The Sacrifice by Caroline Steiger
Yes, it may only be fiction, but still you have to reread the first few pages of Caroline Steiger’s psychological thriller The Sacrifice to make sure you’ve got it right — that a cool cucumber named John is casually explaining how he just murdered a girl in a swimming pool in Cancún during Spring Break in 1989.
The Sacrifice has a lot going for it. As Steiger describes, “It’s a series of people who did unconscionable things, for reasons they thought were right.” Strangely, some of the biggest crimes besides actual murder, committed by John’s two successful buddies Joseph and Jason, “had been deep intoxication rendering them nearly useless to a man who had exactly one thing in mind when he came into the pool, which he accomplished and has lived a life of freedom since.”
We got a chance to talk more with Steiger about the narrative choices she made throughout The Sacrifice, the allure of college spring break and what it was like being in the headspace of an unrepentant killer.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Sacrifice?
A: The Sacrifice was born from something I had not experienced. My imagination is active and so I thought. What about spring break makes it a rite of passage? What makes it alluring? Why do parents’ shudder at the thought of it? Is it their lack of control? Will their kids be safe? Will they come back the same? Will they return? It was outside of my comfort zone. The risk took on a life of its own. The character development, multiple points of views, different timelines but it was the twists and turns when I just knew I had a book. I never know what will be written until I am in front of my computer and the ride begins.
Q: The main event in the book take place during a traditional college “Spring Break.” Did you have experiences during Spring Break that you used to develop your storyline? How is it that personalities tend to stray from their norms in these situations?
A: I did not have this experience. I created it through these characters. People tend to change when unrestricted from routine. It is a stimulating environment, a lack of inhibition and outside of the watch of their parents. I believe for younger people it is their chance to be free. Infuse them with flowing alcohol, drugs and the recipe for tragedy lurks.
Q: John in particular is a downright chilling individual. What was it like crafting his character and writing about the acts he committed?
A: It was a journey creating him. A challenge because nothing about him was familiar. The process of inhabiting someone without regard and conscience gave me the creativity to shape him from youth into adulthood. Evil is inherent to him. I have led a life of joy and trauma. I have shuddered in certain situations. What made me feel that I would ask myself. What provoked it in me? He had to be someone without any moral compass. He is someone who would make me squirm. Any and every environment motivates him. He is predatory. He knows his audience. His ability to spot weaknesses in others is his greatest strength. I had to keep telling myself he was the guy every girl wanted. A lothario. Why? It had to be hidden until that night. This became his playground. Spring break did not change him. He changed spring break.
Q: What is it about human nature that sometimes allows people to justify the most hideous acts in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they made perfect sense?
A: John is a psychopath. He is fascinating on the surface, cult-like, people follow him. They do so because he convinces his friends that his actions are theirs. He lacks conscience, any sense of guilt. He is good at what he does. His explanation to his friends after the drowning was “why didn’t you stop me.” This is the basis of their bond. He owned them. The only way the other characters deal with him is to become more like him.
Q: Describe to us your writing process. Do you plan everything out beforehand or come up with plot as you progress through the story? And what advice would you give to aspiring writers looking to start their own journey to authorhood?
A: My process is unique. I write book after book. This is my debut. I do not read any other books while I am writing. I want my style to be my own, free of influence from other books. It is solitary. It becomes my world until I write “The End.”
Q: What do you hope readers take away from The Sacrifice?
A: I want readers to understand the human plight of this book. Trauma has touched us all. Every person reacts differently. Some are fueled by revenge and others are forever lost. It is what binds us. It becomes the thing which informs our choices. It changes the fiber of who we are. There are those who persevere and then there is The Sacrifice. The readers will decide.
Q: What’s next on your to-do list?
A: I have two other books written. Writing is love. Editing is my nemesis. It is what I was born to do.
Caroline Steiger was born in New York City and is now living the Florida life. Winters are not missed. Summers are her sweet spot and the water her peace. She is married to a man who is the support to her backbone and works alongside the most beautiful dog ever. Blessed. Happy. Writing. This is what she was born to do. Visit her website at www.clsteiger.com.
Publish Date: March 5, 2023
Author: Caroline Steiger
Page Count: 303 pages