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From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksYou may have noticed Sue Coletta hanging around and offering her take on my posts. As a crime author, her mind works in unusual ways. In fact, I was recently blown away (not literally, thank goodness) by her free “50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters” booklet and the creativity involved. I’m not sure I want to know what’s on her browser history, but I suspect it’s nothing good… 😀

So, let’s meet this lovely – yet deadly – lady!

The Usual

Hi Sue, and welcome! Your latest book is Marred, right? What inspired you to write it?

Since I don’t have a cover or blurb for you I’ll tell you what it’s about. MARRED is a psychological thriller/mystery. During a hot July week in 2006, four people are murdered, drained and severely marred in rural Alexandria, New Hampshire. Sage Quintano believes this is the work of the same man who attacked her three years ago in her Boston living room, killing her unborn child and scarring her in ways she didn’t think possible. And now, he has her twin sister.

What first inspired me was the murder. I thought of a macabre scene and then worked backwards. I wanted a grisly murder scene, one with a complex puzzle to solve, one that shocked the police/sheriff at first glance. Also, I wanted the reader to really have to think about why the killer did the things he did and what message he was trying to convey.

Scary! I like the emphasis on the why. I always appreciate books that force me to see things from the antagonist’s point of view, as well as the hero’s. What was the first thing you ever wrote?

Years ago I wrote children’s books. Several of them. I didn’t write for publication, more because I wanted to bring joy to my friend’s children. And some, I wrote for my boyfriend at the time, to get my message across. That’s a long story for another time. I’ll just say he was a stubborn man, but loved my writing. He was also my illustrator. If I must say, it worked beautifully.

From children’s books to crime. That’s, erm, unusual! What other writing have you done? Anything else published?

Since my children’s stories I’ve written a few short stories, nothing amazing. Then I got into crime fiction. That’s where I found my true passion. Unfortunately, my books aren’t out yet. I’m going traditional and, as some of you know, this is a long, grueling process. And can be quite maddening at times, too! How’s that for an advertisement for traditional publishing?

Lol – a great one. Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?

I love animals. I have two dogs now. Had eight at one time. The two I have left were the babies of that bunch. So when I’m not writing, which is rare, I’ll play with my dogs. My husband is a fantastic gardener, so I’ll also stroll through the garden and pluck my favorite fruits/veges when he’s not looking.

Are we related? Electra’s a keen gardener, and we love dogs (and cats). What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current project(s).

Right now, I have two projects going. One is another psychological thriller/mystery, with the same characters as MARRED, but it can easily stand alone. During a brutal winter in 2009 Deputy Sheriff Frankie Campanelli discovers her husband’s scalpel (he’s a veterinarian) at the site of a gruesome mass murder. Now, she must decide if finding the truth is worth sacrificing her marriage, her badge, or if she’ll protect her husband at all costs, even if it means going against everything she believes.

The other project is very hush-hush. All I can say is that it’s based on actual events and in order to protect the people involved I have to remain protective of the story, keep it under wraps until its completion. Even then, I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say. I’ll know more when the time comes.

I love the premise and Campanelli’s conflicting interests! As for the hush-hush project, well, you really enjoy building up suspense, don’t you? Which are your favorite authors and what do you love about them?

My all-time favorite is Karin Slaughter. IMO, no one spins a tale better. She is a master at building suspense and leaving her readers on the edge of their seats. I also love Katia Lief. Her descriptive powers are bar-none amazing. Next up is Chevy Stevens. My cop buddy told me I write like her. Now I have to check out her books.

Nice! What genres do you read mostly and what are you reading now?

Mainly I read crime fiction. Although I also read women’s fiction and family dramas because that’s the genre my CP writes in. After I thought I finished Karin Slaughter’s Grant Pass series I realized I missed a book early on, so I went back to read it. It’s called KISSCUT– and I’m loving it!

Thanks for the tip. Are you an Indie author? If so, do you have any advice for other indie authors?

I am not an Indie author but hope to be a hybrid. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both options. So this is the best of both worlds if you ask me (my inner Libra’s showing again).

As you probably know, I’m a big believer in the hybrid model and believe most professional authors will end up following it. Are there any sites or writing tools that you find useful and wish to recommend?

How long is this post? There really are too many great writing blogs out there, and I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving them off the list. As far as tools, every writer should have in their toolbox: James Scott Bell’s “How To Write Dazzling Dialogue” Angela Ackerman’s “The Emotional Thesaurus” and its appendages. “On Writing” by Stephen King, to name a few.

Tell us about your website/blog. What will readers find there?

In my murder blog you can find writing tips, branding tips, musings, first chapters of all my books and I have a new giveaway, “50 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters

Ah, yes, I read that the other day. Remind me never to get on your bad side. What are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?

My husband and family. My husband Bob is my loudest cheerleader. He’s very supportive and puts up with a lot, like frozen meals when I’m doing a Twitter pitch party or running out of clean clothes when I’m having a great writing week. He never complains. I’m very lucky. That’s not to say I don’t treat him like the gold that he is. After eighteen years together he knows what my passion is and is in 100%. Also, I have a wonderful daughter-in-law and stepson whom I adore, a beautiful little granddaughter (she’s 1 1/2 yrs old) and another one on the way. Another girl.

You’re kidding! You don’t look old enough to have grandchildren. Okay, so how would you like to be remembered?

Hopefully I’ll be remembered for my work, the help I give other writers, lending an ear to friends, and my love for family and friends. Not necessarily in that order.

The unusual

Choose a male and a female character from your book and tell us about them. Who inspired their characters? Would you like to meet them? What would you tell them if you did?

Deputy Sheriff Frankie Campanelli from MARRED and HEARTLESS is a firecracker. Sharp tongue, tough, won’t hesitate to sucker-punch someone staring at her ass. This is her façade, though. Inside, she has the kindest heart and feels very deeply for friends and the little family she has left.

Who inspired her? Her hard exterior is a version of my sixteen year old self. I was bullet-proof at that age. Weren’t we all? Her kind heart and troubled soul is a mix of several different friends, which makes her more interesting than most, IMHO.

Detective Levon Samuels from TIMBER POINT, a story about a cat burglar who stumbles across a serial killer’s lair, is a strong African American man who’s honest, caring, intelligent, hot, and a snappy dresser. Believe it or not, he was originally based on one of my Rotties, which is partly why I made him African American, because my Levaughn (different spelling) was black too. I don’t look at animals as creatures or pets. They have souls, they think, dream, feel things deeply, are emotional, etc. etc. etc. When I created Levon my dog had just passed away and I missed him terribly. So I took his awesome qualities and humanized him. The result was Detective Levon Samuels. And he’ll live on in that book. Coincidentally, his partner, Odin Barrett, was based on my other dog, Odin, who also passed.

What would you say to her and him? I talk to them all the time, so I don’t understand this question. Why, you don’t? Meeting them in person would be cool, though. I’d love to steal Frankie’s clothes. Of course, I wouldn’t dare unless she was handcuffed to a chair. Ha!

I’m reminded of the wonderful Blacksad comics, of course. As for animals having a soul, believe me, I couldn’t agree more. If you had to describe a theme or thread running through your life, what would it be? What’s your life theme?

Tough one! Fairness, I think. I believe in equality, having an even playing field and try to live my life accordingly. Not be too judgemental of others, always try and view things from other’s perspectives before I let my mouth get ahead of me. It doesn’t always work but… I try.

Good one. And yes, that is a tough question. I paused when I was first asked, as it can be hard to identify a single one. Now, for the next one: men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Where are you from?

I’m from the constellation Libra. I’m a textbook Libra– like everything fair, can see both sides to every argument, like balance, honestly and genuine people. Nothing irks me more than fake people. Or people that are so bull-headed they won’t even consider someone else’s statement. That’s when I walk away.

You’re right, it’s not worth wasting energy trying to convince someone who’s unwilling or unable to listen to you. Is it true you’ve been abducted by aliens?

Umm… I’m not telling.

Probably for the best. They don’t like it when you share. What is the weirdest thing that’s happened to you?

Off the top of my head I’d say… About eight years ago my husband’s grandfather passed away. We were very close. At the time I owned and operated a hair salon around the corner from his house. Needless to say, he was always there and usually half in the bag. He was 89 and loved to add a little vodka or rum to his coffee. Old Italian. We called him Nanu. Anyway, the man was a rock. Both kidneys were impacted with stones and he didn’t even feel the pain. Perhaps because of his “coffee royals”, he used to call them. Sadly, he passed because of this.

Days later I noticed strange things happening in my home. I’d leave my bag hanging on the back of the kitchen chair and awake to find it on the floor in the living room. He’d hide things, later to discover them in weird places like inside the cabinets. I’d be alone and feel the cushion next to me depress. Or, someone staring at me. You know when someone is standing too close? That feeling of having your personal space invaded. I’d feel that regularly, like he was right in my face. We’d hear footsteps walking above us. At the time we lived in an antique cape with nothing upstairs but an attic that would give the Amityville Horror house a run for its money.

This went on for weeks, until I finally said, “Nanu, enough! We love and miss you, but you’re driving us crazy! Please stop. We will never forget you.”

And then, all activity ceased. Except the footsteps. Those continued until the day we moved north. But those we could deal with, even liked knowing he was still around.

Wow, that is weird alright! Perhaps you should consider introducing the story into one of the books. I always find that a touch of paranormal (or magical realism, if you prefer) spices up nicely a story. Next question: which one do you prefer: Elephants or tigers?

Definitely elephants. They are very much like you and me. They hold funerals for the dead, mate for life, fiercely protect their family. Gentle giants. Intelligent. I could go on and on. My mother was a big collector of elephants, so I got more education about them than I could ever use in a lifetime.

Erm, a collector of elephants? I assume you mean figurines?

Yes. She passed right after I turned 19, so I inherited an enormous collection of elephant figurines. Most are boxed away for safe keeping. Since I live in the boonies Moose and Bear are more my thing.

Phew – for a moment I thought you had a back yard filled with roaming elephants. If you had to live over again what would you change in your life?

This is an easy one. I would have taken my writing seriously twenty plus years ago instead of just writing for fun.

Same here. But you probably already know that. Where in the universe would you live if you could travel anywhere?

I like New Hampshire. New England weather is crazy, but I enjoy having four distinct seasons. I’d love to travel to Hawaii, Italy, Australia, Africa and then come home to NH.

I’ve never been to New Hampshire, but it looks lovely. Plus, I, too, enjoy having distinct seasons – it’s one of the things I love about Greece.

Sue, thank you so much for being here with us! I wish the best of luck with getting your books published. Hopefully, you’ll share with us everything you discover along the way.

Who’s Sue Coletta?

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksSue has authored four novels, MARRED, TIMBER POINT, SILENT BETRAYAL, A STRANGLED ROSE. Her website/blog is at: www.crimewriterblog.com and is filled with interesting information and factoids. I highly recommend a visit.

She’s a member of Sisters In Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She writes full-time and works with a police consultant/coroner/firearms expert to ensure her stories are factually correct.

She is a regular contributor to two other writing blog, co-administer/contributor to an authors’ blog called Prose & Cons, has a new FB group called Crime Lovers – all are welcome to join – and you can find her on Twitter. She also contributes to Venture Galleries and TheWriteStuff.