by Brandilyn Collins
Brandilyn continues the story of her career and God’s branding. Read Part 1 of God’s Branding
I loved the suspense novel I’d written. I knew it was a good story. I’d worked on it for years, rewriting it every time I learned more about the craft of fiction. But after I said yes to Jesus, I had to put it in the drawer. It was irredeemable. It was about a psychic. And now I understood that is not something for Christians to involve themselves in. But the two contemporary novels—that Jane knew about—were redeemable. For the next six months Jane led me through the process of how to rewrite those novels and weave God’s truth into the fabric of the stories. When they were ready, she submitted them to multiple houses. By the time the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference rolled around in 1999, those novels had just landed on the desks of numerous editors. Jane had called the editors ahead of time and talked me up. She wanted me to come to this conference and meet the editors in person.
I sat down with the first editor out on the lovely grounds. She said she would be reading my manuscripts as soon as she returned from Mount Hermon, and that Jane had said great things about me. Then out of the blue this editor said, “Do you happen to have any suspense?”
“Uh…no. Well. Yes.”
God Redeems the Suspense
Suspense was just beginning to gain traction in the Christian market at that time. All the houses apparently were looking for it. Once I got home, God began to show me how to redeem that book. Rewrite it with his message woven throughout the story. It was no longer about a psychic. It was the story of a Christian woman who received a vision from God about a crime and didn’t know what to do with it. That book became Eyes of Elisha, published by Zondervan. It was a bestseller on the CBA list.
That moment here at Mount Hermon was the beginning of my branding as a suspense author in the Christian market.
At first, as a Zondervan author, I wrote both contemporary and suspense novels. They published the two contemporaries that had brought me to the writers conference. Those books plus one more became my Bradleyville Series. But in time Zondervan wanted to brand me. The genres were too different. I needed to choose one and stick to it. We chose suspense. So in 2005, I developed and trademarked my Seatbelt Suspense® brand.
From then I wrote one suspense after another. Work hard on creating and selling the brand. Be the brand. That may be where you are right now. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with it. Especially if you’re writing books that contain God’s truth. People won’t see the truth in your books if they don’t know the books exist, and they don’t read them. And to sell your books, you have to market. So don’t apologize for doing that. It’s a part of your career, a part of your writing for Christ.
I worked hard on my Seatbelt Suspense® brand. God used my suspense novels again and again. I’ve kept so many letters from people over the years who picked up one of my suspense books simply to be entertained and came away hit in the heart with a God truth. If God can use my stories of murder and mayhem to get his word out there, he can use anything.
One of my scariest, most tense novels is Dead of Night, about a serial killer. Yet that novel carries the message of the power of prayer in times of spiritual warfare. Many people wrote me saying God spoke to them through that story. God’s mighty creative in what he will use. So, yes, I was doing the right thing.
But God had so much more for me.
Here’s the problem. I had some major weaknesses. I had too high an ego. I still pursued that dream of being a hugely successful novelist. Yes, I served God in my writing. I walked Jesus’ path daily. But I became too focused on my earthly career brand. God had branded me as his own when he took over my life in 1998. And now he was going to do more. He wanted to work on his branding of me.
Brandilyn continues her story in Part 3 of God’s Branding coming soon.
Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling and award-winning author of more than thirty books. She is best known for her Seatbelt Suspense®–fast-paced, character-driven suspense novels with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith. Her nonfiction title, Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors, is a popular and effective teaching book on the craft of fiction. www.brandilyncollins.com
Brandilyn has long been a favorite of the Mount Hermon writers conference. In 2002 she won the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year award. She was a keynote speaker in 2019.