When you think about horror writers you probably don’t think of sweet faced, blond ladies like Suzi Albracht. Surprise! Behind that smile is the mind that created “The Devil’s Lieutenant” and “Scorned”, two very frightening tales of terror. I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Albracht a few questions about her books.
• What inspired you to write your books?
“Actually SCORN KILLS was written to entice people to read The Devil’s Lieutenant but as I wrote it, it became more and more important to me. I enjoyed living in the main character, Bill’s, head while at the same time being shocked at his choices in behavior. It was so intoxicating that it became a guilty pleasure for me. I typically have strong emotional ties with all my characters but Bill was special. I found it fascinating that Bill would preen when Karina called him on the phone and that he somehow thought signing a contract in blood was normal. I can get in the head of any of my characters but I have to admit it was really strange that it was a male character who let me get so entrenched in his head.”
• Ms. Albracht is currently writing a book that further elaborates on Mikael, a character from The Devil’s Lieutenant.
“When I finished SCORN KILLS, I realized that Mikael needed to tell his story. He woke me up in the middle of the night and said “You have to tell my story. I need it told that I loved my family to the depths of my soul. My mother, my wife, my son… they did not deserve what happened to them. And I owe it to the memory of the little girls that their story is told. I wanted to much to save them.” I knew then that I had no choice… Pretty Little Dead Girls had to be written. While it is a tragic story, it has been very enjoyable to write.”
• There’s no doubt that she identifies with Mikael in some ways. That’s apparent in the way she discusses this character.
“Mikael is my absolute favorite character. He is very deep in character, he has a history of deep pain and loss, and yet he never gives up. I identify with Mikael the most of all my characters. There is a point in The Devil’s Lieutenant where Mikael has lost everything and yet he still has a strong desire to save humanity. The truth is that I too had a history steeped in pain and loss, and I couldn’t even think of giving up. It is the bad things in life that show us our true character. I found that to be true with Mikael, and at the same time myself.”
• On her Amazon Author’s page Albracht writes about her love of reading. So, what does a horror writer read; who inspires her to put pen to paper?
“I read William Faulkner at a very young age. I couldn’t get enough of him. Mr. Faulkner taught me the richness of description, and how to be totally immersed in character relationships.”
“When I got older, reading Stephen King introduced me to the thrills of being terrified. He took me to places of fear that I had never imagined. Reading Stephen King encouraged me to open my mind, to allow myself the freedom to go to dark places where monsters rule until we conquer them.
Then Dean Koontz came along and showed me horror with a tweak. He was in the same genre as SK but yet his horror was different. I came to see more possibilities through DK.”
“I would say all three have greatly influenced and inspired me.”
• What is your favorite book and why?
“I have two. A Light in August by William Faulkner and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. You can apply what I had said earlier to understand why these are my favorite books.”
• What makes a good book?
“Great characters with rich story arcs.”
• What is your process for writing? Do you dedicate a certain amount of hours daily? Do you go from beginning to end or just write in a non-linear fashion?
“The entire book comes to me in a flash. I typically know the name and most of the characters almost immediately. So it is all there in my head waiting to be put on paper. I start out jotting notes and pieces of info on index cards. I have a special little bag where I keep the cards until I get a substantial accumulation. I don’t move on to actually writing chapters until I have about fifty cards. Some cards will be a scene, others will hold character traits or descriptions.
Next I sort the cards into chapter piles. I use the chapter piles to begin to write the chapters. At this point there is no beginning or end, that comes later. This stage of writing allows me to begin to develop the story and begin to flesh out characters.
For a long time, I wrote screenplays so I read everything on them. Learning how to write them was good for me, because it pushed me to develop a strong sense of structure. Anyway, one day I read Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. It changed my life. While I had always followed and understood, the three acts and all that, Save The Cat put it in a perspective that made more sense to me than anything else. After awhile, I developed a template of sorts based on the book and software.
(Basically, the Save The Cat theory is that in every movie there is this moment where the hero does something – like save the cat – that defines who he is, and makes us decide to like him. It doesn’t happen in movies as much now but still works for me.)
For every book I write, there’s always this magical point where I feel it’s time to put my chapters in order based on the template. The time is different for each book.
As for time, I tend to binge write and while I may end up doing some daily amount of writing, I feel restricted if I say I’m going to write X number of hours every day or X number of words.”
• What is the most difficult part in writing a book?
“Getting the time to write. Life likes to throw things in the way. But to be honest, writing almost always comes first for me.”
• Do you have any special steps or superstitions you follow when writing?
“I do all revisions in pink and purple Unibal Vision pens. I also use gray and pale blue lined paper for those sections that need to be added.”
• If you could make one of your books into a movie which one would you choose and who would portray the main character(s)?
“Ironically, back when I wrote screenplays, I had one sold via a connection in Hollywood. I was told the Producers were excited, so I was over the moon. My honeymoon lasted 3 weeks. Then the money people dropped out and that was the end of that. I plan on turning that script into a novel soon.
Back to your question – I would say Pretty Little Dead Girls. It isn’t finished yet but I think it has POW potential.
• Mikael would be played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) if they could rough him up a bit.
• Tatiana would be played by Mila Kunis.
• Dimitry Ivanovitch would be played by Steve Buscemi.
• The killer should be played by an unknown.”
With 5-star reviews on both her books Albracht has obviously struck a chord with readers.
(“I like Albracht’s style of writing.”)
(“And the story kept my attention.”)
(“I recommend this to all readers who like their stories to have twists and turns.”)
• Do you read your reviews and how do they affect you?
“Yes. Mine have all be positive so far but it’s interesting how one person can see something in a novel that another person sees totally different. I declined the offer to post a review by one reviewer of SCORN KILLS because I wasn’t sure she’d post what she had written me because she had a list of suggestions for improving the novel that included items that would change who my characters were. For instance, she felt that Bill should swear more and be more abrasive. She also had specific actions she felt should have taken place during the sex scenes – she said sex on the kiddie desk was impossible but that Bill should have thrown Karina against the chalkboard and ravaged her there. She couldn’t get that Bill’s bravado was all in his head and he was too weak an individual to go throwing out the f-word when he got upset. She obviously wanted a different book more aligned with her own writing.”
Having read both of Suzi Albracht’s books I have to say I couldn’t put them down. The characters were vibrant and seemed to step right off the pages. I can’t wait for the next one. But I will keep the lights on while reading!