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Adam Blumer

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Read excerpt of Fatal Illusions

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The Advocate

Adam Blumer Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I simply don't care for Stephen King style gore... if my Mom wouldn't read it, I won't write it."
-- Adam Blumer

Adam Blumer lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia. He works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. A print journalism graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC), he served in editorial roles for fourteen years at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) and Awana Clubs International Headquarters (Streamwood, IL). He has published numerous short stories and articles. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI) plans to release his first novel, Fatal Illusions, on March 31, 2009.

C.J.: What were your favorite books as a child and what made them special to you?

Adam: I was big-time into fantasy novels for kids: The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, The High King by Lloyd Alexander, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, to name a few. (Come to think of it, the Bible is filled with “fantasy” stories, too.) I had a vivid imagination and was fascinated by the idea of the supernatural. I guess I still am. I know there’s a whole world out there we can’t even see yet. Maybe that’s why heaven sounds so inviting to me and why I get weary of our planet sometimes.

How did you know God had called you to be a writer?

I loved writing imaginative tales when I was a kid, but I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until I won a state high school creative writing contest. That’s when I realized that my writing was better than average and that perhaps God wanted me to do something with it. Because I loved writing and got good grades in English, I decided to get a journalism degree in college; it seemed like a smart vocational decision fitted to my skills. By then, it was pretty much a given in my mind that God wanted me to write. Exactly what I was supposed to write I didn’t know yet. For fourteen years I served as a staff editor for two ministries, but I always preferred writing stories.

You wrote five novels and spent 20 years learning the craft of fiction writing before signing your first book contract. What kept you going?

I’m not really sure other than that God gave me the drive to keep writing and not to give up on the idea of being a published novelist. For quite a while, though, writing a novel was more a hobby than something I seriously thought was going to lead to publication. I wanted to be a novelist, of course, but I had a wife and two daughters to support. So I did editing to support them, published some short stories and articles, and kept writing novels when I had time, wondering (and often doubting) whether anything would ever come of it. About the unpublished novels, each time I wrote another one I believe I grew and improved as a novelist, so they weren’t wasted effort. Somewhere along the way, an editor from somewhere (hard to keep track of all those rejection slips) suggested that maybe I should try writing for adults. My first adult suspense novel is being released on March 31.

Fatal IllusionsMary Higgins Clark and Frank Peretti have been big influences on you as a writer. Share with us how they impacted your writing.

Remember, I’ve been fascinated by the supernatural since I was a kid, so I was ripe for This Present Darkness, which I pretty much devoured in a day or two. Peretti taught me that a Christian novel could be compelling and say something important about our faith. Mary Higgins Clark taught me how to plot a story by alternating multiple viewpoints in the context of short but numerous chapters. She also taught me how to write from the killer’s viewpoint and when to reveal secrets at just the right time to pull the story forward and keep the reader guessing as long as possible. Both authors, along with Christian suspense novelists Terri Blackstock and Brandilyn Collins, have been very influential.

Fatal Illusions has some very interesting characters and a unique premise! For those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about the story and where you got the idea to write it.

Pastor’s wife Gillian Thayer is mourning the loss of twins who died at birth when she makes a discovery that shatters her world. She finds a love letter written to her husband, Marc. But before she can confront him, someone shoots Marc. He recovers, but the situation involving the woman who shot him is so complex and the media so relentless that the Thayers decide to take a sabbatical at a historical lighthouse in Michigan’s U.P. But someone else has also moved to the area, a serial killer and amateur magician who dreams of being the next Houdini. He strangled several young women in Cincinnati, but to pursue his dream of being a great magician, he must put the murders and his past behind him. He thinks he just needs time and distance, but of course he soon spots his next victim and can’t help himself. When Marc, the last person to see the victim alive, is arrested, he and Gillian find themselves thrust into the heart of a murder investigation and into the sights of a ruthless killer.

I read Mary Higgins Clark’s You Belong to Me and wanted to write my own serial killer novel in a similar style but with my own twist. I also read a biography about Harry Houdini and became fascinated with the illusionist. I decided to make my serial killer an amateur magician with a Houdini obsession. Somewhere along the way I came up with the idea of a female lead who struggles with infertility and is grieving the loss of her twins. I wanted her personal struggle to dovetail into the main plot. She’s overprotective of her daughter, Crystal, to a fault; but that flaw later becomes her strength.

How much research did you have to conduct on magicians, calligraphy, serial killers, and the like to make this book accurate?

More than I expected. Calligraphy didn’t require much research because I had dabbled in it in high school and won a few awards. Information about magicians wasn’t tough to find either because I had already been researching Houdini on the Internet after reading a biography about him. For serial killers, I watched a lot of Forensic Files and Body of Evidence on TV and read Mary Higgins Clark and other crime/suspense authors. One big area I had to research was police procedure since a retired homicide detective helps the Thayers catch the Magician Murderer. I researched crime scene investigation, forensic science, computer crimes (since my villain is a cyber-stalker), and other related areas. But these have always been areas of interest, so I hardly thought of the research as work. Because Gillian is a professional calligrapher of famous quotations, Bible verses, and love poems, I also had to research her literary side since that’s her lens for viewing the world.

What surprised you most in your research?Adam Blumer

How much Houdini information I found online: photos of his grave, video clips of his funeral, recordings of his voice, e-texts from his books, and photos from the movies he made. There’s truly a lot of fascinating information about that guy. What an eccentric and mysterious man!

What sort of challenges, if any, did you experience writing from the female POV?

Like a Mary Higgins Clark novel, I chose a female main protagonist. I believe this was the right decision, but it created challenges in making Gillian a three-dimensional character who doesn’t think like me. Among several issues, she struggles with private grief and needs a godly female mentor in her life. Describing her struggles as a woman who has unique emotional needs and insecurities was often challenging. Thankfully, I had a few female first readers and editors to help me get her right.

How do you keep the “edge” in your stories as far as violence/adult situations without going too far?

As I was recently telling a friend, my novel is not for kids. After all, my story is about a serial killer of young women. The story does delve into some adult themes. Gillian finds a love letter to her husband and wonders if he’s been having an affair. The woman in question has been confronted about immorality with another man, so yes—my novel has adult themes. But there are appropriate ways to handle touchy subject matter without going too far. Just look at the Bible and how it describes adult themes (and always condemns immorality) without being offensive. I’m just careful to confine sensitive topics to discreet dialogue and keep the camera away from back story scenes the reader doesn’t need to see to get the gist.

As far as violence, it helps that I simply don’t care for Stephen King-style gore, so I’ve never been tempted to go that direction. I read other Christian authors who write in my genre and study how they handle violence. I also think about my mom, an avid reader of Christian fiction, and know what would be acceptable to her. If my mom wouldn’t read it, I won’t write it.

What was the hardest part about writing Fatal Illusions?

Finding the time to write a suspense tale of this scope and complexity. (I’m a full-time freelance editor and write novels after my regular work.) I spent a lot of evenings and weekends on this project. Another problem was that I constantly questioned my abilities and doubted that my stuff was good enough to be published. These doubts fed procrastination. After all, if nobody’s going to want my novel, why push myself so hard? You can imagine my surprise when Kregel bought my novel. Today I write with a different attitude about my projects; I see them as His calling. God has opened doors I never could have opened for myself. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of every opportunity He gives. May He receive the glory!

Adam BlumerDid you go into the writing of this novel with a message in mind, or did the take-away value come about as you wrote?

I didn’t premeditate what my novel’s themes were going to be. They emerged as the characters went through the mill and learned spiritual lessons based on their specific trials and personalities. Themes evolved from character growth. At the same time, I’m an author who is unapologetically a Christian author. Because of who I am, the message of Christ alone is going to naturally permeate what I write. Jostle a cup of coffee, and coffee is going to spill out. You get the idea.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

How much time and work go into a novel between the contract signing and the finished product. I honestly thought an editor just made a few tweaks, and then the novel was ready for publication. Ha! I also never realized how airtight the timeline and plot need to be, especially in suspense. One of my editors actually checked flight times to be sure one of my characters could plausibly be at a certain location at a certain time. My eyes were opened to the importance of checking details, and I’ll never write another novel the same way again.

I hear you have a fascinating story about how you met your wife! We’d love to hear it. :)

In the spring of 1995, still single and disillusioned with dating, I gave up on the idea of dating anyone ever again. I decided to go on a trip to the Holy Land as sort of a spiritual pilgrimage; I wanted to meditate on God and see what He wanted to show me about Himself. Wouldn’t you know it? What I least expected happened. At the Boston airport, I met Kim, a gorgeous brunette (her church group met mine) who’d brought the same novel to read on the airplane, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. No kidding. Then at London’s Heathrow Airport, the ticket person thought she and I were a couple and put us together on the all-night flight to Tel Aviv. Kim didn’t care for her sardines, so I ate them. The relationship appeared to be promising. To cut to the chase, we chatted in Jericho, conversed in Nazareth, and talked nonstop in Jerusalem. On the way home I sat beside her on the plane. A few weeks later, I visited her in Milwaukee and met her parents. By New Year’s, we were engaged. Pretty amazing, huh? I now tell singles not to look for a marriage partner. Seek God, and He’ll put you on a collision course if marriage is His plan for you.

What’s next for you novel-wise?

A sequel called Plagues. The main characters from Fatal Illusions are reunited, this time at a Christian conference center in Michigan’s north woods, which is where all novels in my hoped-for series will be set. Marc and Gillian Thayer think they are getting away for some much-needed R&R, but protestors with placards and bullhorns shatter the otherwise-peaceful surroundings. A Bible translation committee is holding its regional meeting, and a mob is protesting the committee’s efforts to create a controversial parallel Bible.

While the protestors call down God’s wrath, an apparent plague of blood strikes the facility. Is God displeased with the committee? Are the protestors somehow to blame? When a committee member turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of retired homicide detective Chuck Riley, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Throw in a fictionalized account of a true mine disaster and an autistic boy who can apparently see the future, and you get the gist. I’m having a blast planning and writing the twists and turns.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

If you’re a writer who wants to be a published novelist, be patient and work hard, but keep in mind that doors will open for you only in the Lord’s timing. We can’t rush God. If He has prompted you to write, God gave you that desire for a reason. Explore what His will could be, but learn to wait on Him—perhaps even for a long time. When He’s ready, He’ll let you know. In the meantime, seek Him with your whole heart.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I took lessons to play the accordion in junior high and high school. (Wanna hear a polka?) When I was a tween, I was a ventriloquist and had a dummy named Andy. I used to entertain the younger kids in children’s church with routines I made up.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I enjoy reading, watching an engaging movie with my wife, wrestling with my daughters, enjoying fellowship with church friends, playing Myst Uru on my computer, and running or hiking in the woods near my house. The north woods are beautiful. This is truly God’s country (just don’t visit during our harsh winters).

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Organic granola (my wife makes it from scratch), milk, coffee sweetened with raw local honey (to ward off seasonal allergies), and a handful of vitamins

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Green olives, hot fudge sauce, garlic

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

A cup of regular Colombian coffee, sweetened with half-and-half and sugar in the raw

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

Be a full-time novelist so I can support my family and local church while doing what I enjoy most.

When was the last time you cried?

About two months ago when I received the sobering news that my dad had brain cancer. He has bounced back from brain surgery amazingly well (praise God), but he has just started chemo and radiation. Please pray for my parents, Larry and Rhoda.

Three words that best describe you:

Detailed, melancholy, creative

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

“ The Mission: Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture” by Ennio Morricone, “King of Glory” by the SoundForth Singers, “Water’s Edge” by Tim Janis, and “Pianissimo 2” by Suzanne Ciani

Thank you, CJ, for the interview. I really appreciate it!

C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.