Sonny Kohet on Maintaining Suspense and Reader Interest

Crafting Complex Characters from Personal Experiences

Sonny Kohet’s writing journey began during the 2020 lockdown. Inspired by a course, he created a series of character-driven stories, drawing from his diverse life experiences and global travels.

Sonny Kohet began writing fiction late in life. During the 2020 Covid lockdown in Beijing, Sonny completed the Start Writing Fiction course from Future Learn. Two exercises from week two were to describe a writing space, and to imagine a character. These two exercises became the first chapter of his first book, as Sonny continued writing.

The simple exercise in a writing course became a series of five character-driven stories focused around the life of the main character, Judy Vernon.

Experiential travel, living in different countries, and working in remote and unusual locations, through seven different careers, has introduced Sonny to a range of unusual characters, broken people, and misfits who fuel the characters he brings to life in his writing.

You started writing fiction later in life and took a course during the 2020 Covid lockdown. How did that course impact your writing style and approach, and what motivated you to turn those exercises into a full-fledged book series?

I don’t think the course altered my writing style, but it inspired me to keep writing because I found the creative process, creating a world, and a life that people, and ensemble of characters existed within to be fascinating.

As to what turned the book into a series, basically I finished the first book, and wasn’t done. I found the story continuing into a second book.

I later did another course through Coursera, and I needed to write another book to fit the parameters of the course. That was the third book, at least I thought it was, but it became the fourth book as I wrote another to fit between the second and third books.

In many ways, the books wrote themselves, with characters often taking themselves in directions I didn’t intend. Minor characters sometimes became major characters.

It was when I joined editing groups such as Scripophile and Critique Circle that my writing style improved and moved from business style writing to novel style writing.

Your debut novel, In Death As In Life, centers around Judy Vernon, a complex and multifaceted character. How did you develop Judy’s character, and what aspects of your own experiences influenced her creation?

Judy is a composite of three people. All of my characters are based on a person I have met during my life. Sometimes they are composites, sometimes I have based two characters on one person. And sometimes they are directly based on a single person.

You have lived and worked in many different countries, encountering a range of unusual characters and situations. Can you share how these experiences have shaped the characters and settings in your book?

Working in remote, island, and foreign settings tends to attract a lot of misfits who don’t quite fit into society for various reasons. When living in a third world country, people, on medication to stabilize them, tend to self-medicate in the absence of consistent medical care, with interesting and sometimes disastrous results. Barely functional alcoholics live on a diet of cheap and nasty booze.

I was working security in one resort, when two of the staff who’d been incarcerated at one time in their lives came to blows over who’d done the harder time.

Judy’s journey begins with a chance encounter and a mysterious plea from a dying man. What inspired this intriguing premise, and how do you maintain suspense and reader interest throughout the story?

It began as part of an exercise to describe somewhere a writer might find inspirational to work, and a second exercise to describe a person. So, she sat in a café and described a man she saw out the window, and then he dies of natural causes.

I didn’t want to follow standard plots and themes, which is why he wasn’t murdered. I am making a statement about the world, where no one is essentially a bad person, no good versus evil, just ordinary people. I tried to maintain interest by having her peel the layers of his character back like an onion, changing her opinion of him as she did.

Your book delves into deep themes such as identity, love, and the impact of the past on the present. How do you balance these themes with the narrative, and what message do you hope readers take away from Judy’s story?

Everything we read or watch these days, TV, Movies, Books, and News is focused on negatives. On people being selfish or with evil motives. This exists, but when we focus on the negative, it’s what the world becomes.

My characters are good people, as all people basically are. Some of whom have made mistakes in their lives, but it is about people breaking free from their past and building a positive and productive life for themselves.

You’ve had seven different careers and met many broken people and misfits. How do you translate these real-life encounters into fictional characters, and what challenges do you face in making them authentic and relatable?

All of my characters and their natures are based on real people, or real genders doing real things. Some people have difficulty accepting the reality of people’s actions if such actions are outside of their reality.

For example, in one book I have a woman who fantasizes about raping another woman. Some people have an issue with this because ‘women don’t rape.’ But a former girlfriend of mine was raped by a woman. This is different that being raped by a man, but it is still rape.






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