Real Life Trauma Inspired a #1 Best-Seller

Years ago, I experienced a terrifying hell ride when the gas pedal on my Ford Explorer stuck wide-open while I drove Rte. 125 during rush hour traffic. Two days later, I received a recall notice in the mail. Little good it did me then. The experience remains as fresh as if it happened yesterday. I’d just left Khols parking lot and stopped at a red light. When the light turned green my foot shifted to the gas pedal, and the SUV took off like a bullet fired from an automatic pistol. Here’s the strange thing. When something like this happens, you try to reason it away. Never do you think anything dangerous could be happening. Our self-protection mode kicks in, and we waver in and out of denial.

Until we can’t any longer.

Until we need to face the truth…this day, could be our last. And it’s terrifying!

So, the SUV kept gaining more and more momentum till the speedometer read 40 mph, 50 mph, 60 mph, and climbing. Mind you, Rte. 125 was a main drag. Traffic lights stood every mile or so, and most of them turned red. But I couldn’t stop. With both feet on the brake, I screamed out the window for someone to help me.

No one did.

Instead, other drivers honked their horns. They didn’t know what was happening inside my Explorer. All they saw was me swerving in and out of traffic, barely missing numerous vehicles, black smoke trailing behind me from the brake pads tearing clean off. Next, smoke poured out the back. Not sure why. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the rotors or something brake-related. All I knew was I couldn’t stop the damn SUV.

A gazillion things raced through my mind in the span of a few seconds, including how to crash the vehicle without killing myself or others. After five sets of lights and miles and miles of the most harrowing journey I’d ever had the displeasure of experiencing, I came to a stretch of road with a field on the right. My plan was to veer into the field and crash into a tree, where hopefully I could jump out the driver’s door. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking clearly. My complete focus was on avoiding obstacle after obstacle so I didn’t kill anyone.

If it weren’t for two college students who pulled alongside me, I might not be alive today.

They hollered at me to throw the SUV into neutral, which I did. But the car kept accelerating. Then they told me to turn the key in the ignition. Finally, I rolled to a stop. When they darted to my door, I could barely speak, my nerves zinging through my system. Tears stained my twitching cheeks.

Horrible memories make great fodder for books.

Fast forward to this year. As I mentioned before, I was invited to write in Susan Stoker’s Kindle World, and the book had to be completed and polished by July 1st for a July 7th release date. In May, my neighbor asked to borrow my vehicle because his wouldn’t turn over. Thing is, it’s a fairly new vehicle. Turns out, he missed a loan payment. Remotely, the lender blocked access to the car by using what’s called a starter interrupter device. Basically, it makes the vehicle un-driveable till the customer brings their payments up-to-date.

That got me thinking. If they could prevent him from starting his SUV, could someone hack in and take control? What I discovered chilled me to the bone, and breathed life into HACKED. The opening chapter is a retelling of my experience, with a few “enhancements.”

What’s HACKED about?

Shawnee Daniels wrongly assumes she’s being punished for innocently hacking the Police Chief’s photos. Okay, maybe not-so-innocently, but someone had to expose him for the dog that he is. When she arrives at the mandatory computer seminar, the FBI enlists her help in stopping a serial killer who’s remotely hacking vehicles while the owners are behind the wheel.

Why he’s targeted these people remains a mystery. None of the victims frequent the same places, some don’t even live in the same state. The only commonality is they all drive Fords.

When Detective Levaughn Samuels is taken hostage—his life teetering on the edge of a high-speed chase—there’s nothing Shawnee won’t do to save him, no line she won’t cross. And when her BFF shows up unannounced with problems of her own, she only complicates matters.

Can Shawnee stop the killer before she loses the only man she’s ever loved? Or will the ride of his life end in death?

Last night, HACKED hit #1 in Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, and it remains there today. Yay!!! All Kindle World books are only $1.99 on Amazon:   

If you live outside the US, these directions will show you how to download your copy.

My husband is taking me for a celebratory dinner to keep the excitement going. Woohoo!!!


About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine published her flash fiction and her short stories are published in numerous anthologies and collections. InSinC Quarterly featured her forensic articles about Radiocarbon Dating and Skeletal Differences. In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue's also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She's also a proud member of the Kill Zone, where she blogs every other Monday.


  1. Congratulations. What a frightening thing to happen and I always wondered how to stop the vehicle if something like that occurred. Now I know.
    sherry @ fundinmental
    sherry fundin recently posted…Christmas In July – Trimmed With Murder by Sally Goldenbaum @sallygoldenbaumMy Profile

    • Thank you! It was a nightmare I’ll never forget, Sherry. I was hoping writing HACKED would put it to rest, but I’m afraid it’s had the opposite effect. Oh, well. 🙂

  2. Having read Hacked, and already expressed my terror that this could be possible and joking with you about what to do should it ever happen to me. I had no idea it was an experience you had experienced in terror, and thankfully to those two students, survived!
    I simply can’t imagine the thoughts flying through your mind, the fear pulsing through your body, or the adrenaline coursing through your veins.
    Then to relive it for your love of writing? One brave, brave lady!
    Yet another pageturner that had my heart racing almost as fast as the cars. And I admit,I did drive to work rather cautiously the next day!

    • Aww, thank you, Kirsty. Believe me, I wavered back and forth on whether I wanted to relive it. In the end my love for storytelling won the battle. You just never know what things authors pull from real life and what’s invented, do you? Perhaps that’s partly what makes reading so enjoyable…the possibility that the story, or elements of the plot, could be inspired by true events.

  3. Wow! You’re really fortunate to walk out of that unhurt, Sue. I’d hate to have been in your shoes or doing your laundry after 🙂 But it makes for a great & terrifying story. Like Michael says – the stuff great stories are made from. It’s obvious that Hacked is great because you’ll now finally admit you’re a #1 Bestselling Author 😉

    • Hahahahaha! Busted!

      I was really lucky, Garry. Bob freaked when he heard what happened. Those two college students were so sweet. They even drove me home. I wish I knew their names so I could’ve dedicated HACKED to them. Oh, well, maybe they’ll stumble across this post some day.

  4. My breaks went out years ago but fortunately, I wasn’t going fast and managed to pull into a gas station and come to a stop. It still scared the heck out of me. I would have gotten out of that car with totally white hair if I’d gone through what you did. O_o — Suzanne

    • The brakes going out must’ve been horrifying too, Suzanne. Thank goodness you were able to stop. Hey, maybe that’s why I have so many gray hairs. LOL

  5. Was t there an episode on one of the tv shows where particular vehicles were being hacked, it may have been the show Bull with Michael Weatherly!

  6. Hacked has just landed at the top of my TR pile… what a fantastic premise for a story, one way to ease it out of your system!

    • Yay!!! Thanks, Anita. I thought it’d be cathartic too, but ever since I started writing this story I keep finding myself buried under the covers when I wake. Thank goodness no screaming in my sleep like with CLEAVED. My husband is a saint, poor guy. LOL

  7. WOW! That is an experience, an dthank goodness you’re here to tell it. I’m not sure your plan of crashing into a tree would have worked out nicely.
    You were lucky those two students helped you. I always think, yes, people normally look the other way, but there are still people who care and help and that’s a comforting thought.

    Congrats on the placement. These sounds a fantasitic story, no surprised you achieved that potision.
    JazzFeathers recently posted…Thursday Quotables – FatherlandMy Profile

    • Aww, thank you, Sarah. You’re right about my plan. When I told my husband, he thought I was insane to even consider slamming into a tree, but in that moment I just wanted to stop. I didn’t care how. Sounds crazy now.

  8. Downshift into a lower gear (most automatics have 2nd and 1st or low gear). That will slow the engine, though your RPMs will be screaming to blow the engine, but that’s okay. Then shift into neutral and switch the key off. You’ll lose the power steering and brakes, but they can be “horsed” with all that extra adrenaline coursing through your body. So glad you made it out of that situation safely, and nobody else was injured. Scary stuff. The stuff great books are based on! 🙂

    • Good to know, Michael. Course, after that incident I swore to never buy another automatic. All my vehicles have been stick shifts from that point forward. 😀 They’re getting harder and harder to find too!

  9. Very exciting story, btw.
    Paul Dale Anderson recently posted…Scottoline Scores AgainMy Profile

  10. I bought on my copy of Hacked. Congratulations. And I’m very glad you survived the ride from hell!

  11. Wow what a story! How great that it inspired you to write Hacked – congratulations and safe driving!

  12. Sue, I’m so excited for you! I didn’t even know about Hacked and then I saw a tweet about it today hitting #1. I love Shawnee and have grabbed my copy.

    The whole concept is wild, but the thought that you actually went through that harrowing act–wow! It must have been awful.

    So glad it all worked out safely for you. I look forward to seeing how you played upon (and twisted 🙂 that experience) into your latest release. Enjoy that Best Seller banner on Amazon.It looks awesome!

    • Thank you, Mae!!!! I worked till the last possible minute on this one, uploaded, and then went into vacay-mode. Bob and I have been doing fun day trips. As a result, it left no time to notify anyone that I’d even written HACKED till the release. But we’re having so much fun!

  13. That’s a very tough way to get a great story idea! A great way to help you in many ways. What a harrowing experience for you! I’m so glad you are ok and you were able to turn this into a positive. Kudos! 🙂

    • So true, Rebecca! There are far less-dangerous ways to get story ideas, but when it’s in the memory bank, might as well use it, right? Thank you!!

  14. How horrible, Sue! Glad you’re all right!

  15. Great inspiration for a story, and I’m glad you ventured a few inches beyond reality with enhancements.

    • Actually, I didn’t need to venture outside reality with this one, believe it or not. Everything depicted in this book is proven possible in Tech. magazines, articles, and in physical practice, which makes it all the more terrifying. 🙂

  16. I’m so glad you made it through such a horrifying ride! Your book sounds super interesting. I’ll have to check it out!

  17. Oh, this sounds suspenseful, Sue! And the real-life story behind it!? Yikes! Frightening! You’re lucky to be alive! I’d say that would stay with you forever, and I’m not surprised it inspired you.

    • Thank you!!!

      It was terrifying, Margot. Just awful. The last thing I wanted to do was relive the nightmare, but…we’re writers. Digging deep goes with the gig. 😉

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