What makes a straight-laced,
never-rocks-the-boat, always-follows-the-rules gal like me want to
write inspirational suspense novels? Two reasons: I find it boring to
write anything predictable. And the suspense genre is the perfect arena
for creating chaos that needs a biblical solution.
Characters who are oppressed on
all sides must cope with stress, sorrow, and sin. And it’s through
their choices that I seek to inspire and challenge the reader without
I guess it’s not surprising that
I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer who doesn’t follow an outline. Even my
method of story writing is suspenseful. I love being surprised when my
characters do something I didn’t plan and take the story in a better
direction. Granted, not knowing what will happen next isn’t the ideal
way to write a novel, but it is the most stimulating (albeit stressful
when a deadline is looming).
I have to prepare a synopsis of
the story before I write it because my publisher requires it. I choose
the setting and a Scripture verse and come up with a bare bones
suspense plot that will give me room to illustrate that truth. But as
the story develops so do twists and turns I never anticipated. In fact,
some of those “aha” moments my readers have experienced actually
affected me the same way when I wrote them. Whether suspense takes the
form of a breathtaking chase or a slow, agonizing wait, it’s the tension
it creates that keeps the story interesting.
It’s gratifying for me to hear
from readers that although they typically can’t finish a novel, they
are devouring mine. Perhaps my books appeal to them because I, too,
have trouble finishing many novels for the very reasons they cite—too
predictable, too much detail, too slow a pace, unable to connect with
the characters. I think that’s why I endeavor to write stories that are
fast-paced and unpredictable, have engaging characters, and leave the
reader with a scriptural truth to think about.
For example, The Real
Enemy, my most recent book and the first in the Sophie Trace
Trilogy, is based on Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good” (NASB). My lead character, Brill Jessup, just
became the first female police chief in Sophie Trace, Tennessee. She
took the job to escape the past and refuses to forgive her deeply
remorseful husband, Kurt, for a brief affair that ended eighteen months
prior. She agrees to stay with him only for the sake of their
nine-year-old daughter, Emily.
Shortly after she takes the new
position, she’s thrown into a bizarre and baffling case in which seven
people disappear without a trace within seven days. A number of
townspeople allege that this is the fulfillment of a legend that claims
spirits of the departed Cherokee
live to wreak havoc on the
descendants of the settlers who stole their land. The media has a field
day with the folklore, and the suspense goes off the charts.
Meanwhile, emotional tension
builds at home as Brill rebuffs every attempt Kurt makes to earn back
her trust. He is committed to overcoming the very evil he’s caused by
being thoughtful, gentle, and understanding, regardless of her caustic
remarks. Brill finds his loving attitude infuriating, especially when
she comes across as “the bad guy” to Emily, who just wants her parents
The Real Enemy
has so many surprises I’ve lost count. The scenes jump back and forth
between the Jessups, the confounded authorities, the relentless media,
and the dazed community—all waiting for word on the missing seven.
Inspiration and suspense vie for the headlines in the dramatic
conclusion, which should leave the reader breathless—and the Jessups
living the reality of Romans 12:21.
Writing suspense is a challenge,
especially when murder and mayhem share the stage with inspiration. But
the Bible has a lot to say about stress, sorrow, and sin. And my goal
is to create an entertaining story with engaging characters that can
make that truth potentially life changing for the reader.
I’m not sure whether I chose the
suspense genre or it chose me. But my readers want me to keep the
stories coming. As long as good and evil are at odds, there will be
countless ways to craft God-honoring suspense novels that inspire,
challenge, and entertain.