Most Entertaining Book of 2008 is
by Brandilyn Collins
The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than sixty seconds.
Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of the gunman would pull the trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.
Dear God, help us! Tell me this is a dream . . .
The shooter’s teeth clenched. “ Anybody who moves is dead.”
On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside.
Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die...
Amber Morn is the climactic finale to Collins’ widely read Kanner Lake series. All first three titles in the series, Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, and Crimson Eve, were bestsellers. Library Journal placed Crimson Eve on its Best Books of 2007 list, and hailed it the “Best Christian suspense of 2007.”
Okay, for anyone that has never read Brandilyn Collin's books - this is a great book to start with. That may sound odd since it is #4 in the series, but I had not read all of the other 3 books (and I read the first one, Violet Dawn, back when it first came out so it has been awhile!). Amber Morn is the perfect end to the series because she takes all the people that had been the supporting characters in her other books and turns this one into an ensemble piece with everyone participating. It is an incredibly unique book and I just loved it! It made me want to go back and read the other 3 books, but they weren't necessary in order to enjoy this one. Oh, and in typical Brandilyn style, there is a twist that takes your breath away toward the end. Her tagline isn't "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..." for nothing!
Let's meet Brandilyn...
1) "Seatbelt Suspense" is your brand, and "Don't forget to b r e a t h e ..." is your trademark line. I talked to a lady the other day that asked if one book she wanted to read was as scary as Brandilyn Collins’ books, her comment being that "When the lady got in the hot tub and there was a dead body in it... that was almost too much for me!" I think you got to her, Brandilyn... where do your ideas come from?
The question is—did this gal read Violet Dawn anyway? Some folks think they’ll be super scared in reading my stories, but find they’re more thrilling than they are scary. Big Honkin’ Chicken Club members are being converted to reading my books on a regular basis. :-)
But to answer your question—my ideas come from life. I’m always paying attention, looking at the world through my novelist’s eyes. That now infamous scene in the opening of Violet Dawn came from my own imagination as one night my husband and I stepped into our hot tub, with the cover pulled halfway back. Now, no one else might think how I think, but I’m a suspense novelist. So into my little brain popped, “Whoa, it’s so dark out here. A body could be under that other cover half and I wouldn’t know it—until I felt it …”
2) You have an amazing series with Kanner Lake (which includes the above scenario) "Violet Dawn", "Crimson Eve", "Coral Moon" and now it wraps up with "Amber Morn". "Amber Morn" is an ensemble piece where the secondary characters from Kanner Lake get thrown into one scenario and they all become the stars of a very awful situation. How different is it writing an ensemble vs. a hero/heroine?
Good question. Amber Morn was my first ensemble cast, and I found it very difficult. First, there were a lot of POVs (points of view). Not only did I have a POV for each hostage, but also for the hostage takers plus the negotiator who had to try to get every victim out of there alive. Also, because Amber Morn is the final of the series, there were numerous personal events in the lives of the hostages that needed to be brought to a close.
I did something else different in Amber Morn—a build-up to the inciting incident (the first big event that sets off the story). The inciting incident in this story is all the characters at Java Joint being taken hostage. Normally in my “Seatbelt Suspense” stories, I’d put that event in the first chapter. But there were too many characters—and all their personal issues—to set up adequately in the midst of a hostile takeover in the coffee shop. So I chose another technique—that nerve-tingling pull of the roller coaster up a steep, steep hill, building tension during the climb. Readers knew once they reached the top of the first hill and dropped over the edge, they’d have to remember to breathe. During this pull I jump back and forth between the bad guys planning their attack, and the Java Joint characters arriving at the coffee shop for their celebration party, oblivious to the tragedy that is coming closer and closer.
3) Are you really done with Kanner Lake? Is it all over? Will we never see these quirky characters again?
Well, you never know. If you’ve read my Hidden Faces series, you know that a character from that series is mentioned in Kanner Lake. And to go back further, the last book of the Hidden Faces series (Web of Lies) incorporates the protagonist from my series before that—Chelsea Adams. In my mind all my characters live on. Any one of them might turn up anywhere.
But for now, four nationally-watched traumas in little Kanner Lake is enough. I mean, what else can I put those poor folks through? They deserve a rest.
Bailey and all the folks at Java Joint who came through the hostage crisis are doing well, by the way. They send their regards. They’d love to have you visit. Just remember—don’t sit on Wilbur’s stool.
4) Just recently your new book "Dark Pursuit" came out and the whole book takes place in around 24 hours. Was it crazy trying to get everything into such a tight timeframe? You had a similar tight time frame in Amber Morn. Is it easier to keep it tight and contained instead of spreading things out?
Most of my books are like that—the action takes place in a day or maybe two at the most. The Violet Dawn trauma takes place in only about 14 hours. (However the resolution chapters may take place a few days to a few weeks later.) Yes, it is easier to maintain suspense when the action is pretty much nonstop. It’s hard to hook a chapter when someone’s going to bed for a restful sleep.
5) In all your books you have this knack for leaving clues in plain sight that take the reader, slap them upside the head and spin them around before they have a chance to straighten it all out in their heads - how do you plan stuff like that? Do you plan it from the beginning or do you start at the end and work backwards?
I know the main plot points from the beginning. I have to know the twists and how it ends in order to write in the dual technique I use—writing everything to make readers assume one thing, when in truth something else is going on. This type of writing is difficult, because every line and word must fit into both totally different scenarios. There’s no way I could pull that off without knowing where the story is going.6) What do we have to look forward to from you next?
Next year you’ll see three books from me. Exposure, my next adult stand-alone, releases in May. Exposure is about fear—what would you do if your worst fear came true? It does for Kaycee Raye. This is another twisting, mind-blowing story that I think will really keep my readers hopping.
Also next year the first two books of The Rayne Tour series will release (in April and October). This is a young adult suspense series, co-written with my daughter, Amberly (who’s now 19). The protagonist is Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star. Shaley lives in a world of backstage passes, limos, paparazzi and lights—until murder rocks her world. You can read more about The Rayne Tour series here.
7) Where can readers find you online?
You can read about my books, including their first chapters, at my web site. I blog Monday through Friday at Forensics and Faith. There we discuss writing techniques, the Christian fiction industry, the Christian journey and life. You can also find me on Facebook. And follow me on Twitter.
A final note for my Kanner Lake readers. In case you missed the breaking news on Forensics and Faith—S-Man’s science fiction novel, Starfire, is going to be published. For real. In a crazy fiction-turns-into-reality twist, the publication date is just about the time Starfire would have released according to the timeline in Amber Morn. Read more about Stuart Stockton’s Starfire and its release here.
Okay, readers Brandilyn has offered a copy of Violet Dawn for our drawing! She wanted to make sure that the winner was able to start at the beginning of this great series! Here is what you do... leave me a comment (with your email address or way to reach you) telling me what kind of mystery or suspense you like and you will have 1 entry in the drawing! If you tell someone else about this interview with Brandilyn and they enter and put your name in the comment then you will have 3 extra entries, if you link to this interview from your own blog then you will get 2 extra entries - Good luck!