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Interview with D L Koontz

She says her characters are dying to meet you, which means inspirational suspense author D.L. Koontz (Debra Koontz Roberson in real life) isn’t afraid to take readers to the edge of their comfort zone. Crossing Into the Mystic, the first book in a new series, released this month.

In my middle school and high school years, I read everything by Stephen King and Dean Koontz I could get my hands on. After I became a Christian, I shied away from that genre, even in the Christian market. Recently, I've given the genre another try, and I find it to be one of my favorites. What's important to you about writing inspirational suspense novels, and what value is there to the Christian in reading this genre?

First, I adhere to what C.S. Lewis wrote in God in the Dock: "We must attack the enemy's line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects--with their Christianity latent."

I strive to present a compelling, nail-biting story that keeps readers wanting more. One that makes them wonder: “Where is this author taking me? Does the Bible really say that? And wow, does evil really work this way?” I’d be happy if even one person was prompted to open that dusty Bible and find the answers for themselves. I want readers to leave my stories saying, “Wow, I grew from that.”

As for the value in reading this genre: The value is that life is not always tied up in a feel-good bow the way that many Christian novels present. It’s raw and edgy and frightening and worrisome and fraught with evil and satanic attacks. This genre helps you become aware of, and wiser to, those realities. I suppose it also makes people happy that their lives aren’t as messy as those of the characters!

Crossing Into the Mystic is labeled as young adult, paranormal suspense. Why do you think this genre appeals to the young adult (and not so young adult!) crowd?

First, for the reasons I stated above. Reading gives you the opportunity to safely explore other lives and other worlds from the comfort of your cozy chair at home. What could be better?

Second, I write about ghosts, but I do not believe in them; however, I do believe in the paranormal and angels moving in our midst, and in miracles. Research says many people agree with that, too. Statistics prove that a great percentage of people in the U.S. believe in angels. If you believe in angels, you’ve got to believe in demons. Christ spent considerable time casting out demons; there’s no reason to believe they don’t still exist. They certainly didn’t go away just because the Bible was “finished.” This genre makes readers think.

Third, I’m glad to see you wrote “young” and “not so young.” In reading, I’ve learned there is no young or old. Age disappears when you read a good story. You forget your age and you become whoever you want to be when you read!

Your Website bio lists a number of interesting things about you, including that you know how to milk a cow! Tell us more about this unique skill.

Ha! Well, learning that “skill” was borne of necessity. My family was very poor when I was growing up. My parents owned a dairy farm, arguably one of the most miserable types of lifestyles one could have. In my eighteen years on that farm, we had one vacation--one overnight trip to a neighboring state. That’s it. Otherwise, our “time off” consisted of two or three afternoon trips per year, generally to Gettysburg. Why? Because we always had to be home to milk those cows. Milkings occurred morning and late afternoon, no exceptions. But, I say that I’m proud of that skill because it taught me humility, hard work, appreciation and patience. Well, I’m still working on the patience.

You've written some non-fiction books prior to this novel. What's different about writing fiction?

Everything! Non-fiction was so easy; perhaps because I’m a very organized person. (Read that as nauseatingly organized.) Non-fiction is a matter of organizing and outlining, then applying your talent in the writing. Fiction, on the other hand, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. (Yes, much harder than milking a cow or running a business or delivering a keynote – all of which I’ve done.) In fiction, each aspect of the writing is a study in itself – dialogue, characterization, plotting, foreshadowing, etc. Your book, your story, is actually discovered in the countless revisions and rewrites.

My work in non-fiction ended on the day that terrorism entered our country - September 11, 2001. That’s a long, involved story for another time, and obviously I didn’t die as so many other poor individuals did, but that attack had residual effects on many people, including me. God closed a door for me that day, and I thought I was supposed to hang up writing forever. So I left writing, but it never left me. It pestered me, gnawed at me, annoyed me enough that I was continually restless. Then, one day I woke up with a story in my head and the desire to see it through. Turns out, God had opened a window all that time and I just failed to jump through it. That window involved fiction – my real passion.

Another difference between the two: As I’m developing a story, my characters never go away! They’re with me in the house, on walks, in the car, everywhere! It’s true that a great deal of my story was “written” while driving.

You mention in your author bio that you love to laugh. What makes you chuckle?

I’m an animal lover. So, every day my cat and dogs do something that makes me laugh. Other than that, I laugh at the daily craziness that we all go through, and our reactions to it. I don’t watch much TV, so my laughter is mostly from what I observe or read. Facebook has proven quite entertaining! We’re the only creatures to which God bestowed the gift of laughter. Shouldn’t we use it plentifully?

How long did it take you to write Crossing Into the Mystic?
The short answer is a year and a half. The long answer is my whole life. I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to open up new worlds for people the same way books did for me when I was that poor kid down on the farm.

And how did you celebrate writing "the end"?
I still haven’t! As I answer this question, we are fourteen days from pub date, and the book is still being revised through beta reads. The cover is changing daily, and last week the title changed! This whole process has been eye-opening. Plus, Grace’s (main character’s) story is far from over; it’s going to take the full trilogy before I’ll feel comfortable typing “the end.”

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I’m only going to list the ones I do not know personally so feelings won’t get hurt: Frank Peretti, Kate Morton, Thomas H. Cook, Pat Conroy, Ted Dekker, M.L. Stedman, Rene Gutteridge, and yes, Dean Koontz – his latest book, Innocence is incredible.

Finish this statement: I write suspense novels and I'm afraid of _______.
Snakes! I think they are the most disgusting, horrible, nonessential creature on the planet. One of the first things I bought when I moved to Georgia was snake-proof boots. I have no intention of finding out if they work or not.

What's next for you?
The next book in the trilogy. And, I’ve already started penning another book, unrelated to this series. And yes, it’s a speculative fiction again.

I’d like to get back into teaching at conferences too if anyone ever wants me! I used to teach writing and publishing of non-fiction, and loved doing it. I already see a course in my future: “Cut Your Learning Curve – What this fiction author learned the hard way.” Ha!

Any parting words?
Just this, a word on being open-minded. I never considered a career in politics because I don’t have thick skin. Turns out, you need it for writing too. I once read that God made some people writers, and all the rest he made critics. It’s true! I’ve already been criticized for having my main character talk to the dead, and in Isaiah, God commands us not to do that. Let’s all give one another the benefit of the doubt! Sometimes you have to have a character do the wrong thing in order to learn the right thing. I can’t say more or this will become a spoiler for the series. Just be open-minded, please. And I’m still hoping to one day learn why we can murder in Christian fiction, but not curse. :o)

Thanks for sharing with us, Debra!

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