Today I’d like to present my latest interview with Suzi Albracht for my Women in Horror feature. Suzi Albracht loves to write horror thrillers with intense personal relationships between characters. She started reading earlier in life than most of her friends and spent many hours hidden in closets and under beds, sneaking in just another ten minutes of whatever book she was reading. She read everything she could get her hands on but was drawn to sci-fi, horror and thrillers. Influences included Stephen King, Dean Koontz and William Faulkner. Suzi has several books in her Devil’s Due series and her most recent book The Super Easy Guide for Twitter Newbies: Cracking the Secret of Getting & Keeping Followers. Many thanks for the interview, Suzi. Best to you on your next writing project and The President’s Bodyguard sounds like a great read.
The Scary Reviews: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, what was it that led you to become a writer.
Suzi Albracht: I grew up some in the Midwest, some in Arizona. My immediate family was large and strange. For personal reasons that shall remain in the past, I always felt like an outsider. On top of all that, we were poor. Early on, I learned to escape my life by reading. I taught myself to read very early, somewhere around 4 years or so.
Once I discovered reading, I was a voracious reader. I read everything I could get my hands on. I started with cereal boxes and graduated junk mail as my vocabulary grew. One day, I stumbled on my mother’s stash. She was a big fan of scary movies and True Detective magazines. I guess you could say I teethed on the genres I write today. I may not have known all the words at first, but I grew to love the thrills and chills I got as I read.
One I started school, I spent most of my time in honors classes. English was my favorite. I was in ninth grade when I wrote my first play. To my surprise, my teacher chose to produce it for one school assembly. I don’t remember all of that afternoon but it was fun to hear my words being spoken on the stage, and to find that others seemed to like it.
Throughout high school and then again in college, I had teachers/professors who encouraged me, at every turn, to explore writing. I was an eager student, and wrote a lot of stories but like I said earlier, my life was tough. I couldn’t tell my teachers that I was too busy trying to survive life to write what I really wanted to write.
Then my life took an even darker turn. I married a very abusive man. During the divorce, I joined a group for abused women. I wanted to get beyond what had happened to me and not do it again. One day, as part of my therapy, I was told to write a letter to my abuser and tell him how I felt about what he did to me. Being me, I couldn’t just write a letter. Instead, I wrote a chapter. Then another, and another. By the end, I had written an entire book. And it worked. I felt so much better and was so aware of how I had ended up with someone like him. Yay me.
I tried for a brief time to publish that book and then one day, I decided to shelve it. I no longer had a need for it or felt any desire to share it with the world. It felt like a chapter of my life that needed to be closed in order for my new life to begin. Once I put it away, I began to write like crazy and enjoyed it more than ever. I no longer had to write to escape or heal.
I should say here that I never write about my ex although sometimes, the evil I write about comes from a place of having experienced evil. I think it gives my writing more authenticity.
Without a doubt, life formed me and made me the writer I am today. While others in my position took up alcohol or drugs, I took up writing. I use all the emotions I have experienced over the years but none of the people I have met throughout my life.
TSR: What themes do you like to write about, is any subject off limits when you write.
SA: I’ve never given that any thought, but for sure I don’t do erotica/porn/BDSM/etc. Ever. Sometimes, I will put a little sex in the story because the story requires it but I only use it if there is some important information it delivers or it moves the story along. I am not opposed to some sexy romance in a book, but I don’t like using it gratuitously.
I would consider myself a good versus evil writer whether it is fiction or non-fiction. No matter the subplots, it always seems to boil down to whether the good guy can pull off a win.
TSR: What is your writing process like, do you plan the story in advance or let the story take you where it will.
SA: I do a mixture of things. Stories come to me in the oddest of places and times. I write the one that screams the loudest.
I carry index cards and my favorite pens with me no matter where I am. Then when I do decide to begin to write a story, I jot down scenes and critical details to the story on the cards. I keep writing on my cards until I get a full feeling. The feeling doesn’t mean I have it all by any means, but it does mean I am ready to try to mold it all together.
Next, I put the cards in order, shuffling the cards until they form a sense of story sequence. Once I feel satisfied with my card layout, I enter each onto a line in a beat sheet that I use. That beat sheet originated from a process called Save The Cat. I added my own points and requirements so it has now evolved into my own layout.
Once the pieces are assembled in my beat sheet, I can see what is missing, what needs to be deleted and I start to get a real feel for the story. After that, I get down to serious writing. Sometimes I write in order but mostly, I end up writing chapters that interest me the most. That tends to nurture the main story line while also enabling the slashing of old pieces and incorporation of new nuggets.
TSR: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing, what are some of the activities you do in your free time.
SA: I shoot pool on four teams. Trust me, there is a lot of drama in that. I sometimes learn new emotions or human motivations. I’m in the APA league and every year there is an opportunity for winning teams to go to Las Vegas. I’ve already been so I know what it’s like, but other people are obsessed with going and will do anything to get there. That means on some weeks the drama is thick.
I also love to watch TV and go to the movies. For movies, I tend to prefer drama thrillers and at times, horror. I do find that prefer horror in books and not on the big screen. The ID channel is a favorite. I love The Voice, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, America’s Got Talent, Ghost Hunters, Ray Donovan, House of Cards, gosh there’s more that I love, but I can’t list everything now can I?
And of course, I watch Football and Nascar. Yes, I know I don’t seem like the Nascar kind, but I love it for my own reasons. My thing is backstory. Every driver has a backstory you either love or hate. Once you learn their backstories, the races mean more because you know that Brad and Carl have some bad blood going on. And Martin’s girlfriend is fighting cancer. Etc.
I would have to say all those things have something in common. Emotions. Which is what I thrive on and look for, to enrich my writing. I am not thrilled to be part of the drama when people are arguing, but I like to observe from the sidelines and find out what makes them tick.
TSR: I imagine there must be books you’ve read growing up that influenced you, if so which ones and why.
SA: William Faulkner and Stephen King are my biggest influences. Mr. Faulkner because his story always had such a richness to them because of the relationships he created and the emotions involved. The descriptions he used, made my mouth and soul salivate for more.
Mr. King, on the other hand, has some of the same traits, but he also scares the crap out of me. He goes to unexpected places and never fails to surprise. I appreciate that he has not resorted to slasher horror but instead gives you horror that makes your think.
My two all-time favorite books are A Light in August and Salem’s Lot. Mr. Faulkner’s A Light in August taught me to appreciate desperate yearning for an impossible desire. Mr. King’s Salem’s Lot taught me that it was okay to kill off my darlings.
I admire both authors and strive, every day, to achieve at least a little of their story spinning ability. I think you can see my books are rich with inter-relationships, conflicts and realizations.
TSR: What is it you love about writing and is there anything you don’t love about writing.
SA: I love everything about the writing process. Whether it be the long hours writing up my note cards or the experience of having just written a moving chapter, I am in love. I don’t mind the sacrifice, long hours, shedding of tears, painful winces or any other dark side of writing because I know the rewards are greater. I love experiencing the joy I get when I pick up something I have written and forgotten, and suddenly realize that I am good.
But when it comes to marketing, I am not a happy person. Initially, I hated every piece of that. However, I did find a bright side to that. I discovered that I am quite talented when it comes to creating social media photo cards. I even started my own website offering my services. It’s called Wickedly Awesome Designs. You can contract with me to do specialized cards or take advantage of the 100 Pre-Designed Cards available for purchase. I love, love, love creating those cards. It is like I am painting a visual piece of what you can expect should you buy my book(s).
TSR: How many books are planned in the Devil’s Due Collection, can you give us a clue to where the next book will take Jake Holyfield.
SA: I’m not sure how many books will be in the collection. But I can tell you the next book is called Confessions of a Soul Collector. It tells the continuing story of a character from Scorn Kills, Bianca Branch. In Scorn Kills, Bill Branch is married to Bianca. Bill cheats on Bianca with their daughter’s teacher and gets caught. I can tell you the Scorn Kills opens with Bill locked in some guy’s coffin, under somebody’s dead body, listening to the furnace firing up. But you will have to read the book for the rest. Let’s just leave it that Bianca becomes a widow in the end.
Bianca is the main character of Confessions. That book tells what happens in Bianca’s life after Bill’s demise and the resurrection of her dead parents.
The next book after Confessions, will be titled Lucifer’s Queen and in it, Jake and Mikael will be figuring out ways to… you’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that you should not write off the evil Thumbs yet and get ready for a bad-ass Queen in the Devil’s regime.
TSR: Can you tell us what you have planned next, is there a work in progress you can share with your readers.
SA: Besides, Confessions of a Soul Collector, I am also working on Betrayal in the First Degree, which is a crime fiction thriller. Sorry, no horror there, but real life has horrors of its own so it will still be a thriller. Betrayal was originally titled The President’s Bodyguard when it was a screenplay. It was the only screenplay that was sold sort of. There will be some changes, but most of the story will be the same. It is a very exciting book about a pair of Secret Service Agents. I have insider information because I was married to an agent for many years. But no, he is not in the story. He’s just too mean.