Do authors think differently about reading, especially when choosing books for their children? How does one write a thriller from a Christian perspective?
SD: Since you are now a published author, you may have even more insight into that process since you look at literature as a reader and a writer. Or am I making an assumption- do you hang your author hat on a nail when you are reading for pleasure?
Adam: Unfortunately, no. I think I can speak for authors everywhere that once you’ve published a novel and studied the fiction craft, it’s impossible to read a novel the same way again. I’m continually evaluating word choice, pacing, characterizations, and dramatic hooks. I can’t help it. Reading fiction is still enjoyable, but no, I can no longer read a novel without wearing my author’s hat.
SD: What books did you love as a child and a young person that you just couldn’t/can’t wait to share with your girls? Ditto your wife (if she doesn’t mind me asking).
Adam: The Little House series, Black Beauty, the Trixie Belden series, the Hardy Boys series, the Nancy Drew series, The Wrinkle in Time Quintet, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Chronicles of Prydain.
SD: To what degree do you subtly (or not) direct your girls to good books?
Adam: I’m pretty open and direct about it. It helps that I have all the books I would recommend on a shelf just waiting for them to read if they are so inclined. What helped with some books was to introduce the book to the girls with an audiobook version; often the recording pulled them into the actual book.
SD: Are there books that your girls like to read, or have read to them, again and again?
Adam: The Horse Diaries series. The Magic Tree House series. Unfortunately, these are books I never read as a child, and my girls for the most part aren’t overly interested in the same books I was interested in. They are horse fanatics (which I was not), so the Horse Diaries series has been a good fit.
SD: What was the last book your girls could NOT put down?
SD: Do you have any thoughts or concerns about the books that are currently popular in children’s and YA fiction?
Adam: I’m very much concerned about and perplexed by some of the books in the YA section at my local library. For example, I could never recommend the novels of Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials series) to my daughters. Some novels intended for their age group also make me and my wife leery, and others would simply never make the list. For that reason, every time my girls are interested in a book they see at the library, my wife or I screen it first. Parents need to be vigilant.
SD: What elements do you look for in a ‘good’ story?
Adam: I personally like suspense, so really any well-done, clean novel that grips me by the throat and doesn’t let go will probably get my attention. I especially like plot twists and stories of redemption (one character making an ultimate sacrifice for another).
SD: There are several books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I read again and again- do you ever read the same book more than once?
Adam: Yes. Those are usually the ones I buy for my shelf.
SD: You don’t have to share the title, but when’s the last time you put a book down because it was so awful you couldn’t finish it?
Adam: Just a few months ago.
SD: This question is really important, and you must be completely truthful- do you fold page corners down or use a bookmark?
Adam: I use a bookmark to hold my place, but sometimes, if I own the book and don’t care about keeping it in good shape, I fold page corners if I see a certain aspect of the fiction craft I’d like to study and emulate in my own work. What’s nice with my Kindle is that I can highlight segments (and even insert notes) without causing physical damage to the book.
SD: Do you have a favorite genre?
SD: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Adam: I began writing highly imaginative (though implausible) stories when I was a child. Then I couldn’t stop. From then on, I loved writing stories and always knew I’d be a writer, whether I’d be published or not.
SD: How did it feel the first time you saw your book, Fatal Illusions, in print?
Adam: Awesome. I thought of that Bible verse: “Desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.”
SD: Admit it- did you do a happy dance?
Adam: No, I didn’t; however, I did jump up and down when the novel was accepted for publication. When my author copies arrived from my publisher, the feeling is hard to describe—one of taking a very long and difficult journey and finally reaching the desired destination.
SD: Was it difficult to weave Christian themes into a suspense novel that contained violence, loss, and questions about marital fidelity?
Adam: No. Christian themes naturally emerged as my Christian characters grappled with the conflicts of real-world issues and sought to respond in a biblical way. I created flawed Christians who had to confront some heart-wrenching scenarios. I think it’s important for Christian writers not to avoid what is true and evil about the world around them, though stories that deal with gritty or violent subject matter can be told in an inoffensive way (even the Bible succeeds at this). Of course, ultimately good needs to triumph, and characters need to grow and change in some form by the final chapter.
SD: Your follow up novel, The Tenth Plague, is coming out soon- was there any difference in your thought and writing processes between the first and second novel?
Adam: Yes, the process of writing the second novel was different. I spent four years crafting the first novel and learned a lot during the editorial phase with my publisher about what worked and what didn’t. I was determined to streamline the writing process with the second one, based on what I learned. I think my fiction technique has improved since the first book; the second book has a tighter plot and is better crafted.
SD: The name of your blog is Meaningful Suspense- what messages do you hope to convey in your novels?
Adam: I strongly believe in the importance of message in Christian fiction (hence my tagline). Without the life-giving message of the gospel, where would any of us be? And what value is Christian fiction without it? So I like to write stories that deliver clear spiritual themes. I especially like to create Christian characters who made past mistakes that come back to haunt them. Then I like to show how a biblical worldview provides solutions to those conflicts—all within the milieu of a fictional story. One favorite theme is forgiveness in spite of earthly reasons to be unforgiving.
HUGE thanks to Adam for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to keep an eye out for The Tenth Plague, due to be released as an ebook by Kirkdale Press in January 2013. Then stay connected with Adam on Facebook.