As for being an author by night, I don’t normally wake up past
midnight to write down book ideas, but that’s exactly what happened
with my new thriller, Fear Has a Name. In fact, it was such a vivid dream, it sat me straight up in bed and demanded I take notice and, yes, even write it down for future reference.
While snoozing that night, I had the most realistic notion that
there was a large, blocky man with pasty skin standing outside the
front door of our house. He wore a black T-shirt and vest, black jeans,
and pointy cowboy boots—and he carried a big black doctor’s bag. He had
tiny eyes and a thatch of red hair. He was so real I could pick him out
of a lineup.
I thought he had the wrong house. He was loitering on the front
step, hunched over, looking about nervously. Suddenly, he put his
enormous hands inside the black bag and smashed through the window next
to the door.
I sat ramrod straight in bed, heart thundering, straining to hear
the noise below in the foyer. I even got up to make sure it had only
been a bad dream. As I mentioned, I’m not one of these creative types
who goes around jotting down ideas all the time. I get a lot of ideas
when I’m out and about, but I just kind of file them away in my mental
But not this time. Something within me said, “Since you’re up, write
down that dream. That’s how your next book is going to start.” It truly
felt like it was from God.
I was a little bit cranky but obedient. I wrote it down there in the
dark on the nightstand by my bed, flashlight in hand. And then I stuck
the notepaper in the drawer and proceeded to forget about it—for
It wasn’t until my agent and I were discussing book ideas that I
remembered it. I had sent her six to eight “beginnings” of manuscripts,
but she wasn’t thrilled with any of them. That’s when I remembered the
dream. I hurried upstairs and found the piece of paper. And then I
realized something else. A similar type home invasion had actually
happened to us. It didn’t happen just like in the dream, but my wife
and I had experienced something eerily similar.
I had been at work and was driving home in Atlanta traffic about
5:30 or 6 p.m. I turned onto the street leading to our house only to
find cop cars parked at every angle outside our humble three-bedroom
home. I threw the car into PARK and ran for the house, my heart in my
throat, wondering if my wife and baby had been hurt, kidnapped . . . or
The first officer I came to assured me my family was fine; they were
at the neighbor’s house. I hurried to the Sweitzer’s next door, and,
sure enough, my wife and baby were there, safe, but in shock.
They had been downstairs in our house (thank God they hadn’t been on
the second level), enjoying an average afternoon, when my wife noticed
a man wearing only shorts, no shirt or shoes, pass by our bay window in
the kitchen, right up against the house. She picked up a visual on him
through the windows at the back of the house, and to her alarm, he
continued his trek right up against the side of the house. Before she
could move, he ripped the screen door open and entered our back porch!
Only the back door was between him and my wife and baby.
My smart wife grabbed our baby girl and took off out the front door,
leaving it banging in the wind. She didn’t check the back door to see
if it was locked. Didn’t call the cops. Just got out of Dodge. The man
indeed proceeded to enter the house. And he was inside for quite some
time. Meanwhile, my wife had barged into the neighbor’s place and
called the police.
Long story short, local law enforcement chased the home invader down
through a creek in the woods. By the time I had arrived home, he was
seated in the back of the squad car that I walked past to get to my
wife and daughter. He’d been hyped up on alcohol and was looking for
So . . . it was with all of that emotion and the memory of the dream
I had written down that I began to write what would become my new
thriller, Fear Has a Name. But I didn’t want this to be just
some scary book, because I don’t care for horror and I don’t like
novels simply designed to scare people. I kept thinking about that man
in my dream, and the more I thought about him, the more I remembered
how sad he looked. He seemed depressed and lonely. He appeared to be a
down-and-outer who’d been beaten up by the world.
when I decided to make him a man who’d been terribly bullied as a boy,
unwanted and mentally abused by his “religious zealot” parents. And
he’d come back to find the only girl who’d ever cared about him, Pamela
Crittendon (she’s the blonde you see on the book cover, next to the
fine endorsements!). The problem was that Pamela was happily married to
Jack, a newspaper reporter, and they had two young daughters. Jack was
working on an investigative story about a depressed pastor who’d left
home with a bag of medicine and the intention of taking his own life.
Soon, my fingers were flying over the keyboard, convinced this must
be my new thriller. I showed the first few chapters to my agent. “This
is it,” she said. “This is the book that is going to relaunch Creston
Mapes. It’s a true thriller.”
Do you have dreams? Dreams of writing fiction that draws readers
closer to their Maker? Do you have dreams that wake you up in the
night? Write them down. Let them simmer. Then see if they don’t get
tendons and muscles, ¬flesh and skin. See if God doesn’t breathe on
them until they stand and live and become a vast army—ready to do God’s
What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light;
and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.
Matthew 10:27 (NASB)