Today I’d like to welcome Suzi Albracht, horror author of The Devil’s Due Collection.
Can you give us your quickest description of your book?
At the moment, I have three books of horror in The Devil’s Due Collection. Death Most Wicked is the prequel to The Devil’s Lieutenant, and Scorn Kills is character-related to the main story. I write in a style similar to Stephen King, and as such infuse real-life situations with horror. I do my best to create characters that have the same feelings, fears and desires of every day man. To me, that makes what happens to them, in the stories, more intensely frightening.
A Stephen King comparison certainly lets readers know what to expect. What got you into horror in the first place?
My mother was into true crime and horror. She unknowingly planted the seed. We had a large family and used to go to the drive in every time there was a horror movie being shown. I still remember sitting in front of the station wagon, holding my knees to my chest and staring at the screen, too involved in the action to eat popcorn. My mother was also a library user. As soon as I was able to walk to the library on my own, she’d send me to get her the latest Perry Mason novel. While I was there, I’d grab a horror novel and sit in a corner reading it until I had to return home. I loved the smell of the books and the feel of the marble floor when I’d lie on my stomach after hours of sitting on the windowsill. I was afraid the librarian would catch me reading books of horror and take them away from me. But looking back now, I know that she had to have seen me reading and knew exactly what was keeping my attention. The wise woman never said a word, except to say – Come again – when I checked out my mother’s books.
What are you working on currently?
That would be another character-related book in The Devil’s Due Collection.
This book will be about Bianca Branch and the consequences she is now facing for making a deal to bring her father back from the dead. It will have more humor in it than some of the others because there are unforeseen consequences to bringing someone back from the dead. Plus she has to juggle her obligations to Satan while being pregnant.
Ha! That sounds like a lot to deal with, yes. Do you find you use humor to give the reader a break from all the horror on purpose, or does it just happen naturally?
I don’t purposely include it but sometimes it just happens to fit the scene. The funny thing is that for Scorn Kills, I did not intentionally try to include twisted humor at all. I thought it was a pretty grim story which I told in first person. I didn’t even realize it would be taken that way by some of my readers. But now that I look at it and think – wow, what a great concept. Some characters, in this case, Bill, are naturally snarky in a twisted, funny way. His view on what was happening to him was darkly humorous.
It’s interesting how things seem to develop on their own. What is your favorite scene you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
This is from Death Most Wicked:
With the light turned low, Buzz slid into swirling waters of the hot tub. He leaned back with his head resting on a folded towel wedged against one edge. He closed his eyes and let the jet streams soothe his aches and pains. Before long he dozed off.
A scraping noise, like a chair being dragged, jerked Buzz awake. He sat up and waited. No more noise, no one jumped out. It must have been a dream.
Buzz toyed with the idea of grabbing another beer and getting back in the hot tub to continue his soak. And he would have but he expected the next day to be something big.
Either Caleb would be able to finagle a deal with Mr. Ivanovitch or one of his goons would come hunt them down. If the second thing happened, well, he’d have to kill himself because he sure as hell wasn’t going to let them put any of that red shit on him. Either way, he needed to be ready with a clear head and steady hands. That meant he better get his ass moving.
He climbed out of the tub and dried himself. As he did, he noticed the taste of stale beer on his tongue. Another pet peeve. Right up there with crap on his kitchen floor. Now he’d have to brush his teeth before curling up between the sheets.
Buzz padded his way into his master bathroom. As he flipped the light switch, he knew something wasn’t right. But what?
And then he noticed it. There was a slight smudge of mud on the floor in front of vanity. He opened the medicine cabinet. That bastard, Patrick, had been snooping again. For what? His friends and business associates all knew he gave up the pills a long time ago, and he kept his money in his safe. The only jewelry he owned, he wore, except for his Super Bowl ring and that was in a safe deposit box at the bank.
Okay, that’s it, he decided. First thing in the morning he’d call around and get himself new roommate. He’d find a chick who cooked. Yeah, one with a nice tight ass, too.
Buzz picked up his toothbrush and toothpaste. While he squirted toothpaste on the brush, he scrutinized his face in the mirror. Jesus, was that a wrinkle? Christ, both eyes had bags under them. He better get Stephanie to squeeze him in before he met up with Caleb. She’d fix him up with a couple pricks of Botox.
He put the toothbrush in his mouth. The toothpaste had a strange, offensive texture to it. With the brush tucked in his cheek, Buzz picked up tube. Wait a minute. This shit is red, but the tube says white paste. What the hell?
Buzz threw the toothbrush in the sink and spit into the porcelain bowl. He rummaged through the cabinet until he found a bottle of mouth disinfectant. Frantic, he screwed it open and gargled a healthy mouthful. Then he swished it around, getting it in every crevice. He spit it out and then took another mouthful and repeated.
Damn that Patrick. He was trying to poison him. But why? Did one of those Russian guys from last month hire him? They were sure as hell pissed when they lost. But who wouldn’t be with a hundred Gs on the line.
And then he felt it… a twitching, squiggly sensation under his eyelid. Buzz leaned closer to the mirror to inspect the twitch. He could see the black hairs of a tiny black, squirming thing peeking out. He fumbled through the vanity drawers, grasping for anything that could grab hold of it. His fingers latched onto a pair of needle nose tweezers.
Jesus, let them do the job.
Buzz pried his eyelid open and jammed the needle nose of tweezers around the thing’s tail. He yanked hard, sweat rolling down his forehead, blinding him. He wrenched and twisted until the thing released its pincers.
He held the tweezers up to the light to inspect it. The hideous mutation squirmed and snapped at him.
Buzz threw the monstrosity in the toilet and flushed, watching it swirl around the drain.
Then he had a weird sensation on his tongue. He opened his mouth wide and tried to examine his teeth and tongue.
Oh shit, oh shit ─
Buzz felt a crawling tickle in his throat. Something was caught in the membranes of his throat. He jammed two fingers down his throat, forcing himself to vomit. He puked until his insides felt like they might come up through his chest.
He grabbed the edges of the vanity with both hands, trying his best to keep himself from spewing any more of himself into the sink.
When he looked down, several of his teeth stared back at him from the sink basin.
What the ─?
The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
Was he being watched? His eyes slid up to the mirror. A moving shadow caught his eye. It moved. He thought he saw Patrick’s silhouette behind him, cowering in the shadows.
It was too late for Buzz. His head exploded.
Wow, that’s descriptive and horrifying! I actually physically cringed at the eye part. Do you get a thrill when you write a scene like this because you know it’s going to give your readers a reaction?
I get a thrill knowing I made someone experience an emotion and especially a physical reaction to something I wrote. After all, the whole point of writing is to stir up emotions. When I find out that something I wrote has hit someone hard, I’m right there with them but I’m dancing and shrieking at the moon with excitement. I get the same thrill when my words make someone fall in love with a character because of their vulnerability. And the same again, when they despise one of my characters because he is evil and cunning.
What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?
Believe in yourself. You will find there are people who want to bring you down for whatever reason. Trolls comes in many forms. It may be one of those people on Amazon who write those horrible 1 star reviews that break your heart. And sometimes they will be in the form of a fellow writer who will pretend to support you while unfairly criticizing you with a smile on their face. Whenever criticism comes your way, first look at the criticism with an honest mind. If it is unfair, untrue or just plain crap, know it for what it is and shake it off. But if it is even remotely true, fix your book. You are expecting people to pay good money for your book so you are obligated to give them a quality product. No matter what, do not fight back, it will only give you a headache and more ammunition for them to use. Your best defense is to rise above it and do even better.
That’s excellent advice. It’s sad when overly harsh/unfair criticism destroys a writer’s excitement. Your suggestion to “no matter what, do not fight back” is a hard thing to learn but I also think the best sanity-preserving approach. Have you had personal experience with trolls?
Mostly, I’ve experienced them in real life for reasons other than writing and like you said, it’s a hard thing to learn not to respond to them. However, I have met one in my writing life online. I am still “friendly” with that person but I keep my distance. That person and I have a lot of common friends, none of which have seen that troll side. At first, it was all I could do not to tell that person what I thought of them. But I realized I had neither the time nor energy to waste on such crap. I decided not to allow them to take my joy.
Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?
Hmmmmm, that is a question that requires some reflection. I don’t use situations that happened to me personally. Nor do I base any characters on anyone I know or have met. However, like my fellow authors, I observe people. Often times I will take traits I have seen in people and apply them to my characters because you just can’t beat real life for drama and suspense. I find that if you apply enough real life traits and habits to your characters, it makes way easier to understand how they will react to things and what they are thinking. And since my writing style is to make my characters and situations as real-life as possible, it makes my type of horror even scarier.
Since you like to draw from real life, does the news ever inspire you with an idea or prompt? Or, where would you say you get ideas for your horror bits?
I have a file where I keep little tidbits. Things like the story of a woman who killed her spouse, hid the body, and then took her babies to another state where she began to assume the identity of her spouse. She became a man… looks, name, job, social security number, everything. Her babies were young enough she could get away with it. She only got caught when someone found her husband’s body. Or the story of the person who wanted to be buried with all their Chicago Bears memorabilia. They wanted to be in a Lazy Boy lounger with a beer in their hands .
I love strange things but I never use the things I save. Instead, they get my imagination working overtime and that’s the way I come up with some of my horror. I find if you take normal things and stretch them to the extreme, you can come up with some real gems. For instance, my tooth brushing scene with Buzz. I had just seen a story about a spider found in the filling of an Oreo cookie. That prompted me to think about other people who have found surprises in their food. After that, it was just a matter of taking what was an ordinary event – brushing your teeth before going to bed – and inserting the surprise.
Thank you, Suzi, for sharing!