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MANILA, Philippines - “Everyone has a secret,” Jennifer Hillier tells RAPPLER in the function room of a hotel in Bonifacio Global City.
Her dark eyes betray a cunning imagination as she reveals the heart of her two thriller novels, Creep, and its sequel, Freak.
It’s the duality of human nature that makes her tick and is the underlying theme in her books.
Creep: A book about our secret faces
“We all have two faces: a public face that everyone sees and a private face when no one is looking,” she shares almost conspiringly.
That can definitely be said of her lead character Dr. Sheila Tao who is a respected professor of psychology in her university but hides an addiction to sex. It is her nymphomania that drives her to pursue a 3-month affair with Ethan Wolfe, her sexy graduate assistant, while engaged to a loving investment banker.
But Sheila isn’t the only one hiding something.
As soon as Sheila ends the affair with plans of getting her life and engagement back on track, Ethan reveals his true colors. The charming, magnetic graduate student is, in fact, a serial killer who won’t stop until he makes Sheila pay for rejecting him.
The plot is rife with elements from various thriller classics such as the Hannibal Lecter series, Stephen King novels and movies like Fatal Attraction and Disclosure; works that Jennifer admits are some of her many influences.
“I read Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery when I was 11,” says Jennifer, a far cry from the Sweet Valley High novels she had been reading before then.
But her books are all her own, the premises of which were drawn from her experiences as a psychology student and later on, as an employee for the financial aid department of a university.
“I remember listening to my professor explain abnormal psychology. I wondered what deep, dark secrets my professor could have. Then I thought he was a serial killer!”
We ask Jennifer what her deep, dark secret is.
“I am the biggest chicken. I’m a scaredy-cat. I have an active imagination. I don’t like sleeping with the lights off,” she laughs.
It is her many fears that have driven Jennifer to write as a way of expurgating them. “If I can write it, I can understand it and I can face it.”
But another thing people don’t know about Jennifer is that she is 100% Filipino, joining the rank of Samantha Sotto as one of the very few Filipina authors published internationally.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada by Cebuano parents, she has been to the Philippines only twice in her life.
“I definitely don’t mind setting a thriller in the Philippines,” she says. A jeepney driver serial killer, perhaps? A private detective scouring the alleys of Malate?
With Jennifer, the possibilities are limitless. She is now working on a 3rd novel, a stand-alone thriller about another serial killer.
Despite her bubbly and open personality, Jennifer’s next words give us the creeps as she confesses, “Believe it or not, I am Ethan Wolfe.”
The first novel’s villain “doesn’t have the same rules as everybody else. We’ve all been rejected, we’ve all had our hearts broken but we don’t let our feelings out into the open. But [Ethan] is able to exact revenge on Sheila exactly how he wants.”
Another exciting villain awaits readers in the book’s sequel, Freak.
This time, we see through the eyes of Abby Maddox, a high-profile inmate in jail for slashing a police officer’s throat. But her claim to fame isn’t her crime.
It’s the fact that she is Ethan Wolfe’s former lover.
But she gets a chance to cut her 20-year sentence short when a series of new murders prompt the police to ask for her help in finding the killer, a fiend who has been sending her love letters and carving “Free Abby Maddox” on the bodies of his victims.
Creep and Freak’s plots definitely mark them out as thrillers to watch out for.
Jennifer’s rich imagination, the same one that frightens her from sleeping without the lights open, is not about to stop, even at the expense of a good night’s sleep. - Rappler.com
Creep and Freak are now out in National Book Store branches.
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