Sue Coletta: Best-selling Author of Psychological Thrillers, Broadcaster, Award Winner and more – My Guest Author
I’m excited to have Sue Coletta as my guest author. I love her blogs and writing and wanted to know more about her and her interest in all things murder: serial killers especially.
Welcome Sue, please tell us about yourself for those who haven’t already discovered you and your books
Hey, there! My name is Sue Coletta. I’m a Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, and a bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers & mysteries. My short stories and flash fiction have appeared in Out of the Gutter Flash Fiction Offensive magazine and numerous anthologies, and my forensic articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly.
I live in northern New Hampshire with my husband and my pet crows, Poe and Edgar, who happen to live free. Even so, they come when I call them. Amazing birds!
You Blog and you are a broadcaster too, tell us more…
In 2017, Feedspot named my Murder Blog one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net.
I’m also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project, both groups founded by cold case expert, Detective Sergeant (Ret.) Joe Giacalone, and I co-host the radio show “Partners in Crime” with Homicide Detective (Ret.) Kimberly McGath on Writestream Radio Network.
I’ve also recently joined The Kill Zone, which I’m excited about. The Kill Zone is home to 11 top suspense writers and publishing professionals. We cover the publishing biz, marketing how-to’s, and the craft of writing. Each day, we open the doorway into the world of the working writer.
Have you always wanted to write and was crime writing your first love? When did you first discover you wanted to write and could write?
When I started crafting stories in my early twenties I wrote for children. I’d always loved the crime genre, but the authors of that time we’re critically-acclaimed, well-respected authors whom I admired. They won Edgar Awards, went on city-to-city book tours, had raving fans, and seemed untouchable. I never even considered trying to write a crime novel until I moved to the country and found such inspiration in my surroundings it left me no choice but to write. The story poured out of me.
Do you read outside of the crime genre?
It’s popular advice to read widely. Meaning, outside your genre, but I tend to stick pretty close to mine. Since my psychological thriller/mysteries have splashes of noir, romantic suspense, and police procedural, it still leaves me plenty of room to explore.
Has reading a certain author’s work (ie: crime author) fuelled/influenced/inspired your interest in writing crime and why do you think that is? Kathy Reichs for example – her forensic knowledge – is one who influences and inspires me. Who do you read?
Absolutely. I don’t think we can help but be inspired by what we read, watch, experience, touch, taste, ear, smell, etc. The world is a fascinating place. I find inspiration everywhere. As for certain authors, Thomas Harris, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Larry Brooks, Jeffrey Deaver, Katia Lief, and so many others offer constant inspiration.
Are you an avid viewer of Crime dramas on TV or at the Movies?
Because I’ve studied crime extensively, I’m a tough critic of crime dramas. They get so many things wrong. That’s not to say I’m not still drawn to them. I’ll always give a new series a shot. Movies and true crime shows about serial killers are my favorite.
Which are your favourite Crime Movies?
Thomas Harris paved the way for those of us who write about serial killers, so I need to acknowledge SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as one of the greatest serial killer thrillers ever written. SOLACE, which also features Anthony Hopkins, is also a fantastic flick. And now, my husband and I are looking forward to THE SNOWMAN, which premieres Oct. 20th.
I love Jo Nesbo’s books too….The Snowman was the first of his I read. I’m a bit unsure about the movie, it might be too violent to watch. I’ll ask you about it before I decide.
Do you ever watch TV real crime documentaries and do you have any favourite series? I enjoy the True Crime series shown on TV and we have a series in Britain at the moment called The Detectives: Murder on the Streets, which follows the Manchester Police Force investigating a number of murders in real-time. I find it helpful as a writer because it shows exactly how an investigation is run.
OMG, yes! All of Discovery ID, especially Homicide Hunter. Lt. Joe Kenda is such a ham! If you haven’t seen the series, he discusses his cases while actors re-enact the investigation. I’d share my favorite episode, where a killer popped out the victim’s eyeballs, but as you know, crime writers’ dark humor can sometimes get the better of us. I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm where murder is concerned, with the exception of my personal Facebook page. And blog. And Twitter. Admittedly, I don’t do a very good job of it. LOL
Are you interested in what makes a criminal ‘tick’ and when you are writing about a crime they’ve committed (in your books) do you try to put background reasons/causes/childhood etc., over to your readers, or do you just want to let the reader fathom that one on their own?
I’m fascinated by why criminals do what they do. In some of my books I’ve spelled out the reasons behind the killer’s MO. In others, I’ve hinted at it, and then let the reader fill in the blanks. So to answer your question, it depends on the story. I never leave a reader hanging, but if the story doesn’t call for a full explanation—for example, the killer died and left little to no evidence to explain what triggered the first murder and why—then I’ve given the reader enough detail to figure it out on their own. ‘Course, my main characters have their opinions too.
It is complex writing about a mythical murderer – do you base your characters on any you’ve heard about or do you just conjure them from your imagination?
The cryptic clues and the murder scenes come from me. However, when crafting my antagonist, I tend to give them traits and/or backgrounds of real serial killers. I might blend a few together, but the bare bones are based on real people.
Have you studied Criminals in any shape or form – either formally or informally – and has this helped your writing at all? I’ve undertaken several Forensic Science and Criminal Justice courses so that I have some general knowledge to fall back upon when writing. Have you done anything similar? Has this helped you in any way when writing?
Yes. In fact, we’ve taken many of the same courses. I love forensic science, forensic psychology, criminology, and the like. I never tire of learning, researching, and studying. I’ve also attended Writers’ Police Academy, where they offer four days of intensive, hands-on investigation in various fields. From time to time spontaneous crimes break out (using actors), and SWAT, say, storms the building. So it also gives you a first-hand look at how bystanders feel. All the re-enactments are so well done you get swept up in the emotion. For example, two cars had a head-on collision and the victim’s mother was in the backseat at the time of impact. Later, after she’d been dragged from the wreckage, she saw her son lying through the windshield, bloodied and dead. That mother’s cries pierced my soul like a poisoned-tipped arrow. I’ll never forget it; it felt so real.
Writers’ Police Academy is held in the same training academy they use for police officers and the instructors are all cops. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it.
You are a crime writer and blogger, and you have a radio blog show ‘Partners in Crime’ which you share with retired detective, cold case investigator and author, Kimberley McGath. It airs every 3rd Tuesday in the month from 1pm-3pm EST (USA). How did you hook up with Kimberley and how did the show come about?
Believe it or not Scoobs (Kim) and I met via Twitter, and immediately hit it off. She remains one of my closest friends today. Intuition is a funny thing. One day I saw a passing tweet among thousands of other tweets, and something told me to take a moment and read her bio. When I read she was a cold case expert and homicide detective (Ret.) she piqued my curiosity. I responded to her tweet—an act that planted the seed from which a beautiful friendship has grown. You’ll see her name in many of my acknowledgement pages, and my name in hers, because we help each other in so many ways.
When Writestream Radio Network approached her about hosting a crime-themed podcast, she asked if she could bring on a Partner in Crime. The rest, as they say, is history.
Who is your audience aimed at – if anyone specific?
Writers, readers, and lovers of true crime and crime fiction. We don’t sugar-coat true facts, so it’s not a show I’d recommend to minors.
What inspired you to begin the show and does hosting it help with your writing in any way?
We thought it’d be fun and informative. Plus, we get to hang out for a couple of hours a month. Win-win! Does it influence my writing? Sure. We’ve had some fascinating guests on the show.
I have a couple of retired detectives I can call upon for advice and information and I am indebted to them and their knowledge and experience – saves a great deal of research time for me. Apart from Kimberley (I assume), do you have access to other Police professionals and would you recommend crime writers find similar people to help them or do you think it is not really necessary? After-all most information is out there on the internet somewhere. How does the internet help you research or doesn’t it?
Through my blog I’ve been blessed with an amazing group of friends who work(ed) in law enforcement. Coroners, homicide detectives, police captains, patrol officers, undercover operatives, forensic personnel, crime scene photographers … you name it and I probably have a friend who’s worked in the field.
As a way to pass on my good fortune I founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. I gathered eight of my dearest friends and asked if they’d be willing to answer questions for crime writers who didn’t have access to experts. Some of them are still on the force, and some work undercover. My main concern was their well-being. I didn’t want them to get into trouble with their departments or compromise themselves in any way.
To my surprise everyone said yes. We meet every other Wednesday on Twitter from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. EST. If a question is too probing, I intervene. For example, sometimes in order to make a point they’ll draw on personal experience. An eager writer may not know where the line is when discussing actual crimes, which is why all questions go through me.
Are you a plotter or someone (like me) who just sits and lets it flow – hopefully?
Uh-oh. The ol’ plotter vs pantser debate. I’m a plotter. Before I write even one word I plan the key milestones I must hit and when in the story they appear. That’s not to say I won’t adjust that plan if I get a better idea along the way. I absolutely will. I’ll also change the outline to reflect the change.
All successful novels are structured the same way. If you open any book on the bestsellers list, the proof is there. Some writers like to let the story flow. Some plan ahead. No process is wrong. However, I do believe plotting saves time. My first drafts only need to be polished. When I used to pants my novels I wrote multiple drafts that always needed major rewrites. Ugh! I don’t miss that at all.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your books? I wander around the most desolate places …
I’m constantly dragging my husband to desolate bogs, marshes, and other perfect body dump locations.
Who is your favourite character so far (from your own books) and why?
Hmm … that’s akin to asking which child is your favorite. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick one, I may be tempted to say Mr. Mayhem. He’s the villain in Blessed Mayhem, a serial killer with impeccable manners, style, grace, and a zest for life unlike any other. He’s so unique and fascinating readers fall in love with him. I had a blast writing his scenes.
Do you research your settings and locations or do you conjure them up? I often base stories in a real place and then disguise it a little – do you do this?
Yes. I might stick a fictional diner in the town or use a fake house number, but I try to stay as close to the real locale as possible without getting sued. LOL
Have you ever attended a court room during a trial? Has this influenced the way you view the Justice system and your writing? How do you think it has?
For years, I worked as a paralegal. Not only did I get the chance to watch a trial but I went to various prisons to interview inmates, some murderers. Everything influences our writing. During my lifetime I’ve walked with criminals, crooks, notorious biker gangs, lawyers, cops, upstanding citizens, and came way too close to death on more than one occasion—all of which help me to create believable, well-rounded characters.
Have you ever befriended a Cop or Police station and been given access to some of their cases? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’ve been blessed with more cop friends than a writer needs, and I adore every one of them.
As for departments, while writing CLEAVED I reached out to New Hampshire Fish & Game, State Police, and the state Medical Examiner, and every person I spoke with went above and beyond to answer my questions. Their generosity blew me away. I still need to take a ride to their offices and bring them a signed paperback. They’ll get a kick out of seeing their names in the acknowledgments. I can’t say enough about the way they treated me. Fantastic people, each and every one of them.
Have you visited a crime scene – had someone sneak you in – and has this helped you with your writing?
An active crime scene? No. In the US, only authorized personnel is allowed or contamination of evidence is at risk. A mock crime scene? Absolutely. And yes, it’s helped immensely.
Writing about crime can disassociate us (writers) from the real violence of a murder/attack – do you find that you view violence and murder differently, having researched it (if you have) and written your own violent scenes? In what way?
Totally agree about the disassociation crime writing can cause. I’ve found I’m more fascinated by the details than horrified by the crime itself. I’ve watched autopsies and didn’t flinch. When you research murder as much as we do, you tend to spend more time in the gray areas. Nothing appears black and white anymore. Thank God my husband throws me “the look” to reel me back in when we’re amongst more sensitive company. Even so, there have been times when my curiosity has gotten the better of me. A hazard of the job!
Please add anything else you would like our readers to know about your writing process if I have not covered it here.
You asked such great questions I think we’ve covered it.
That’s nice of you to say so. I try to ask the questions I really want to know about and also what I’d love someone to ask me.
Do please tell us about your latest or most recent book and give us a brief synopsis of the storyline.
My latest novel is BLESSED MAYHEM.
A chance encounter … a deadly predicament … a lethal decision.
The infamous Mr. Mayhem is not your average serial killer. Reminiscent of the beloved Hannibal Lecter, minus his thirst for flesh—because eating humans is just plain rude—Mr. Mayhem storms on the scene with style, grace, elegance, and a zest for life unlike any other. Impeccable manners also help. He may commit murder, but there’s no reason to be impolite about it.
Accompanied by his loyal crow companions, Poe, Allan, and Edgar, his crimes strike fear in the hearts and minds of folks across Massachusetts’ North Shore. When Shawnee Daniels—cat burglar extraordinaire and forensic hacker for the police—meets Mayhem in the dark, she piques his curiosity. Sadly for her, she leaves behind an item best left undiscovered. Or is it serendipity by design?
Color him curious, but he yearns to examine the psychology behind her life choices, tough girl routine, witty banter, and unique double-life. In a different time and place they may even become friends. But unfortunately, their predicament defines the risk.
For reasons authorities cannot fathom, these seemingly unrelated murders will go down in history as the most impressive killing regime of all time. His coup de grace, if you will. Even if it means permanently erasing Ms. Daniels from the equation. All the pieces are there if the authorities look hard enough. The question is, will they? The only new wrinkle is Shawnee Daniels, and she may be his toughest opponent yet …if she’s clever enough to play the game.
BLESSED MAYHEM is on sale for $2.99, on Amazon.
It’s also available on Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Play, Smashwords, and Kobo Books. For more information, or to preview the book, go HERE.
Thanks so much for being my Guest Author, it has been a pleasure and a delight hosting you.
I just know you will be a very popular guest.
Find Sue’s social media and buy links below:
I’ve linked all to Amazon, but you can find more buying option on my website: http://suecoletta.com Please note: even though these books are in a series they can easily stand alone.
MARRED, Book 1, Grafton County Series
CLEAVED, Book 2, Grafton County Series
WINGS OF MAYHEM, Book 1, Mayhem Series
HACKED, Book 1.5, Mayhem Series Crossover Novella in Susan Stoker’s Kindle World: Operation Alpha
BLESSED MAYHEM, Book 2, Mayhem Series
FRACTURED LIVES, Book 2.5, Mayhem Series Crossover Novella in Elle James’ Kindle World: Brotherhood Protectors
THE RENDERING, collection of flash fiction.
RUN, anthology of short stories.
SCREAM, anthology of short stories.