Mike Nappa: Violence is a staple of suspense novels. How do you decide what’s “too violent” and what’s “appropriate violence” for your readers who are Christian?

Lynette Eason: I try to stay away from graphic violence. I prefer to let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks.

Vicki Crumpton: I think genre makes a difference in reader expectations. You don’t expect much, if any, violence in an Amish novel and certainly not from the Amish themselves. You expect violence in suspense. You can’t have suspense without danger. And you can’t have danger without the potential, and even the reality of, violence. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world and life can be violent. When you move beyond fiction published with a Christian audience in mind, you’ll find violence galore. Most readers don’t read exclusively “Christian” books, whatever genre they like. So suspense readers expect some type of violence.

Mike Nappa: What’s our responsibility as creators of suspense stories?

Vicki Crumpton: In novels written and published with a Christian audience in mind, I think about how the violence is portrayed and the extent to which descriptions are graphic. An important question to ask is what purpose the violence (and describing it) serves. Is it gratuitous or do we learn a lesson? Does it happen for the sake of being violent or something big at stake? Does a violent act save a life? Is evil vanquished and good upheld?

Ted Dekker: In my opinion, any gratuitous use of violence for affect alone is wasted space on the page. But worse is the inauthentic state of many gray novels which only pretend there’s no dark conflict in our world. Avoiding the valley of the shadow of death only leads Christians into inauthentic faith which denies the power of the light to abolish darkness. Did Jesus turn away from the leper’s sores because they were too gross to look upon? No. He kissed their faces. Did those closest to Him hide from his gruesome death? No. They stood by and watched with deep compassion.

Delicate yet poignant use of violence is appropriate if it makes the reader cringe and then rise triumphant when that darkness is defeated. But if you have no darkness in your story, the light is lost. This is the fate of all gray novels. Christianity is the triumph of good over evil. Light into darkness. Let us not make a mockery of that triumph.

Mike Nappa: What advice would you give Christian readers who are concerned about violence in suspense novels?

Ted Dekker: I have no problem with Christians who find violence disturbing—it should be. We all find ourselves in different stages of life, and it’s perfectly fine to turn away from that which bothers us. I would only suggest that they not judge others who will benefit greatly from facing their own fears though a novel—a safe place to do so. We have to ask ourselves this question: Why are we afraid? Why do we fear the storm? The question is at the heart of true Christianity in which light has overcome all fear. To that end, all my novels resolve in staggering love and peace. So then, I would speak peace to all, regardless of their personal preferences.

Vicki Crumpton: The Bible doesn’t omit violence in its stories. But it’s there for a purpose. Having said this, readers should feel free to know themselves and their reactions to violence and choose their entertainment, whether books, movies, TV, or video games, accordingly.

Mike Nappa: Any last thoughts?

Ted Dekker: The single greatest lesson I’ve learned from writing suspense novels is this: “It is Finished!” The light has overcome. As have we who are in Christ. Our only journey now is to see and believe what is already true of us in the storms of this life. This, we call awakening or transformation through the rewiring or renewal of our minds, as Paul said. And so we set our intentions on awakening to our true identity as the sons and daughters of the Father through Christ.

This is the boat we find ourselves in during this life and finding peace in the storms is our great suspense story. So be it.

Mike Nappa: Thanks everybody!

Vicki Crumpton is Executive Editor for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Ted Dekker is a New York Times best-selling author of over thirty-five novels, with over 10 million copies of his books sold worldwide. Two of his suspense novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies, and he’s currently writing an historical series about the life and teachings of Jesus.

Lynette Eason is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 30 novels filled with action, suspense, and romantic encounters. She’s the creator of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the recently-launched series, Elite Guardians.

Mike Nappa is an entertainment journalist at PopFam.com, and author of the Coffey & Hill suspense fiction series from Revell.