Friday, September 25, 2015

What Steven James Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

This is the seventh session of me writing about the authors who have influenced me as a writer. If you missed any previous posts, please return to them and read up on how these certain authors influenced me. There were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Today I will be talking about a contemporary author who I personally met in February 2014. He was the keynote speaker of the Advanced Writer’s Boot Camp Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. I attended with my husband and loved listening to Steven James talk about his rejection letters. He read snippets of them, having the audience rolling in laughter. It made us feel better about the rejection letters we receive.

I was first introduced to Steven James when I was roaming the bookshelves at my local library. If I don’t have a certain author whose book I want to read usually I scan the spine for books by the Christian publisher. I found the Revell Publishing symbol on a book spine, which read The Rook  James. I had never heard of Steven James, but the book was published by a Christian company and the book was thick, so I withdrew it from the shelf and took it home.

I was hooked.

Luckily, for me, The Rook was the second book in the Patrick Bower’s series. The Pawn and The Knight were already published and The Bishop was just about to come out. I loved how Patrick Bower used a unique system to hunt for the serial killers. The killer surprised me in practically every book. When I met James in February, 2014, he was impressed by my copy of The Knight because I had scribbled all over the margins and highlighted key phrases with post-it notes sticking out of the top. I was studying how James crafted a story where the killer was a total shock.

Steven James taught me to push the limits when it comes to writing Christian suspense. Not all Christian suspense books have to be completely planned out and PG for the “saved” audience. We are like the secular audience in that we like a story that grips us and tightens more and more as the story progresses. Likewise, he encouraged me to not choose the first bad thing that happened to our characters. Make a list and allow them to squirm. As a writer, you don’t want the reader to guess the ending before they arrive there.

Have you experienced any of Steven James’ Patrick Bower’s series? If so, what is your favorite book of the series? Have you ever studied a book so much that you have marked up your copy of their book in order to improve your own personal writing?

*This first appeared on the Indiana Chapter of the ACFW, Hoosier Ink. *

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