Monday, August 23, 2010
Interview With Brandilyn Collins
One of today’s most successful and respected writers of Christian fiction is my guest today. Her “Seatbelt Suspense” has kept readers turning pages for years now, and as she shares with us here, there’s more to come. Brandilyn Collins has been my friend and supporter since I began my “road to writing,” and it’s an honor and privilege to have her here today.
RM: Brandilyn, by my count you’ve had twenty-one books published—19 novels, a true crime, and the classic writing book, Getting Into Character. Do you ever get questions about a previous book that send you to your own copy to find the answer? And if not, how in the world do you keep it all straight?
BC: Once in awhile a reader who’s read some novel I wrote five or so years ago may ask me about a very specific and little plot point regarding some minor character. “Why did So-and-So do this or that?” Or “Whatever happened to this or that?” Well first, I can’t even remember who So-and-So is, so I certainly can’t remember why or what or who or how. I do have to go digging. The mazes in my novels are complex—lots of false leads, dead-ends, etc. I just can’t possibly remember all the passageways years later.
RM: You’ve recently been on a multi-city Thriller Tour with fellow authors Tosca Lee, Jim Rubart, and Robin Caroll, accompanied by editor Karen Ball. I can’t imagine putting that group together for long without some unforgettable experiences. Are there any you can relate without letting yourself in for a libel suit?
BC: Well, let’s see. We performed the Thriller dance outside a P.F. Chang’s one day. (Never know what a full stomach will lead to.) I learned Tosca is an … interesting driver. (“Was that a bump?” “No, just the curb.”) Jim will never again eat cheap Chinese at a mall’s food court. (“How long until we get to a bathroom? HOW LONG???) Robin will never again sit in the front seat with a New York cab driver. (In a text message to those in the back seat: “He smells funny.”) And Karen knows little about baseball. (At the St. Louis game: “What’s that white thing?” “The ball.”)
I, of course, was perfect.
RM: Your latest novel, Deceit, is garnering great reviews. Would you mind sharing a bit about it with my readers?
BC: From the back cover: Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed Linda—his second wife and Joanne’s best friend—six years ago. But Baxter, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man. The police tell Joanne to leave well enough alone, but she is determined to bring him down. Using her skills as a professional skip tracer, she sets out to locate the only person who may be able to put Baxter behind bars. Melissa Harkoff was a traumatized sixteen-year-old foster child in the Jackson household when Linda disappeared. At the time Melissa claimed to know nothing of Linda's whereabouts—but was she lying?
In relentless style, Deceit careens between Joanne's pursuit of the truth—which puts her own life in danger—and the events of six years' past, when Melissa came to live with the Jacksons. What really happened in that household? Beneath the veneer of perfection lies a story of shakeable faith, choices, and the lure of deceit.
Deceit seems to be resonating with people both because of the psychologically complex story and its intrinsic questions about possible deceit in the life of the reader. I’ve read a couple of positive reviews that call the story “dark.” I didn’t think in terms of being “dark” when I was writing Deceit. I mean, one could argue all my suspense stories are dark in one way or another. But now that I see that word applied to this novel I can’t say I totally disagree. There are lingering issues from Deceit that stay with the reader. The novel certainly depicts human nature in all its frailty and unpredictability.
RM: I’m fascinated that you’re taking your own experience with Lyme disease and turning it into a novel, Over The Edge, which will be published next May. Would you tell my readers a little about the book and some of your experiences in writing it?
BC: Lyme hit me hard in 2002, taking me from a five-mile-a-day runner to barely crippling around with a cane. I was plunged into the world of the “Lyme Wars,” a world that pits long-term Lyme sufferers against doctors who’ve been told chronic Lyme doesn’t even exist and therefore won’t treat the disease. It’s a very complex fight in medicine, one that most people aren’t even aware of. Until they or someone they know gets Lyme.
As I slumped in the waiting room of my doctor in 2003, I was so sick I would not be able to remain sitting in the chair. (They soon had to move me to the doctor’s personal padded armchair with footrest in a private office.) At that point I’d been treated for Lyme with high doses of antibiotics for about 3 months. I was only getting worse, which meant we’d have to get even more aggressive with the medication. Hanging on the waiting room wall was a framed newspaper article summarizing the 2001 findings about Lyme Disease from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). These findings had been originally written in The New England Journal of Medicine. The newspaper article explained how researchers had once again “proved” that Lyme was never chronic and was in fact very easy to treat with a short-term round of antibiotics. People claiming months or years of crippling symptoms from the disease were just wrong—or it was just all in their heads.
I was so very sick, with my quality of life completely taken from me—and researchers in their shiny laboratories were telling me I was just fine. Either that or I was a psych patient. I remember the intense anger I felt. And it wasn’t just because I was being summarily dismissed by these doctor researchers. The result of these IDSA findings are dire—insurance companies pick them up and then deny coverage for treatment. Medical boards go after doctors who do treat for long-term Lyme, many times yanking their licenses to practice. It’s amazing but true—these few doctors on the IDSA committee ultimately have the power to control how Lyme patients are tested and treated in this country.
What those know-it-alls need, I thought with an admittedly unChristian attitude, is a real good case of Lyme.
And so the idea for Over the Edge was born. What if an embittered man who’d lost a loved one to Lyme purposely infected the wife of the doctor who served as the chairman of the IDSA committee—the doctor who was so outspoken in saying chronic Lyme didn’t exist? What if that embittered man gave the sickened wife an ultimatum? “Convince your husband to publicly change his opinion about Lyme so patients can be properly treated—or others will suffer the same fate I’ve given you.” And what if the good and ever-so-right doctor refused to believe his wife had Lyme at all?
Over the Edge is a suspense novel that will entertain, using the plotting and twists my readers are used to. At the same time the book will impart information about Lyme and the Lyme Wars.
RM: You’ve been heavily involved for years with the American Christian Fiction Writers, and many of us remain grateful for your support on our own writing journey. What is your most treasured memory from an ACFW conference?
BC: My responsibilities at the conference go from the most overt and public to the most private. I serve as emcee every year, which means I’m in front of the whole group on a regular basis. But the rest of the time I’m often in the prayer room praying with people (usually by appointment). My best memories of all the conferences are from praying with people and seeing God heal in amazing ways—emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He certainly doesn’t need me around to work His miracles, so I’m grateful He allows me to hang out and watch what He does. Every year I just marvel. And every year those prayer room experiences are what I most look forward to.
RM: Thanks for taking the time to share with my readers. Any last words?
BC: I have a new video, put together by my publisher B&H, that talks about what I write and why. It’s part of the new branding B&H is doing around my Seatbelt Suspense®. View it here. As for learning more about my books, remember that the first chapters of all my novels can be read on my web site.
Thanks, Doc, for your hospitality!
And thank you, Brandilyn, for being with us. We look forward to many more books that make some of us sleep with the lights on!