by C.J. Darlington
Brandilyn Collins Interview
"I haven’t exactly damaged my brain in an accident, but I sure identify with struggling to hatch a plot." -- Brandilyn Collins
Brandilyn Collins, known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense™, is the bestselling author of Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, Crimson Eve, Eyes of Elisha, and other novels.
She and her family divide their time between the California Bay Area and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
C.J.: Last we spoke, you were just launching your Kanner Lake series. Now that the series is finished, what would you say was your favorite book, and why?
Brandilyn: Oh, man. Sorry, can’t pick a favorite in the series. Each books has its … issues. Violet Dawn is still famous (or should I say infamous?) for its opening hot tub scene. Coral Moon has ghosts … sort of. Crimson Eve ended up being wildly popular and was named Best Christian Suspense of 2007 by Library Journal. And the whole Java Joint gang is together—and in dire straits—in Amber Morn.
Next up is a stand-alone novel, the just released Dark Pursuit. Which do you prefer, series or standalones?
It’s not so much a preference. And in time I could do a series again. I do like series. For now, however, it’s nice for my new readers to be able to start fresh—without that feeling, “Oh, I haven’t read book one in X series, so I’d better not buy this book 2.”
What originally sparked the idea for Dark Pursuit and how did it develop?
For over 30 years I’ve remembered a phrase from John Milton’s Paradise Lost—“hatching vain empires.” After being thrown out of heaven, Satan and his demons are bragging about how they’re going to storm heaven and regain their territory. Beelzebub says they’re just “hatching vain empires.” He has a better idea—go to earth and tempt man away from God. Since that resulting fall in the garden, mankind has been on the dark pursuit of building his own vain empires. I got to thinking—what might that underlying theme look like in a modern-day suspense novel? Who might various characters represent? How might the colors of life and death (green and black) fit into the story?
Darrell Brooke is, incidentally, a struggling suspense novelist. Confession time… How much of Darrell’s experiences come straight from your own life? :)
Oh, ha, you know me well! I haven’t exactly damaged my brain in an accident, but I sure identify with struggling to hatch a plot. Darell’s thoughts on page 108 of trying to navigate the “Daedalean labyrinths” in his plots are straight from my own experience. And I had fun with his thoughts about the conventions of suspense—what the readers expect, etc. Of course these thoughts of his are mixing reality with his fiction, so that just made for all the more fun. (Which of those thoughts are foreshadow, and which are red herrings?)
What was the hardest part about writing Dark Pursuit?
Darell’s POV. His mind morphs from clarity to confusion and back on a regular basis. Taking the reader along these circuitous paths of thought—without confusing the reader—was a challenge.
How many of the twists and turns did you know about before you started writing? Did any of them surprise you as you were writing?
No, I wasn’t surprised. I have to know the major twists, because from the very first words I’m laying down both foreshadow and red herrings regarding those twists.
What motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?
Well, to be honest—a deadline really helps.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I work in my offices—all alone and with no noise. My California home office is on its own level and large. My Idaho home office looks out over the lake. Can’t beat either of these two places!
Share with us about the upcoming Rayne series. What was it like writing with your daughter, Amberly?
The two-book Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of Rayne, a world-renowned rock star with a group named after her. In Always Watching, Shaley discovers her best friend on tour—dead backstage. Why? Everybody loved Tom! Is the killer really after Shaley?
Amberly and I came up with the series idea and plots together. We have loved attending concerts together, and the energy at those events is amazing. We got to thinking about what life would be like for a teenage daughter on tour. Would she really “have it all” as outsiders might think? What would be her own disappointments and dreams?
I did the actual writing. Amberly edited for the teenage POV. Man, was she good at that. Plus she’s a good writer herself. Last Breath, the second book, is now done. I think the most fun part will be marketing when they release next year (April and October of 2009).
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
That it’s very, very hard. And it doesn’t get easier. The ante is always upped.
What was the lowest point in your writing career, and how did you get out of it?
Trying for 10 years to be published in fiction. Working night and day at it, and not making a dime, while agents and editors told me my work “wasn’t there yet.” How’d I get out of it? I kept praying and working until my writing WAS there.
Some Christian authors don’t believe there even should be the label “Christian fiction”. What do you think?
Yeah, I hear that controversy. I don’t mind the label. It helps identify what the novel is—that it will have some level of faith, whether strong or subtle.
What’s next for you?
Writing more Seatbelt Suspense® of course! My next adult title, releasing May 2009, is Exposure. It’s about FEARS. We all have ’em. What are yours—and what are you doing about them? Kaycee Raye’s fears are about to eat her alive. Or—are they really coming true?...
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I can sing like a Munchkin. I can say the alphabet backwards—fast.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Reading. Being with family. I also jog six days a week.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
My own homemade latte, naturally.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Milk (for the lattes), cheese, salad fixings.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Grande latte, one Splenda, extra hot.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Making the New York Times bestseller list.
When was the last time you cried?
Sunday night—watching Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. That show always makes me bawl.
Three words that best describe you:
Predictable, unpredictable, slightly crazy. Okay, that’s four.
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Right now my iTunes
is on my “slow rock” playlist--everything
from CSN&Y to Doobie Brothers to assorted hits.
C.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.