Q&A: Ace Collins (The Yellow Packard)
In The Yellow Packard, the newest novel by Ace Collins, a used car holds the secret to a vicious kidnapping in the midst of depression-era America.
Q. What inspired you to write The Yellow Packard?
The challenge of doing something different was the real motivation. I had never written a novel where an object was the thread driving the whole plot and that offered a whole set of hurdles to keeping readers involved. Putting that into the context of a whodunit was something that pushed me in ways a normal novel would not have done. On top of that, I had never had a chance to write historical fiction before (all my novels had been set in contemporary timeframes) and I have long been fascinated by the 1930s and 1940s, so this gave me the opportunity to use my knowledge of that time gathered from years of study done just for my personal interest. Finally, I collect classic cars, so, while I don’t own a Packard, the theme has long been tightly woven to my interests.
Q. What are the challenges of writing “suspense” -- danger, murder, mayhem -- for a Christian author?
It is often said that rain falls on the just and unjust. Well, with that in mind, danger, murder, and mayhem fall into the world of people of faith just as easily they fall into someone outside the church. So, I don’t really think there are any special challenges of adding them to books aimed at the Christian market. Consider the suspense and mayhem in the lives of the disciples or the early Christians. They never know what was around the next corner or if they would live another week.
Q. How much do you worry about research and details versus just telling a riveting story?
My outline contains the importance elements of the plot, so those are in place before I write, but I constantly research to make sure that I am using the language, style and tone of the era. The story needs to be riveting, but I can’t cheat on the details. That wouldn’t be fair to the readers. In the case of this book they need to be immersed in the depression era. Even our CSI team used only techniques known then. Hence, I want the book to be as accurate as possible. So I try to have hands-on experiences with clocks, radios, airplanes and cars, etc. I study photos from the time and I visit with people who lived in the era.
Q. What authors or life experiences have influenced the kinds of fiction you write?
I guess I have been impacted by the writings of Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and even Clive Cussler, but what I write about is defined more by what I have been exposed to. The locations I describe in detail are places I have visited. My plots are made up of things that fascinate me. While I never interject my personality into the leads, they and I have one central thing in common — we are struggling to find our ever-changing calling. We are a work in progress. We often take a few steps back before we can move forward. We have fears and doubts and we are often overwhelmed by the challenges that face us. I include those character facets because I want my leads to be as real as folks we know in our lives. I think those kind of folks are far more interesting that people who always have it all together.
Q. In what specific ways does your faith impact how you write fiction?
I have never considered myself a Christian writer, instead I think of myself as a Christian who writes books. Therefore faith is usually wove into my plots in a very subtle way that makes folks consider faith. My goal with my novels is not just the Christian market, I want to appeal to fiction readers who would normally not set foot in a Christian bookstore. In other words, I don’t want to preach to the choir, I want my work to be read by those in the secular world. So my goal to write books that are clean, have no profanity or sex, but still have the plot elements that interest in all readers and in the process work in an undertone that might gets folks to think about faith and what it could mean to their lives. And that is very much like my witness is in real live.