Monday, August 16, 2010

Interview with Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows.

Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice. Two of her novels are now up for Carol Awards (formerly Book of the Year). Brandilyn is currently working on her 23rd book.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.

When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.
[Anne] Welcome Brandilyn. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today. Your first book, A Question of Innocence, was published in 1995. Was your journey to publication a difficult one?

[Brandilyn] Yes! On my blog, Forensics and Faith, is a long story in the archives (60+ posts) titled “How I Got Here.” That’s the story of my 10-year journey to being published in fiction. Along the way, A Question of Innocence was published—my first book, and a true crime. I ended up writing A Question of Innocence because I was following a local murder case through trial in order to research the novel I was working on (Eyes of Elisha). The real murder case (dubbed The Diary Girl case in California) was so fascinating I followed it through to the end and wrote an exclusive book about it. But that book aside, 10 years to see my novels published seemed like a never-ending saga at the time. Finally when my craft had reached publishable stage—and my heart was where God wanted it to be—the publishing doors flew open and have remained that way since.

[Anne] You have four different suspense series. Do you have a favorite?

[Brandilyn] I can’t say I like any of my series—or my stand-alones, for that matter—above others. My series each have their own uniqueness. The Chelsea Adams series features a woman who has visions. In our law enforcement culture, where everything is based on hard evidence, what does one do with knowledge sent by God—knowledge about a crime you shouldn’t have? My Hidden Faces series features a forensic artist. Each of the four books revolves around a different type of project she must do—from drawing a composite that will age a fugitive 20 years to determining the features of an unknown murder victim from her skull. My Kanner Lake series features a wonderful cast of eclectic characters in a small Idaho town. (The first book in that series, Violet Dawn, has the infamous hot tub scene in the first chapter that my readers still talk about.) And the Rayne Tour series is young adult suspense featuring the daughter of a rock star. That series is co-written with my daughter, Amberly.

[Anne] You have a new release out titled Deceit. I took the liberty of snagging the blurb from your website.

Some evil shouts from rooftops; some scuttles in the dark. The worst evil tips its face toward light with shining innocence.  Baxter Jackson shone with the worst of them.

Joanne Weeks knows Baxter Jackson killed Linda—his second wife and Joanne's best friend—six years ago. But Jackson, a church elder and beloved member of the town, walks the streets a free man.

Joanne is determined to bring Jackson down, no matter what the police say. Using her skills as a professional skip tracer, she sets out to locate the only person who can put Jackson 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 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 shakable faith, choices, and the lure of deceit.

[Anne] Wow! Where in the world did you come up with that idea? What is the inspiration behind it?

[Brandilyn] My books come to me in various ways. This idea first arose in the form of a “what if?” about a skip tracer. As I started plotting the story, details about the protagonist hit me. I knew she was addicted to Jelly Bellies—even eating different flavors based on her mood. (No, I don’t really like jelly beans myself.) And I knew she had one of those crazy Billy Bass Singing Fish things that date back to the 80s. Also, Deceit tugged my imagination because of the highly respected Christian businessman/church elder in the story. Is he for real … or not? I was intrigued with showing the inner workings of a Christian family vs. how that family is publicly perceived—and how events led up to a tragedy. Bottom line, there’s one thing you can say about any of my stories. They are fast-paced suspense, but they are driven by characters and those characters’ motivation. It’s not just action and chases that make for good suspense. Evil and deceit start in the heart. What is it that’s gone wrong there?

[Anne] How many books do you usually write in a year?

[Brandilyn] I space my adult books about 7 months apart. When Amberly and I were writing the Rayne Tour series, those books were slid in between my adult books—which made for a very hectic writing schedule. Fortunately the 3-book Rayne Tour series is now complete.

[Anne] Do you have a strict schedule to adhere to?

[Brandilyn] I write full-time, so I’m in my office all day. I don’t write all day, however. My day is basically halved—one part writing, the other part marketing and going about the business of being an author. When you’re a full-time novelist you are the CEO of your own business. There are certain things that must be done simply to keep that business running. For a novelist these days, that means lots of personal marketing, as publishing houses are expecting authors to do more and more of that themselves.

[Anne] You recently took part in the B&H Thriller Book Tour, along with novelists Jim Rubart, Robin Caroll, and Tosca Lee. I bet that was a lot of fun. What are some of your favorite memories of the tour?

[Brandilyn] Definitely hanging out in general with those three great people. Also meeting fans. At numerous locations readers drove as long as two hours to meet me. It’s a wonderful thing to meet enthusiastic readers like that!

[Anne] If your publisher agreed to send you anywhere in the world to research your new book, where would you like that to be?

[Brandilyn] That’s a hard one. Perhaps Australia. I’ve not been there yet and would like to go. What story I’d come up with—who knows? But it would be fun research.

[Anne] You’ve just woke in the middle of the night with a fantastic idea for a book, what do you do?

[Brandilyn] Actually this happened to me once. Sort of. Of course I love to wish that every book would come to me as a dream—fully plotted and characterized. Not. But when I was preparing to write the stand-alone novel that would become Exposure I awoke from a sound sleep with a thought blaring in my head: a camera that takes its own pictures. And in a flash (pun intended) I saw the scene that eventually became the crux of the first chapter in Exposure. Unfortunately my midnight bit of brilliance went no further than that scene. I was left to plot the rest of the book the old fashioned way—by hard work.

[Anne] What can we look forward to seeing next from you?

[Brandilyn] I just finished Over the Edge—the novel I was made to write. It’s about Lyme Disease and the Lyme wars in the medical community—pitting doctors who don’t want to treat chronic Lyme against patients who desperately need treatment. I was hit hard with Lyme in 2002, so I know the destruction of the disease firsthand. (Please read “My Healing” on my web site about how God granted a miracle cure to me.) Over the Edge is definitely another Seatbelt Suspense® novel. At the same time, interwoven into the story is information about the disease and the problems in diagnosis and treatment. This book, while entertaining readers, can also be very beneficial to people who don’t know enough about Lyme to recognize its symptoms in themselves or friends/family members. Over the Edge will release in May 2011. I’ve started a blog that tells the stories of those fighting Lyme. It’s called Lyme-Over the Edge. Reading the blog alone will tell you much about the disease.

[Anne] Last question I promise. If you could do anything differently over the course of your writing career, what would it be?

[Brandilyn] I would give my talent and desire for writing over to God at day one—instead of after 8 years of trying to do things my own way. It never pays to stray from God’s path.

[Anne] Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Brandilyn. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Brandilyn] I love connecting with readers, and there are various ways you can do that. I’m on Facebook (under Brandilyn Collins) and on twitter (@Brandilyn). I blog at Forensics and Faith about my writing and the book industry (and a crazy story now and then just to keep it all interesting). To learn more about my books, please visit my web site. You can read the first chapters of all my books there to see what most interests you. And you can sign up to receive my newsletter, Sneak Pique, which features info about me and the latest releases in all genres of Christian fiction.


Miss Mae said...

Wow! This is one of Anne's best interviews yet! Brandilyn, it's a pleasure to meet you, though I have NO idea where you get the energy or creativity to put out as many books as you do.Whew, I'm tired just from reading!

Congrats on your huge success, and here's wishing you even more! :)

Gail Pallotta said...

Hi Brandilyn,
Deceit sounds wonderful. I would love to read it. But, I must tell you that I too have had Lyme disease. I'm just recovering. I hear you loud and clear. I was told there was nothing that could be done. But God sent me to a wonderful alternative doctor. It's been quite a journey. I don't know if I ever will write anything about it or not, but I'll see as I get a distance from it. People do need to know about my doctor. I'm so glad you got help for it as did I.
I've love to read Deceit.
pallotta at gailpallotta dot com

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Mae and Gail--thanks. Gail, I do hope you'll contact me about running your Lyme story on my blog. You can email me through my web site. Blessings.

Richard Mabry said...

Anne, Thanks for this opportunity to visit with Brandilyn. She's a great lady who does a lot behind the scenes to support writers at all stages of their careers. As one of those writers, I'd like to thank her for all she does.

Looking forward to this latest novel, Brandilyn. Keep 'em coming.

Heather Justesen said...

Fun interview! Brandilyn, your books sounds great, and I love finding new authors who write great stories with good values1

Anne Patrick said...

Miss Mae, Gail and Heather, thank you so much for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

Anne Patrick said...

Richard, thank you for your comment. I've heard many wonderful things about Brandilyn and her books. I'm looking forward to reading Deceit.

Anne Patrick said...

Brandilyn, thank you again for doing the interview. It was a pleasure to learn more about you and your wonderful books. I wish you lots of success!