Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Interview with Creston Mapes!

Creston Mapes' rock-n-roll series "The Rock Star Chronicles" is simply amazing. He has created an incredible plot, thrown in a ton of page turning suspense, and topped it all off with deep, rich characters. "The Rock Star Chronicles" is definitely one of my new favorite series! Check out Creston's books on his website at www.crestonmapes.com TODAY!

Betsy: Creston, did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Creston: No. Not until college. However, looking back on my youth, I now realize that becoming a writer was in my blood. I was not a great student in school, but I could always score well on essays and writing projects. Even if I didn't know the subject very well, somehow, I could always make my answers sound "right."

Betsy: What prompted the idea for Dark Star & Full Tilt?

Creston: Growing up, I loved rock 'n' roll. I was in the KISS Army and a big fan of Foreigner, Queen, Bowie, and the like. So, as a professional writer, when I felt God prompting me to try fiction writing, I began to ask "What if..." in a lot of different scenarios. One of those scenarios was: "What if a mega-popular, millionaire rock star got in serious trouble with the law? What if that person was totally discontent? What if he was getting letters from a girl in Kansas who said she was praying for his salvation and for his millions of fans to become Christ-followers. What if he had a personal psychic who traveled with the band? What if, in the midst of all this, he got charged with first-degree murder?" So, the novels were just a series of "what ifs" from my past interests....things of which I was very familiar.

Betsy: The main character in the series, Everett Lester, is such a
realistic character. His struggle with drugs and alcohol, as well as the pressure from being famous, really strikes a chord with readers. Did you have to do a lot of research to get that inside view of the rock star world?

Creston: You're right, Betsy. People are hugely intrigued by movie/tv stars and recording artists. That's one of the reasons I'm so excited about these novels. Because, honestly, I think they are appealing to anyone...the Christian and the non-Christian. The stories are intriguing enough to carry anyone away into a suspense-filled dream-world, I hope. As far as research goes, I read books about all kinds of rock stars, from Bob Dylan to Ozzie Osbourne. But I'd had plenty of first-hand experience as well, going to an array of concerts in Cleveland, Ohio(today's rock 'n' roll hall of fame), as a boy, playing loosely in some makeshift garage bands, being backstage at bar concerts, and reading every word in the most popular rock magazines, like Cream and Circus.

Betsy: Wow! Well, I really enjoyed the strong spiritual theme behind Dark Star & Full Tilt. There is an intense, yet not overwhelming, salvation message that is not found in a lot of Christian Fiction today. What made you decide to go that route?

Creston: Thanks for your kind words. What's happened to me, Betsy, is my life has been transformed, literally. I used to drink extremely heavily and
get involved with a lot of the debauchery that comes with it. When God saved me and allowed me to become born-again at the age of 28, I wanted to share with the world what Christ has the power to do, and that is to literally change lives. Turn them upside down. Make people new. Resurrect the dead. I'll tell you, for me, at least, this fiction writing gig is extremely difficult. There is no way I would want to do this work if I wasn't doing it for the glory of God and to help other people find Him. That's why I do it. And it has been a sacrifice.

Betsy: That's amazing. Have you heard back from any readers that were influenced positively by reading your books? What do they say?

Creston: They say some heart-warming things. Here are some recent emails I've received:

Let me start by saying I am a Christian who has been praying for a
crack addict I had met through a friend at church. He was doing well
(had become a follower of Jesus), but fell "off the wagon" and is now
sitting in jail awaiting trial for assault, robbery and cocaine
possession charges. He's recommitted his life to the Lord and I have
been visiting him 2x a week for the past 4 1/2 months, taking him all
the Christian books I can find. I just finished Dark Star and can't
wait to take it to him tomorrow! I may even head to the bookstore
today for the sequel!! Thanks so much for sharing this gift God has
given you.

My husband has always been an avid reader, I just became one. We
couldn't put the books down. I read both books in less than 2 days.
They really drew us in within the first few pages. We really enjoyed
reading them and hope that you do a third book that revolves around the
Lester family. My husband and I were both heavy metal lovers until God
really spoke to our hearts about our music. These books really hit
home for us. Thank you for writing them. We look forward to reading
more of your work. It hit me that these two books could be an
inspiration to my husband and I to maybe try our hand at writing a
book.God Bless you always

I ran across both of these books in Ft Worth. I saw "Full Tilt" and,
being a fan of music, this cover caught my eye immediately! I just
wanted to let you know that I have not enjoyed reading anything as much
as I have these two books. I grew up in a house with rock 'n' roll
everywhere. I still enjoy the music, but I have become much more
discerning about what I listen to. The realism of these books is
amazing! I read both books in about 3 days. Will there be anymore of
the "Rock Star Chronicles" in the future? I hope so! I became a fan of
Christian fiction about 10 years ago when a co-worker let me read "This
Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti.I can honestly say these 2 books
rank among my favorite books I have read in many years. I believe God
will reach many people with these books. To a fan, this will connect
like no other books on the market will.

Creston, I wanted to let you both know I just finished Full Tilt over
the weekend. I loved it. I find myself driving to errands and I’m
thinking back to Everett and Wesley …reviewing what all happened to
them in my head as if they are real people! Now that’s the sign of an
awesome book. Thanks for the life messages that were in both books. I
am hoping to pass them on to one of my co-workers who is in her early
20s and not a Christian. Thanks for the great books!!!

Hey Creston, My name is Audrey. I'm a 21 years old and living it up in
Kansas.Number one in my life is Christ and music is right afterwards.
So, it goes without saying Dark Star appealed to me. I finished Dark
Star about five minutes ago and had to jump on my computer to e-mail
you! Thank you for such an edifying christian novel. I read A
LOT! But I usually vere away form fiction because I feel like if I'm
going to spend my time reading I want it to really deposit something in
me. I don't really wanna feel my time and mind with fictional stories
when I could be putting the Word or good edifying christian living
material in my head. This fiction book delievered!!!!!!!!!!!! Im so
pleased I pick this book up! You've re-instilled faith in me that
fiction can still deposit a seed of faith in ones heart. Your story has
encouraged me to be more bold in my faith and I desire to step out in
faith like Karen did. I'm also thankful I read Dark Star after the
sequel was written, now i don't have to wait:-) Now i just gotta find
it....Always keep your writting Christ centered. Maybe someday, i'll
have written a book that is being sold right alongside yours. God Bless
brother! Keep using your talents for Him!

Betsy: That's really something. What is the story behind your own faith? Can you share a bit of your testimony with us?

Creston: I grew up going to church every Sunday in Ohio, but at home, during the week, our family didn't open our Bibles. I started drinking and smoking at a very early age, about 14 or so. My friends and I dug a hole in the
ground in the woods, where we buried a box, which we tarred, and stored our beer in. I loved concerts and the whole rock 'n' roll scene and played quite a mean air guitar. Then, off to college I went, partying all the way. And it was the same after college; I lived for the weekends. At one point in my career, I was changing writing jobs, and I took on a very high-pressure position in Atlanta. It was during a client visit to Fort Lauderdale that I had what I call kind of an "out of body" experience, simply from all the pressure of my work, and the pressure I used to put on myself: worry, anxiety, etc. When I got back from the trip, I went to see a doctor. He said I was stressed out and suggested I take some medication for it. That's when I remembered all I had learned during all those Sundays in church. I needed God. So, we started going to church. I was baptized several months later. And, by His grace, He's been drawing us closer and making us more like Him all along the journey.

Betsy: What a testimony! Thank you for sharing. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming novel, Nobody?

Creston: My publisher sent me to Las Vegas over the winter and I spent three days there doing research for my third novel, Nobody, which will be out in 2007. It is a psychological thriller about a remarkable homeless man, a selfish reporter, a mysterious bank account, a dirty Las Vegas cop, a murder, and a young lady who is trying to make sense of it all. The message in the book is what I'm most excited about. There is a poem by a man named Samuel Shoemaker, called I Stand at the Door. It's about a man who becomes too involved in the church and forgets about the people outside the church...the unsaved. Those searching for The Door. (Jesus Christ) That's the whole theme of the book. It's about a man who loses his wife in a plane crash, turns to the church, gets WAY too enamored with the church and pleasing man, and finds himself in the infamous "church bubble."

Betsy: Sounds so intriguing! So, is there any writing advice or tips you'd like to share with aspiring authors?

Creston: Yes! Read books about the craft of writing and do what they say by practicing and writing a lot. Also, develop a TOUGH skin. There is a
ton of rejection in this business. In addition, pray a lot before going down this road. Is it what God wants for you? Or, do you just want to become famous and have your name on a book? Reflecting back and looking deep inside myself, I think that was part of my motive in writing fiction. I hate to admit it. But pride is an ugly, deceptive thing. I hope I'm over that now. I still battle the pride thing at times. But I've had time to think this thing through and leave it all in God's hands. Now, He's driving and I'm just along for the ride.

Betsy: What can readers look forward to, other than the upcoming release of Nobody? Any more interesting works on your desk right now?

Creston: I've started book three in "The Rock Star Chronicles" and, if there's enough interest, we'll do that book. There's another one that's been
burning in my soul for many years about a very hot and controversial topic. I hope to get to that soon.

Betsy: Sounds great! Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Creston! It's been an honor.

Dark Star placed third in the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Contest in the suspense category! Check it out today!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Violet Dawn

Brandilyn Collins' "Violet Dawn" is a truly amazing novel. It is book #1 of her new Kanner Lake series. Warning: read with the lights ON and maybe also with a stuffed animal or two under each arm! =)

Brandilyn has concocted an intriguing suspense story. Not only is there enough action and "hold your breath" moments to make it a page-turner, but there is a warm and cozy feeling when reading about the small town and its people. It feels like a place to call Home, and Brandilyn mixes murder and mystery with a sweet community that everyone wants to be a part of!

Go out and buy "Violet Dawn" today, and join the family of Kanner Lake.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Interview with Robin Jones Gunn!

Betsy: Robin, let me first say thank you so much for visiting with me today! It's a true honor. I have to start with my personal favorite of your books - the Glenbrooke series. When you started writing the first book in the series, Secrets, did you have the slightest idea they would become as popular and loved as they are?

Robin: No! It was a definite shock. I was invited to write the first one about eleven years ago when Multnomah was setting up a line of inspirational romance. It was supposed to be just one book to fit into the line. It did well, so the publisher asked if I would do another…and another. (laughs) In my imagination, the characters were linked together by this imaginary town of Glenbrooke. When I finished all eight books, they made it into a series of its own. The books have actually had three different covers on them in all.

What was interesting was that the editor on the project kept saying the books just didn’t fit the format for romances, and that they needed to be made into a formula. I failed in fitting into the formula as they wanted me to, but it was truly to the benefit of the books in the end. They just told the story.

Betsy: My favorite in the series will always be Whispers, mainly because of the impact it had in my life personally. If you had to pick just one, what would be your favorite in the Glenbrooke series?

Robin: I, too, love Whispers, mainly because of the Hawaii setting. I just love Hawaii! But I really enjoy the essence of what happens in Whispers, where Terry has that all too common sense as a woman that there is no hope for her. However, she finds opportunity in her relationships and with God. The book shows that He is at work, even when we don’t see His hand. I love being reminded of that.

Betsy: I also really enjoyed Gardenias for Breakfast, an excellent story, though slightly different than your usual style. What inspired you to write Gardenias for Breakfast?

Robin: I took a trip with my daughter when she was almost twelve. She and I drove from Oregon to Louisiana and during that road trip it seemed that she and I were figuring out how we were going to relate to each other as mother and daughter. We were going to visit my ninety-two year old grandmother, like in the story.

When I was writing Gardenias for Breakfast, I hadn’t figured out all the angles on my mother/daughter relationship and I wanted to write a book where I could just make some imaginary characters and see how they handled the changes. In general, it was a book that I needed to write, on a personal level, because I was at that stage of my life in trying to figure out those pieces. I needed to put everything out there and look at it, even if it didn’t tidy up all the answers or give a specific direction.

Betsy: That's really amazing! I think that book gave insight to a lot of mothers and daughters alike. The Christy Miller series were also a big hit. Teens everywhere devoured them. I understand they are being released in hardback now?

Robin: Yes! It’s really been exciting. There are now four hardback volumes, three books in each one. This has opened up so many doors, because now the books are being placed in public libraries. It’s challenging to put a paperback in a library because you can only have them checked out so many times before they fall apart! Both the Christy Miller and Sierra Jenson series are now available in four volumes, each with three books in one.

I have been receiving so much mail from young girls that found one of those Christy Miller books for the first time and after reading them, realized that they hadn’t really given their lives to Christ. They realized that this was what was missing. I look back and think those books were written so long ago, but are still having such an impact!

People have asked if I had to update and redo certain areas of the book to incorporate today’s technology, and I did a little, but overall, we chose to keep the story the way it was and keep the focus on the friend relationships and the closeness between them. That’s what truly remains from generation to generation. It seems like every book is a surprise in some way!

Betsy: That's great! Well, your newest series, Sisterchicks, are perhaps some of the funniest books I’ve ever read! The amazing thing about them is that they appeal to such a variety of ages. When a new one is released, my grandmother, my mom, and myself all fight over who gets to read them first! Can you tell us how many more books in the Sisterchicks series there will be?


Robin: We’re taking it book by book, and the one that just came out, Sisterchicks in Gondolas, is going to be followed by a different sort of Sisterchick book, which will be released in October. It’s a devotion book, called Take Flight! I prepared that book with one of my own Sisterchicks, Cindy. We wrote it because we kept hearing from readers, asking for advice on what kind of material would be helpful for them to meet with another friend and open up discussions about the Lord, and discover what God is doing in their lives together. A lot of women were also wanting something fresh for their quiet time, so we looked at that and thought, ‘hey, this is a real Sisterchick thing – bible study and devotions together!’ We decided to make our own and make it specific to Sisterchicks! I think that’s going to be a great encouragement to a lot of women!

Betsy: I can't wait to see it! I understand that several of the adventures the characters in Sisterchicks stories experience are real life experiences of your own? Can you tell us about that?

Robin: Yes! It’s true! (laughs) When I started writing the Sisterchick books, the first one, Sisterchicks On the Loose, is very loosely based on an adventure I had with my best friend Donna. About fifteen years ago, she and I went to Finland. We loved to tell the stories about the sauna and all the crazy things that happened there.

When I started writing the Sisterchicks books I wanted to start with a real life adventure, and from there it grew to other adventures…like Hawaii. We lived in Hawaii for a while and I truly love it there! It was the easiest book to write. After that, my editor and I were actually given a cruise to Mexico, so we went and I wrote about the sombreros. We signed up to have massages and I had some kind of a seaweed body wrap and my entire back broke out – just like in the book! After that, the publisher suggested giving me a travel budget and sending me to some of these places for my stories! So, I actually got to go to New Zealand and Australia and Paris and Italy. It was a writer's dream! The crazy thing was that I would go to these places, and wild and wacky things would just happen!

I was preparing recently for another research trip and I asked a friend to go with me. She was excited at first and then thought “wait a minute, Robin…crazy things happen to you on these trips! I don’t know if I should go!” (laughs) For example, the scene in Sisterschicks Say Ohh La La where the taxi cab drove off with the luggage - that actually happened to Ann and I! I just show up and these things happen.

Also, about the Sisterchicks series - Five years ago my father had a stroke, and I traveled ten times to be with my parents that year. It was a 1,000 mile trip each time, and it was a really difficult season in my life. Every time I’d get on the plane I’d take a book with me and I’d start reading and they always ended up being these intense stories, where characters had difficult life situations. I could hardly finish the book each time, because that was my life! I wanted a book that would give me hope and encouragement and be a gentle voice during my rough experiences! I experienced that for a whole year and looked for books that would fill up my emotional well. Back then, laughing was such a bonus. That was all just before the Sisterchicks books were written. It played a big part in the development of that series.

I knew I wasn’t the only woman going through difficult times and needing encouragement. Where are the books that give us lightheartedness, fill up our emotional wells, and cause us to walk away with a sigh and a sense of realization that God is in control? I think there is a challenge for writers to come up with interesting topics or intriguing plots, and the burden to write at a more poignant, intellectual level…yet, at the same time, there is space on the market for books that are gentle and uplifting and sort of just come alongside and ease you through the difficult times. I never would have planned that or set out to say “I’m going to write these kind of books” but that’s what happened. That’s what I needed at the time.

Betsy: Robin, your books are always such a breath of fresh air. They’re fun, funny, inspiring, and yet, realistic. A reader can be certain by the time they get to the end of a Robin Jones Gunn novel they will have been deeply moved in some area of their life. I know that’s true for me. Do you get a lot of emails or letters from readers, describing similar experiences in their lives? How does that make you feel?

Robin: I’m constantly amazed and so humbled. The Christy Miller books are translated into Portuguese and doing well in Brazil. I am actually going to Brazil in November and I am invited to speak at four large youth events! It is so amazing to think that God chose to use these stories and fictional characters that become role models for teens in another country. As I’ve been preparing for this trip to Brazil and getting these events lined up, I can’t stop thinking of His goodness and plans!

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a missionary, and thought that was the best way for me to serve God, to go into these remote places in the world to tell those people about God’s love and His son Jesus Christ. As my life rolled out, God kept closing doors in that area and it was obvious that he had other plans for me than to go live in Zimbabwe. (laughs) I look back now and He’s fulfilled that desire in my heart and revealed to me that I am a missionary. But it is not me going to these remote places of the world, its my books! And now I get to go and catch up with them! That is so amazing to me because we don’t understand how powerful it is to be obedient to God and what He's asking us to do. So often we have such a bigger picture in a mind, or we get stuck with a sense of loss when things don’t work out and we lose our focus. We think “I thought I was going to do this or be this” yet God knows our hearts' desire. I never thought I’d be a writer. I never set out on that path and one thing just led to another, and here I am! It is so clear that God’s hand has been on this all along!

So when I receive mail and hear back from readers, it makes me laugh the happy laugh of “this is You, God!” For example, the situation involving a young woman who is going to be my translator in Brazil. When she was thirteen years old, she read the first book in the Christy Miller series, Summer Promise, in English and gave her to life to Christ. Later, she ended up working for the publishing house and being the translator for Todd and Christy “The College Years! She translated those books and now she’s going to be my interpreter. It’s truly amazing to see God’s hand at work.

Betsy: Wow. That really is awesome! Well, Robin, the pictures on your website, www.robingunn.com, are so hilarious! It seems like you tend to have fun no matter what you’re doing, or where you’re going. That upbeat attitude is reflected in your books, and I believe that is a huge part of what makes them so unique and creative! Can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not hard at work on another best selling book?

Robin: I don't know if this is really considered a hobby, but I love long conversations! I met a woman the other day for lunch and it filled me up! We had this long, wonderful conversation and that is so rare in today’s time! I think in our society we’ve forgotten how to do that! The Europeans still know how to linger over a meal and bring up deep topics and discuss uncomfortable things. They can still speak honestly, and cause your heart to break open right there on the table, through tears or laughter. It’s a lost art, truly, and sometimes when I sit down to write a book, I imagine the audience as being that one friend across the table. I feel that “okay, we have this time set aside for this conversation” and in a book, of course, it’s a one sided conversation (laughs) but it is still that feeling of “I’m going to open my heart and shine light on what’s there. Some things need to be picked out and thrown away, but other pieces need to be lifted up!” That’s important. That’s sort of the Sisterchick type of experience, when we have friends on that level and can share that vulnerability with each other. So, I love connecting with people!

And I love to travel and experience new things. Being able to have those kinds of conversations with people in remote places of the world has been extraordinary. It feels like that’s the eternal stuff. That’s what we’ll have in heaven – the time to tell our stories and together be amazed at what God has done. I also love to be outside and observe the seasons and what God has created.

Betsy: How do you handle the joy and stress of managing a household, writing full time, promoting your books, and being a wife and mother?

Robin: I don’t know that I do it very well! (laughs) Each season seems to change and just when you figure something out, there is a new rhythm that comes along. When our kids were small, I had to find time to write and so I’d get up really early in the morning, at three a.m, three days a week and I’d write from three to seven in the morning. During that time, the dog never barked, the phone never rang, it was quiet. At seven, I would have been able to be productive, and by then, everyone else was getting up and I had to switch into the role of being a mom and wife and housekeeper. I think with each season it has changed but what has remained the same is the fact that time to write does not magically appear in any schedule! It has to be carved out and protected. Over the past twenty years, that is the one question I hear the most from beginning writers. They can’t find the time to write. They want to write, and they know what their story is but they get frustrated that other people in their lives aren’t stepping back and making that space for them. Writing is a sacrifice. But the sacrifice needs to be mine, as a writer. I need to be the one to give up something. Watch less TV at night and get to bed earlier, and therefore be able to get up earlier the next morning and write. Things like that. You can give up hobbies or groups or clubs or volunteer projects. Bottom line is, you have to make that time to write. It doesn’t happen automatically.

Betsy: That's great advice, Robin. What other tips do you have for aspiring writers out there today?

Robin: I think that there is a lot of power in staying focused. One challenge with writers is that if you’re creative enough to write you probably have an imagination that is always spinning. So, for a writer to get anything done, that power in being focused has to be understood and honored. That means a beginning writer can not focus on the discouragement of criticism and rejections and competition. It’s easy to get that victim mentality. You have to step away from that entirely and into this place of being focused and being obedient to whatever it is that God has called you to do. I‘ve been doing this for twenty years now and I still have this challenge of “oh that’s another idea”! Keep a journal going all the time with ideas to come back to. But once you’ve made the commitment to work on a project, and put your hand to the plow, don’t keep looking over your shoulder, or you’ll get wobbly lines! Once you know what it is that’s burning in your heart, discipline yourself and be focused and obedient to whatever that is. Discipline and obedience are very hard for creative people, we like our freedom and ideas! But to get the work done, there must be the training that comes from that discipline. For many writers, it’s learning what it is that has to be sacrificed and realizing that you can’t do it all. Instead, think what can I do? And what can I give up? Writing is a lot of work. It never gets easier. Even after twenty years, you still have to force yourself to focus! And work to shape and craft those words. Respect the gift that’s been given to you.

Betsy: Is there one thing you would tell new authors NOT to do?

Robin: I think where I’ve gotten stuck is when I get disappointed, like when a book idea didn’t go anywhere, or a book didn’t sell well. Don’t get bogged down in the disappointments. There will be a lot of them! Don’t be shocked by your failure. Learn from it and go on. Had I understood that years ago, I would not have wasted so many hours in pity parties! The gift and the calling as a writer don’t go away. Even in the face of obstacles and all of the disappointments, you’re still gifted and called to be responsible to use your imagination and use your words. I’ve seen more beginning writers take one step forward, and then boom – they freeze, sometimes for years! They are not using their imagination and their words. They get stuck. And that cannot be. There has to be that step of maturity that says “okay, move on.” There’s part of a verse in Romans 9 that says “the gift and the calling of God are irrevocable”. The chapter as a whole is referring to being called into the body of Christ, but that one part stuck out to me and I wrote it on a card and kept it on my desk for years, because I wanted to remember not to get stuck! A bad review can’t take away the gift or calling. Nothing changes the fact that I am gifted by God to use words and I know I am called by God to tell stories. Writers need to understand it is a gift – it is not anything you did, it is all God! Writers would be so much more productive if they grasped that at the core.

My friend Sandra Byrd, a mentor for the Christian Writers Guild, once said to me, “They’re not rejection letters. They’re redirection letters!” I really liked that. It means it’s just not the right time and place!

Betsy: That is so encouraging! Can you tell us what’s on your desk right now? What can readers look forward to in the years to come?

Robin: I just finished writing a Christmas novella that will be published in 2007 by FaithWords. It is called Finding Father Christmas, and is set in England. I met yesterday with the woman in England who read the book and helped me get some of the British parts accurate. While we were talking, she got all teared up about the end of the story. It gave me such hope! She was supposed to just critique the book, but there was this place in the story where her heart really connected to our Heavenly Father and the realization that He has His hand on her life. I came away from that feeling that there is so much we don’t understand! We put the words on paper and we never know how it will touch somebody. I got really excited about this novella, because I think it will perhaps draw in an audience who don’t normally sit down to a full length novel. It opened up a whole new realm of possibility! And I’m also really excited about the upcoming devotional book, Take Flight, because it is going to be a great tool for women to connect on a genuine level. Nothing really happens until we get real and open our hearts. Take Flight is designed to help relationships with women along those lines. After that we’ll see! Lots of ideas! (laughs)

Betsy: Thanks for sharing with us today, Robin!

Read more about Robin Jones Gunn and check out her latest books at

Monday, September 11, 2006

Interview with Eric Wilson

The Best of Evil is one of the most intriguing novels I've read in a long time! Eric Wilson, author of Dark to Mortal Eyes and Expiration Date has brought another amazing tale of suspense and forgiveness in this must-read novel.

Betsy: Eric, The Best of Evil is a fantastic suspense, with deep, realistic characters the reader can instantly relate to. How do you best relate to the hero of the story, Aramis Black? Similarities? Differences?

Eric: I'm tall, skinny, dirty-blond, without tattoos or any in my past. Both my parents are still alive. And I hate Froot Loops. In those ways, I'm really nothing like Aramis. My editor told me, though: "I see Aramis Black as Eric Wilson on steroids." I laughed. What he meant, I think, is that Aramis has many of my same struggles to understand God's forgiveness and grace in the midst of pain from the past. He is cynical, somewhat sarcastic, but underneath he has a heart to care for other people.

Betsy: He's truly a great character. In the story, Aramis co-owns and manages a coffee shop. Do you have any experience working in the coffee industry? Reading those scenes, I could almost smell the freshly ground beans!! You really took me there.

Eric: Wake up and smell the cofffee, as they say. I'm glad those scenes worked for you. If you were here, I'd serve you up a great latte. Yes, for four years my wife and I owned and operated an espresso shop called "Espresso Yourself," back in Oregon. Those customers were some of my main supporters while I wrote DARK TO MORTAL EYES, my debut novel. They bought our drinks. They listened to my ideas. We talked and prayed together. I miss them a lot.

Betsy: I bet that was a really great experience. And what a fun name for a coffee shop! Well, Eric, your bio mentions that you've been a youth pastor before. What was that like? Have any of your experiences with the church helped to give you fresh insight into your stories and characters?

Eric: I youth pastored for five years. I love teenagers. I still do. They are full of ideas and energy and zeal. As I started raising my own children, the time conflict (and lack of income) became a real burden on our family and so I resigned. My experiences in church have given me positive and negative insight for my stories. I've seen the reality of God's love. I've also seen the damage that can be done in his name. My stories always include characters who are on the fringes of faith, trying to understand God in an honest light while dealing with the junk they've seen perpetuated under the religious guise.

Betsy: That's really amazing. As writers, we're truly inspired by everything - and sometimes nothing! So, what are you working on writing right now?

Eric: I'm waiting for word from my agent on what book is wanted next. I have three more thrillers planned for the Christian market. I have two specific nonfiction titles in mind. I have a series I want to do for the secular market, one dealing with the dead and the undead in creative, but very biblical ways. The Christian market is not ready for it. Plus, I want it to reach nonbelievers and cause them to view Jesus in ways that go beyond tradition and religion.

Betsy: That all sounds really awesome. You are indeed busy! I can't wait to see what you have in store for readers next. As a writer, do you always have a dozen different plots racing through your mind, or do you settle down and focus on one story at a time?

Eric: My mind is always racing with ideas. When it comes time to write a story, I have to funnel those down into one focused stream. Usually, within a story, I'll be surprised at a few of the other ideas that slip through into the main idea. Oftentimes, I'm amazed at the motifs that will be connected by seemingly unconnected thoughts. It's a very organic process, growing and branching off on its own.

Betsy: Good point. Well, let me assure you, Aramis Black is one of my new favorite characters! First of all - his name. So intriguing - one can't help but be a hero with a name like that! What made you decide to give Aramis the burdens of his past and with forgiveness? Did you invent the plot or the character first?

Eric: I loved the name Aramis Black. As soon as I settled on it, the whole series came to life in my mind. I decided to drop him and his muddied past into the streets of modern Nashville. I wanted to show that Music City is not only the stereotypes that most people have in mind. I also wanted to explore some of the rich history in this area, including mysteries of the past. As for the burdens in Aramis's past, those are the heartbeat of the story to me. They define his struggle to become a new man in Christ. He tries to break free, but the past comes roaring back in an unexpected way, putting his new commitment to the test.

Betsy: You did a great job incorporating all of those aspects into your story. It made me want to pick up a history textbook and find out more! Eric, I understand the sequel to The Best of Evil is planned to be released in Summer 2007. Can you give the reader any hints as to what will happen to Aramis next?

Eric: The sequel to The Best of Evil is already in the publisher's hands. The title is A Shred of Truth, and it'll have some real surprises for fans of Aramis Black. In fact, I was surprised by a few things myself. The book opens with Aramis's brother tied to a statue in Nashville. He has initials carved into his back. Soon, Aramis is led on a wild-goose chase through his own past to discover the truth behind the attacker's intentions and the truth of God's forgiveness versus God's judgment. It's a bit darker, a bit faster-paced, than The Best of Evil. Along the way, though, Aramis finds some very bright rays of hope.

Betsy: Wow, very exciting. I'm getting chills just thinking about it! I can't wait! I've just added you to my list of favorite authors. Who are some of your favorites? Which ones have inspired you over the course of your writing career?

Eric: I've been an avid reader since I was a little tyke. My favorite authors have moved from C.S. Lewis to Robert Ludlum to Dean Koontz. I love literary novels. I also love well-rounded thrillers. I was inspired early on by Lewis's THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, later by Ludlum's THE BOURNE IDENTITY, and recently by John Dalton's HEAVEN LAKE. There are some amazing authors out there. I would love to see some of the new authors in Christian fiction get more notice. Most of the advertising dollars go to the established names, while talented newcomers fall by the wayside.

Betsy: What lessons did you learn along the winding road to publication? What can you share with us?

Eric: Never give up. Try not to turn bitter. Write and write and write. Read books on the craft of writing and try to sharpen your talent. Be kind and honest in your dealings with those in the industry--no matter what else happens, that editor or reviewer is your brother or sister, a future citizien of heaven. Oh, and stop talking about writing and actually write. Let God's love and truth flow through your story, but don't sugarcoat life's struggles. This publishing process moves in slow motion, from the author's perspective, so be very patient and understanding. Oh, and did I mention: WRITE!

Betsy: (laughing) Got it! So what is the one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring authors out there right now, other than to keep writing?

Eric: Dig deep into your own heart and let your words flow from your own passions and pain. There are very few original ideas. What makes your story original is your perspective, your style, your approach. Don't try to be like someone else. Be who God has created you to be. When you've actually finished a book (instead of just talking about finishing a book), start knocking on doors and see what happens.

Betsy: Great advice, Eric. Thank you so much for the interview!

Read more about Eric and his characters at www.wilsonwriter.com!

And don't miss The Best of Evil - released in bookstores September 19th!