A Roundtable Discussion Featuring Mike Nappa, Ted Dekker, Lynette Eason, and Vicki Crumpton

Funny thing happened on the way to the Christian bookstore…

Annabel Lee, the first book in my Coffey & Hill suspense series from Revell, almost didn’t get published because editors said it was “too violent” for Christian readers. I have to admit, it does contain violence—in fact there’s a German Shepherd guard dog in it “that’ll eat human fingers if you feed ‘em to it just right.”

Does that violent imagery cause Christian people to sin? I don’t really know, but I think I should try to find out. So today I’m working on my third Coffey & Hill novel, and I’m asking myself this question: What’s too violent for Christians to read?

Fortunately, I have a few friends in publishing, and they were happy to join me in a roundtable discussion on this subject. Care to listen in?

Mike Nappa: All right—Ted Dekker is in the house! Publisher’s Weekly called you “The reigning king of Christian thrillers,” and that sounds about right. You’ve published over 35 novels, including your historical fiction books,A.D. 33 and A.D. 30. You’ve sold over 10 million copies of your books, and seen two of your suspense stories made into movies. Pretty cool. So Ted, how did you first discover thriller fiction?

Ted Dekker: I grew up the son of Christian missionaries in Irian Jaya, Indonesia. I distinctly recall lying on my bed one afternoon in my mid-teens with rain pounding on the tin roof of our jungle home, reading The Stand by Stephen King. The story is set in the midst of an apocalypse and I was filled with wonder at the ultimate redemption I found in the midst of trouble. Like a grand parable, it spoke deeply to me, a young man trying to find his way in the suspense of his own life.

Mike Nappa: Bestselling and award-winning novelist, Lynette Eason, is also here. Your “romantic suspense” books like Always Watching and the novels in the Women of Justice series are fan favorites in Christian bookstores. What put suspense fiction on your radar as a kid?

Lynette Eason: I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as well as The Boxcar Children, Trixie Belden, Sweet Valley High, etc. Later, my mother introduced me to the Perry Mason books and Agatha Christie. So, I’ve always been a big mystery/suspense fan. Later, I discovered Dee Henderson and that was that for me. That was the genre I fell in love with.

Mike Nappa: Last but not least, Vicki Crumpton, my own editor at Revell, has joined us, Vicki, how did you discover suspense novels?

Vicki Crumpton: I’m an eclectic reader, so I don’t remember a defining moment of discovery. Maybe it began with Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a girl and grew from there.

Mike Nappa: All right everyone, I’m trying to work through what it means to write thrillers for Christian readers, and I’m thinking it starts with the writer’s vision and passion. Your thoughts?

Lynette Eason: My passion is to write a great story that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and coming back for more. My mission/ministry is to make sure that my heart comes through on each page, that God is the focus and that people fall in love with Him all over again because He is the real hero in every book.

Ted Dekker: Jesus made it plain: “In this world you will have trouble. But take courage for I have overcome this world.” Like all good transformational stories, suspense novels are incarnational, in that they bring light into real, authentic trouble which represents the conflict and struggle we face during this life. Jesus didn’t say there would be no trouble, only that in Him we can overcome that trouble, each day, as we place our identity in Him rather than in the storms of this life, which will come. There is no avoiding them, any more than there’s a way to avoid aging or physical death.

My vision isn’t to pretend the trouble isn’t there, rather to enter that valley of the shadow of death and there find the light, who is Christ. To that end, my mission is simply to awaken to my own identity in the midst of the storms, and to help my readers awaken in the midst of the storm they face in this life.

Thus our writing is incarnational. We bring light into the darkness. In doing so, we must first characterize that darkness, then bring light into it. It’s a suspenseful journey.