Today, we're welcoming my friend Brandilyn Collins, the master at writing strong Christian suspense. Brandilyn, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Usually not that much. But in Dark Pursuit one of the two main characters is an elderly suspense author. It was fun taking what I know of writing suspense and infusing it into his persona. In Exposure, my suspense novel releasing in May, the main character, Kaycee, is full of fears, some taken from my own life. I’m not incapacitated by them as she is, but I do have a touch of claustrophobia, can’t take heights, can’t stand going to the dentist, and am not good with bees. Some of these weaknesses on my part have resulted in rather interesting events, which I’ve written about on my blog, Forensics and Faith. A couple of Kaycee’s newspaper columns about her fears were taken from my own past blog posts.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
What, me quirky? I do get myself into situations sometimes, revolving around trying to gather data for my novels. Like the time I scared a young hot tub repairman to death because I was questioning him about holding down a corpse under the water with the jets on, and would the bubbles go down the corpse’s throat …
I can just imagine the look on his face. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
When I was in the second grade and won the class prize for the best short story. My opening line: Once there was a stallion named Betsy. I’ve been trying to write as eloquently ever since.
What a hoot! A stallion named Betsy? Right. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Suspense, certainly. Also women’s fiction and contemporary fiction. I’ll go from reading a Dean Koontz to reading Anne Rivers Siddons. I love novels that thrill me with their word usage and their characters.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’m currently working on my 20th book. My first published book was a true crime called A Question of Innocence. It’s now out of print. I’ve also written a how-to book on writing fiction called Getting Into Character. My novels are all published by Zondervan. My three-book Bradleyville series was women’s fiction (Cast a Road Before Me, Color the Sidewalk for Me, and Capture the Wind for Me). The rest are suspense. These include the Chelsea Adams series: Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion. Hidden Faces series: Brink of Death, Stain of Guilt, Dead of Night, and Web of Lies. Kanner Lake series: Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, Crimson Eve, and Amber Morn. And now Dark Pursuit, my first stand-alone. I’ve mentioned my next stand-alone, Exposure, releasing in May. Also releasing in the spring are the two young adult suspense books I wrote with my daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star. These books are titled Always Watching and Last Breath.
Reading those titles is like reading a list of old friends. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I pray a lot. And I trust God to lead me on His path. It’s as simple—and complex—as that.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
They have to have the right feel to them. They have to be rhythmic. And, of course, they need to be right with the time frame of the book.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
It’s my and my husband’s accomplishment together. That is modeling to our children what a true Christian marriage looks like.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest problem is that it’s doggone hard. And it doesn’t get easier. How to overcome that, book by book? Keep studying the craft. Keep working hard. Keep praying.
What advice would you give to a novelist just starting out?
Be teachable. Understand that learning how to write fiction is a long, difficult road. You have to really, really want to be published in fiction. If not you’ll give up along the way, and that’s okay. It obviously wasn’t for you. If you want it, you’ll hang in there. Learn the craft. Study, study, study. The statistics for published novels is mighty low—maybe 1-2 percent of all those written. You’re going to have to be good enough to beat those odds.
What would you like to tell us about Dark Pursuit?
I enjoy creating the fast-paced plots, but there's always symbolism beneath the story. For years I’ve loved the passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost about Satan and his cohorts, kicked out of heaven and bemoaning their fate. In revenge Satan visits Adam and Eve on Earth and woos them away from their God. Satan offers them spiritual death—disguised as life. Man falls for the deceit. And so the need for redemption is born. Down the ages some of mankind would embrace redemption; others would be blind to their very need for it.With these thoughts in mind I created the contemporary characters of Dark Pursuit and set them on their twisting path.
From the back cover of Dark Pursuit:
Novelist Darell Brooke lived for his title as King of Suspense—until an auto accident left him unable to concentrate. Two years later, recluse and bitter, he wants one thing: to plot a new novel and regain his reputation.Kaitlan Sering, his twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, once lived for drugs. After she stole from Darell, he cut her off. Now she’s rebuilding her life. But in Kaitlan’s town two women have been murdered, and she’s about to discover a third. She’s even more shocked to realize the culprit—her boyfriend, Craig, the police chief’s son.
Desperate, Kaitlan flees to her estranged grandfather. For over forty years, Darell Brooke has lived suspense. Surely he’ll devise a plan to trap the cunning Craig.But can Darell’s muddled mind do it? And—if he tries—with what motivation? For Kaitlan’s plight may be the stunning answer to the elusive plot he seeks...
Wow! I can hardly wait to read it. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My web site is http://www.brandilyncollins.com/. There you can read about all my books, including the opening chapters. You can also request bookmarks and signed bookplates from the “Free Stuff” link. And you can sign up for my newsletter, Sneak Pique, sent every other month. Sneak Pique includes information on new releases in all genres of Christian fiction, as well as my own news. And there are always chances to win free books.
My blog is http://www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com/. There we discuss the craft of fiction, the writing business and the spiritual journey. Plus crazy stories from my own life. Those interested in writing fiction will find a lot of helpful articles in the archives.
Thank you, Brandilyn for spending this time with us.
Readers, you'll want to check out both Brandilyn's web site and her blog. You can order a copy of Dark Pursuit by clicking this link:
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