Picture this: Twenty-one-year-old English major gets her first real job at a local newspaper. She’s tasked with covering seven cities/towns, the county court house, the county commission, and the sheriff’s office.
She spends a lot of time feeling stressed.
However, she only breaks down in the office one time (over a story about morticians…seriously), which she counts as a win.
I grew a lot during my time as a reporter. I’m thankful it was a county-wide, weekly paper in Alabama. Sometimes I’d sneak in a reference to my age so the rest of the staff would remember I was only like 22. (To be fair, they were only like 25 but seemed so seasoned, but I still liked being cut a little slack.) I learned how to talk to strangers. I tried to balance building relationships with having to report the ugly side of those people’s stories. Basically, I had to grow a backbone, which I did with varying degrees of success.
Very early in my reporting career, I was sent to cover a drowning. A precious 2-year-old had drowned in a residential lake, and her body had been recovered by a dive team. I later won an award for that story, which has never set well with me. I learned a lot from that story, and I came away wondering about the men and women on the dive team.
Once a year, our staff would pull together more in-depth stories. The dive team had been especially (tragically) busy in 2012, and I wanted to learn more about them.
This was one of my favorite parts of reporting. I shined light on local heroes, the people who didn’t receive the praise they deserved. And even those who were too humble to want the praise.
(The flip side of this was the worst part of reporting. I had to approach people on their absolutely worst days and coax information from them. No one wants to be on the cover of a newspaper with their dirty laundry for all to see…and I hated it for them.)
Thankfully, the dive-team members were willing to share their stories (the then-police chief decided I was a trustworthy sort. Thanks, Chief!). They worked regular jobs, such as police officers, firefighters, law-enforcement support staff. It’s not like they had easy, low-stress jobs, but to add diving? Whew.
When diving to recover evidence or, heaven forbid, search for a body, they sometimes don’t turn lights on. They literally search murky lakes by feel. I struggle to imagine wanting to find a body in the dark by feel. Praise God there are people who can handle, or at least endure, these missions. I was blown away by how they cared for their community.
So, why am I telling you this nine-year-old story? (Click here if you’d like to read it.)
Well, I recently attended a writing conference. I’m writing historical fiction, but most (all) of the faculty at the conference write Christian suspense. It’s not usually my cuppa tea, but after a fantastic conversation with Lynn Blackburn, I decided to support her and see what she could do with the English language. (Lynette Eason, DiAnn Mills, Edie Melson, and Carrie Stuart Parks were also there and highly recommended!) Before Lynn Blackburn, I have enjoyed some Dee Henderson, but I can’t read too many suspense in a row. I get creeped out.
Case in point, Lynn Blackburn’s Dive Team Investigations series kept me up waaay past my bedtime this past week. I tore through that series. Around 12:30 a.m., I was in the dark with a flashlight (my husband has major issues with lights on after bedtime), and I heard a noise. I stood at the top of the stairs and waved my flashlight around (like any brave heroine),then I went back to reading my book. I heard the noise again. I poked my sleeping husband until he woke up and checked the downstairs.
Needless to say, he didn’t find anything, then groused about how this was why I shouldn’t stay up late reading “scary” books.
(He wasn’t wrong.)
While suspense probably won’t stay in my go-to genres, I enjoy the fast-paced aspect. It’s not like fantasy where the author has to build the world and convince you of the made-up words. It’s not some sweeping drama with long highs and plummeting lows.
No, with suspense you are in the action, and everyone already has a tragic backstory. The entire story takes place in like three days. It’s a good genre to squeeze between your more harrowing reads. In, out, bad guy caught, hero/heroine in love, the end.
How do you feel about suspense novels?
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OK, I just finished Lynn Blackburn’s One Final Breath, and I snatched her brand-new release, Unknown Threat, on Kindle. As I’m writing my own novel, I can see how writers get better and better the longer they write. I could tell she improved through the Dive Team Investigations series, so I can’t wait to see how she handles her next one.
However, in the meantime, I’ll be reading Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, as I started a book club, and this is what was picked out of the hat last month. I’m only nervous about the 679-page count (and the two-week deadline). And, no, I haven’t seen the movie.