The Craft of Writing — September 2022
As we continue our year-long interviews of mystery, suspense, thriller, and fantasy authors, I’m excited to welcome Sue Coletta, a colleague from the Kill Zone Blog. Sue is an author of psychological thrillers and true crime, and she has a large backlist of titles.
Her latest novel is HALOED. Click the image to go to the Amazon detail page for the book.
Meet Sue Coletta
Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org awarded her Murder Blog with “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net” (Murder Blog sits at #5 — 2018-2022). She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers” (2013-2022), and Writers Helping Writers.
Sue teaches a virtual course about serial killers for EdAdvance in CT and a condensed version for her fellow Sisters in Crime. She’s appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion. In the fall she’s slated to appear on another true crime show for CineFlix. Learn more about Sue and her books at www.suecoletta.com.
Thriller Author Sue Coletta shares her writing journey on the Craft of Writing Blog. Click To Tweet
Welcome Sue Coletta, and thank you for joining us!
Happy to be here, Kay!
Please give us some background – have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes and no. I worked as a paralegal and owned/operated a hair salon for years. In my 20s I wrote children’s books, believe it or not, but not for publication. Only for friends’ kids to enjoy. But I quickly learned the power of the written word. Through these children stories I could hide a point that I’d tried to get across verbally to no avail. When my boyfriend (at the time) read each story, he understood what I’d been trying to tell him.
Why did you decide to write crime novels?
For several years I longed to write psychological thrillers with underlying mysteries, but I never believed I could do it. Then my husband and I put an offer on a house two hours north in a small, rural town. From the very first moment we strode through the door the house became my muse. While waiting to pass papers, I envisioned myself writing. Sounds bizarre, I know, but it’s true. Something told me I was meant to fulfill my destiny in this house. Later, after we moved in, we’d cruise the backroads, admiring the tranquil beauty while finding our way around, getting familiar with our new area, and I couldn’t help but notice all the perfect spots to dump a body. And that finally lit the spark for my first novel.
You’ve written several different series. Can you tell us a little about each one of those?
Sure. My Grafton County Series focuses on a crime writer, Sage, who barely escaped a serial killer’s clutches in Boston. After the attack, Sage and her husband Niko left Boston and headed north to New Hampshire, where Niko accepted the position of Grafton County Sheriff. They both carried scars from that fateful night in Boston.
The Grafton County Series includes detailed investigations that run alongside Sage’s sleuthing, and often the two overlap and cause conflict. There’s an underlying mystery in each novel, a whodunnit. Fast paced and emotional, with alternating POVs from Sage, Niko, and his snarky deputy, Frankie.
The main themes for the series are…
- Family first. Breaking this rule makes you vulnerable to predators.
- Love conquers all.
- You can’t outrun the past.
The Mayhem Series novels are textbook psychological thrillers, where the reader knows who the bad guy is right away. They’re cat-and-mouse, with a mind-numbingly fast pace. The main character is Shawnee Daniels, who runs the Cybercrimes Division for the police by day, cat burglar by night. She straddles the line of legality, but her heart’s in the right place. By targeting white collar criminals, she steals to repay the people who the criminals ripped off. Shawnee has a knack for breaking into the wrong home at the wrong time, making her the target of some brutal killers over the years.
Without destroying the reader’s journey, all I can say is the Mayhem Series has transformed from Book 1 to Book 5 into a spiritual awakening for Shawnee, with deep roots in Native American culture, tradition, and folklore. She’s still snarky and badass with a knack for getting into trouble. But now, she uses her cat burglar and hacking skills for a different reason. Can’t say more than that without spoilers.
What’s your latest book?
My latest book is HALOED, the final Grafton County novel. Though it’s book five, HALOED can easily be read as a standalone without feeling lost.
She may be paranoid, but is she right?
A string of gruesome murders rocks the small town of Alexandria, New Hampshire, with all the victims staged to resemble dead angels, and strange pink and red balloons appearing out of nowhere.
All the clues point to the Romeo Killer’s return. Except one: He died eight years ago.
Paranoid and on edge, Sage’s theory makes no sense. Dead serial killers don’t rise from the grave. Yet she swears he’s here, hungering for the only angel to slip through his grasp—Sage.
With only hours left to live, how can Sage convince her Sheriff husband before the sand in her hourglass runs out?
What’s your writing process? Do you start with plot or characters or some combination?
Since my characters are already well-established, I start with plot and one burning question—how can I outdo the previous book?
What are your plans for future novels? Do you have another series in mind?
Right now, I’m concentrating on the Mayhem Series. For a while I batted around an idea for a different series, but the characters in my Mayhem Series fit the plot. Hence why the series keeps twisting and turning. Just when readers get comfortable in the story world, everything flips on its head. 😉
What advice would you give an aspiring author of thrillers?
My advice would be to master the fine art of misdirection. You have to play fair. In hindsight, all the clues must be visible. Psychological thrillers require mind games, lots of twists, lots of turns. Becoming one with your characters is vitally important. You need to know them as well as yourself. Even your villains. Nailing characterization, emotion, and a deep point of view are key areas in making psychological thrillers work. If the reader’s mind wanders, you’re toast. Grab them by the throat in the first chapter and don’t let go till the end, then leave them wanting more.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
The best place is my website: https://suecoletta.com
Murder Blog (where you can join my newsletter): https://suecoletta.com/murder-blog/
Thank you, Sue, for being with us today.
Thanks, Kay. JThriller author Sue Coletta shares her writing journey on the Craft of Writing blog. Click To Tweet