A Sovereign of Suspense (Part Two)
Last week I began my interview with best-selling crime thriller author Sue Coletta, where she gave us some insight into pacing a plotline to develop suspense and keep the reader on their toes. In this week’s blog we continue the interview, and Sue discusses how she developed the characters that have now become fixtures in her storytelling:
Sue, I LOVE your female protagonists, like Shawnee in WINGS OF MAYHEM, and Sage Quintano in MARRED, but your villains and their deeds are amazingly evil! Do you find it tough going to the dark places of the human psyche to bring them to life?
Thank you! Excellent question, too. Speaking as a crime writer who dives deep into the human psyche on regular basis, the dark places don't really scare me. I'm intrigued by the dark; it arouses endless "What if?" and "Why?” questions. That's not to say I haven't given myself nightmares on more than one occasion. I've been stuck in my story worlds many times in my dreams. While writing CLEAVED, I jarred my husband awake one night by screaming in my sleep. Of course, in my defense, I'd just trapped myself inside an oil drum in order to experience Sage's terror. Here’s a fun fact: Almost every emotion conveyed in the opening chapter of CLEAVED I experienced during my research for the scene!
You’ve serialized WINGS OF MAYHEM with the release of BLESSED MAYHEM (the Mayhem Series), and MARRED and with the release of CLEAVED (the Grafton County Series). Was that due to reader response? Did your readership want to hear more from Shawnee and Sage?
Yes and no. I wrote MARRED as a stand-alone that could be developed into a series depending on how well the book was received. Turned out, readers fell in love with the characters, so I continued on to book two, CLEAVED. I'm working on book three as we speak. I've grown so attached to these characters I can't imagine not writing about them now. So, yes, the Grafton County Series was born because of reader response.
When I wrote WINGS OF MAYHEM (Crossroad Press just released the audiobook version on Oct. 19th - yay!) I'd always envisioned a long-standing series. Shawnee is such a fun character to write about. Once I wrote the Mayhem Series crossover novellas in Susan Stoker and Elle James' Kindle Worlds and I'd created Mr. Mayhem in BLESSED MAYHEM, the series took on a life of its own. The outline for book three, SILENT MAYHEM, is also done. So, in this case, a series was always planned.
As I mentioned earlier, I love your female characters; they’re so feisty! My favorite is Frankie, Niko Quintano’s sidekick in MARRED. Which one are you most like? Or is there a little bit of you in all of them?
Hahaha, I'll never tell! I’m kidding! There are parts of me in all my characters. Shawnee has a lot of my teenage self - her stubbornness, her ‘six-foot and bulletproof’ mentality, and her snarkiness. Whereas Frankie has many of the same characteristics I do now, only exaggerated. But it's not as simple as that.
How can I put this?
In order for the Grafton County Series to really stand out, I needed to give Sage a lot of my inner-most thoughts and feelings. My heart, if you will. Writing Sage affects me on a much deeper level than any other character. When she hurts, I hurt. Maybe it's her deep-seated love for her family. Maybe it's because she's a crime writer. Maybe it's having to spend time in a marriage that's so different from mine, a marriage filled with secrets. Without psychoanalyzing myself, I'm not really sure why this happens. All I know is that my soul writes the books in that series. By the time I'd finished CLEAVED, I felt completely and utterly wiped. Emotionally spent. Writing BLESSED MAYHEM helped to snap me out of it (Shawnee cracks me up), but the story still haunted me for weeks. And now that I'm writing book three, I can already feel the emotional impact weighing on me. It's a strange phenomenon, but I also think this is partly why readers are drawn to the series. They know they're in for an emotional roller coaster and better buckle-up for the ride.
You’re a very prolific writer. Do you write every day? Do you give yourself writing goals that must be accomplished before doing any fun stuff? How do you keep yourself motivated?
Aww, thank you! Yes, I do write every day. In order to write professionally I think you have to keep flexing those literary muscles. I don't give myself writing goals for the day, like having to hit a certain word count or whatever. It's easy for me to block out the world and crawl into my fictional worlds. I guess I'm lucky in that way. That said, I find it easier to goof off in the summer months. In New England, our winters can be excruciatingly long. By the time the nice weather hits I'm dying for some fun in the sun. This past summer my husband and I had a blast, yet I still wrote two novellas in the Kindle Worlds. Turns out deadlines are the world’s best motivator!
Next week Sue will be discussing the pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing and the importance of networking, so be sure to check back! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out her Murder Blog, voted one of the top 50 crime blogs on the net by Feedspot, and her amazing books on Amazon.com.