Friday, August 25, 2006

Brian Reaves, author of Stolen Lives

Revenge: it’s a powerful force that can destroy a life. Don’t believe it? Just ask Robert Whitney, owner of a Birmingham-based software company. His wife and daughter were killed when trucker Derek Morrison purposely changed lanes and totaled their car. And part of Robert has died with them.

Matters only worsen when Robert discovers that deceit played a part in Derek’s absolution. Past the edge of sanity, Robert uses his computer knowledge to take the law into his own hands and ruin the lives of Derek and others involved. His mission in life is to make them suffer just a portion of what he has suffered. But will it be enough?

This novel is first-class, hopefully the first of many more to come. Contemporary in nature, relevant in theme, frenetic in pace, I literally could not put the book down until I finished it. The same day I started it. Brian Reaves has taken a plausible story and put it into overdrive. Ample suspense is built throughout as the stakes are continually raised in several characters’ lives.

My favorite character was a man named Levi. I won’t give away his role, but I will say that he is a paradox, an unlikely breeze that blows fresh air into the whole book. I can only pray there are really people like that in the world.

Brian Reaves is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the world of fiction. He knows how to draw the reader in, and once he’s got you, he doesn’t let go.


1. How did you get the idea for Stolen Lives?
The car wreck in the story is based on a real one in Birmingham several years ago. While the family didn't die, they were pulled under a transfer truck when it pulled into their lane. The State Trooper, for whatever reason, listed the accident as the car's fault even though the truck veered into them. It got me thinking, what if a guy had lost his family in the wreck and it was made to look like their fault? What if he decided to get revenge on the people responsible? And then I thought, what if he was a hacker and wanted to get creative in his revenge? The more I researched about identity theft and social engineering, the more I realized how dangerous someone could be if they knew what they were doing. It might even be possible to get revenge and never even be caught. The story itself flowed from that seed.

2. You're a computer programmer. Obviously, that knowledge helped you out in your research for this book. What other things/circumstances in your life have prepared you for writing this book?
I love to read everything from suspense novels to comic books. If I could say anything prepared me for writing this (or any other book) it would have to be the great stories I've read from other authors. That thrill of being pulled along helplessly as the writer hurls the characters from one problem situation keeps me glued to a book until I'm finished. That feeling--that rush--is what I shoot for.

I did a lot of research into social engineering as well. It was funny because the more I studied it, the more suspicious I became of even the little things like phone solicitors. I talked to a few "white hat" hackers (the good guys who try to get into systems to help a company find the leaks in their networks before the bad guys do), and found their world fascinating. I even went so far as to try and social engineer my way into a few situations just to make sure I was being realistic. I didn't do anything illegal, but it's amazing how easily some people are fooled.

I'm also an amateur magician, and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Both of those played parts in developing the Ian character in the story. My love of comic books plays heavily in my next book. :)

3. You're on staff with Infuze magazine (which I love, btw). Tell us a bit about that and how it came about.
I actually got involved back when it was known as "Fuse Magazine". I submitted a short story and got a lot of encouragement from Robin Parrish (the editor) about it. He compared me to Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman, and it was the biggest compliment I could have gotten. I kept sending in stories, and then they started looking for reviewers. I jumped on board with that, and have recently moved to doing a couple of interviews as well. I even got to interview one of my favorite authors of all time thanks to InFuze! It's been a lot of fun watching it mature into the amazing website it is today.

4. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I think anyone who has ever read a book by choice (and not forced to for a class at school or something) has at least considered the possibility of seeing their name in print. I tried writing my first short story after reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti when I was a teenager. While that story wasn't very good, it was a first effort. I started seriously considering the possibility of being a writer in my early twenties, but never realized how much work went into writing a book. I wondered why authors only put out one novel a year most of the time. I mean, it seemed like a fairly easy thing to do when you wrote a more than a couple of weeks at the most. I was so wrong! It took me three years to finish my first novel, and Stolen Lives took me about two years. I finished my last one in eight months, and it looks like that's about how long it will take to finish my current one, so I think I've hit my stride now.

5. Explain the relationship between your faith and writing. How do they intertwine?
Some authors get upset when you brand them a Christian writer. They want to be "a writer who happens to be a Christian", but not "a Christian writer". I've never understood that. When you've been given this awesome platform by God to encourage other people, why on earth would you not use it? No matter how dark my stories become, I always try to show the light of Christ in the end. And while I have no problem writing a short story that's just a fun read and not a Christian one, I always keep it within certain boundaries. I am a Christian, and I write stories...and I'm not ashamed to say it. You can tell a great tale and not use filthy language or graphic sex to keep readers interested.

That being said, there are actually parts of Stolen Lives that I feel are too preachy. It didn't seem that way at the time, but looking back on it I realize there were some places I could have toned it down a bit. I'm glad I shared the hope of Christ though. While actions may speak louder than words, I think words have their value too.

6. What do you want people to come away with after they've put down Stolen Lives?
I want them to glimpse an aspect of God they may have never considered. He's a wonderful Father, and we are His beloved children...but bad things happen from time to time. How often do we fail to thank God for the good things in our life while never neglecting to blame him when things go wrong? Yet in every moment of our lives, good or bad, God remains faithful and stands with open arms to hold us through the problems.

7. Who are your favorite authors/genres?
When speaking of long-term writers, my favorites are Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, Frank Peretti, and James Byron Huggins. There are a lot of new faces on the shelves now that write awesome stories too. Eric Wilson, T.L. Hines, Kathryn Mackel, and Robin Parrish are all fabulous writers to look for.

I'm a sucker for a suspense novel. Give me one with a supernatural twist and I'm definitely hooked. Dean Koontz's The Face remains one of my all-time favorites.

8. What is the worst writing advice you've ever been given? The best?
Worst: "Lose the first sentence." An established author was trying to help me a few years ago. He was really opposed to the first line of SL, and kept wanting me to change it. He said it gave away a key plot point, but I loved the way it set the tone of the story. I kept it, and it ended up being the selling point of the book to my publisher. The acquisitions editor loved the line as soon as he read it, and it stuck out to him.

Best: "Learn the craft." James Scott Bell said that in a writing class I took, and it's really rung true. There's so much more to writing a good story than just sitting down at a laptop and punching words into a document. You have to constantly be improving with each story, and that takes effort. You have to consciously learn from those who have succeeded before you. Make your vocabulary grow, tighten the scenes so there's no "literary fat" anywhere in them, and give your characters that third dimension that makes them seem real enough to get off the page and walk away. For most people, none of this comes naturally--but we can all learn it.

9. What has helped you the most in honing your craft?
Reading other writers in my genre. I guess it's bad in a way because I no longer read a story to just enjoy it. I tend now to dissect it, seeing what makes it great. Then I apply those things to my own writing.

I've also attended a couple of writer's conferences, and those have been invaluable to me. There's just something about being around other writers that can energize you and get you excited about your story again. And the time spent learning from the pros really paid off in terms of knowing what works and what doesn't.

10. Can we expect a sequel any time soon? (Please!)
While Robert and Derek have had their story told, there are a few other characters in there who still have things to say. I've written a follow-up that I really love, but it's up to the publisher. Actually, it's ultimately up to the readers. They're the ones who can influence the market.

11. What are your plans for the future?
Several years ago, I self-published Portal. It was the first book in a trilogy, and I want to finish the next two books in the story because it was a group of characters I really cared about. I still write on the second book from time to time and know where it's going. I'd really like to see that finished soon.

I want to continue writing and improving with each story. As I mentioned earlier, my track record with books has been slow, but I've set the goal to finish two novels a year from this point on. So far, one's down and I'm well into another. Whether they get published or not is still up in the air, but it's a personal goal for me. I'm really pumped about the book I'm working on now. It's never been done in Christian fiction before. It sort of steps further into the Christian suspense/horror genre Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti started with House.

12. Please share a few hints on how to prevent identity theft from happening to us.
Safeguard all your personal information. Don't take anything for granted. I've stood in the self-checkout lines at Wal-Mart several times and seen people just leave their personal information there for the taking. One man left his credit card sitting near the scanner while he waited for it to process. It's just sixteen digits, and it would have been easy for me to quickly memorize it, write them down, or get a quick picture with my camera phone while pretending to talk into it. After that, anything I want to order online is mine as long as I invest in a PO box, or I could charge a pay-as-you-go cell phone to it for at least a few weeks before the charge was noticed. One woman stood there with her wallet open as she scanned items. I had a clear shot of her driver's license. That might not have done me that much good, but she had one of those wallets with the clear inserts for photos, and the top thing in her insert was her Social Security card. That would have been enough information to get a credit card in her name for myself. Those are just two examples, but it's happened several times in different variations. People punch in their PIN numbers where anyone can see it, never thinking a thing about it. They never realize someone could be looking for the information they provide.

Shred all personal documents. Identity theft can happen by someone getting into your garbage and pulling out old bills or cancelled checks. Bank statements are priceless to a social engineer. It only costs about thirty dollars for a good personal shredder. It costs a lot more if someone gets their hands on the wrong information.

Protect your computer with a good antivirus program (like Norton or AVG), a good spyware detector (like Spyware Doctor or Windows Defender), and a good adware detector (like AdAware). You should also consider investing in a stealth websurfing program that allows you to surf the Internet without leaving any "tracks". Don't open an email attachment from an unfamiliar person. Actually, given the advancement in viruses now, just opening the message itself can expose your computer to more than you realize. I know this will raise a lot of ire from folks, but Outlook is perhaps the worst email program to use as far as viruses go. They've come a long way on making it safer, but most email viruses are written for it. If you do use it, at least disable the preview pane. Otherwise, choose something like Eudora or Thunderbird.

Take extra care if you have a family computer that others will be on besides yourself. While you might be the safest person you know online, your kids or spouse might not be that way. Limit where others can go through security software or through the router itself. Also, don't leave your computer online if you're not going to use it for a while. A lot can happen when you're not there.

Never give out your PIN number online to any email you get. If PayPal or Ebay say something's wrong with your account, don't panic and click on the link in the message. Most of the time it's just a phish sent to see if you'll give personal information. The website the link takes you to is designed to closely emulate the real thing, so you might never notice the difference. Close the email, then log onto the website through your browser and check your account that way.

Also, watch out for telephone solicitors. Most are just the annoying ones you're used to, but if someone starts asking personal information, beware! I gave examples of how this could be used in my novel. If I have your checking account number from standing in line behind you in Wal-Mart or by going through your trash, all I have to do is call and trick you into giving me your mother's maiden name or PIN number by acting like your credit card company or bank. Loaded with those two bits of information, I can clean out your bank account within minutes.

These are just a few of the things you can do to protect yourself. I went through a lot of these in my novel (though showing how damaging they can be), and there were more to touch on. I haven't even talked about what can be done to your workplace with a simple phone call. If someone called you saying they were from the IT department and were having problems with your login, would you think twice about it when they asked for your password to verify the information? Most people wouldn't. And you'd just inadvertently let a social engineer into your company's network. No need to hack their way in when they can log in with a legitimate username and password.

Just remember: guard your information. One in six people will be the victims of some form of identity theft this year.

13. Anything else you'd like to say to our captive audience?
If you have a dream, I'd encourage you to do something to help God make it happen. Want to be an author? Write something. Want to be an artist? Learn to paint. Every great musician had to spend hours learning how to play their instrument. Don't spend your life saying, "I'll bet I could be a good author/artist/musician/singer" but never try. Give God the chance to make your dreams come true, and give him the materials to work with in the process.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this interview and (hopefully) my novel. Please feel free to write and let me know what you thought of it. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks so much, Brian. You've been entertaining and informative as well. I wish you God's blessings in your writing.
Here's the link to Brian's website. Go visit sometime:

Monday, August 21, 2006

Winner for last week's book giveaway...

Congratulations, Teresa. I hope you enjoy reading your own copy of Abiding Darkness.

God bless, Karri

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

This week's feature author: John Aubrey Anderson

Leave a comment between today and August 20th on this post for a chance to win your own free copy!


Your book's depiction of demonic thought and activity is often frightening. How have your readers reacted to the book's intensity?
I appreciate your comment about Abiding Darkness being frightening. When I started this project, I really wanted a fiction work that would steal its reader's sleep; and I got it. I frequently receive reports from people, men and women alike, who have found they can't read the book at night. Some readers say they won't read it when they're home alone, others tell me they can only read a page or two at a time, and a final handful talk about becoming so frightened they have to put it aside; all because they are scared of what might happen next. On the other side of that coin are the reports from people who've stayed up all night reading because they couldn't put the book down. The response has been more than gratifying.

Does the Bible's teaching on Satan and angels support what you've written?
The short answer to the question is: Yes. The longer answer is: I had to use normal conversation as their method of information exchange because I don't know how they communicate. Too, I attributed a more human-like response to both the angels and demons in order to give the reader a reference point for their actions.

Do you believe demons are real and plotting the demise of humans?
My answer is "Yes" to both parts of the question. A word search of the Bible reveals over three hundred verses that use the word "angel" or "demon" or their plural forms. Add Satan, and several dozen more verses come into play. The Bible is saturated with accounts of the activity of angels and demons.

I believe the Bible to be the inerrant written word of the only living God - and it tells me that angels and demons exist. So...are the angels and demons real? Most assuredly. Are they plotting the demise of humans? The demonic realm's evil intent goes beyond what you and I can grasp.

Within the bounds allowed by God, Satan and his demons are plotting the spiritual destruction of as many humans as possible. They know the Bible well, they know God is going to bring this present world to an end, and they know they're going to be cast into hell. Until that time, they will work unceasingly to destroy the lives of as many people as possible; turning them from an understanding of the real truth...committed to taking as many as they can to hell. They are God's enemies and ours.

In the meantime, we can hear the heart of a demon in a quote from Abiding Darkness. "...his solitary function - his duty, the reason he existed - was to broadcast pain."

Your book makes it seem as if there are angels and demons here on earth. What's your response to those who say all that exists in the world can be seen with the naked eye?
That question takes in a lot of territory. At first blush, I would say that if I were Satan, and if I wanted to be more effective, I would earnestly promote the belief that I did not exist.

That said, and with the understanding that having to see things to believe in them rules out any belief in God, I suppose I would introduce a question of how one can believe in the wind? Or heat? How about good and evil? Or the force of gravity? The answer? If our hearts are not buried in the sands of irrationality, you and I can see conclusive evidence of many things that are going to remain invisible.

How can a person know if he or she is under spiritual attack?
If there is a cut-and-dried answer to this question, it is beyond me. Our battle, as humans, is ongoing on three fronts - with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We're contending with the world and its pervading influence; our fleshly desires and the sinful side of our nature stand ready to wreak havoc in our lives; and the devil and his minions are constantly watching for us to drop our guard.

When it comes right down to it, I guess I'm less concerned with the origin of any given attack than I am with whether or not I'm thoroughly equipped to act in a godly fashion when it comes.

Have you ever fought with a demon or seen an angel?
I've never fought with a demon. As I understand it, demons can possess - control and influence - humans and animals, but they cannot become a visible form. Angels can take on human form, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that lots of folks have seen one.

Which of the villains in the book scares you the most?
To paraphrase an old Pogo Possum line: I have met the enemy, and he is me. To me, my scariest villain is John Aubrey Anderson. God tells me that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, but that's another subject for another day.

The villains in the book, the demon-controlled family - especially the woman, are mean, but their potential for evil is yet to be fully explored...that will come in following books. The principal demon in Abiding Darkness - the one in the lake - is scary enough, but capturing how vile he really is may not be humanly possible. For me, it's frightening to look beyond the story know that the day is coming when God is going to slip Satan's leash...and no writer's imagination can peek one level deep into the evil that will occur in those days...and that should scare us all.

Why did you choose to write in this particular time period?
It's almost as if the series started of its own accord. It chose the 1940's because it was such a special time; it picked the Mississippi Delta of the 1940's because it was a special place. The value system was different back then. People moved at a slower pace over shorter distances and information exchange was limited. The communities were smaller; the people were closer and more involved in each others lives. Also, the people of that day didn't have to be strange to be colorful.

Did you draw from personal experiences to write this novel?
Oh, yes. The adventures and exploits that made up my childhood would provoke the envy of Tom Sawyer, but sharing a small part of them would take more words than I used in the novel. Just think ideal; then add boys, dogs, and energy.

The characters seem very real. Where did you pick up the voices for these people?
I grew up with the people in Abiding Darkness. Granted, some of the characters are compilations of people I've known; half of one person and part of another. For the most part, all I had to do was just tweak them a little, maybe boost the octane in their blood a bit. As soon as I figured out who the characters were, the rest was easy; I let them use the voices they'd used all their lives.

My review:
Submerged in the inky blackness of Cat Lake lies a treacherous evil that seeks to destroy Missy Parker and her loved ones. She will experience a battle like no other and a life-changing sacrifice. The war, however, has just begun. How will she choose to respond?

Set in mid-twentieth century Mississippi, Abiding Darkness explores the reality of spiritual warfare while creating unforgettable characters and challenging the reader in his faith. Racial tensions play a big part in this story, giving the series name “The Black or White Chronicles” double meaning.

Positive elements:
Anderson nails the accents of the southerners in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their drawls in my mind. My tears came as welcome friends while pondering the portrayal of our actions causing a ripple effect that stretches far beyond what we can see. There is a theme of urgency to spread the gospel that the author threads throughout. As one of the characters says repeatedly, the most important thing in the world is “to know Him and to make Him known”. Other themes presented include protecting children and the innocent, and that everyone is special to God in their own way.

Other comments:
I personally didn't find this book overly scary. But I don't scare easily. :) And while this story engaged me on many levels, I stumbled over the many scene changes in the omniscient POV. It was necessary in order to gain the perspective of all involved including the angels and demons; I’m just used to a break in the paragraphs when a scene changes, so this proved different for me in that way. The author writes in an informal style that matches the setting and characters. Anyone interested in a supernatural story with strong thematic material (I dare not say "preachy") will enjoy this as I did and find it a worthwhile read. There are questions in the back for group study as well, a great addition to the book.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Meet T. L. Hines, author of Waking Lazarus

Meet one of my new favorite authors. There's a lot of buzz going on about him right now, due to his fabulous debut novel. Read below my review AND interview. Thanks, Tony!

It’s an age-old question, one that individuals have asked themselves for eons: Does my life have a purpose? Some know already why they exist on this earth, some don’t. Jude Allman doesn’t have a clue.

Not your normal Nebraskan, Jude Allman has risen from the dead three times. How does one survive drowning, lightning, and freezing after arriving DOA at a hospital? No one. Except Jude. He’s a medical anomaly and small town celebrity. But he’d rather slip away into obscurity than be asked about his journeys to the Other Side.

So he moves away to a secluded little Montana town. For a while it seems he can fade into the background and appear normal to prying eyes. When odious crimes touch close to home, Jude is thrown into the middle of a foreboding mystery. Can he trust the people around him, or must he find his way alone?

This novel appeals to me on many levels. If I can’t finish a book in three days, it’s probably not exciting enough—I easily gulped this one down within that time period. I love spooky—this fits the bill. The mounting expectancy gripped me. My pages nearly singed due to my lightning-fast turning. The supernatural element sent me sky-rocketing into fiction heaven. Bravo to the author for fashioning a tale that has implications far beyond the physical here and now.

As far as predictability, there’s not much. I have to admit, I did figure out one major plot twist before it was revealed, but that’s just my keen observation at work. (Ha.) There were plenty of fragments the reader won’t be able to piece together on his own.

My high recommendation comes with a warning. This isn’t for the faint of heart. If you relish dark, mysterious, stomach-clenching stories, get this book. I’ll leave the light on for you.

~ ~ ~
1. Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you dream of being a rock star, doctor, or other such thing?
Hey, funny you should ask that. I've always loved, loved, loved music. When I was about 12, I decided I wanted to be Jim Morrison. My only problem? I can't read, write, sing or play music. I didn't let that stop me, so I decided I'd be a deejay. In high school, I thought about trying to become a recording engineer; I remember sending for brochures
and materials from an "audio engineer" school that advertised in "Rolling Stone" magazine.

2. Your road to being published is somewhat of a fairytale. (That can either depress me or give me hope.) Tell what happened in your writing during the years before that fateful day.
Yes, it is kind of an amazing story, isn't it? My book was "discovered" on my blog when an acquisitions editor read the first chapter and asked for more--after I'd had more than 100 rejections. You can't make up this kind of stuff.

The rock star/deejay/recording engineer career path aside, my "serious" desire was to write from a rather early age. About age 12, in fact. Writing was always an escape; I remember spending long nights in the basement, writing notes, journals, stories and the like. During college, I studied English and Advertising, and went into the Advertising field to write copy for 16 years--everything from business plans to restroom posters to television spots to articles to advertorials. And you know what? Every bit of it helped; I'm thankful I've had that career.

In 2003, my wife and I merged our advertising agency with a larger advertising agency, which helped me focus on my first love: writing fiction. Even so, I managed to go through most of my rejections--I said more than 100 before, but it was more like 160--from 2003 to 2005. That was for a couple of different novels. I started getting frustrated, and really came to a standstill on my writing because I felt horrible I wasn't getting published. Then, I had what I consider my Abraham moment: I offered my overwhelming desire to be published as a sacrifice, and told God it didn't matter if I was ever published or not
because I was going to write for the sheer love of it. And two weeks later, I got that email from Dave Long at Bethany House, asking to see my whole book.

Like I said, you can't really make up this kind of story. But God can.

Karri here: That reminds me a whole lot of Bruce Wilkinson’s book The Dream Giver. We are called to lay down the dream God has given us and give it back to Him so, in time, He can give the dream back or give us a new/bigger/better one. ☺

3. What is your favorite/least favorite part of writing?
You know, depending on the day, I can hate or love every part of the process. But I have to say, I'm probably a bit odd in that I actually like the revision process more than the first draft. I think most writers love the "creation" of a story. I do, too, but I think I almost prefer having a good skeleton to work with, and being able to add some muscle to it--that's what all the subsequent drafts are about.

I don't know that I can say there's a least favorite part of writing, really. I do love everything from the brainstorming to the final draft, making new discoveries along the way.

4. Is there anything you've realized related to writing that you wish you had known earlier?
The single biggest breakthrough for me has been: get a first draft in the can. When I was a younger writer, I spent a lot of time writing. Unfortunately, most of that time was spent writing and rewriting the same 50 pages, and never moving forward. I remember thinking I'd never finish a novel. And with that work method, I wouldn't have.

It took me many years to discover the joy of blasting through a first draft, not worrying about holes or perfect sentences or grammatical errors or the fact that I changed the name of my main character from "Eddie" to "Chamberlain" in Chapter 16. When I decided it was okay to just get the story down on paper, I made a huge breakthrough. And you know what? Sometimes, on that first draft, I can get into this great zone and just cruise through 20-30 pages at a stretch, without going
back and making a lot of changes. In WAKING LAZARUS, without giving away too much of the story, there's a section that takes place in Kenneth Sohler's house. It's a very tense, action-packed section, with some of my favorite scenes in the book. And that whole section was written, almost as it appears in final form, in one day. I think letting the story carry me along in the first draft helps get me to some of those nice stretches. It doesn't always happen, but it happens.

It may not happen for everyone, however; what works for me may be wrong for you. I truly think every writer has to discover the method that works best for her.

5. Some authors start with story, some with a character, some with a theme. Which do you start with?
Great question. I don't know that it's always the same with me, but I can tell you, more often than not, it's a character. Every writer, I think, goes through the day asking "What if?" questions. Most of my "What if?" questions are about character: What if there was a man who kept dying and coming back to life? That was the question that led to WAKING LAZARUS. It started with the character of Jude, who and what he was, and developed from there.

6. You mention that Stephen King inspired you. What other authors were pivotal in your journey?
So many, really. When I was young, I read a lot of strict genre fantasy and SF fiction: I absolutely loved Jack L. Chalker, Piers Anthony, and Roger Zelazny. As I got older, I started getting into some more genre blends of literary/SF/horror/modern fable--stuff I think is best called "slipstream" fiction. This included Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and the like. They were writers who wrote horror or Sci-Fi or whatever, but also mixed in elements of other genres. Then, in college, I started turning to a lot of crime fiction. A couple of my current crime fiction faves are George Pelecanos and James Lee Burke. Hemingway has been a big influence; I've always loved and studied his dialogue. And in faith-based fiction, of course, I certainly owe a tip of the hat to writers such as Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker and Brandilyn Collins. Without the trails they blazed, I wouldn't be published today.

7. How do you balance your day job with your writing?
Not always so well, I'm afraid. When I'm working on a manuscript, I try to get up at 5:00 am and work for what I consider my "golden hours"--the first two hours of the day. As far as writing goes, that's the best time for me. Then, I'm off to the "day job" at the agency from 8:30 to 5:30; during the workday, I try to answer emails and what-not as I receive them. Evenings after 6:00 are family time; I have a lovely wife and a lovely eight-year-old daughter, and I try not to let my work take up too much of their time. I'd love to devote more time to writing, because honestly, some of those "golden hours" in the morning get occupied by marketing efforts and what-not. But the arrangement is working so far. I can produce a book a year with that schedule.

8. Do you think in the future you'll try to market another book in the ABA?
I don't know. Maybe. I've spent so much time on that ABA/CBA fence that I'm unsure if it's horribly meaningful to me anymore. It seems to me that so many writers in the CBA want to work in the ABA/general market/secular market/whatever you want to call it. At the same time, however, I think there are a lot of ABA writers who would love to break into CBA bookstores--longer sales cycles, less competition, and a growing market ("religious fiction" is one of the few growing categories of fiction). I have friends who have published in the ABA, and I can tell you they're envious of the treatment, attention and support I've received from my CBA publisher. I also recently read an article about George Pelecanos, one of my favorite ABA crime fiction novelists, and the sales figures for his books. This is a guy who has received great reviews and attention for his work, and his hardcover sales are surprisingly anemic. Would I really be better off on ABA shelves as a midlist author, grouped with ten times as many books where it's even more difficult to stand out? Who knows?

I'm overjoyed to be where I am, and I'm happy to be finding an audience.

9. What is the main thing you’re trying to achieve in your writing?
I really believe you have to write for yourself first. I mean, you're telling stories for other people, but the meaning, the heart of the story, has to come from you. It has to mean something to you; if it doesn't grab you personally, it doesn't have a chance of grabbing readers. I think there are books like that on the shelves, and you can figure out you're reading one of them within a few pages. So I really want people to FEEL something when they're reading what I write. I concentrate on the plot/story level, so maybe readers feel excitement or fear for a character in peril. If they do, that's great; I've done my job. I also try to say something with the theme and the subtext, though; I want to explore bigger questions in my work. So if someone reads WAKING LAZARUS and notices the main character is named "All-man", and relates to his journey of discovery, well, that's also great. Either way, I'm happy.

10. Can you tell us about your current writing projects? I eagerly await your second book.
I'm working on my second book for Bethany House right now. The title for the book was just selected yesterday, and it's a title I really love: THE DEAD WHISPER ON. It's about a woman who hears her dead father speaking to her from the shadows. He tells her the shadows of our world are occupied by dead spirits, and recruits her into a secret government network that works with the shadow operatives. But of course, she soon discovers all is not as it seems.

The book takes place in Butte, Montana, a city I really love. And, it's a little bit "out there" in terms of some of the things I'm trying to do. WAKING LAZARUS made me nervous because of the brutal content; THE DEAD WHISPER ON makes me a bit nervous because of the supernatural factors. But it's been a lot of fun to write, and its messages mean a lot to me personally. I think of it as a cross between crime noir fiction and "The X-Files."

(Karri here: that sounds fabulous! Hope I'm one of the first to read it!)

I'm also starting to develop some proposals for other works: a three-book series, and three more stand alone books.

11. What is your best advice to writers out there?
This is going to sound aloof, but the best advice is: write. Just write. Don't worry about publication so much. Don't worry about what others think of your work so much. Just write something that moves you personally, that means something to you. In Christian terms, I think writing can be very akin to prayer on so many levels, and if you're being honest and exploring issues that mean something to you, your writing will bring you closer to God. Even if you don't want to think of it in Christian terms, self-examination is a powerful thing.

Ironically, though, if you do that, I think you'll be writing the kind of vital work publishers are wanting. If you're a person constantly worried about the "marketability" of your writing, or if you're thinking, "Maybe I should try chick lit because it's selling well," or if you're constantly haunting online web sites and asking questions about formatting or structure or whatever, I would suggest you're not working on something that's meaningful enough. Write about what haunts you and occupies your mind. Write about what takes your breath away. Write about what scares you.

Karri here: Eep. Um, what an idea. *gulps*

12. You've certainly heard from many readers. What do you think readers want? Why will they pick up a book and stick with it?
It's so, so wonderful to get an email from someone who has read the book and enjoyed it. Really. Just one of those emails keeps me smiling all day, and it never gets old. We humans are social creatures, after all, and we crave feedback from others. Writers are probably even more twisted: we work in isolation for so long, and want people to read and
like what we've written. It's something like being on a deserted island and getting a message in a bottle.

This may sound odd, but I think readers want to feel as if they're not reading. By that I mean, they want to pick up a book and visit another world, and forget they're looking at words on a page. That's the magic of writing--and reading. I've talked to a few people who have said they'll usually finish a book after they've started it, even if they don't like it very much. They want to know what happens. That's not the case with me. I'll read a book, and give it maybe 50 pages to transport me. Or, I'll give it three or four "flubs." A "flub" is something that jars me out of the story--an awkward phrase or a character who does
something that seems utterly illogical. If I hit page 50 or too many flubs, I move on. There are plenty of books out there I'll enjoy; why waste time on ones I don't? I don't want reading to be work. I want it to be magical.

13. Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers?
I think it's impossible to say "thank you" too much, so: thank you to everyone who picks up something I write. If you love it, great. I'd love to hear from you. If you don't love it, well, I certainly appreciate you giving it a shot. And you know what? I'd still love to hear from you. I may be a bit too starved for attention, in fact; I've created a special section of my web site called the Other Side (, where people can sign up as volunteer publicists for the book. In exchange for telling others about WAKING LAZARUS, people get inside information and deleted scenes from
the book, and a chance to win unique prizes: an iPod Nano, a share of my first royalty check, or a role in the next novel. See? I told you I was starved for attention.

*Karri erupts into song: ”Break on through to the other side…”
Thanks again, Tony, for taking time out of your busy schedule so we can get to know you. Here’s the website again, folks: Go pay him a visit.