Once in a great while, I strike a chord with an author. Somehow, chatting with them leads me to want to do an interview. I had so much fun email back and forth with debut fiction author, Ace Collins, that I finally had to ask for an interview. He is so gracious and generous--as you'll see by his indepth answers to my feeble questions. So, let's meet Ace Collins!!
1) I know this is your debut in writing fiction. Tell my readers about some of your previous projects.
I have written over fifty nonfiction books for more than twenty different publishers. The book that probably was the key to putting me on the map was "Lassie A Dog's Life" for Viking-Penguin. I wrote it about fifteen years ago, it sold well and was the basis of two network television specials. I had some other really nice books right after that, but "The Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" was the one that really jumped my career up a notch. Hence, I feel I own a great deal of my success to a dog and the holiday season.
2) What was the process that brought "Farraday Road" to publication?
"Farraday Road" was a long time coming. I actually first outlined the book when I was in college more than thirty years ago. At that time it was called "To Find My Killer." About eighteen months ago when Zondervan asked me to pitch them some fiction ideas, this old concept was one of three I pitched. They liked the idea of a lawyer whose calling was a to find wrongly convicted men and women on death row and then uncover the real killer in time for justice to be served. My working title for the series is "Innocence on Trial."
Realize this, when I first came up with the concept, I didn't have the experience to actually do it justice. I can honestly say that when "we" wrote the book last year it was a team effort. This goes back to my high school English teacher, through editors such as Ric Cox and Cindy Lambert, and to the sales and marketing folks at Zondervan. All of these people have their fingerprints on my books because of all that I have learned from them. You can't imagine what they have meant to my career. Oh, and Louise Mandrell was the one who convinced me to give up my day job and write for a living. So she is there in spirit on every page of everyone of my books. So every book is a "we" project.
3) Now, anyone who reads the last sentence KNOWS we get a sequel! Any hints from that one you'd care to share?
Let's just say that the next book takes our team to Germany, Kansas, Texas and a lot of other fascinating places. As they travel and find more mysteries and danger, how the intensity grows! Also, not everyone is like they seem, so there are some huge character surprises coming. Finally, Lije has to find out the story of a man whose DNA and fingerprints were at a murder scene but the already convicted death row inmate claims he was never there. It doesn't help his case that he was born in Iraq and the murder he is accused of doing took place on September 11, 2001. So with the execution clock ticking, as well as having his own life in constant peril now from two different unseen and unknown sources, Lije is trying to save this man from a lethal injection.
The major clues that get this new book going will be found in a coffin and in a Nazi S.S. officer's Bible.
4) The characters in "Farraday Road" were so richly developed. Any of Lije in yourself, or any other characters rooted in real life?
My uncle's name was Lije (in his case spelled Lige). So the man character's name is from there. The 1936 Cord that Lije drives is a car I own and Shell's Hill is where my grandparent's once lived. I love that section of Arkansas and know it pretty well, so places you visit are based on my real life experiences. Yet Lije is really his own man. I am not nearly that cool, strong or together.
The Janie character is based on a high school friend of mine. I didn't have this character in my outline, but as books evolve you find they take on a life of their own. Thus I need someone like her to complete the team. When you read the book and discover her unique gift, you understand why she is so important.
Lije's wife, Kaytlin, is based on a good friend of mine who really is one of my heroes. Her folks escaped Vietnam and this young woman in real life is one of the finest people I have ever met. One of the most beautiful as well. She just got married this past weekend.
By and large the other characters might have started as someone I knew, but as they evolved they became their own people.
Fiction is really strange in the fact that about halfway through a book the people you have invented surprise you. You find that the personality you gave them has changed and what you planned on them doing, they simply would not do. Then the book begins to write itself.
5) Who is your favorite character from the novel, and why?
There are facets of each of them I like, but the one that has become the most fun to write is Janie. Yet the interesting thing about each of Lije's evolving team is that they are all searching for a calling. They have been successful, but they lack direction. Hence the goal in each new book is to get them closer to discovering what they were put on earth to do and finding ways to measure success that do not exist on Wall Street. So, as they are essentially complex, but incomplete, they are all fun to write.
6) When can we expect more from your pen/PC?
My contract is for an entire series of Lije Evans Mysteries, so there were be more. Obviously we can't leave things where they ended in this book. I also have two other fiction series I am developing. And of course I am continuing to write nonfiction books too. I just signed to do my fourth Christmas book and it will out in 2009.
7) What advice would you give to writers longing to be published?
The best two things I relay would be to realize editors see holes in your work, so gladly accept their advice and your book will be much better. This goes back to concept of it taking a team to write a book. The other bit of advice I would give would be to write. Like anything else, you get better if you just keep doing it. Oh, and never give up on a good idea. My first Christmas bestseller was rejected more than twenty times over a decade before I convinced someone it would work. Now it is in its fifteenth printing.
8) Any books on your reading shelf?
I have just read a bunch of biographies in order to write "Stories Behind Heroes of Faith," a book I finished last night. I also read Clive Cussler's new book two months ago. Sadly, when you write three to four books a year, the only books you have time to read are ones you are using in your research.
9) Any future projects you'd like to promote...we're all ears and eager to know!
I have a neat nonfiction book called "Sticks and Stones" that comes out early next year. I really think it has merit. Also next week I begin publicity on "Stories Behind Women Of Extraordinary Faith." The twenty women profiled in the pages of this book have great life lessons for all of us.
Anyone who wants to get a preview of Farraday Road can read the first chapter on my website.
Thanks so much for you time!
And thanks for YOUR time, Ace! I don't know about the rest of you, but those hints about the sequel have me ANXIOUS for it's debut!! I'll be keeping up with Ace and his books, so watch for more news as I get clued on in release dates and reviews.
Keep watching for a potential giveaway as the release date for "Farraday Road" draws closer!!