Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oh, the Places We Will Go! Info for Writers with Sue Coletta

English: Wine barrels at the storage room at T...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our guest is Sue Coletta - I love keeping up with Sue on Facebook because she's a writer after my own heart - unless you experience it, it's hard to write it right. 

The other day on Facebook, I read one of Sue's posts to my husband because he could so identify with Sue's hubby. Can you tell the story about the chair for us ThrillWriters?

Sue - 
My husband and I had just watched a movie. He got up to brush his teeth and came back into the living room to find me curled in a ball on the seat of the recliner. He asked, "What are you doing?" I said, "Do you think I could fit inside a suitcase?" His response was, "Dead or alive?" Which cracked me up. 

What went through my head was, earlier in the night we'd watched a true crime show. I'm addicted to Discovery ID. And this killer stashed a girl in the suitcase and wheeled her out the lobby of a hotel. I loved the idea.
I was thinking of using it in a story. But before I did I wanted to make sure it was plausible. Hence, why I curled up.

Fiona - 
Only a writer's husband would come back with "dead or alive?"

Once I was at a conference where they were supposed to have a setup that included the bugs and smell of a dead body. My car broke down in the rain. I was on the phone with Hubby at 6 am sobbing that I was going to miss it. "I'm so upset, I so wanted to smell the dead body," I hiccoughed into the phone. "I know you did, baby, and I want that for you too." It takes a special someone to love a writer.

Sue -
Hahahaha! Sounds like something we'd say to each other.

Fiona - 
Let's take a step back. Tell us about you and your writing life. How does your education/past employment feed your prose. What genre do you you write?

Sue - 
I write psychological thrillers mainly, though some of my books are also mysteries. Past experience always plays a hand at what we write, don't you think? During my lifetime I've walked with notorious biker gangs, lawyers, cops, and the average Joe. All of which help me with create believable characters. My past work as a salon owner doesn't play a role, but my work as a paralegal has definitely helped with my research.

Fiona - 
Now I'd disagree with the salon part - you get to sit with different people and get to know them in a way few of us do - when they are feeling vulnerable about their appearance.

You have another story - you were trying out barrels. Can you tell us the story of why? And give us  feedback so we don't have to try it ourselves?

Sue -
I'd just gotten the edits back for CLEAVED, the sequel to MARRED, and when I re-read the opening chapter, I noticed something was missing. The opening starts with a character trapped inside an oil drum. On further inspection, I realized I had no real life situation I could pull from, which made the writing matter-of-fact rather than emotional. When this happens, I need to experience what the character is going through in order to write her, so I asked my husband if we had any oil drums. 

We had a 30 gallon drum, our neighbor had a 55 gallon, like in the chapter. Excitement built in my chest, and I said, "Is it empty? I need to get in there." Fifteen minutes later, I was climbing inside the 30 gallon drum. Which caused a problem right off. You can't just step in and squat. It's too narrow. I needed to tuck and squat, if that makes sense. 

Picture it like this. My hands are on the outside rim. I hike my knees to my chest, then slide in already curled up. That was a tight fit, too! The first thing that struck me was the enormous pressure on my lungs. Pain shot to my ankles, knees, and neck from the odd angles of being stuffed inside. The darkness got to me too. It's pitch black. I couldn't see a thing, which made my heart race even more. My mind swirled with things like, "How much oxygen do I have? What if I can't escape?" Even though I knew my husband was outside the barrel. It doesn't matter. When you're in that situation your body reacts no matter how you try to reason with yourself. 

I stayed for a while in there, too, to see if I could regulate my breathing, but I wasn't able to fully recover natural breathing. In fact, the longer I stayed, the more pressure there was on my lungs. I was able to move my arms, but nothing else. 

When I traded the 30 gallon for a 55 gallon it felt like Club Med. LOL But soon, my body responded in the same way...pain in the ankles, knees, and neck, tightness (to put it mildly) in my chest. I even asked for husband to duct tape the top closed to see how hard I'd have to push to escape. Turns out, it was fairly easy, because the duct tape didn't stick to steel that well, but at least I could experience how she'd try to escape...by using her hands and the back or side of her face. Basically, if she tried to straighten she'd put enough pressure on the lid for it to pop loose. Unless of course the killer clasped the metal bung. Then she'd be screwed. Something to keep in mind.

Fiona - 
Okay just reading those last sentences, my body freaked out. 

Duct tape is often in movies and books - but writers, it doesn't do the job read about it here in Duct Tape 101 and Duct tape 102.

Sue, how were you when you got back out? How long before you, for example, could run or fight? Were your limbs asleep?

Sue - 
They weren't fully asleep, but definitely tingly, on their way to falling asleep. Also, I scraped my back sliding into the first barrel. Forgot to mention that. Once I was out, my breathing did not return to normal. It took a while to recover, actually. I'd say a good ten to fifteen minutes for the pressure to release from my lungs. The pain in my neck lasted all day, sort of like when you wake with a stiff neck from sleeping wrong. My ankles and knees weren't too bad after ten minutes or so, but if I had to run for my life afterward, I'd definitely have a hard time.

Fiona - 
Now I'm wondering about your psychological well being. How did the experience affect your decision making? How long did it take for you to feel relief from the stress? And did you have nightmares about small spaces that night?

Sue - 
LOL I'm fine, truly. I do these type of things all the time. Decision making while inside the drum gets skewed. I'm guessing it's a combination of things...oxygen deprivation combined with panic. I felt relieved immediately upon escape, but that pressure on my lungs still played with my head. No nightmares, thankfully. 

I did, however, write a much better scene. Score!

Fiona - 
Here on ThrillWriting, we always ask about the story behind your favorite scar 

Sue - 
Hmm...interesting question. I have a few scars to choose from, but I'll go with my eyelid scars because I almost died in that accident. It was a brutally hot and humid summer evening, around 8 p.m. At the time I had a 2 hour and 10 min. commute each way to work. The air conditioner died. I hadn't been sleeping well due to a bad break up. I'd worked 10 hours and was only 5 miles from my house when I drifted off, totaled 4 cars, and woke with my face in the windshield. 

Someone had rushed from their house (the guy whose new porsche I totaled) and removed me, laid me back with towels wrapped around my face. I didn't know it then, but when he pulled my face out of the glass my eyebrow and lashes stayed behind. The doctors told me I'd never regrow either the brow or the lashes. They did plastic surgery to repair the eyelid and side of my nose, and they picked out as much glass as they could from my eyes, but I picked out more glass for weeks afterward. 

Anyway, little by little I noticed tiny hairs growing. The doctors couldn't believe. After a couple months, I had a full eyebrow and lashes. I'm now in medical journals.

Fiona - 
Holy smokes!

Well, I have to say today we talked about things that set my nerves on end. 

Can you tell us a bit about one of your books?

Sue - 
In honor of publisher's b'day bash, MARRED is on sale for 99c (Kindle version). 


When a serial killer breaks into the home of bestselling author, Sage Quintano, she barely escapes with her life. Her husband, Niko, a homicide detective, insists they move to rural New Hampshire, where he accepts a position as Grafton County Sheriff. Sage buries secrets from that night—secrets she swears to take to her deathbed.

Three years of anguish and painful memories pass, and a grisly murder case lands on Niko’s desk. A strange caller torments Sage—she can’t outrun the past.

When Sage’s twin sister suddenly goes missing, Sage searches Niko’s case files and discovers similarities to the Boston killer. A sadistic psychopath is preying on innocent women, marring their bodies in unspeakable ways. And now, he has her sister.

Cryptic clues. Hidden messages. Is the killer hinting at his identity? Or is he trying to lure Sage into a deadly trap to end his reign of terror with a matching set of corpses?

Fiona
Thank you!

If you all want to keep in touch with Sue, here are some links.

website: http://www.suecoletta.com/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SueColetta1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SueColetta1

13 comments:

  1. Delighted to see Sue here! And what an experience, too. Talk about doing real research for a story. I think it must have given you a real insight, though, and that can add real depth to a story. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You're so right. When I rewrote the scene, it was worth every harrowing moment, Margot.

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  2. Thanks for hosting me on ThrillWriting, Fiona!

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  3. Wow, what dedication! Great post.

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  4. You get up to some of the darndest things. What were the barrels originally for? Did you smell like lard for weeks afterward? Did you have to wear a "No Smoking" sign around your neck? This was a great post and very insightful.

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    1. The barrels were here when we first bought the house. Don't ask me why, but the previous owners had five barrels stuffed with ashes from the wood stove/chimney. Imagine? Apparently, they never wanted to empty them, so they kept adding barrels. We've been here five years, so they've been empty a while...thankfully. My husband uses the two we have left for scrap wood.

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    2. At least there was no diesel in your hair. Maybe the prior folks intended to make lye.

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    3. Lye is made from stove ashes? Wow, Craig. I had no idea.

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  5. Now THAT was an interesting interview! It isn't everyday you read about a writer crawling into an oil drum to experience something she intends to put her character through.
    And Sue, you car accident was horrifically scary. I'm glad everything eventually turned out okay.
    Fiona, it looks like you've got a great blog here. I'm off to poke around!

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    1. Hahaha. Thanks, Mae! Yes, that accident was horrific. It took quite a while to recover, but I was also in my twenties then. I can't imagine that happening now. However, when two tractor trailers hit me while at a dead stop, the injuries still linger to this day. That's a story for another time. ;-)

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  6. All I can say is wow! The imagery she painted of being in those oil drums...no wonder her work is so good!

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    1. Aww...thank you, Anne. You just made my day. :-)

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