I read and thoroughly enjoyed ’15 Minutes to Live,’ the first novel by Phoef Sutton. I’ll let him tell you about it…
So Phoef, tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve been a professional writer for over twenty-five years now. Mostly in television (CHEERS, BOSTON LEGAL, TERRIERS). But also for movies (MRS. WINTERBOURNE, THE FAN) and theater (SONGS OF THE TALL GRASS). I live in South Pasadena with my wife and our two daughters.
What can you tell us about ‘Fifteen minutes to Live?’ (Please include links to the novel)
FIFTEEN MINUTES TO LIVE is a noir romantic-thriller about a man in his thirties who is reunited with his high school sweet-heart for what he thinks is a nostalgic tryst. He discovers, to his horror that she really believes that they are still teen-agers. And that she’s been dead for weeks. Is she a ghost. A time-traveller? The victim of some freakish form of amnesia? To find the answer, he delves deeper into her life since high-school. And what he discovers may kill them both!
This is your first novel, and given how well it has gone I have to ask- What took you so long?
Good question. I’ve been writing film scripts, plays and television scripts for the past twenty-five years. I guess I just felt I was ready!
I know it’s a stupid question but it still has to be asked: where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Life. Everything around me. Things that happen to me and things I read. Nothing occurs around me that I don’t think, “that could make a story.”
The publishing industry is currently in flux because of self-publishing eBooks and Print-on-Demand. What do you expect to see down the road as things settle out?
I have no idea. The same thing is happening in television and movies what with Netflix and Amazon and all the new media. It’s the Wild West out there!
What advice would you give to a new or aspiring author?
Write. Write, write and write. That’s the only way to get better. Don’t waste time talking about it. Do it!
Here’s an excerpt from Phoef’s novel ‘Fifteen Minutes to Live:’
She was standing below the window in a white summer dress, gesturing to him impatiently to come down. Or someone who looked like her was; it couldn’t really be her. But it couldn’t be anyone else either.
He opened the window and she spoke to him in a loud stage whisper. “Where the hell have you been?”
“Jesse?” “Is something wrong?” “Well . . .” But there wasn’t, was there? “Come on down.” He closed the window and crept out of the room, knowing full well he needn’t worryabout waking anyone. It didn’t hurt to playact a little, and anyway it all had to be a dream. He much preferred this to the one about the garage.
As he descended the stairs he considered the possibility that this might all be real, feeling a wave of depression and apprehension. If it was real, it couldn’t be what he’d been assuming— she wouldn’t be there to reenact a night of teenage passion from the seventies. The only thing that could make a normal woman sneak in darkness to the house of someone she hadn’t spoken to in eighteen years was some unusual and urgent kind of trouble.
He hesitated at the French doors, thinking for the first time in years of the circumstances of their parting, and he was more sure than ever that no mere sexual whim would have brought her back here. He drew a deep breath as he opened the door and walked out into the night.
The raccoon had finished every bit of the dried cat food and spilled the dish of water all over the patio. He tracked the water out onto the grass, trying to see her in the blue darkness. There was no one under the window, no sound of anyone around. If it was a dream, when had it ended?
An arm grabbed him around the chest; another reached between his legs and grabbed him there. He gasped and tried to pull away. Then he heard her laugh.
“It’s me, stupid.”
She turned him around and kissed him. His mind was reeling from surprise to fear to pleasure, but it was soon calmed by a wave of memory. The thick softness of her lips and the taste of cigarette on her tongue. Nothing like this could have brought her here, but her hand was running down his chest and into his jeans.
“What are you all dressed for? Did you think we were going on a hike?”
One of the first things he learned as a comedy writer was not to try to make a joke if he couldn’t think of anything funny. So he just kissed her again and let her fumble with his belt. She backed away and touched his lip curiously with her fingers.
“Since when did you grow a mustache?” she asked, sounding genuinely confused. “I had to do something while I was waiting for you.” He kissed her neck and she giggled. “It tickles.” “You don’t know the half of it,” he murmured while nibbling on the tender flesh of her neck. She gasped. It was a tender gasp, yearning and hungry, and at the sound of it Carl froze and felt his lips tremble on her neck. He knew that gasp so well, and it came from so long ago, that he felt his heart grow in his chest. He shut his eyes and tears squeezed from them.
Jesse pulled away to look at him, puzzled. “What is it?”
He laughed. Only two tears had fallen. He was in control. He squeezed her arms playfully. “It’s just so good to see you.”
In the old days she had always been the one to frighten him off with the depth of her feelings; now here she was, laughing at his emotion as if her showing up now was the most natural thing in the world. Didn’t she know, or didn’t she want to know, that he could stare at her in this darkness all night long? Was it all just a game to her?
She unfastened the top two buttons of his jeans and reached in. Any resentment he might have been feeling vanished in a surge of goodwill. “He’s happy to see me too.” There’s an adorable tone of pride a teenage girl gets in her voice when she realizes she can cause an erection. Grown women never have that tone; they know the potential for pain and confusion too well, or perhaps they’re just bored with the whole thing. But a girl still thinks it’s a marvel she can have that kind of power, and never thinks of what it might bring on. Jesse still had that tone in her voice. Carl thought his heart would break.
He pulled her close to him and kissed her again. She flinched for a moment when she felt the bristles of his mustache, but he pulled her to him. He ran his hands over her body wildly, wanting to touch every inch, wanting to devour her. She pulled away again, laughing.
“Jesus, where have they been keeping you?”
He moved to her again, and they crawled over each other. It had been years since he’d gone wild on a woman like that, pawing and rubbing even though they were both still fully clothed. There weren’t enough restrictions on adult sex to make it this exciting. He was pulling up her shirt when she brushed him off playfully. “Come on. Not here, your parents will hear.”
He could have told her his parents were dead, but he didn’t like to change the subject. So they ran to the greenhouse, clinging to each other just like the old days. Only they didn’t feel like the old days. They felt like now. It was all the things that had happened since that seemed like distant memories.
“What happened to the avocado tree?” she asked as they passed the old stump.
“It died,” he said, breathless.
“You’re kidding.” She sounded genuinely shocked, and he thought of telling her that time
does pass and she couldn’t expect all things to remain the same and that was all a part of growing old gracefully and accepting the passage of the years, but he grabbed her tits instead. She laughed and dashed ahead into the greenhouse…