by Michael Hicks Thompson
I’ll let you decide.
Not only has Brandilyn Collins been on the ACFW Executive Board since 2001 (one year after its founding), she’s the emcee for the annual conferences.
She’s won the Carol Award three times, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice, the Inspy, the Christian Retailer’s Best Award (twice), and finaled in numerous other awards.
While this beautiful red-headed, green-eyed lady has written over 30 Christian fiction novels, she’s also an exceptional teacher. I attended her first weekend writer’s retreat at her home in the great Pacific Northwest, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She taught us a method for developing characters based on a book she’s written, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors.
Brandilyn’s most prolific and award-winning novels are in her Seatbelt Suspense® series. RT BookReviews says she’s “A master storyteller.” Don’t we all wish for a review like that?
Here’s what Publishers Weekly wrote about her: “Collins is a fine writer who knows how to keep readers turning pages.”
Her Seatbelt Suspenseâ novels offer “fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith.” Her contemporary novels delve into deep issues, some with humor.
At her Fantastic Fiction Retreat this past June, one of our fourteen attendees asked Brandilyn if she starts out to write a Christian story first; or does she set out to write a fiction story then add Christian principles? I liked her answer: “To be a successful fiction writer, you must first write a compelling story. I don’t start out to preach to anyone. I just begin with a premise—a story that’s riveting in and of itself. As I write and get to know my protagonist better, the Christian thread becomes apparent.”
Her first Fantastic Fiction Retreat was a success. So she’s planning on hosting another next June 8 and 9. Space is limited to 12 people. Anyone interested should email her right away. She can be contacted through her website, www.brandilyncollins.com.
Her teaching approach is quite different, taking the seven concepts from method acting and tweaking them for the novelist’s use. You will love your two days at her retreat. I promise. But, I’d advise that you either be an already published author, or have written a novel that’s ready for publication. Her retreat is not perfectly suited for beginners.
Did I mention she also knows her way around the kitchen? She prepared lunch and dinner (two nights) for us. She can cook! And she’ll share her recipes.
She exercises daily. Something all of us writers should do. To clear our heads.
Most ACFW members aren’t aware that she’s battled Lyme disease. Here’s a brief account: “In 2002 I became very sick with Lyme but didn’t know what it was until diagnosed in early 2003. The sickness crippled me in mind and body. I could barely walk or stand. I stuttered when I talked. In time I lost the ability to read. I certainly couldn’t write my novels. I’d become mostly home-bound, with quality of life gone.
“In May of 2003 God granted me a miraculous healing of the disease. After a special time of prayer, all symptoms disappeared within an hour.” A miracle?
You can read the complete story of her healing on her website. Many ACFW members were part of a prayer chain, which Brandilyn believes was the answer to her healing. Her novel, Over the Edge, is a tense suspense, with information about Lyme disease woven into the story. Her story is worth reading, even if you don’t have the dreaded disease.
Her website is that of a professional author. Something from which we writers could all learn and benefit. Note how she structures the navigation, provides personal info, offers incentives to sign up for her Sneak Pique newsletter, and gives the media three levels of bio.
To give you an idea of how she likes to begin a story, let me take you to the opening of her latest novel, PLUMMET.
I’ll tell you my story. I know you might not understand. But please believe I didn’t mean to do any of this. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be in this position. I’d give anything to turn back the clock. Start again. Be me again.
That first day it started I couldn’t even cry—until hours later. The tears came cold and angry, full of revenge. By then it was too late.
It was Tuesday, November 14.
I hunched behind the sleek cherry wood desk I’d occupied for one week at Jack Larrett Financial, cell phone to my ear. My new boss, who’d insisted I call him J.L., was in his office, door closed. Forty minutes ago a brassy blonde, streaming indignation, had barged into the office, demanding to “see J.L. right now.” She wore skin-tight jeans tucked into boots, a tight red sweater, and a white scarf around her neck. No coat, even though the temperature was in the mid-thirties. Idahoans know how to handle the cold. Since the woman and J.L. had disappeared into his office, I’d heard voices raised more than once. Good thing they were so intent on their conversation. My thirteen-year-old daughter was on my cell—her after school check-in call. She was crying. Again.
This is how you begin a novel. Well, at least it’s one way. And a good one.
She even claims to be married to the “best man on earth,” which I can personally attest to after playing golf with him. Mark Collins. They have three grown children, no pets, but do see lots of deer and turkeys in their lakeside home overlooking Coeur d’Alene Lake.
So, do you think she’s a rock star in the Christian Fiction novelist world? Let ACFW know what you think.
Michael Hicks Thompson has written six Christian novels, four of them winning several major literary awards, including the Selah for Best Mystery Suspense from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Asso, two Gold Winners from the International Books Awards, Winner for Best Religion Fiction from the Beverly Hills Book Awards, Winner for Best Religion Fiction for the Inde Excellence Awards, one Silver IPPY and two Bronze Ippys from the Independent Book Publishers Asso., plus several finalists in various award contests.