An Interview with Author Brandilyn Collins

>> Monday, June 25, 2012

Brandilyn Collins is a Christian author of the popular Seatbelt Suspense® books. One of my writing pals, Amy Michelle Wiley, had an opportunity to interview her and I thought I’d share. Here is part I and stay tuned next month for the conclusion.

AW: Brandilyn, thanks so much for joining us.

BC: Amy, nice to be with you. I’ll do my best to behave (but make no promises).

AW: Haha, thanks! I love your books and have gained a lot of inspiration from them, especially now as I'm writing a suspense book myself. Your first books, The Bradleyville Series, are contemporary Christian fiction with smaller elements of adventure. What prompted the switch to focus on the suspense genre?

BC: I didn’t really switch genres so much as focus. At the beginning of my career I was writing in both the contemporary and suspense genres. For marketing and branding purposes I needed to choose one genre. Suspense seemed the best choice at the time, due to its sales. I really did mourn losing contemporary for a while. But choosing a genre was the right thing to do. To this day, I find that having written contemporaries really helps me in my characterization in suspense. (And when I wrote contemporaries, you can see my pull toward suspense in each of them.)

By the way, for those of you out there who don’t like suspense, try reading my Color the Sidewalk for Me. This is the second book in my Bradleyville series, and I think it’s the best in the series. In fact I think it’s one of the best books I’ve written.  

AW: The title of that particular book is what first drew me to read your work, actually. It's such a lovely word picture and I enjoyed the story, as well. I know several other of my blog readers also write suspense. Do you have any advice for those of us writing in that genre?

BC: Well, it’s very hard. I find it way harder than writing contemporary fiction. Suspense has some strong conventions: tighter and tighter trouble for the protagonist, chapter hooks, twists, etc. A good surprising twist is difficult to pull off. I always write on two levels—the surface level of what I want the reader to believe, and the underlying, real level where the truth resides. Often individual sentences must be able to sound correct for both levels. I lead the readers to assume A or B or C (regarding who the bad guy is and the outcome), when the truth is really D or E. Or A and E. Or F and Z. You get the picture. The reader will read a sentence with the assumption in mind. But when the truth is revealed, that reader should be able to go back and relook at the sentence and say—“Ah. That’s how she fooled me.” Calls for some very careful, precise writing.

If you’re going to write suspense, find some good suspense writers you enjoy and read them. Notice how they handle story structure, characterization, twists, chapter hooks, etc. I found when I was learning how to write fiction that my growth came 50% from reading and 50% from writing. Also—don’t forget that no matter how brilliant your premise is, readers will stop reading if they don’t care about your characters. It’s absolutely essential to make your readers empathize with your main character immediately. But without loading up the beginning with a bunch of backstory, which only slows the plot. And is boring. So there’s a balance. And that’s hard to find.

AW: Sigh. Methinks in my next life I’ll be a rocket scientist. It’s easier. I've got my work cut out for me! Glad I know some good suspense writers to study from. ;-)
When did you know you were called to be a writer?

BC: I can’t give you a specific date. I come from a family of writers, and I’ve always had the love of drama. In fact, drama was my first major in college, before journalism. I went from creating characters on the stage to creating them on the page. Once I began writing fiction I used what I’d learned through acting to create my characters. I wrote a book that takes seven techniques from the art of method acting and tweaks them for the novelist. It’s called GettingInto Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors. It’s helped a lot of people, which makes me very happy.

AW: I'm one of those people who have been aided by that book—thank you!

Don't forget to come back for the conclusion of Amy's interview.


Par for the Course

>> Monday, June 18, 2012

A few years back, for some unknown reason, I became enamored with watching golf on TV. I really didn’t have any desire to play because the way I looked at it, participating in sports is overrated and being a spectator is much more enjoyable. 

Eventually though, I decided to give it a shot (pun intended.)

My first round was less than stellar as I had to use a calculator to keep track of my score. But even though it was frustrating, I was completely hooked.

I practiced faithfully and began to improve. Much of the credit goes to my young but extremely talented coach. I'm convinced that I would still be using a par 29 for every hole if it wasn't for him. His invaluable advice far outweighed the fact that I have shoes older than he is.

I've had many adventures on the course, but none stand out as much as a lovely blue-skyed day with perfect temperatures. All was right with the world after I got a bogey on the first hole. (Don’t smirk you golfers out there—for a beginner, that’s a thrill). 

I was feeling pretty smug until my tee shot sailed into the tall grass.  My spirits plummeted because it was my favorite ball (a pink Lady Noodle).  Probably the males are rolling their eyes:  Yes, I do like colored balls, my purple bag with matching club covers, and pastel accessories. Just because I’m participating in a manly sport doesn’t mean I can’t be stylish at the same time. 
Tromping through the weeds, I swept my club, anxiously trying to locate the elusive ball. It was my last Noodle and I wasn’t ready to give it up without a fight. I was about to declare defeat when a sudden movement startled me and a huge snake reared up, ready to strike. 

With fangs bared and a wild look in his eye, he had to be at least six feet long (think cobra.) I screamed, preparing to defend myself with a nine iron. He paused as I brandished a swing that would make my coach proud.

He must have decided I meant business as he retreated, tail tucked, wanting to live another day. 

As he slithered away, I hesitated, unsure if the Noodle was worth additional trauma. And decided a purple Nike would suffice as my new favorite ball.

Footnote from Kim's Golf Partner
The snake was only 12" long.
The only 'rearing up' it did was in a panicked effort to get away from her screeching.
The next time a ball went in the weeds, she sobbed like a little girl.
In case you haven't noticed, she's a bit of a drama queen.


Similiar--Yet Unique

>> Monday, June 11, 2012

Dr. Rita Garcia is a writer pal that has a passion for studying scripture and finding small nuggets, which when applied to everyday life, creates an abundance of love, joy and peace. Be sure to check out her blog and web site.

Similar—Yet Unique

For special occasions our family enjoys a breakfast of fluffy pancakes topped with sweet strawberries and mounds of whipped cream. And setting in my fridge are two containers of beautiful raspberries, waiting for dinner. 
Which brings to mind a tiny restaurant in the Swiss Alps, where we were served a platter of mixed berries with a pot of decadent melted chocolate to dip them in.

Oh, and I also love blackberries. If I had to choose a favorite type of berry—it would be really difficult—I don’t think I could. I’m sure some of you are going yuck—I’m one of those weird people that love fruits and veggies. So just stick with me here, okay? 

Isn’t that the way God created us? In many ways we’re similar—yet unique. 

He knit each of us together in our mother’s womb. He placed special gifts and desires within us. We are each His wonderful and perfect creation. And do you know what I find thrilling? We are in God’s thoughts— He thinks about us. He desires to give us a future and a hope. 
How much time do we spend questioning the way God custom designed us? 

Maybe wanting the gift or talent someone else has. I can’t carry a tune—and I’ve always wanted to be able to sing. Yet, I’ve never had a passion to become a famous singer—doesn’t even interest me. But I sure enjoy music and listening to those that God gave a big dose of singing talent to. 

So perhaps I should be happy that God blessed me with a gift that I am also passionate about. Today, I am spending the day writing. The windows are open, the sun is peeking in and I am one contented lady. There are days when I struggle with my writing—trying to stir the words together in harmony isn’t always easy—but I love the process. 
So just like the variety of berries that God created, He created a variety of people, each with our own uniqueness.

Isn’t it amazing that along with that special gift and talent He placed inside of us, He gave us a desire and passion to do it? Through Him we can rise up and be all that He created us to be, each in our own individual way. Search out what you’re passionate about—embrace the wonderful you—the you God custom designed to further His kingdom here on earth. 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)


"Do Not Disturb"

>> Monday, June 4, 2012

I’ll do just about anything to get myself on the treadmill. Not sure why it’s such a chore since most of the time, I actually enjoy it.

I’ve taken to using little tricks like trying to find entertainment in order to pass the time. One thing I do is listen to Joyce Meyer podcasts while I’m huffing and puffing.

Recently she came out on stage with a sign around her neck that said “Do Not Disturb.” Everyone laughed, albeit tentatively, because when she starts to preach, it’s usually followed by a kick in the conscience.

The subject? Church people. And how they act.

*Uh oh.*

The whole discussion centered on the fact that we are all so self-centered, that we don’t put our Bible money where our mouths are.

We go to church on Sunday…and whine when someone sits in our pew. Or we say to the hurting, “Bless God and I’ll pray for you,” while muttering that the pastor should do something…instead of taking action.

There's a million excuses: We’re too busy, too stressed, too tired, or too __________. (Fill in the blank…)

The teaching went on as sweat streamed down my face, forcing me to consider whether it was because I’d had an awesome workout… or had my toes stepped on.

It was the latter.

Not too long ago, I got a phone call from an old friend. We hadn’t talked in quite a while and I almost groaned when her name came up on the caller ID. I was busy (one of my fav excuses) and was abrupt, basically blowing her off. But I did promise I’d get back to her “when my schedule allowed it.”

Yeah, Joyce had done it again.

Workout complete, I plopped on the now-still treadmill and hung my head, red-faced and knowing it had nothing to do with physical exertion.

Of course we all have responsibilities and tasks we must accomplish. And time is of the premium—I get it.

But if we’re going to follow Jesus’ example, we need to ask ourselves not ‘what would Jesus do,’ but take a good look at what he DID. (This is a quote from my Pastor, Ron Moore....awesome, aint it?)

The answer is simple: He served.

Not at his convenience or when it fit into his schedule. He didn’t turn the masses away or brush the children aside.

He simply loved.

I called my friend and apologized. She forgave me and was very understanding. We haven't gotten together yet, but hopefully will do so soon.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to try to do better.

May I have a heart that is more sensitive to others so that God can use me as his hands and feet.

And never wear a sign that says, “Do Not Disturb.”

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.”                           
John 13.34 MSG


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