Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review of The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman

The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman by Carole Brown is a suspenseful and emotional read. My only caution is that this book deals with cults and abuse, and so readers should keep in mind that it’s not a lighthearted read.

Caralynne lives in a cult of the Children of Righteous Cain. When Caralynne’s husband dies, the elders must make decisions about her future. At the same time, Dayne MacFarland, a friend from Caralynne’s past, returns to the cult as their preacher.

I was intrigued by this book because I’d heard it was about cults and had seen the cover, but wasn’t sure how the cover fit in. Anyway, if readers can handle the subject matter, I think they'll enjoy this suspense story, as I did. 

If you’d like to learn more about the author, Carole Brown, please view a July 2013 interview of her.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Interveiw and Giveaway with Tina Whittle

I'm happy to introduce you to Tina Whittle. Tina and I were on a panel together at "Mystery Goes South" in Atlanta, GA. We both write cozy mysteries that incorporates history into the story. Tina has been gracious enough to give away one of her books. You must be a follower of the blog, leave a comment and leave your email address so we can contact you. Let's get started on learning more about Tina.

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  1. Tell us a little about yourself.
    Well, I’m a full-time mystery novelist living and working in Southeastern, Georgia. I’m a wife and mom; I love reading and writing and almost all things Southern (the food and the language and the people, yes, the choking hot summers, not so much). I share my lap with a neurotic Maltese named Cloud and my backyard with four bossy chickens named Pansy, Maleficent, Onomatopoeia, and Chicken Whittle. My research interests are varied – neuroscience, SWAT procedures, the American Civil War – but my favorite kind of learning is hands-on (which is why you’ll find me at Writers Police Academy every year.
  2. Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on.
    I write the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series, which is an amateur sleuth traditional mystery series. The series itself is based in Atlanta, but for the most recent book – Blood, Ash and Bone – I moved the action to Savannah, where Spanish moss, cobblestones, and ghost stories soak the atmosphere. There’s kissing, bickering, and clue-finding as Tai, the owner/operator of a Confederate-themed gun shop,  and Trey,  her ex-SWAT corporate security agent boyfriend, look for a priceless Civil War artifact and instead find stalkers, moonshiners, unreconstructed rebels, alligators, wolves, KKK Grand Dragons, snipers, bikers, buried treasure and a ruthless killer. You know, just another day in the Deep South.
  3. Why did you choose this particular genre?
    They say that romance is the genre of emotion, sci-fi the genre of ideas, and mystery the genre of justice. Real life, unfortunately, is a more tattered reality. Mystery allows readers – and writers – a way to experience a world where order is restored, and the good guys win (at least most of the time). I especially enjoy an amateur sleuth novel, because I get to pretend that someone like me (okay, someone a little more adventurous) might actually be able to solve a crime.
  4. What was your journey to publication like?
    Arduous. I’m glad, though; that gave me a chance to practice two important skills – patience and detachment – that have become crucial to my career now. Submitting (and all the work that comes along with it, the research and querying) is a job in its own right. I had to learn to balance that part of being a writer with the actual, you know, writing. And now, I have to balance PR and promotional work with actual writing. So I also learned balance and perseverance. I am grateful now for the rejections too – they taught me to understand the difference between the kind of critical feedback that is useful, and the kind I need to ignore.
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  1. What is a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now?
    I’m reading your book, Terror on Tybee! I love Southern mysteries, both the ones that let me explore new ground and the ones that return me to familiar territory. For me, the past is like an undiscovered country, so I enjoy historicals of all stripes. I just finished a fabulous romp through Victorian London in Wicked Little Secrets by Susanna Ives, and I am waiting for my advanced reader copy of Dark Places of the Earth by Jon Bryant, a non-fiction account of the slave ship Antelope and the Savannah court trail – argued by Francis Scott Key himself – that set the legal precedent for the Amistad case. And I’m steady working through Neuroscience For Dummies.
  2. What are you working on now and can you give us a little peek inside it?
    I am having the most fun with my current work-in-progress, Deeper Than The Grave (set for release in November 2014 from Poisoned Pen Press). It’s the fourth in the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series, and it’s got two intertwined mysteries (one during the 1860s and one during the present time) both involving a set of unusual bones. Plus this is the book where my  characters’ complicated romance reaches a crucial make-or-break-it stage. For this book, I’ve been researching forensic anthropology, skateboarding, blacksmithing, the I-95 drug corridor and – believe it or not – what would happen to Atlanta during a massive traffic-jammed, blizzard-induced shutdown ( I claim NO responsibility for what happened in January – I write fiction. Pure fiction).
  3. What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication?
    Only this, that most obvious and repeated of aphorisms – it really is all about the journey. They say if a butterfly isn’t allowed to break out of its cocoon all by itself, it won’t have the strength to fly. Such is the same for writers. The pre-publication jungle is a place of pain and frustration and disappointment, but it is the training ground for patience, perseverance, and the ability to hold on to what matters to you most. It thickens your skin even as it opens your heart. And in the middle of all the nonsense, you create what will be your practice, your meditation, your Zen – sitting at the keyboard, clearing space for your art. Be in that present moment with it. It will be your life preserver, I promise.
  4. Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us?
    When you need to remember why you’re doing this – reconnect with your Muse, your God, your Divine Inspiration, your Creative Spirit – I cannot recommend The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron heartily enough. It lives by my writing chair. Also on that note, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which is practical, mystical, gritty and incandescent all at the same time. In terms of mystery writing specifically, I am constantly telling people to get this book -- How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat. I haven’t found a better book on writing the genre, everything from plot to character development to how to tell if your book is a mystery or a thriller (there’s a difference). And in terms of websites, Dan Harmon (he who writes the brilliantly subversive sit-com Community) spins the archetypal Hero’s Journey into a circle, demonstrating that plotting isn’t a linear start-to-finish process, but rather a grand cycle that begins where it ends, and that by understanding that, you can plot almost anything just by filling in the eight stations of the Story Circle (you can find Dan’s highly entertaining and somewhat salty explanation of all this (Die Hard! Werewolves! James Bond!) at the Channel 101 website: http://channel101.wikia.com/wiki/Story_Structure_104:_The_Juicy_Details
  5. Please let us know where we can find you on the web.
  6. Several places actually. My main cyber-home is at http://www.tinawhittle.com – here’s where you’ll find my appearance schedule, news and reviews, plus links to sample chapters and short stories featuring my mystery-solving duo. You can also find links to blogs, including The Fascination Files (http://tinawhittle.blogspot.com/) and The Mojito Literary Society (a blog I share with four other genre writers at http://themojitoliterarysociety.blogspot.com). You can also find me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tina.whittle) and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/tinawh) and my protagonist has her own Twitter (her handle is @Tai_Randolph).

Friday, February 14, 2014

Interview and Book Giveaway with Adam Graham

By Jeff Reynolds

It's my honor to interview Adam Graham. He has written several books of different genres, and we'll be giving away a copy of one of his books. Rules are below.


Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Adam. I'd like to start off this
Valentine's Day blog by asking about who your editor is and how you two got connected.

Adam Graham: My editor is my wife, Andrea. We met over the internet in October 2000 beginning as virtual penpals and working to engaged in ten months and married eleven months later.

JR: I believe two of your most recent works fall into the suspense/mystery category. Could you tell us about An Ounce of Prevention and Slime Incorporated?

AG: Ounce of Prevention is a novelette which combines the detective story with science fiction. Jerry Newton, the owner of Newton Investigations is hired by an elementary school teacher who is receiving death threats. The case escalates when the teacher’s car is bombed. At the same time, Newton begins to fall for a beautiful woman with a secret. And through the process of this case, he’s led to the biggest moral dilemma of his life. Donna Fletcher Crow called it, “Sam Spade meets Dr. Who.” Enough said.

Slime Incorporated which should be out later on in February is a full length detective political thriller. The lead character is Cole Ustick who works for Jerry Newton. A candidate for Governor is accused of sexual assault and hires Newton Investigations to get to the bottom of the allegations and Ustick is assigned to investigate. In the course of the investigation, this becomes a murder case with the candidate for governor charged with murder.

Slime Incorporated really does fit comfortably into both being a political thriller and also the detective novel. The novel was inspired by a national political campaign which was actually brought down by thinly sourced anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct. And I used my knowledge of state and national politics to shape that part of the plot. However, the book is not a political screed. There are no protracted political debates, though I try to be realistic with both sides in terms of their views. Also, it helps that Cole Ustick is a non-voter who just wants to solve the case.

Ustick really is a fun character to write. I intended to be much in the same mold as some of the great eccentric detectives of fiction. He goes a lot on instinct and can be very unpredictable character. He’s part Archie Goodwin, part Jim Rockford, part Philip Marlowe, part Johnny Staccato, with a conflicted conscience, and a very unique sense of style. He really clashes with a few people when he ends up having to work around a gubernatorial campaign.

JR: When you write, do you tend to outline in advance, or are you more of a blank pager?

AG: I don’t outline at all. I’m perhaps not the most disciplined at this but if I write it all down once, why write it down twice? I do have an idea of where I’m going, but have little idea how I’ll get there. That’s the fun part. Along the way, we connect the dots.

JR: You have a non-fiction book that the readers of this blog might be interested in Could you tell us about that and the upcoming sequel?.

AG: All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo is a 2011 ebook in which I examined seven great detectives of literature, radio, and television, and looked at life lessons that could be garnered from each of their careers. In that volume, we looked at lessons from Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Nero Wolfe, Boston Blackie, Dan Holiday (from Box 13, the radio series), Columbo, and Monk. Examples of the life lessons included what Sherlock Holmes taught us about information management and what Adrian Monk taught us about courage.

The response to the book has been very solid, so I’m writing up the sequel, All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet which will take a look at another group of detectives and police including: Hercule Poirot, Frank Race (radio), Johnny Dollar (radio), Joe Friday, Lt. John Weston (Lock Up), Adam-12, and Frank Cannon.

JR: I've had the honor of reading one of your books, Powerhouse Hard Pressed. I'm still wondering how long the surgery to remove your tongue from your cheek took. Would you introduce us to your Powerhouse series?

AG: It all began with Tales of the Dim Knight which was inspired after I watched the DVD of The Tick v. Season One. I set out to write a Christian novel that would poke fun of every great Superhero cliché and convention. It was published by Splashdown Books in 2010 originally as a one and done novel, but at the very last second, I changed the end to leave the door open to a sequel, though I didn’t have a plan for one.

So in 2012, I began a series of sequels exploring the further adventures of Powerhouse after he regained his powers. And so far, I’ve had a blast with so many things I’ve been able to play with. The Robolawyers in Fly Another Day and my favorites from Powerhouse: Hard Pressed, I’m the only person to reimagine Atlantis as having a giant statue of Barney Fife and Andy Taylor on the outskirts of the city and then we have everyone’s favorite super-powered mad etiquette blogger, Mister Manners.

I’m towards the end of finishing the first draft of Ultimate Midlife Crisis, the third sequel, and it may be the most serious and the most silly book. Among the highlights, I’ve got a single chapter which parodies the classic comic storylines “Superman v. Shazam,” “Green Arrow and Green Lantern,” Marvel’s “Civil War,” and “The Dark Knight Returns,” along with the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon, and comic book reboots.

At the same time, I deal with some serious stuff in terms of anger, raising kids, finding our caller, and growing to a middle age. There’s such a mix.

JR: One thing you did that I've thought about doing was running for office. How has that prepared you for writing? Have those experiences popped up in any of your books? Or is that for a future story? Now that I think of it, I could connect politicians with Slime Incorporated.

AG: Obviously, it gave me some insights on Slime Incorporated. Though at the level, Ustick’s operating the time I’ve spent around candidate and political people has been more useful. I was out campaigning once and was asked if I was a Jehovah’s Witness and that actually appears in Slime Incorporated when Cole Ustick is visiting a witness’s house.

JR: Readers of the blog know my favorite author is Randy Singer. I notice his books get one or two one-star or two-star reviews, and in every case it's because of the Christian element in his story. I know you've had a similar experience. Why do you think people are so antagonistic to Christians not hiding their light under a bushel?

AG: I think it shows a growing amount of intolerance of Christian thought by anti-Christian reviewers and it really does contrast with most Christians, particularly if you look at Christian geeks. There are so many Christian fans of the revived Dr. Who series and all seven series have been under the helm of Atheists Russell Davies and Stephen Moffat. There are Christians who adore Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, who was very anti-Christian. They enjoy the best part of these movies for what they are.

I can pick up a copy of the Marvel 1602 comic note that it’s anti-Christian, but give it a 4-star review for the quality of the storytelling brought to it and how Neil Gaiman managed to re-imagine a 17th Century Marvel comic universe.

In contrast, I think you find a general intolerance and closed mind to anything with Christian content despite whatever merit the book might have artistically. I’ve asked before (and never gotten a satisfactory answer) as whatever irreligious books can shout their messages but Christian writers have to whisper. I reject that. Not every story I write has the same amount of religious content. Slime Incorporated is much more a mainstream book, but faith is still there and will always be there.

JR: What's next on your agenda? Maybe a historical romance?

AG: Historical romance? No. Contemporary or a parody of contemporary romance? Maybe.

Right now, I have two more Powerhouse books that I haven’t started. I also have a dystopian bioethics novels that’s about done that I’d like to see come out sometime in 2015. We’ll watch reader reaction to the Cole Ustick novels and who knows I may write a few more of them. I also have a few more ideas under my belt. And I may take Neil Worthington from the Powerhouse Universe and give him his own series of short stories which parody various classic detective stories but set them all in Oregon. My initial ideas include having Worthington hiring an amnesiac woman as his assistant and asking her to take the name Archwena Watson and fighting his enemy over Klamath Falls.

JR: Thanks for your time, Adam. Let us know how we can learn more about you and your writing.

AG: I have two blogs. For my detective reviews and writing, as well as my popular old time radio detectives podcast, check out the Great Detectives of Old Time Radio (http://www.greatdetectives.net.) For my superhero writing and plenty of comic book hero reviews, check out Christians and Superheroes (http://christiansuperheroes.com)

Jeff Reynolds to readers: Time to give away a copy of the winner's choice between  Slime Incorporated and Powerhouse Hard Pressed. In case you don't know the rules, here they are:

  1. Leave a comment.
  2. Share your e-mail – you can make it AuntDotKahm(at)Ant(dot)com
  3. Would you rather be a detective or a superhero, and which one would be your inspiration?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Interview and Book Giveaway with Creston Mapes

by Jeff Reynolds

Today, I have the opportunity to interview Creston Mapes, who has his sixth novel out. Details about the book giveaway are below. And 


Jeff Reynolds: Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Creston. To start things off, I'd like to hear about how you came to Christ.

Creston Mapes:
I grew up going to church, but lived quite a wild life through high school and college. When I was about 28 I moved to Atlanta for a new job and was overwhelmed by the stress and pressure involved with my new, unfamiliar duties/responsibilities.

That pressure came to a boiling point when I was on a client trip to Fort Lauderdale. I was in the middle of some 20 back-to-back research-gathering interviews and had what I call an out-of-body experience. It was as if I was floating above myself and I became so anxious that I had to leave the conference room. Even when I returned home I was still stressed to the max.

The following Monday I went to see my doctor. He put me through a battery of tests and determined it was all stress/anxiety. He wanted to put me on meds, but I told him—not yet. I got home and told me wife, “We need to go to church.” As it turns out, that foundation I had of going to church has planted a seed in me so that, when I hit rock bottom, I knew Who to turn to for help. Soon after I surrendered my life to Christ and have been on that journey since then.

JR: Your web-site mentions that for the past 30 years you've been a reporter, corporate copywriter, creative director, and freelance writer. What were those experiences like?

Fantastic! I loved the immediacy and camaraderie of the newspaper business. When I got into corporate copywriting, I had the pleasure of traveling the country to visit various colleges for whom I wrote admissions materials.

Then I went out on my own as a freelancer some 22 years ago and have so enjoyed being independent, and working on marketing for fine companies such as Chick-fil-A, etc. I’ve also had the opportunity to ghost-write/edit seven non-fiction books for various pastors and personalities who wanted their stories told.

JR: You've just released the second of your Crittendon Files. Could you tell us about the series and especially about your new story?
CM:  The first book in the new series is Fear Has a Name. It is a tale that follows journalist Jack Crittendon as he fights to protect his family from a stalker’s terrifying schemes, while he investigates a pastor’s mysterious disappearance. With his family’s safety on the line, Jack realizes there are secrets behind “Christian” walls—secrets with painful, deadly implications. He must find the faith to trust a God who allows inconceivable trials, and the courage to guard his family, with danger exploding at every turn.
The second book and new release is Poison Town. It continues Jack and Pam’s journey as Jack stumbles into a hornets’ nest when his long-time mechanic falls ill. The man’s family and neighbors blame a manufacturing plant for numerous deaths on the poor side of Trenton City, Ohio. But when Jack investigates, he and his friends feel the deadly sting of those involved. Finding answers before more people die won’t be easy. Especially since another kind of poison, a shadow from the past, threatens to destroy his marriage and his family.

JR:  You've also written another two part series and a stand alone novel. Are there any key differences between them, or are they fairly similar?

 Very different. My first two novels, Dark Star and Full Tilt, deal with mega-millionaire rock star Everett Lester who is charged with the murder of his personal psychic. During his trial, he receives letters from a young lady from Kansas who is not a fan, but who has committed to praying for Everett and his salvation. These are thrillers. My best-selling book Nobody is a murder mystery based in Las Vegas: 

When reporter Hudson Ambrose hears an early morning call on his police scanner about an injured person at a bus stop on Las Vegas Boulevard, he rushes to the scene to get the scoop.

His world is blown off its axis when he discovers a murdered homeless man with a bankbook in his pocket showing a balance of almost one million dollars. Should he wait for the police, knowing the case will get lost in reams of red tape, or swipe the bankbook and take the investigation—and perhaps a chunk of the money—into his own hands?

With sirens bearing down on the scene, Hudson makes an impulse decision that whisks him on a frantic search for answers, not only about the mysterious man in the black Converse high-tops, but about the lost soul lurking within himself.

Uncovering bizarre links between a plane crash, a Las Vegas pit boss, a dirty cop, and a widowed Atlanta business mogul, Hudson is forced to find out, who was Chester Holte, what was he doing on the streets, and why are his homeless friends convinced he was an angel in disguise?
JR:  What approaches do you have in your research? Also, are you more of an outliner or a blank pager?

I write very organically, from the seat of the pants, day-to-day, minute-by-minute. That approach results in twists and turns I never even saw coming. I like to get to know my characters as I go, put them in tension-filled situations, and see how they would respond in real life? The research I do as necessary when it arises. However, for Nobody my publisher sent me to Las Vegas for three days to ‘research.’ I toured the homeless community, soup kitchens, clinics, etc. And of course the posh hotels and casinos.

JR:  What changes have there been over your three decades of pecking away at the keyboard, both in terms of writing and the society you're writing in?

 Large corporations have really come to trust freelancers like me who know how to communicate, and who know how to deliver on time and handle the business side of things.

In the publishing world, ebooks have changed everything. I don’t like that many small, independent book stores have been forced to close. Traditional publishers have taken a hit and have had to learn to change a great deal -- and are still learning, and must hire people who can lead the way in a tech-savvy industry.

As far as society goes, I am disappointed but not shocked at how the values of Americans are plummeting. From top government officials to TV and music, our Godly moorings are crumbling. But what do you expect. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Me included. It’s only by His grace I found Him. But this is why it’s important writers like me continue produce excellent literature that is thrilling, yet clean -- and also has a powerful spiritual message.

JR:  Thank you for your time. How can we keep up with what's going on with your writing?

 I’ll give you three ways and thank you so much, Jeff:


Jeff Reynolds to readers:
So now it's time for the book giveaway. Creston would like to give away three e-books of any format of Poison Town.  Three easy steps (no excuse for missing any of them).

  1. Leave a comment.
  2. Leave your e-mail address. You can spell it out, like AuntDotKahm(at)Ant(dot)com.
  3. Creston mentioned he feels its important, with godly moorings crumbling, to produce excellent literature. What is your calling and contribution in this world where the foundations are being shaken?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Interview and book Giveaway with John Faubion

by Jeff Reynolds


Out of nineteen novels I've read last year and about the same the previous year, there are many I'd highly recommend. However, the two best, in my opinion, are The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer and Friend Me by John Faubion. To put it in comparison, the former is the eleventh (and best) by my favorite author -- the latter is a debut album.

I've had the honor of meeting John at a writer's conference here in Indianapolis a little over two years ago, and also through us being a part of the Indiana Chapter of the ACFW. I've had the honor of being an influencer for Friend Me, which has just hit the shelves. And it's a privilege to give away a copy -- see details on the bottom.

 Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, John. The blurb on your book mentioned you had served as a missionary in Asia, and then became a senior software developer for a large chain. I'd like to hear about what you did in Asia, and how you ended up in two seemingly different careers.

John Faubion: 
I became a Christian when I was twenty years old. At that time my wife Janet and I were in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I was in the Air Force, working at a Minuteman ballistic missile base. There in Cheyenne, I heard the Gospel for the first time. On May 9, 1965, Janet and I trusted the Lord together. We never looked back.
The next year I found myself in South Vietnam with the Air Force, where I saw idolatry for the first time. I told the Lord that if He ever wanted me to come back as a missionary, then I would do it. By 1974, we had finished Bible college and our family returned to Vietnam to begin missionary work. After the Vietnam War ended, we spent some time in Guam, and then went on to Taiwan where we began a Chinese ministry.

Janet went to be with the Lord in the end of 1989, the result of an unexpected brain aneurysm. We had three daughters then, and I was devastated. I knew God had a purpose in my life, but I was so lonely without her. God graciously gave me a second wife, a loving and godly woman, with whom I returned to China in 1991, and we began a ministry in Beijing.

Beth and I had two more children together, a boy and a girl. I found I had another young family on my hands. So after nearly 30 years of missionary work, I returned to the United States with my family in 1999. That’s when I took the job I have now, working as a software designer for a large corporation.
And for anyone else reading this, and wondering, yes I still enjoy speaking Chinese.

JR:  Your debut novel, Friend Me, has just been released -- definitely one of the best suspense stories I've ever read. Would you like to tell us about it?

 Sure I would. The storyline itself came out of a software design meeting that I was in back in 2010. I was sitting around with a bunch of other software designers, and one of the guys said that all the great ideas already been done. I guess that set me to thinking about what someone in my position could do — I mean in terms of software — that would really be new, and could actually generate a little income.

I came up with the idea of a website that would offer a virtual friend experience. Like in the book, the service would provide the user an opportunity to build a virtual friend… Not a real person, but someone who would be just as good as real. I guess what sparked the idea was the great number of people that are on Facebook and other social media sites, always looking for friends. Of course the great fear that people who use these social media platforms have, is that they’ll reveal too much about themselves. Everyone knows that the Internet has a long memory. Once you put something online, it’s out there forever. That scares a lot of people, and it should.

So my idea was to let the user build him or herself a virtual friend, one who would be entirely unique to himself, and completely private. No one else would ever know what you discussed. You could share your dreams, your hopes, even your weaknesses. That virtual friend would always understand, always be encouraging, always be supportive.

When I got home that night, I brought the idea to my wife. I was pretty excited about it because I knew that all the technology to accomplish this already existed. The only thing was, no one had brought it all together yet. It would be an ambitious project, but who knew? It might be the next Facebook.

Her reaction both surprised, and disappointed me a little bit. She started by telling me all the things that could go wrong with a website like that. People resurrecting lost children, husbands, fathers, mothers… There would be no end to it. Plus, she said, women would start creating boyfriends, men would start creating girlfriends, and there was no telling how far that would go. As we talked, I realized she was right.

She said, “You’ve always wanted to write a book, so why don’t you write about that? Don’t do the software. Write it as a story.”

So that’s what I did.

JR:  The villain is one of the most memorable characters I've ever read. I know it's not unlike asking a magician for the secrets of his trick, but how did you do it?

As I began to write the Melissa character in Friend Me, I’ve wanted her to be someone with whom the readers would feel sympathetic, and at the same time revulsed. A character so evil that she cared only about herself. But at the same time, a character so needy, that the reader would wish for her success. I wanted the reader to be constantly conflicted — being on the one hand wanting her to succeed, and on the other hand fervently hoping she would not.

This will sound ridiculous, but there’s one scene in Friend Me that brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. I won’t tell you which one it is, but I’ll say that it’s one in which Melissa and Scott are the only players. I guess that’s an example of getting into your characters. Friend Me has three main characters, Scott, Rachel, and Melissa. Which one do you think the strongest?

JR:  Actually, I'll answer your question "Yes," though in different ways. But let me get to a question I used to ask regularly and gave it a little bit of a breather, but you don't get that break. Do you consider yourself more of an outliner, or more of a blank pager?

 I’m a blank pager. I tried really hard to work with a structured outline, and I found that all it did to me was constrain me and leave me wondering if I was doing things right.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t believe in a structure at all. I do. I know how I want my story to begin, and I know how I want it to end. Well, sort of how I want it to end. I do leave the details until the last minute, because I like to be surprised myself. The problem is the middle. A common complaint from editors is that the story will have a sagging middle. Of course lots of us have sagging middles, but that’s another story.

JR:  Your book is being published by an established company, Howard Books (a division of Simon and Schuster), but I know enough to know that the author is still a part of the marketing team. What are you doing to market your book?

Another good question. There are all kinds of advantages to going with an established company. I will say confidently that the Lord has really blessed me in putting me together with Howard Books, particularly as a newbie author. Having your book published by a big house means that without lifting a finger, there are multitudes of marketing and sales people with established relationships in hundreds of retail outlets promoting your book for you. Friend Me is already being carried by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Apple iBooks, Christian Books, Sam’s Club Online, and so many places that I could never reached by myself. I’m so thankful for that.

On the other hand, I’m also doing all I can do on my own to publicize the book. I hired a publicity company to do about 70 blog tours on my behalf. I’ve got a Facebook party coming up. I send multiple tweets and updates every day. I comment on reviews. I’m on Goodreads. I hear these are things that authors have to do, and until I know differently, I’m going to do my best with them.

Yes, doing all that costs money. Here’s how I look at that. Before anybody had looked at Friend Me, I hired an editor to help me with it. Even though it was expensive, I treated that expense is an investment in myself. The result was a better book. Now, from the publisher’s advance, I’m able to reinvest some of that in publicity. I think we have to take a far look, a long view, at this sort of expense. That is, plan with a long-term goal in mind. The Chinese call that a yuan guang.

JR:  What writers do you enjoy reading?

  My favorite suspense novel of all time was the one that influenced me most, when I was just twelve years old. It is The Power, by Frank M. Robinson. The Power is not even close to being a Christian book, but it so intrigued me that I can say confidently that God used it to set me on the road of seeking to know Him.

In the current thriller genre, I like Lee Child and a few others. The problem with most secular fiction is that it is so replete with profanity and graphic sex. It can be repelling to the point where you simply have to walk away from it. Along with others, I want to be a person that offers an alternative to that, while still providing quality, enjoyable fiction.

JR:  When looking at the world, what concerns do you have, and what is your part in being a solution?

  I have a friend, not a Christian, reading Friend Me right now. He has a small poster in his cubicle that says, “Jesus is coming. Hide your porn.” He, along with others I know, are strongly anti-God.

So here we are, texting back and forth, and he’s reading Friend Me. He says that he was skeptical about reading anything Christian. I told him one of my big goals was to provide a story that would be a crossover novel, one that could be enjoyed by both Christians and non-believers. One without profanity or graphic sex. He said that generally he liked the graphic novels, but went on to say how surprised he was to be enjoying mine.

That’s the kind of engagement with the world that I want. Novels that introduce the unbeliever to a Christian world view on the one hand, and let the believer feel at home on the other. So, we write first to please Almighty God, and then the reader.

JR:  What's next on your writing agenda? And are you considering writing a non-fiction book about your missions or software experiences?

  I’m working on two novels, about one-third to one-half done with each.

One is about a family of serial killers that spans a hundred years, begun by a failed missionary to the Pawnee Indians. The have a cultic church that they use as a vehicle for their human sacrifice (emulating the old Pawnee sacrifice). Scott Douglas (from Friend Me) is sent to try and locate a missing girl, the daughter of one of the employees at Know-You AI. And yes, that’s the same company where Melissa worked.

The second (tentatively titled, Follow Me) is about a pastor who is told by a departing evil spirit that if he is forced to leave, he will destroy the man’s wife and daughters. Shortly after, the young pastor dies, leaving his wife wondering, “Who will protect us now?” Of course, there is a strong antagonist who seeks her out. A “Son of Sam” type. Ultimately, only a miracle of God can save her and the girls.

JR:  Thank you for your time, John. How can we learn more about you and your writing?

  Finally an easy question!  http://www.christiansuspense.com  .
Thanks a lot for inviting me, Jeff.

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