|Creaking Door Suspense Author Bethany MacManus
I’ve followed my interviewee Bethany MacManus’ blog for awhile over at http://www.bethanymacmanus.com/
, and I’m totally impressed by the concept of her writing. Not only does she blog about many common fears here: http://anoiseinthenight.wordpress.com/
, she also writes novels about them! Since I’ve definitely watched one too many scary movies myself, I wanted to ask how she melds fear and faith in her fiction.
First of all, here’s a little intro to Bethany, then we’ll get right down to the questions!
Bethany Macmanus lives in Texas with her husband, daughter, son, and outside cat Rosie. After practicing as an RN for five years, Bethany left the nursing field to pursue a fiction writing passion the Lord planted in her heart when she was a child. And as Nancy Drew mysteries were her guilty pleasure during those early years, so she naturally gravitates her pen toward the things that go bump in the night.
She draws many interesting and perplexing facts from her former career as a wound care nurse. These come in handy when her characters get themselves into serious scrapes–the kind involving hospitalization. She also has a paramedic for a husband!
HG: Bethany, you’re a writer of “creaking door suspense.” Yet you discuss on your blog how faith in Jesus casts out fear. How do you reconcile the two with your writing?
BM: Good question, Heather! I’ve read suspense novels in the secular market for years and thought, ‘Why do the inner journeys in these books have to be so unsatisfying? How amazing, and how easy would it be, for the villain’s evil to actually drive the main character to seek out the true way, the One Way, to salvation?’
Not all of my MCs will be unbelievers starting out, and neither will they all pray to receive salvation, but having the villain, whose very presence makes the reader’s neck hair stand on end (I hope!), so sure of what he/she believes in (sure enough to kidnap, rape, or murder), I show that the MC’s training to fight this villain has to be more than physical; it has to be spiritual as well.
This is not a battle of flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers…In such a way, it is Jesus who has won the victory, who has cast out the MC’s fear. (I don’t get too deep into spiritual warfare, though. I leave that to the masters Peretti and Dekker!)
HG: Your novel, Six Solitude Road, was a finalist in the 2011 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest. How has that prestigious win affected your writing?
BM: Well…God has done so many things in my life this year. I know people always say stuff like that, but here’s my year so far, and you can judge for yourself:
January 2012: My husband is diagnosed with clinical depression and is hospitalized for a week.
February 2012: He tries to take his own life (he’s given me permission to be up front about this on my blog, for ministry purposes), causing him to be hospitalized in a different facility (a better one) for one more week.
March 2012: He is unable to continue work at his old job and changes to a new job, requiring us to put our house on the market, and for us to live most of the time separated because of the long commute to his new job.
June 2012: Our house sells and we find a new one (our dream home!) closer to his job.
July 2012: His medication stops working and he becomes suicidal again, requiring him to change meds. We begin to realize this new med is much better suited for him.
I’ve been doing real-life research for my novels this year, to say the least! To answer your question, God knew what he was doing when he had me final in that contest. Now I can look up from my writing when circumstances have me on edge, check out that Genesis Contest certificate and say, ‘Yep. I AM supposed to be a writer!’
God works in mysterious ways, but he does work. That, I know full well.
HG: After reading the blurbs on your novels, Six Solitude Road and Warning in the Water, I really want to read your books! What was your inspiration for both of these?
BM: I can’t really put my finger on what inspires me to plot my novels the way I do, except that every time I need to start a new one, I reach for The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. This writing book helps me get my scenes the way I want them before I ever type the words, Chapter One.
I have to give away one secret about my characters here. Outside of their motivations, I don’t know my characters at all in the beginning. They tell me all about themselves as I write about them. I just lean over and scribble a note on my character sheet so I can be consistent, and keep typing.
HG: Your blog tackles tough fears, like abandonment, unemployment, and even public speaking! I love that you pinpoint the things that make us fret. What would you recommend for someone with crippling fear?
BM: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the course of this challenging year, it’s that Christians should not be afraid to seek professional help, both through a psychiatrist who can determine whether or not they should be started on medication, and a Christian counselor or therapist.
The biggest problem is when someone who is genuinely paralyzed by fear and anxiety thinks they can go it alone. We were never meant to be alone. God promises us his Holy Spirit for when we need and want his presence. But he also brings people, including professionals, into our lives to bring us out of ourselves. He works through modern medicine and modern research to heal us.
The enemy of our souls likes to get us thinking our fear defines us. When we walk that road, we can’t see the forest for the trees. A Christian therapist, who knows God sees the big picture and not only the tiny snapshots of the here and now, might be the one to help shed some light on the source of our fear and how it came to have a foothold in our lives.
HG: Who’s your all-time favorite suspense writer and why?
BM: Uhh…(blushes)…it’s not a CBA author. Though I enjoy Ted Dekker immensely, my favorite suspense author by far is New York Times Best-selling author Harlan Coben. I feel he demonstrates by example exactly what we define in ACFW as great writing (minus the Christian themes, of course).
Not only does Coben leave out telling ENTIRELY in his later novels (Gone For Good, for example), he also has the most unforgettable character I’ve ever read in sports agent Myron Bolitar. He makes you know his characters and love them. In fact, the cast of characters he creates show up as minor characters in nearly all his books, so you wait for them to pop out at random times in all their glory. Genius!
His pacing is golden, as well. As are his red herrings. As are his plants and payoffs. I could go on and on.
HG: Are you actively seeking an agent right now?
BM: Aren’t all un-agented peons actively seeking an agent? Ha!
No, to be honest, I’m not. I’m hoping ACFW conference this year will be a time of laying my writing career before God’s throne and seeking what he would have me do this coming year, post-move and post-crisis.
HG: Finally, on a completely nosy note, I see you’re “mostly vegetarian.” I’m intrigued by this because I was a veg. in college (when meat was linked w/heart disease). Why did you choose this lifestyle?
BM: Sweet! Can you interview me more often, Heather? I love your questions!
Actually, my choice to consume meat (no pork, no shrimp or catfish) only 3-4 times a week is purely based on the fact that it doesn’t agree with me.
And if I don’t eat enough whole grains and fiber or drink enough water to help with the little meat I do eat?
Well, let’s just say Mama ain’t locked up in the bathroom to get her hair or makeup just right, know what I mean?
HG: Thank you so much for answering all my questions today, Bethany! Loved interviewing you!
BM: That made my day! What fun! Now it’s my turn. I have wanted to do “what’s up Wednesdays” for a long time. Now I have my first person to interview…right? 😉
****Any of you have a fear you’ve overcome? Want to share how you did? And a huge thanks to Bethany for sharing so candidly with us about her struggles this year!****