Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers'
Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice.
When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.
How did you get the idea for Over the Edge?
The story grew out of my own experience with Lyme disease, plus my desire to help people understand the difficult plight of Lyme patients as they fight the disease and a medical community who often doesn’t want to treat them. Here is an excerpt from my Author’s Note at the end of Over the Edge that explains when the idea for the story first came to me:
“I remember slumping in the waiting room of my doctor in 2003, so sick I could not remain sitting in the chair. (They had to move me to the doctor’s personal padded armchair with footrest in a private office.) Hanging on the waiting-room wall was a framed newspaper article summarizing the 2001 findings written in The New England Journal of Medicine. The newspaper article explained how researchers had once again proved that Lyme was never chronic and was, in fact, very easy to treat with a short-term round of antibiotics. People claiming months or years of crippling symptoms from the disease were just wrong.
“What those know-it-alls need, I thought with an admittedly un-Christian attitude, is a real good case of Lyme.”
Seven years later I wrote the book. Here is the back cover copy for Over the Edge:
Grief. Anger. Hatred. The perfect ingredients for revenge.
Janessa McNeil’s life looks perfect. Her husband Dr. Brock McNeil, is a renowned researcher and professor at Stanford University’s Department of Medicine. They have a beautiful home and can give their daughter everything she needs. Theirs is a life other envy.
But nothing is as it seems.
Forces are work that will shatter everything—Janessa’s marriage, her way of life, even her safety. For her husband’s highly respected assertion that chronic Lyme disease doesn’t exist has done more than inform medical and insurance professionals. It’s ruined lives. One man’s life in particular.
Now it’s time to make Dr. Brock McNeil face the truth. To make him see the devastation Lyme disease causes—up close and personal. And this bitter man has found the perfect tools to exact his revenge…
Janessa and her daughter.
What made you want to write about a character that had a life threatening challenge similar to the one you had? Did this make it easier or hard to write for you?
I’ve lived the nightmare of Lyme, so I could easily write about Jannie’s symptoms. It wasn’t easy for me to relive the emotions of fighting those symptoms, however. Feedback from Lyme patients who’ve read an early copy of Over the Edge has been just what I hoped for. Here are some examples:
"Thank you for acting so courageously on our behalf. I find it so strange and satisfying to read about Lyme in this way ... to see so many of my own experiences in the pages of your book is quite indescribable. The symptoms. The tests. The doctor searches. The Google searches. The slow realization that one is embroiled in more than ONE battle.”
“The suspense is great! It is such a thrill to read it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for writing a novel that hits a bull’s eye in safely channeling the frustrations of the entire community of Lyme patients.”
I heard in an interview on your website that you were made to write Over the Edge. You didn’t elaborate in the interview. Could you tell me why you were made to write a suspense book like Over the Edge?
Because I lived through Lyme and understand the Lyme patient’s battles. And I am passionate about helping others understand the so-called “Lyme wars” that patients must fight for testing and treatment. Add to this—I’m known for my trademarked Seatbelt Suspense®, which carries a four-point brand promise: fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an underlying thread of faith. The issues of fighting Lyme were perfect to plug into my brand promise. My readers will read Over the Edge for its suspense alone. Many will not know anything about Lyme disease. They’ll pick up the book merely for entertainment—and I promise plenty. But when they’re done, they’ll remember the story not only for its suspense, but because of what they’ve learned about a medical situation all around them—one they may not even have been aware of.
What has surprised you about being an author?
How hard it is to write a good story! Never gets easier, I’ll tell you. Plus, as noted, my novels are known for their myriad twists. So my readers are already on to me—they know I’m going to try to surprise them. We play a game. They try to guess all the surprises ahead of time, while I try to fool them until I reveal all. These are smart readers! They keep me on my toes.
How did you get the idea for Dark Pursuit? Did you have a working title for your story? If so what was it?
The idea for Dark Pursuit goes back 30 years, to my first reading of John Milton's Paradise Lost. A phrase from a scene jumped out at me: "hatching vain empires." Originally Dark Pursuit was titled Vain Empires. In plotting the book I began to think of Satan's "gift of life" to man in the Garden of Eden, which, of course, was really the gift of death. But man fell for the ruse. And we're still falling for it today. We think we have "life"--everything we want, doing what we want when we want, when in truth that leads to spiritual death. This theme runs beneath the fast-paced surface story of Dark Pursuit. The green and black on the cover represent the colors of life and death. The killer is an archetype for all mankind who has fallen for the "death disguised as life" ruse of Satan, rather than seeing the truth and accepting God's redemption. The killer is crazy and over the top. We see this killer wooed, tempted, falling for the lie, then living and loving the lie. The killer's blindness seems so obvious in this character's choices. But do we see the same truth in our own lives, with the choices we make?
Was this book more difficult to write than the others because you were writing a story inside a story?
No more difficult. I often write a story within a story. Maybe not in actual manuscript form. But I may run a back story subplot (as in Crimson Eve, Coral Moon, and others) or an alternate plot that eventually ties into the main story (as in Exposure, my novel releasing May '09.) This technique allows me to jump back and forth. Pairing this technique with chapter hooks can increase the tension dramatically, as one plot is left hanging while I switch to a chapter on the alternate one.
What made you write suspenseful, murder mystery books in the first place? Did you always know you wanted to write?
This is definitely not a question you want to ask me. Because the answer is very, very long—as in over 60 blog posts long. The entire "How I Got Here" story--my journey to publication--is on my blog in the archives. It's written with suspense techniques, chapter hooks and all. It clearly lays out all the obstacles, all the tears and joys of that journey. You can read it here.
I've heard authors say that their characters came alive. Have any of your characters taken you place you didn't want to go? Did they surprise you? Do tell!
Writing the bad guys is the most fun. I can just let my mind go crazy. :D (My poor mother wonders where she went wrong.)The killer who most surprised me was the one in Dead of Night, third in the Hidden Faces series. I was late starting that book. The deadline was coming closer and closer, and I didn’t have any idea where I’d take my main character next. I kept trying to make one plot line work, and it just wouldn’t. Then out of nowhere came this ranting voice in my head. I sat down and wrote the two-page, first-person prologue, which is this serial killer’s gloating/ranting over the latest victim. From that voice the entire plot came.
Can you tell me of two Wow moments for you in your writing career? What made it a Wow for you?
First one—when I sold my first novel, Cast a Road Before me.
Second—when my first two, two-book contracts with Zondervan were fulfilled, and they asked me, “How many books would you like to write for us next?” That’s the open-ended question that is every novelist’s dream. That led to a seven-book contract.
Those first two, two-book contracts were for Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion; and Color the Sidewalk for Me and Capture the Wind for Me--second and third in the Bradleyville series, following Cast a Road Before Me.)
Is being an author everything that you thought it would be? If not, what has surprised you most? Why?
It’s much, much harder. Before I was published, my sights were on being published. That was the brass ring. Wrong. That’s only the beginning. The harder struggles come when you’re writing to deadline—that is, when you have to create, whether you feel like it or not. And, after writing a certain number of books, it gets harder to be fresh and surprising each time (especially if your brand is Seatbelt Suspense®.)
Brandilyn can you give us a sneak peek about Always Watching, the new young adult suspense you've written with your daughter, Amberly? When is the release date?
Sure, I'll give you a "Sneak Pique." :) Always Watching, first in The Rayne Tour suspense series, is written for ages 13-16. It features Shaley O'Connor, daughter of a rock star. Shaley lives in a world of backstage passes, fancy hotels and limos. Some people would say she has it all. But there are secrets in her own life to which she longs to find the answers. In the first chapter her best friend on tour is murdered--and Shaley's world spins out of control. To view a trailer for Always Watching and read the first chapter, visit my web site under
Could you tell us about the healing that took place in your body from Lyme Disease? How did that affect your life? Your family?
Again, this is another long story. The entire telling of it is on my Web site, on the page called “My Healing.” (Here) Do take time to read it when you can. It’s a testament to how God brought together many people to pray for me, and how He took those prayers and blessed not just me, but all involved in praying.
From the symptoms you described on your Web site from the treatment of this disease you could really relate to your character Darell Brooke. How much of you is in "Dark Pursuit"?
I did have “Lyme brain” when I was sick—the lack of being able to concentrate or think of a word. I even stuttered when I spoke. More recently I broke my ankle two years ago—and knew very well the struggles Darell had with his broken ankle, and the physical therapy he was supposed to do.
Another part of me in Darell was simply the difficulty of writing a suspense, even when you can think. There’s a passage that talks about the maze of plot points, and what it takes to change even one tiny detail, for that changes everything else. Oh yeah, that’s straight out of my life!
My inside sources tell me that you are a jokester. Is that true?
It just might be. Or perhaps I shall take the Fifth on this question. I will say I’ve had a lot of fun lately trading a rubber snake back and forth with Deb Raney. (Now don’t go feeling sorry for “sweet Deb Raney”—she started it.) I got her good last time. I wrapped the thing up in a box of chocolates and arranged it so she opened the “gift” in front of a class she was teaching at the ACFW conference. Worked great. I had to wind the snake up tight to fit it in the box, so when Deb took off the lid it unwound and jumped onto her arm. She freaked. I grinned all day.
Nora: Brandilyn; As a SURPRISE to you I have an inside source (Ane Mulligan)that has provided a picture of the very moment you pulled a prank on Deb Raney. This was DEFINATELY FUNNY!! I know this is not the "exact" incident that you are referring in this interview but its fun to see.
I wish I had the picture of the frank that Deb pulled on you FIRST!! That would be funny to see (did I say that out loud :D) HA!Ha!
OK, You've told us you have been writing a very, very long time. Rumor has it that you have a picture of your oldest fan. Could you share the picture you took with that fan?
Nora: **Wow- Brandilyn - I had no idea how long you were talking about here! Ha! Ha! Your a great sport. Thanks for sharing this HONEST!! **
QUESTIONS I JUST HAD TO ASK!
You are in a life threatening situation and someone needs to save you. Who would you pick and why? It can be anyone from a superhero, cartoon, or TV/movie character.
Superman, because he could turn the world backward, turning back time. I could then launch a prestrike and kill off whoever was going to come after me.
What is your favorite place to eat breakfast? Favorite dining spot (when money isn't an issue)?
Breakfast is a home-made latte (the best) drunk at my computer.
Actual View from Brandilyn's porch
Favorite dining spot—the deck of our Idaho home, looking over the lake. Pure heaven.
What is a special quality or talent you have that would surprise people?
I can sing like a Munchkin. (“Di-i-ii-iii-nnn-ggg d-o-o-o-onn-gg, the witch is de-ea-ea-ea-dd…” – very, very high).
If you found a magic lamp and the genie was going to grant you three wishes – what would your wishes be?
To write brilliant suspense pages very, very fast, turning out a book a month without breaking a sweat. That’s only one wish, but that’d do the trick.
Okay, wait. Wish two—to resculpt my body just the way I want it.
Wish three—to have the metabolism my entire life to keep said body.
Wish four—oh drat, I’m out.
If you were able to be a super hero for a while, who would you be? (You are the author here so you can combine powers and costumes to make it work for you).
Wonder Woman’s figure. Invisible Man’s cloak. Superman’s ability to fly. Spiderman’s ability to climb buildings. No wait, I’m scared of heights—scratch that one. Yoda’s wisdom. Darth Vader’s laser sword, just ‘cause it’s cool.
If you could interview or hang out with two people for 48 hours who would you pick and why? (you can hang out with them separately or all together—it's your party).
Jesus and Satan. Together. I wanna see Satan sweat.
If you had all the time in the world and just as much money what would you do and why?
Oh, I suppose I’d write suspense novels on my yacht anchored off the Greek aisles. Write on my own time, of course—no deadlines. Travel all over the world with my wonderful husband. Buy all the designer purses I want. Give away lots of money to build churches, help the homeless, etc.
If you had to pick a TV "Reality" show to be on what would you pick and why?
I don’t watch reality shows, except for American Idol, so I don’t know. And I definitely like watching that one better than being on it. Novelists have enough critics. I don’t need Simon Cowell breathing down my back in front of 30 million people.
What movies did you see as a child that really had an impact on you? Why?
The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. Way cool—especially when God parted the Red Sea. It brought the Bible story to life for me.
(And you thought I was gonna name some suspenseful slasher movie…)
**YOU said it -- YES, I was WONDERING!!! :D)**
Nora, thanks for this interview. For all of you reading—you can visit my blog, Forensics and Faith HERE. And on my Web site HERE you can read the first chapters of all my books.
Brandilyn Collins Seatbelt Suspense
|2011 Caught up w/Brandilyn Collins in Atlanta @ICRS Conference|
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