Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews
I can’t believe how many wonderful and inspirational authors have sat in my chair to date and how successful these author interviews have been on my blog. Each interview has given me a useful piece of writing advice or insight which I have squirrelled away and fed into my writing process. I hope you have enjoyed these interviews. They can all be found here.
Today I am so excited as one of my favourite authors Sue Coletta has taken time out of her busy book promotion schedule to come and sit in my chair. I read her book Marred and ever since then have had a HUGE author crush on her.
Sue brings characters to life in such a wonderful way and she knows how to play around with tension. Basically if you read one of Sue’s books you will be glued to it and your life away from the book will stop!
Sue also has one of the most interesting websites that I have ever come across. If you ever want to know anything about crime or need some ideas on how to murder your character – head for Sue’s website!
So, please welcome crime fiction and thriller writer Sue Coletta!
Sue, thank you so much for coming over here today. Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written.
I live in northern New Hampshire with my husband…five minutes from the cleanest lake in the state. We also have really cool places like Sculpted Rocks and Profile Falls, both natural habitats that occurred over time.
One of my all-time favorite places is Clark’s Trading Post, where they have black bear shows. The bears are well cared for, unlike zoos. They’re adorable, too. I’ll have to take pics next time we go.
When did you write your first book?
Hmm…well, twenty-five years ago I wrote children stories, but I’m guessing you’re referring to novels. My first mystery was entitled, A Strangled Rose, which I wrote about five years ago. It will never see the light of day without a total rewrite, but I may steal the title and premise for something else.
How long did it take to write your first book?
I wrote A Strangled Rose long-hand, working in the early hours by candlelight. It took me about three months to write, another three months to transcribe into Word, and then I picked at it for another few months. But I believe no time writing is ever wasted. I learned so much about writing, rewriting, and editing with that first novel.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
Even though I wrote children’s stories in the beginning, my real passion was always to write a crime thriller and/or mystery. But I never thought I could do it. For many years I let self-doubt get in the way of my dreams. It wasn’t until we moved to northern New Hampshire that I felt inspired to try my hand. So I guess you could say the change in environment motivated me. Even while packing to move I dreamed of writing in the new house. It was almost as if the new surrounding gave me the push I needed to go for it. The day after we moved in I woke up early to begin my journey into crime fiction. I’ve been writing ever since.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
How long do you have? LOL I think I’ve encountered almost all of them…point of view, rambling, too much back story, you name it I did it. It wasn’t until I read craft books that I learned how to write a novel. Anyone can tell a story, but it’s the way the story is told that makes the difference. That’s a skill we all must learn. My writing hit a new level when I read Story Engineering (best craft book out there, IMO). It’s funny too, because I devoured that book in one sitting. I was so fired up I wrote to my CP to share this wondrous book that changed my writing life in an instance. On and on I raved that it was 300 pages of awesomeness. She knew Larry Brooks and forwarded him my email. He was so touched, he reached out to me. We’ve been friends ever since.
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
Which book? LOL The one thing that always keeps me going no matter how much self-doubt tries to ruin it is “the dream.” I always say, dream often, dream big, and don’t let anyone tell you can’t achieve it. And I firmly believe that.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
I’m a planner/plotter. Not always, though. I pantsed A Strangled Rose and two others. Hence, why they’re trunked. Now I use an Excel spreadsheet based on the structure taught in Story Engineering (and a few other craft books I mixed in), along with index cards and scribbles in my notebook. By knowing where I’m going, what milestones I need to hit and where, it helps me craft a cohesive story in one draft. I don’t believe your first draft needs to be crap. In fact, I’d be devastated if it was. Do I ever veer off course? Absolutely. Nothing is set in stone. If the story takes an unexpected turn, I adjust the spreadsheet.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
The best part is crafting stories for others to enjoy. We write in private, pour our hearts and soul and emotions onto the page, and then a stranger reads our book and they experience everything we did. How cool is that?
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
There’s a lot of pressure to produce. The publishers want that next book in the series. Readers want to know what happens next. You need to maintain a blog, social media, marketing. It’s not an easy job. When I was trying to get published I worked 10 hours a day for three-and-a-half years without one day off. Now, I still work seven days a week, but I’m trying to make time for a life, too.
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
Nope. Quitting isn’t an option. Besides, no matter how hard it is sometimes, I love writing. I wouldn’t be the same person if I quit.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
My day starts early. I still love to write when everyone is asleep. So, I get up around 4 a.m., write for a couple of hours, market for a bit, then hop on Facebook while I drink my tea. I’ll swing by Twitter and Google and read as many blog posts as I can before getting back to work by 9ish. I shut down my computer around 6:30 p.m. to hang with the hubby. That’s our deal. I work all day. The nights belong to him.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Not really. Well, it depends. Can I waste time rather than write? Sure. But I also know what I need to do and how much time it’ll take, so I rarely give myself the option of putting it off.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
Without a good plot you’re sunk. Without good characterization you’re sunk. So you need both.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
- Story structure. All bestsellers by notable authors have the same structure. There’s a reason for that, because it’s the optimal way to craft a story. Whether you figure it out on the 5th draft through pantsing or the 1st through planning is the writer’s choice. But without the proper structure in place, the story won’t work.
- The three dimensions of character. 1) their best selves, the one they show to the world; 2) the person they show to friends and family; 3) their true character. If someone was trapped in a burning building, how would they react? Our characters need to be layered in order to feel real.
- How to sell books – marketing Vs promotion.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
By scheduling my time. Can I get sucked in for too long? Absolutely.
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Never give up. Persistence really does pay off. Hone your craft and give yourself permission to fail. That’s how we learn. Then brush yourself off and move forward.
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
No. When you’re getting paid to write, you write. There are no excuses. If the story isn’t flowing, I move onto something else. Or I go for a walk and clear my head.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
All the time. I’m always thinking of new projects.
What do you wear to write?
LOL Thank God I don’t live alone, or I might wear my PJs all day. For the most part I wear shorts and a tank-top (this time of year).
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
Either through my website: www.suecoletta.com
Or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Sue – what a fab interview!
Things I took from this interview:
- How romantic to write your first novel ‘A Strangled Rose’ by candelight! I am sensing it wasn’t a love story?
- I must read Story Engineering. I love how you were so fired up after reading it.
- I love how you don’t lose sight of ‘the dream’ and use this to overcome self doubt.
- I think its sweet how you dedicate your evenings to Mr Coletta and get up at 4am to do your writing.
- I am loving your approach to character dimensions! Very useful.
- Great writing outfit!
Brill! You haven’t dropped too many biscuit crumbs on my red chair 🙂
You are ace SC!
Next week I have author Tracy Krimmer coming to sit in my chair.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>