This week's book is Fatal Illusions. I've just started it and so far am enjoying it. Instead, of a review, come back for that, here's an interview with debut novelist Adam Blumler...
Adam, this is your debut novel. How did the what-if for the book come to you?
Frank Peretti’s earliest supernatural thrillers taught me that Christian novels can do more than entertain. I wanted to write something not only suspenseful but also meaningful. My prayer is that the message will resonate with readers and maybe even challenge their spiritual thinking.
The novels of Mary Higgins Clark also inspired me. I studied the organization and plot lines of her novels and wondered if I could write something as good. I also like her shifting points of view and her short, numerous chapters. (Readers might notice a resemblance.) Her novel You Belong to Me especially inspired me to try my own hand at a serial killer “female in jeopardy” suspense tale. Because most Christian readers are women, I decided to make my main protagonist female—in fact, a pastor’s wife, a protagonist you don’t read about very often. Add to that my love of true crime and forensic science, and I was on my way. Christian suspense novels by Brandilyn Collins and Terri Blackstock have also been a big influence.
A past experience also provided a creative springboard. A church voted to remove from membership a believer who was sincerely repentant of immorality. I began to play the “what if” game in my mind. What if the person who was disciplined got really ticked? What if he or she became mad enough to kill? I thought a church discipline scenario created an unusual motive for murder—hence one of the subplots in Fatal Illusions. I also read Ruth Brandon’s The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini. This biography of the famous illusionist fascinated me and helped me develop the characterization of my serial killer. In fact, readers will discover an important plot clue connected to Houdini.
Oh, Mary Higgins Clark has been an inspiration for me, too! I wanted to write like her before the Christian market opened up. I’m so glad there’s now a place for books like ours! Tell us a bit about your journey to publication...
I loved writing imaginative tales when I was a kid, but I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until I won a state high school creative writing contest. That’s when I realized that my writing was better than average and that perhaps God wanted me to do something with it. Because I loved writing and got good grades in English, I decided to get a journalism degree in college; it seemed like a smart vocational decision fitted to my skills. By then, it was pretty much a given in my mind that God wanted me to write. Exactly what I was supposed to write I didn’t know yet. For fourteen years I served as a staff editor for two ministries, but I always preferred writing stories.
I began Fatal Illusions in 2002 in conjunction with a Writer’s Digest correspondence course on novel writing. I finished the first draft in the fall of 2005 and began contacting literary agents. In January 2006, agent Steve Laube, a well-known and respected voice in Christian fiction, asked to see the full manuscript. Though he ultimately declined to represent me, he sent me a two-page letter, pointing out how few manuscripts reach the stage that mine did, and gave me eight pointers on how to make the novel publishable. Energized, I followed his advice and got to work, but I still couldn’t find an agent or publisher. A year later, I contacted Kregel Publications about opportunities to edit books from home (my day job is as a freelance editor). The managing editor noticed on my resume that I had written several unpublished novels and asked to see my latest project. Kregel liked what they saw in Fatal Illusions and accepted it for publication. God opened a door I never could have opened for myself!
How exciting! God is definitely our best agent and career coach. What one thing do you wish you'd known before you started this journey?
How much time and work go into a novel between the contract signing and the finished product. I honestly thought an editor just made a few tweaks, and then the novel was ready for publication. Ha! I also never realized how airtight the timeline and plot need to be, especially in suspense. One of my editors actually checked flight times to be sure one of my characters could plausibly be at a certain location at a certain time. My eyes were opened to the importance of checking details, and I’ll never write another novel the same way again.
I find I'm always learning as I write books. What did your characters teach you?
As a writer, this project stretched me more than anything else I've ever worked on. Many of the novel's themes are also areas I've had to work through in my own thinking. When life doesn't seem to make sense, how do I respond? Do I trust God, even when His ways are difficult to understand from a human standpoint? Do I try to keep secrets from God or from others? Do I try to hide who I really am inside? What happens if I try to live a lie?
What else would you like to tell us about this book?
I did a lot of research for this project. Calligraphy didn’t require much research because I had dabbled in it in high school and won a few awards. Information about magicians wasn’t tough to find either because I had already been researching Houdini on the Internet after reading a biography about him. For serial killers, I watched a lot of Forensic Files and Body of Evidence on TV and read Mary Higgins Clark and other crime/suspense authors. One big area I had to research was police procedure since a retired homicide detective helps the Thayers catch the Magician Murderer. I researched crime scene investigation, forensic science, computer crimes (since my villain is a cyber-stalker), and other related areas. But these have always been areas of interest, so I hardly thought of the research as work. Because Gillian is a professional calligrapher of famous quotations, Bible verses, and love poems, I also had to research her literary side since that’s her lens for viewing the world.
What's coming next for you?
A sequel called Plagues. The main characters from Fatal Illusions are reunited, this time at a Christian conference center in Michigan’s north woods, which is where all novels in my hoped-for series will be set. Marc and Gillian Thayer think they are getting away for some much-needed R&R, but protestors with placards and bullhorns shatter the otherwise-peaceful surroundings. A Bible translation committee is holding its regional meeting, and a mob is protesting the committee’s efforts to create a controversial parallel Bible.
While the protestors call down God’s wrath, an apparent plague of blood strikes the facility. Is God displeased with the committee? Are the protestors somehow to blame? When a committee member turns up dead, Marc and Gillian put their vacation on hold, enlist the help of retired homicide detective Chuck Riley, and take a closer look at the bizarre plagues as they escalate in intensity. Throw in a fictionalized account of a true mine disaster and an autistic boy who can apparently see the future, and you get the gist. I’m having a blast planning and writing the twists and turns.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Adam Blumer lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with his wife, Kim, and his daughters, Laura and Julia.
He works full-time as a freelance writer and editor. A print journalism graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC), he served in editorial roles for fourteen years at Northland Baptist Bible College (Dunbar, WI) and Awana Clubs International Headquarters (Streamwood, IL).
He has published numerous short stories and articles. Fatal Illusions released by Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI) is his first novel.