Friday, December 2, 2011

Author Spotlight: CHRISTINE SUTTON

This week we are joined by horror writer CHRISTINE SUTTON.
She is the author of Jessica, as short story which sucks you into the world of a little girl, and Red, her latest work.

So without further adieu, I introduce you to Christine.

Hi Christine, can you tell us where you are from?
I am from Central California, USA. Born and raised here in the valley.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a 36 (soon to be 37) year old woman. I work as a custom cake artist. I have been married to my wonderful husband for 15 years. I do not have any children. I love cats. I spend way too much money on books, and way too much time on the internet. I love to gamble, and I take my Kindle or a book with me wherever I go.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Everything! I could never really make up my mind. I always wanted to be a lawyer or a forensic pathologist, or an actress.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
I spend time with my husband; I like to fish and read. Whatever strikes me at the time.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I always loved to write, even as a kid. When I was ten, I had several poems published in a national anthology. My teacher at the time, who was a great inspiration to me, encouraged me to write. I took his advice and wrote my first novel at the age of fifteen.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Everything I see, hear, taste and learn influences my writing. Everyday people and their lives and interactions influence me.

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
I have always had a very free life. I was able to experience things that others my age were not exposed to. I think that really helped me to develop my personality as it is today. I am relatively adventurous, but not crazy. 

Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing, I believe is very character driven. I think that monsters and ghosts and the like are frightening, but what is more frightening to me is a human being that is driven to do horrible things. I also like to explore how people react to the supernatural, because sometimes it is not what you would think.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I love horror, thrillers, mysteries, crime, and supernatural. My writing is on the border of being considered eclectic. If you look at the books and stories that I have available on Kindle, you will see two ghost stories (Jessica and All the Little Children), a supernatural/scary fairy tale (RED), a collection about serial killers (Killers), and a story about an ancient demon (The Walker). I write whatever strikes me as something important to tell.

Are your works based on someone you know or events in your life?
Some characters are based on people I know, although that is not always a compliment. I try not to take too much from the people in my own life. My characters and stories are mostly drawn from thin air, or inspired by an object.

What are your current projects?
I am working on a full length sequel to the short story, RED. I also get side tracked with other story ideas all the time, so you never know what else you might get.

Who is your favorite author and why?
I know it is an old standby, and maybe I should make a more "lofty" choice (according to some), but I am a huge Stephen King fan! I love his character development and the way he makes you laugh at awful things, sometimes.

How did you deal with rejection letters?
I received my first rejection letter at the age of sixteen. The funny thing was that I was told that the rejection was not because they did not like my work. As a matter of fact, they said that they loved it. I was rejected solely based on my age. I was told to resubmit my novel after I turned nineteen or twenty. The agent did not believe that a horror novel written by a teenager could be marketed to adults. So, I socked that book away and continued to write. I have gone back to it over these last twenty years and refined it. One day I will publish it, maybe.

Can you take us through the steps for one of your books getting published?
I self-publish my books through Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook, mostly because of the situation outlined above. I think a lot of good authors are overlooked because of details that have little or nothing to do with their writing ability.
I write my story or book, read it, then make my husband read it, then read it aloud, correcting any errors or typos along the way. Then I ask people I trust from various groups to read it over and give me honest feedback. Then I read it again. After I am satisfied, I place it for sale online. My titles range from free to $2.99, because I think books should be available to everyone, not just people who can afford $19.99 for every book.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I don't think I could choose. I try to take something from every writer I read or come in contact with, good 
or bad. I think sometimes the "don't do this" lessons are the best.

What new author has grasped your interest?
Wow! So many of them grasp my interest, it's hard to say. I am currently reading Shaun Jeffrey (The Kult) and Robert Decoteau (The New Days: The First Son). Both of them are making me want to read more of their books. That is one thing that makes a good author to me, when I want to read more of their work.

What about the horror genre interests you?
I think it is the broad brush it is painted with. Serial killers, monsters, demons, ghosts, vampires, zombies, and whatever else someone can think up. I do not think that I could confine myself to one sub-genre, like vampires or ghosts. I also love to be scared, and I think a lot of other people do, too!

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
That is a hard one. I am scared to death of roller coasters and free falls. I forced myself to go on the Tower of Terror at Disneyland, a thirteen story free fall. I don't think that I have ever been so scared in my entire life.

What was your first introduction to horror literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
I read Carrie by Stephen King when I was in the third grade. That was my first horror novel. After that, I could not get enough. I read Dean Koontz's Watchers after that. There was no going back!

What is your favorite horror book?
I think that I would have to go with a tie. It and The Shining by Stephen King.

Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself, that leaves you wondering where that came from?
I have written a few things that freaked me out. In my collection of short stories, Killers, there is a story titled 'Hindsight'. I really feel that story wrote itself. It scared me in the fact that people can be turned into killers by the horrible actions of others, and even though a person might have a good soul, they can still do horrible things.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite horror book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of the horror genre?
Again, a tie. It and The Shining by Stephen King. I love both of them because they are so character driven. I like the fact that even the villains are strong characters. You actually get to know Pennywise, and you get a real feel for the disposition of the Overlook Hotel. It is not just treated like, "These are the bad guys and you should hate them."
My favourite non horror book would have to be The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I just cannot say enough about it. That was the most touching, heart breaking, triumphant story I have ever read. I still cry when I read it.

Do you look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Are your stories the products of nightmares, childhood experiences, fantasies?
Not really. I actually do pull most of my work out of thin air. I see something or hear something and then while I am doing something menial, I brainstorm and let my mind wander.  The Walker was inspired by a cane that my husband purchased. RED was inspired by a big black truck that I saw on the road with a chrome skull trailer hitch. It can be the smallest thing that makes me think, what if?

What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
I think physiologically it is a rush. If you have ever been really scared by something, you know that afterwards you feel great! I think that is the feeling that people are chasing, not necessarily the fear, just the feeling that comes after.
Mentally, I think people feel safer by being scared. If you read a scary book, or watch a scary movie, you know that it is not real. Therefore, after it is over, you feel like you have conquered something. You have defeated the scary monsters. I think it is a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
I draw the line at unnecessary. I am no prude when it comes to either, but I do not feel that gore or sex should be used just for the sake of using it, or just for shock value. You can convey a lot with a little. I have eroticism and gore in some of my stories, but it is necessary for the character or the story. I don't judge readers or writers that like either or both, but it is not for me.

Why should fans of horror movies read horror books?
I feel that the experience is so much richer when you use your imagination. I am a horror movie junkie, but a book is a totally different experience. When the author does not spend six pages describing a monster, you can create that monster in your own mind, making it so much scarier than any movie director can, because it is tailored to you. You can pick what the characters look like and how they respond to situations. It is like watching a horror movie that was made just for you.

Can you tell us five random facts about yourself?
1. My favorite movie is Disney's Cinderella.
2. I hate seafood. (Except shrimp. Yummy)
3. I cry like a baby every single time I watch 'The Green Mile'.
4. I secretly want to be a Food Network chef.
5. My favorite band is The Eagles.


Christine Sutton

A sign read, 'Please turn on your headlights'. She flipped hers on, realizing that she hadn't even seen a car on the highway since she left Barstow.
As if the universe had been eavesdropping on her inner conversation, she suddenly saw headlights in the distance behind her. Up and over hills and valleys, the vehicle was coming up on her bumper fast. Too fast as a matter of fact.  It cleared the distance between them in what seemed like seconds. As the midnight black Impala barreled up behind her, the chrome skull gleamed, and she said a little prayer that it would just pass on by.
"Please, please, please."
As if God was really listening, the car swerved around her and passed on the left side. As the Impala rumbled past the driver's side window, Kayla tried to take a peek in at the driver, without looking too conspicuous. What she saw took her by surprise. She saw, nothing. The windows were tinted a dark black, almost the same shade as the car itself. Even beyond the tinting, there was no shadow of a driver in front of the bright sunlight like there should have been.
Dismissing the lack of a driver as a trick of the tinting, she continued on her way, keeping the red Stingray right at sixty-five. After thoroughly rationalizing what she had seen, she turned the radio up and began singing along to The Eagles. After a few more miles, the soda she had with dinner started to catch up with her. She had such a weak bladder, it was almost ridiculous. There was a sign indicating a rest stop two miles ahead and she pushed the accelerator a little further to insure she made it there in time. As The Moody Blues sang about Knights in White Satin, the rest stop shimmered into view.
Pulling in to the circular drive, the vending machines that sat in front of the small block building glowed in the now dusky twilight.
"I could really use a Snickers." Kayla laughed. "Because Snickers satisfies!" She sang to the empty car.
Parking in the spot closest to the building, she hopped out of the red sports car and made a dash for the bathrooms. When she got inside, it was as she expected. The concrete floors were damp with who-knows-what, the single sink had rust and dried soap all around the rim, and the mirror had more names and hearts scratched into it than it did actual reflection. Gingerly padding over to the open stall that housed the toilet, she expected the worst, but was somewhat surprised. It was actually not that bad, she thought as she covered the seat with strips of toilet paper to guard against germs. She relieved herself with a contented sigh.
The deep rumble of an engine jolted her from her urinary euphoria. She quickly finished and washed her hands. As she walked to the door and stepped out, she couldn't believe her eyes. There sat the black Impala with the chrome skull staring back at her in the twilight. She ducked back into the bathroom and pressed her back against the cinderblock wall, hoping that the driver had not seen her. The door of the car creaked open and she heard what sounded like boots crunching the gravel beneath them.
Step, step, step.
Heels clicking on the sidewalk now, approaching the restrooms. As the unseen driver approached the building, he stopped in front of the ladies room. Kayla couldn't quite tell, but it sounded as though he was sniffing the air, like a wild dog in search of prey. The driver took one long, deep breath and sighed in what seemed like extreme pleasure, and then he made his way to the men's room.
Kayla didn't want to leave until after this creepster had vacated the rest stop. She pulled a cigarette from the worn pack in her pocket and lit up. She had been trying not to smoke on this trip, and had been mostly successful. Now, she thoroughly savored the sweet, harsh heat that coursed down her throat and filled her lungs.
The Driver apparently finished up his business and exited the lavatory. She held her breath as his boots clicked the sidewalk on his way back to the car. She didn't exhale until she heard the engine rumble again and the car drove away. Looking around, she stepped out of the bathroom and walked back to her car, tossing her cigarette on the ground, Snickers bar completely forgotten.
Flopping into the front seat, she noticed the little slip of paper under the windshield wiper. She opened the door and reached around to grab it.
As she unfolded the small yellow slip of paper, she felt the blood literally drain from her face. There were just a few words scrawled across the note, but they sent a chill up her spine. All the message read was:
I See You!

She crumpled the note and threw it out onto the ground as she started her car and drove away, watching out for the freak in the Impala at every shadow and turn. Even with AC/DC on the radio, she couldn't shake the feeling that this was more than a prank. Continuing down the deserted highway, she said another prayer that this was her last encounter with the driver and his demon Impala.

WOW, what a read!!! I don't know about you, but I know this will be on my TBR list.

To find out more about Christine, follow the links below:

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