; youth equals invincibility, or at least idealism, daring, and exploration to the point of excess. Back then, I had no problem jumping off a cliff into a quarry full of unseen and mostly-avoided jagged stones, no qualms about bonging beers from a funnel, or blowing off classes to debate political viewpoints with traveling preachers. Now I’d reach for ibuprofen before attempting any of the above. Getting back into that headspace was both fun and terrifying.
Q:You tackle some very sensitive and difficult subject matter in the book—what informed your approach to representing sexual assault and trauma disorders in a fictional account?
A: In no way did I set out to write a book about sexual trauma, though certainly some parts of the plot touch on those horrible wounds. Feeling no ownership over the topic, and not wanting to offend or disrespect, I consulted my personal therapist (Hey everybody, get a therapist, they’re the best.) She gave me her own professional insights as well as several studies and books about victim care and rehabilitation. Once I had a draft, I reached out to a large amount of beta readers. Of the twenty-five kind souls who agreed to read through my work, twenty were women, some in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Each contributed their own viewpoints with the handling of the traumatic material.
Q: You’re a huge crime fiction fan, who directly or indirectly inspired your debut?
A: Like most, my shelves are full of the classics: Doyle, Christie, Chandler, Hammett, MacDonald. My current list is constantly growing with my TBR pile, though my bookshelf holds a fair amount of Connelly, Coben, Crais, Cormac McCarthy, Laurie R King, Sue Grafton, Meg Gardiner, Michael Koryta, Elmore Leonard, T. Jefferson Parker, Robert Parker, Dennis Lehane, J.A. Jance, Stephen King, Walter Mosley, Gillian Flynn, Kathy Reichs…plus a whole bunch of true crime. Also every episode of Murder She Wrote, Magnum P.I. (the classic, please), and Moonlighting.
Q: What’s next for the intrepid, award-winning journalist Caitlin Bergman?
A: In 2020, Caitlin, and a few friends from COME AND GET ME, will return to deal with the mysterious death of her birth mother. Will Caitlin’s search for her own history lead to a cult’s mass grave in the woods of coastal Oregon? Yep. Does that mean I’ve had to build a religion? You know it. Will anyone want to follow it? I sure hope not . . . though I am now accepting checks and/or Venmo.