10 Questions with Shelley Coriell
1. Ms. Coriell, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. THE BROKEN, your newest thriller in The Apostles series, came out on April 29. Tell us a bit more about this book.
Thank you for having me, Ethan. In THE BROKEN, broadcast journalist Kate Johnson is on the run, hiding from a serial killer who needs her dead and a past that left her scarred. Legendary FBI profiler Hayden Reed is on the hunt, desperate to track down Kate and gain her trust, for it’s her darkest secret that can stop the serial killer known as the blood-thirsty Broadcaster Butcher, who leaves in his wake broken mirrors and broken lives. A dark and twisty thriller, THE BROKEN is ultimately a story of hope and healing.
2. Who are Kate Johnson and Hayden Reed, and where did you find the inspiration for these characters?
I’m a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and broadcast journalist Kate is pulled straight from my university studies. Most journalists, including me, are driven by truth and the desire to share those truths with a broader audience. Kate is a hardcore investigative reporter, a fierce fighter for truth and justice, which makes her the perfect foil for my brilliant but broken villain.
Hayden is a world-renown criminal profiler who “sees everything but feels nothing.” I was intrigued with the concept of exploring a character who spent so much time in his head that he wasn’t in touch with his heart. Early in the book, one of the minor characters likens Hayden to peanut brittle, “all shiny and polished, hard as hell, too. In order to get to that stage, you got to boil the shit out of it. So I figure you’ve done some boiling in your life.” It was fascinating to see Hayden’s pains and past, and eventually his heart, revealed.
3. How do you ensure your plots and your stories are always fresh and new?
I’m a huge fan of narrative non-fiction, and I read at least one biography a month. These real-life stories—so rich in people and place and passions—are a goldmine for fiction authors. Right now I’m reading Julie Kavanagh’s fascinating THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAMELLIAS, about the French courtesan who inspired Alexandre Dumas fils’s novel and play LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS and Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, LA TRAVIATA.
4. What is your fascination with cemeteries and which is the strangest cemetery you’ve ever visited?
A big history buff, my fascination with cemeteries has more to do with the people behind the headstones than the land that embraces them in death. I once found a grave marker outside an Arizona ghost town that read, “Buried with his right boot.” Immediately, I wanted to know this man’s story, his history. Why was that right boot so special. Did he have only one leg?
As for unique cemeteries, head to Venice, Italy. A decree was issued in the early nineteenth century outlawing most burials on the main islands due to unsanitary conditions given the water table. Venice’s dead were—and still are—buried on the walled island-cemetery of San Michele. Because the island is small and burial plots limited, most remains are eventually exhumed and cremated or moved to an ossuary (bone island). But I still found San Michele and the ossarios very much places that respected and celebrated the people behind the headstones.
5. Why do you write?
It’s the only way to silence the voices in my head.
6. What are your thoughts on the latest publishing industry developments, mainly the rise of the self-publishing?
This is a GREAT time to be an author. Authors now have more choices along with control over their careers.
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
An avid foodie, I adore poking around farmers markets, cooking with fresh/local ingredients, and discovering great restaurants with people I love. During the past five years I’ve also enjoyed doing a great deal of travel. A few months ago I explored the colorful, edgy streets of the L.A. Arts District. Before that I took a research trip to the Florida panhandle where I boated in a swamp with gators and water moccasins and ate raw oysters right out of Apalachicola Bay. Travel and food add such a richness to my life, and it’s no wonder they both pop up in all of my books, including my young adult titles.
8. Had your writing not worked out, what would you have wanted to do?
In a world where anything is possible, I would love to be a chef where I can share my passion for food.
9. What are your writing habits? Outlines or not?
I used to be a die-hard plotter. I penned my first four manuscripts using detailed outlines, character sketches, and GMC charts. Then I discovered Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Plot Structure, defined by five key turning points.
With these five pinch points in place and a handful of hazy characters in my head, I started my fifth manuscript and found an unexpected freedom that allowed for more organic story flow and natural character development. That story was THE BROKEN, and my agent received multiple offers from New York.
10. What is your next book going to be about?
Book two in the Apostles Series, THE BURIED, comes out Oct. 28, 2014. In THE BURIED, Grace Courtemanche—a fiercely independent, successful state prosecutor—is pulled into a world of terror and self-doubt when she receives calls from victims buried alive, and she must turn to the one man she swore she’d never need again, Hatch Hatcher, a rootless, smooth-talking FBI crisis negotiator in town to deal with a long-buried secret of his own. I call it my story of secrets from the past and voices from the grave. And yes, there are cemeteries.