Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Prayer, Lies, and Writing with Brandilyn Collins

I’m thrilled to death to have Brandilyn Collins here today. She’s a master storyteller, whose books bring Christian suspense to shuddering level. Her latest book, Web of Lies, is the culmination of her Hidden Faces Series and ties into her books Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion.

DM: Brandilyn, you have a strong focus on prayer in this series of books. It’s obviously an important area to you. Do you have people praying for you and your writing on a regular basis?

BC: Yes. My own family (husband, mom and sisters) pray for my work. And certain readers pray for me too. Also, I meet with two women every week for prayer. They are my mentors and the ones who hold me accountable. We pray for each other, and they’ve prayed me through every book. These wonderful women have prayed with me since my dark prepublication days. When I start whining about some problem now, they’ll remind me of the times I couldn’t find an agent or sell a novel to save my life. That straightens me up in a hurry.

DM: Personally, God’s been showing me lately that I need to focus more on Him so that I can focus more on writing. Do you find this to be true for you as well?

BC: Well, I can manage to focus on Him daily through devotions, etc., and still waste time when I should be writing. God’s recently shown me how I needed to change my daily schedule to make sure the writing gets done first. Not rocket science, but it’s a major change in mindset from what I’ve been doing for years. (Jogging my five miles early in the morning, then doing devotions as soon as I hit the office.) This is working for me—helping me discipline myself to write instead of procrastinating each day.

DM: Web of Lies explores the issue of listening to lies that aren’t true about ourselves. Have you dealt with this personally? If so, how did you deal with it?

BC: Oh, we all deal with this. I don’t think Satan lets anyone off the hook. Our job as Christians is to stay walking closely with God. Satan’s job is to knock us off that path. One of his methods is by trying to fill our heads with lies—I’m not good enough, everybody’s against me, I’m not really forgiven, and on and on. For the story behind why I chose this particular theme for Web of Lies, please see my blog posts about writing the book, starting Friday, May 27, ’05 and ending Monday, May 30. It’s a story that also shows the answer to these lies. Those answers lie in praying and walking in God’s truth.

DM: You’ve shared your road to publication (in fiction) on your blog , but what would you say is the most memorable part of that journey for you?

BC: Oh, sheesh. All of it. Well, maybe getting the first contract for a novel. Yes, I suppose it’s that. But there were so many other things. What did I take to tell that journey story anyway—something like 4-5 months? Let’s just say a lot happened.

DM: What’s your most favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

BC: Most favorite: being a writer. Least favorite: writing.

Close your jaw, Dineen.

DM: ROTFL!!! Okay… You’ve written in both first and third POV in your books, and you used both in Web of Lies. Do you have a preference?

BC: No, not really. The POV is dictated by the story. I’d intended to write the Hidden Faces series in third person, but it didn’t feel right. Ten thousand or so words into its debut book (Brink of Death), I switched to first. When my agent was shopping around my first novel (Cast a Road Before Me), one editor wanted it—if I’d change it from first to third person. Well, I wanted to be published in fiction, but not badly enough to ruin my story. I told my agent nothin’ doin’.

DM: How do you come up with your storylines? What influences that process?

BC: I have a real strong influence. It’s called a deadline.

So I stomp around and mutter and moan, whining about how hard it is for me to think through plots. (Doesn’t help that mine are so convoluted and needed a million details worked through.) And I pray a lot. And God answers—in bits and pieces as He sees fit. And somehow I get a story.

DM: Do you build your characters before you begin writing, as you write, or both?

BC: Both. Character drives plot drives character drives plot . . . You can enter anywhere on that circle and just keep going ’round.

DM: I’ve been listening to your awesome track “Kicking It Up a Notch” from the 2005 ACFW Conference, which was held in Nashville. I loved the part about character emotion. Could you share a little about how you weave in a character’s emotions without actually naming the emotion specifically?

BC: Okay. Um, remind me what I said. (ACFW still needs to send me that CD.) Well, it has to do with actions and thoughts and dialogue. And the often unexpected layers of emotion. No emotion is ever just one thing. It’s mixed with other emotions, one often leading to the next. Some emotions are primary, but some are secondary. (Okay, now I’m on a roll, and you’ll not shut me up.) For example, anger is a secondary emotion. It always springs from something else. Fear, relief, a sense of injustice, surprise, indignance, guilt, blame, self-denial—all of these and plenty more can lead to anger. If you want to portray anger to its fullest, don’t focus on the anger itself, for that will tend to lead to mere stereotypical thoughts/actions. Focus first on the emotion that gives rise to that anger. Explore it fully, completely, and the reader will be pulled into the anger along with the character.

I could go on, but I suggest readers do like you did and buy the CDs. The whole class is mucho cheap, and ACFW, a worthy organization, gets the proceeds.

DM: What would you say is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your writing career?

BC: I have to rely on God every minute. This is why it’s a good thing that writing is so hard for me. (As much as I hate that.) Because I know when I finish a book that God helped me through it. I never would have made it without Him. With that kind of constant reminder, I just can’t get a big head over my work, because I’m continually overwhelmed by His mercy and grace. I’m nothing without His help.

DM: Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on?

BC: Seek God first. Put your writing firmly into His capable hands—and leave it there. Walk His path, and see what He will do—in your writing and all aspects of your life. And when Satan whispers a lie in your ear (“I’ll never finish this book! I’m a lousy writer!)—tell him exactly where he can go. (He’s acquainted with the place.)

And if God wants you to write fiction—study the craft hard. Know it’ll take years to learn it well. And even then you’ve only just begun.

DM: Brandilyn, thank you so much for doing this interview. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.

BC: It was a real pleasure to stop by. Thank you so very much, Dineen.

Be sure to check out Brandilyn’s website for more details about her fabulous books.


Heather Diane Tipton said...

Wow! Great interview Dineen. Brandilyn totally loved your answers.

Ron Estrada said...

Yay! We love Brandilyn. She's a great mentor and puts a huge amount of time into helping us writerlings. For those of you who haven't read her blog and her road to publication, it's a must. You'll feel better about your own sense of unpublishability. I made up two words in one post. I'm getting better at this "English" thing.

Robin Caroll said...

WONDERFUL interview! Thanks Brandilyn for being so open and sharing, and mucho thanks, D, for doing this. Everyone, if you haven't read Brandilyn's blog, I suggest you get over there ASAP! It's like a really big class for fiction writers over there! :)

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks, Dineen, for interviewing Brandilyn, and Brandilyn, thanks for sharing. You always encourage those of us still pre-pubbed. I finally found that secret of God first, then write. Why I ever tries it any other way, I don't know!

Anonymous said...

I can't seem to get my e-mail to go through to you, Dineen, so I'm posting it here in response to your e-mail regarding Infuze:

Hi, Dineen,

Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday. I was on the road and am accessing e-mails remotely. I don't have any problem with your listing your blog on the review. It's totally up to you. Whatever you're comfortable with -- I'm sure Brandilyn would be happy for any and all exposure.

C.J. Darlington

Julie Dearyan said...

Loved the interview, Dineen! Thanks so much for posting it. Brandilyn is such a motivation to all of us who are trying to navigate the tricky road to publication. Thanks for the inspiration. And I'm a little scared by the times of the previous comments posted--whoa! Are all writers prone to get up in the middle of the night or early in the morning, check our email first thing? I guess so. God bless.

:-)Ronie said...

Thanks for posting this interview, Neen. It's great!!

Brandilyn, Thank you for sharing your writing genius with us, again! You're such an inspiration.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Brandilyn is an amazing lady. I'm very inspired her spiritually and creatively.

Gina Holmes said...

Dineen, you've got a natural gift...if you ever need a job interviewing, well, the pay is zilch, but the benefits of getting inside the great minds of authors like bc is priceless.
Stellar job on this!

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I agree with what everyone else has already said. Brandilyn is so generous with her time and talent on her blog. Thanks for the interview with her, Dineen. It was great.

Pammer said...

Great job, both of you. :0) Thanks for picking the brain of someone as wonderful as Brandilyn.

BTW someone said stellar. Love that word.


Camy Tang said...

Thanks, Dineen and Brandilyn! Great interview! I'm also starting to understand how to put God first in my writing when I'm beset by doubts.


Lynetta said...

Great interview, Dineen. You ask great questions and pick wonderful interviewees. :-)

Brandilyn, I can't wait to read Web of Lies. Thanks for all your encouragement and teaching.

Jeff Pioquinto,SJ said...

very informative. nice interview. thanks for sharing it.