Chandler man debuts his first mystery thriller - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler man debuts his first mystery thriller

February 18th, 2022 development
Chandler man debuts his first mystery thriller
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By Srianthi Perera, Contributor

Chandler resident Steven Patterson’s debut novel is set mostly in Gilbert, where a serial killer is running amok.

The scene is not typical of the town. In fact, it’s macabre and disturbingly similar to another scene law enforcement encountered there a few months ago.

Patterson’s suspense thriller novel, “Not Normal,” also incorporates Mesa, Tempe and Chandler.

“I always thought of Gilbert as a quiet suburb and wondered, what if it was terrorized by a serial killer?  In my mind Gilbert, seems so friendly and safe, I wanted to exploit that,” he said. “It also has a ‘farm community’ feel to it, and that is where our antagonist is most comfortable.”

Patterson has lived in Arizona since 1982, hence landmarks such as the Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe appear in the book. His father worked as a flour miller there in the 1980s.

The setting also incorporates parts of the Midwest, where Patterson spent his early years: Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

“Not Normal,” the first in the Normal Series, features teenager Anthony Jacobson, who worked hard to hone a pleasing personality.

In the author’s words: “This was no easy task considering his sordid family background and the gossip mill of his native Nebraskan town. His theater was mostly a success. Teachers bragged about his character, his younger brother idolized him, and classmates wanted to be him. However, some saw through his mask, including his mother. They knew Anthony Jacobson was Not Normal.

“Years later, Patricia Hopkins peered from the safety of her home as two detectives stepped across yellow police tape and into the adjacent Gilbert, Arizona suburban bungalow. What greeted them was macabre and disturbing.”

Detectives hunt for the killer and explore the mindset of a psychopath. Patterson uses the genre’s tools of horror, mystery and suspense to fashion his story.

It seems the author began honing his horror skills rather young.  “I am a movie buff in general; however, I have always loved horror,” he said.

John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and slasher films are among his favorites. “As a kid, I wanted to see every horror movie that came out; but was too young to do so,” Patterson recalled. “My mother took me to them, even though she hated the genre.”

He read suspense novelists such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Robert McCammon. King’s “The Stand” is his all-time favorite, while Koontz’s “Whispers” and McCammon’s “Swan Song” follow closely behind.

To write his own novel, Patterson had a general outline in his head before starting.

“I like stories that jump around in time,” he said, citing Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” as an inspiration.

“As a result, I knew chunks of the antagonist’s life. I would think of each as an independent story; as a result, I could place them randomly throughout the novel.  By the end, I wanted it all to come full circle and intertwine,” he said.

Asked for the best part of his story, Patterson said: “It does have a fun reveal I cannot discuss too much. Based on my reviews, readers seem to enjoy the detail I use in each scene. They also enjoy the time jumps and how it eventually is one story. There are many Easter Eggs in it for fans of the genre; finding those are always fun.”

Patterson took a long time to complete his novel. He began writing it in 1997, but stopped after a couple of chapters.

Life kept him busy. During his younger days, he lived in Ahwatukee and attended Corona del Sol High School, where he met his future wife, Christi. He studied electrical engineering at Arizona State University, but graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. He has worked in help desk management throughout his working life.

The couple, who have lived in Chandler since 1999, raised two sons, Joshua and Nathan, who are both in college.

When the sons were younger, sports, particularly baseball, took over the family’s life.

“I was a very active father. I coached my kids in football and baseball. Once they became serious about baseball, I helped coach their club teams,” Patterson said. “My wife Christi was the team mom and extremely active with them, too.” 

Every weekend was spent at tournaments, he said.

“Our team, “The East Valley Devils” were a very tight group. Our vacations were spent together, often surrounding tournaments in such places as Temecula, Vegas and San Diego.  The first person who asked me to sign their copy of Not Normal was Mike Fritz, who runs the East Valley Baseball league in Chandler.”

After the sons received baseball scholarships and left home, home life became quiet. “A big part of my life was over,” he felt.

In 2019, his mother passed unexpectedly.

“She was an amazing woman and the glue that held our family together. As an example of the type of woman she was, on her 80th birthday she went skydiving,” he said. “As a kid, I loved horror movies and novels. She hated them. However, since I was too young to attend or buy them myself, she took me to the movies and purchased the novels.”

He dedicated her first novel to her. It only seemed natural, he said.

Two months after her death, Patterson was laid off two days after he had marked his 20th anniversary in his job. “My 20-year celebration was the Friday before, complete with cake, cards and a plaque,” he said.

Depressed, Patterson began delivering food to make ends meet.

“In addition, I picked up my two chapters from 1997 and a year later self-published my first novel on Amazon,” he said.

The author partly credits the pandemic for enabling him to write and complete the story. Writing helped him cope with his depression.

“I was jobless and in a pandemic; consequently, it was my release,” he said. “Only two chapters were completed before the Coronavirus. I also had to change dates to pre-Corona, to make the story realistic. It does end with a reference to the pandemic.”

Patterson is writing a sequel, set in the paranormal, titled “Para-Normal.” Many smaller characters return for larger parts here.

“I loved those characters so much, even though they didn’t occupy a lot of time in the novel,” he said. “I’m bringing them back to enjoy more terror.”

Steven Patterson’s “Not Normal” is available through amazon.com and is priced at $15.

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