Friday, July 13, 2012
Outlook rosy for Coryell's new suspense novel
Courtesy of Susan Coryell
Susan Coryell has held several book signings around the lake for her new book, "A Red, Red Rose," a suspense novel set at a historic Southern estate.
If you're one of those writer types or know one, you'll understand that writers have to write. Lake resident Susan Coryell knows that all too well.
"My mother said I was born with a pencil in my hand," said Coryell. "I don't know if that's a blessing or a curse."
So far, it's worked out in Coryell's favor as she's winning rave reviews for her newest novel, "A Red, Red Rose."
"This book was such a page turner!" wrote one reviewer on Amazon.com. "The mystery and the love story drove the plot, but there were so many thought-provoking elements in the mix - from adoption to sibling rivalries, race and class. I read it while traveling. It made the time go by so quickly, and it left me with much to think about!"
The book's heroine is Ashby Overton, a 20-year-old aspiring romance writer who is visiting the historic Southern estate known as Overhome, owned by her aunt and uncle. During her summer-long stay, Ashby encounters spirits, mystery, romance and intrigue.
In her summary about "A Red, Red Rose," Coryell wrote:
"As summer unfolds, so does the shroud of silence surrounding Overhome. Ever present is a force Ashby never sees, only feels. Candles light themselves, notes from an old lullaby fall from the ceiling, the radio tunes itself each day. And roses, always meant for Ashby appear in the unlikeliest places. Are the roses a symbol of love, or do they represent something dark, something deep and evil?"
Added Coryell: "Full of heartbreak and adventure, fear and passion, the summer leads Ashby on a suspenseful sometimes terrifying journey as she navigates centuries of family strife alongside the puzzling parameters of the spirit world. Ultimately she discovers that some secrets, even the most fiercely guarded, are destined to be revealed."
The idea of the setting for her book sprung from Coryell's visit to a historic mansion in Northern Virginia. When she retired to the lake, Coryell moved the setting of her mystery novel south. After researching Civil War-era estates around the lake, Coryell focused on one that included a plat showing the location of slave cemeteries. It still exists near Smith Mountain Lake State Park.
"It was really kind of fun to intertwine historical evidence [into the book]," said Coryell. "All the history is factual except the number of slaves that are buried in the cemetery."
From the history and the cultural clashes to the symbolism and the parallels between the characters, Coryell planned for "A Red, Red Rose" to be a topic of discussion amongst book club members and included a discussion guide on her website, susancoryellauthor.com.
While this isn't her first foray into writing a book, it is Coryell's first Agatha Christie-style suspense, mystery novel. Her first published book, "Eaglebait," dealt with school bullying and was reprinted about a year ago.
"It's a little dated because there's no cyberbullying in it like there is today," added Coryell. "But the bullies are still the same."
Coryell doesn't define herself as an author of a particular literary genre because her ideas for books can vary.
"To tell you the truth, I still haven't figured out who I am," she said. "I'm all over the page because it's what inspires me."
As for what's next for Coryell, she has three ideas for books in the works. Talking about her ideas helps Coryell develop the plot and characters for her story. Family members, neighbors and members of Lake Writers help Coryell, too, she said.
"I start with a skeleton of an idea, and then it grows from there," said Coryell. "I have the beginning, the middle and the end in my head."
Of the Lake Writers, said Coryell, "They know how to critique and not in a way that is hurtful but helpful."
When she wrote "Eaglebait," Coryell was a full-time English teacher on summer break from school and a mother of three young children.
"I posted a sign on my [home office] door that said 'do not knock on this door unless you are bleeding profusely,'" recalled Coryell, facetiously. "They still slipped notes under the door, but I proved to myself that I could write a book."
Now that she retired and her children are grown, Coryell has more time on her hands to develop the ideas that are swirling in her head.
"I'm busy doing what I love doing," said Coryell.
She loves sharing encouragement with aspiring writers, too.
"The first thing is read, and if you're a writer and you know it, just do it; let it out," said Coryell. "Don't be discouraged. It's very difficult to be published."