Emerging Writer Member Profile
Susan, a native of Dublin, is currently editing her debut novel – a crime fiction thriller set in New York City.
Earlier this year, she worked on her novel at Arlene Hunt’s, Crime Fiction Writing and Conor Kostick’s, Finishing Your Novel courses in the Irish Writers’ Centre.
Her writing career began in 2008, after attending creative writing classes, facilitated by Eileen Casey and Valerie Sirr. She has won many short story awards and was Long Listed in the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition, 2012. Publications include Original Writing from Ireland’s Own, Anthology, 2012, www.fivestopstory.com and South of the County: New Myths and Tales.
(1,000 words from a short story)
My eyes shoot open and I sit upright in my bunk. The first thing I feel is the fear, as it bubbles up inside me, leaving acid burning at the back of my throat.
I look around the green walls of my room. A soothing colour, ‘they say’. Whoever, ‘they’ are, ‘they’ know nothing!
Today is Friday, 1 December!
My future will be decided at 9.30am. It wouldn’t do to be late.
I run cold water into the stainless steel sink and set up my utensils. Just like old times! I even manage a fleeting smile before rinsing my shaving brush in the water and shaking out the residue. I rub it round and round the creamy, white soap, three times clock-wise, then three times anti-clockwise before I paint my face. Bending closer, I can barely make out the brown eyes peering back. I inhale the heady, fresh scent and my mind flutters backwards in time . . .
With a huge effort I stop myself, snatching up the worn, brown plastic comb I pull it savagely through my thin grey hair. I tug hard, bringing tears to my eyes, trying to flatten the hair over the bald patch which has emerged in recent years. I massage a dollop of Brylcream through my fingers and press down hard, sculpting the strands into place.
I miss the feel of my stainless steel razor, the close shave. After rinsing away the suds with ice-cold water I rub dry. I run my battery razor up and down my face, hoping to stem the grey stubble. I crane forward again and like what I see, not as clean-shaven as with my razor, but needs must . . .
When the warden turns the keys in the grey, metal door and pushes it open, I am sitting, waiting patiently.
“It’s time Warren, are you ready?”
I nod my head, staring at my shiny shoes.
The other warden, the young one with the smirk, grabs me by the arm and pushes me ahead. My heart flutters. I take a deep breath; in through my mouth as I count to four, holding it deep inside me, for the count of seven, then I exhale slowly, for the count of eight. I repeat three times as we walk along the corridor to that room. I wonder who will be there this time. Will it be the same as before or . . .
I’m shoved through the door. My breath becomes shallow. My heart quickens. My mouth is dry and I have trouble swallowing, I feel as if a golf ball is lodged at the back of my throat, cutting off my air supply.
“Sit down Warren,” says a female voice.
I look up to see a slight woman, bird-like in her features, with a halo of grey hair and blue darting eyes. I remember her. I’ve seen her face in my dreams often enough.
“You know we only want to talk to you.” She waves her arm to the right and introduces Mr Spence and Mr Shaw on the other side. “We’ve met many times Warren, I’m Ms Jackson,” she forces a smile which never reaches her beady, blue eyes.
I nod indifferently, knowing that every word I say will make a difference. My words, my tone, my actions - everything will be watched and analysed and debated . . . My head is pounding. I want to put my hands over my ears and bury my head between my legs and rock until it all stops. But I can’t do that! I take a deep breath; in through my mouth as I count to four, holding it deep inside me, for the count of seven, then I exhale slowly, for the count of eight. I’m about to repeat it for the second time, but I sense the six eyes across the table waiting expectantly for my answer – but I haven’t heard the question!
I cough into my hand then sit up straight, push my back into the chair and look them in the eyes.
“Sorry, just a little cough I’ve picked up,” I say clearly. “Would you mind repeating the question?”
The tension leaves the air.
“I just asked if you needed a glass of water before we begin?” said Ms Jackson.
“Very kind of you,” I say, as I take the half-filled plastic cup from across the table, ensuring that it looks accidental as my fingers brush her hand, like a moth to the flame.
Mr Spence clears his throat, pulling at his shirt collar where an expensive tie encases his scrawny neck. “Warren Davis, we are gathered here today to see if the time you have been incarcerated here at the Tennessee Department of Correction has helped you to see the error of your ways. We wish to see if you can be released into the population to benefit society. This is your chance to prove to us that you are no longer a threat . . .”
I tune out, I’ve already heard this speech so many times before. In my mind, I replace it with my speech. I’ve practiced it so many times in my cell, pacing up and down, making sure I am pitch perfect – as if my life depends on it. It does. I stifle a laugh. Do they honestly think I’m going to say or do anything to keep me here any longer? I can feel my lips moving and clamp them shut. I’ve learned my lesson on that one. I tune back in to the droning voice, looking Mr Spence directly in the eyes while he talks. He’s one of those guys that just loves the sound of his own voice.
At last, my time comes to speak.
Taking a deep breath, I sit up straight and begin.
Susan has recently completed the first draft of her debut novel. Originally set in the streets of Dublin, after listening to advice from crime writers Alex Barclay and John Connolly, she went back to the drawing board and re-located her novel and characters to the streets of New York.
Changing her original viewpoint of writing 'what you know' to writing 'what you love', she created a world where a serial killer transcends many years to track-down his victims. Completing the first draft in September, Susan submitted her first three chapters and synopsis to The Inkwell Group and is currently using the feed-back she received to edit her manuscript in preparation for submission to agents and publishers.
A member of Platform One writing group for many years, she is also a member of a Crime Writers group who regularly meet face-to-face, as well as on Facebook, to push each other along the road to writing success. Its members consist of crime fiction writers at every stage of their writing career – with novels-in-progress, novels at the editing stage or novels already published - but all willing and able to offer support to each other. She has also joined fellow crime fiction lovers; Louise Phillips, Joe McCoubrey, Mick Halpin and Triona Walsh on the Crime Scene Book Reviewer Panel on writing.ie – not really such a hard job – to read and write about what you love most – crime fiction . . .
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