Your Jerusalem’s Undead trilogy is steeped in serious biblical and early church history. Did the research lead to the story, or did the story lead to the research?
I have a bachelor’s degree in theology, and that did play a part in this trilogy. There were still things I had to study, though. For example, I wanted my Collectors—demonic and vampiric beings—to have a theological basis for their desire to pervert mankind’s senses. While exploring this, I realized that in the Bible we never see demons affecting the physical realm unless through a host, human or animal, while angels are shown interacting in the physical realm on numerous occasions. This led to some deep theological concepts about the results of sin and the Fall.
You traveled all the way to the Holy Land to see these sites in person. How important was that in helping you set the stage on paper?
It was huge. In my books, physical location has always been a “character,” so to speak, and I really needed that confidence of walking the land myself. My last day in Jerusalem, I met the lady who originally crawled through the tombs of the Field of Blood, when they were first unearthed in 1989. She said, “I hope your book is scary, because it was a very scary place.”
Your novels range from mysteries to supernatural thrillers to contemporary fiction—do you have to do anything different as a writer to approach a different genre?
My personal tastes range from classical music to hard rock. I love smash-mouth sports, and I love chess. I love reading books, and I love hiking in the mountains. For me, it’s quite natural to write in different genres, because it simply taps into different parts of my personality and interests. Strategically, though, as a writer, I should’ve picked one genre and stuck with it. People who see I wrote Fireproof are often suspicious of my ability to pull off a vampire novel, for example.
In addition to your original fiction, you also wrote the novelizations for Facing the Giants and Fireproof.Was there any collaboration with the movies’ creators in that process?
I’ve done three novelizations with the Kendricks, based on their original screenplays. They insisted that everything in the movies be in the books, but then they gave me freedom to explore back-stories and subplots. They were great to work with, and they truly understand the ability of storytelling to communicate truth. I had a blast working with them.
Why do you think story is important?
I’ve never been a woman in Afghanistan, but I felt the pain and struggle they go through while reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. I’ve never been to war, but I shared the fears and horrors of that while reading Matterhorn. I’ve never listened in on the strategies of demons, but I got a sense of their cunning while reading The Screwtape Letters. Story has the power to engage our hearts and minds in ways they would otherwise resist. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s no mistake that Jesus used parables to share truths with the average people of his day.