And we're back. We had a fun time at the wedding and once the sun came out again Cape Cod was a nice mini-vacation; but now it's back to work. We're going to start off the month of July by interviewing a great new talent in the world of Christian publishing.
Our special guest today is Brian Sandell. Brian is the author of The Wager and, more recently, The Christmas Rose. We’ll talk to Brian about his work, his career thus far, and what the future has in store.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Brian. We’re thrilled to have you with us.
Thank you Cheryl it is definitely a pleasure to be here with you. I think we are going to have some fun today, and we are going to have one great interview.
Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? What are some of your hobbies? You know, the general who is Brian Sandell information.
Well, if I could describe myself in three words I would say fun-loving, enthusiastic, and hard-working. I was born in Virginia Beach, VA, and we stayed there until I was six. In 1992, my family moved to Hagerstown, MD where we are currently located. I enjoy comic books, baseball cards, playing sports, watching movies, playing video games, hanging out with friends, and I have a great church youth group I hang out with. So, I guess you could say I am a normal guy, who enjoys writing, teaching people about life through stories, and inspiring people to live the best life possible.
When did you first put pen to paper and when did this become a career choice for you?
I have always been a fairly creative individual. If you ever want to visit my place in Maryland I have about 10-15 notebooks filled with started stories, ideas of stories, random poetry, and just anything I could think of. I made up an imaginary friend when I was about six, and we used to have the best conversations together, and we even had a secret club. The creativity has always been there, but I would say it was high school English class where I began to take creative ideas and formulate them into a coherent story. I took that motivation and the realization of that gift and I penned my first novella between the first and second semester of college in my freshman year.
You’ve now had two books published. Did you feel more comfortable the second time around or were you still filled with the self-doubt and anxiety that can plague writers?
I think going into publishing there is always an amount of uncertainty. I always have confidence in my stories, because I really desire and strive to give the reader everything I have in writing. However, whether that confidence transfers into a publishing contract is sometimes different. Ambitious would be the word I would use to describe my publishing and publicity goals. I am actively making contacts, acquaintances, and developing new relationships with people everyday in the publishing and writing world. So, to answer your question I do have confidence in my work, but some doubt creeps in trying to convince people to buy it.
Let’s talk about your books. Your first published novel was The Wager. What is this one about?
The Wager is a suspense/thriller written with the purpose to get the reader to think about what is truly important in life. It gets the reader to ask the question what makes me happy? The story follows the journey of the protagonist, Marvin Simon. It starts when Marvin is fairly young, and the journey continues all the way until his early forties. Marvin experiences some highs and unfortunately a lot of lows in his life experiences. When Marvin is at his lowest he has lost his wife, job, hopes, and dreams. He is confronted one night by a mysterious guest who offers him a lifetime of happiness if he gives up his only son. This tough choice, Marvin weighs carefully and the rest story unfolds in thrilling fashion as Marvin must deal with the disastrous consequences of his choice.
This book sounds very powerful. What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration was in the observation that we as a country have so much but we are so unhappy. Suicide is up close to 800%, people are depressed, relationships are falling apart, and the divorce rate is climbing. So, I wanted to write something that would get people thinking, get people talking, and get people thinking, “What do I value in life?” The book was written to provide meaningful entertainment for teenagers and adults. So, I wrote the book to do something about the culture that is collapsing all around us.
Now, this is a Christian thriller. What elements must a book contain to be classified as a Christian thriller?
A Christian thriller is designed to teach about people how to value relationships, how to love people over things, how to live your life for something greater than yourself, and how you are going to find God on your terms or on His. One of the big problems I have found about Christians is that we can be judgmental, we can be close minded, and sadly that does turn people off. I didn’t want The Wager to be designed like that; I wanted it to present ideas, stories, characters, that cause people to think about themselves, God, their relationships, and their lives. The book is filled with great thoughts and ideas about life and how we can live life to the fullest when it is with God.
Are there other authors of Christian thrillers who you admire or strive to emulate?
Oh wow, there are so many great Christian thriller writers that this question may be tough to answer. I really like Ted Dekker. I think he proposes exciting stories, plots, unforgettable characters, and great lessons about God in all of his books. So, the trick is to write unbelievable stories but also give readers something to take away for them as well. I really don’t want to emulate anyone. I want to learn from writers who do it well, and I desire to build my style from what I learned. I hope that answers your question ;).
What can you tell us about The Christmas Rose?
I wrote The Christmas Rose to be a story that could be read at Christmas time almost every year. It is a story that seeks to answer the question how does someone deal with pain and disappointment in their life. The main character Jasmine experiences pain and heartache through both her poor decisions and some unfortunate consequences. Jasmine sadly doesn’t respond well to disappointment in her life and she must live with the consequences of her poor decisions. However, Jasmine is granted with a great opportunity to make things right, to learn again how much your family and friends care in tough times, to see God in a new light, and to experience a Christmas miracle.
This one sounds like a total tear-jerker. What part of you do you delve into to create such heart wrenching stories?
I wrote the story with situations and scenarios that people could relate to. When someone reads the book there is a chance that some past pain could surface, but the bigger issue is not that the pain is there but how we deal with that pain. I’m not writing the book from experience, because I have been very blessed in my short life so far. I’m writing the book more on observation; it is designed to expose the fact that people all around us are hurting. We need to reach out and help the ease the pain, and when that happens we become the miracle that so many people desperately need.
Books about Christmas seem to be good sellers. How did The Christmas Rose perform in terms of sales compared to The Wager? Do you think it helped or hurt sales to have an 18-month gap between new releases?
Well, since The Christmas Rose came out in January it hasn’t seen a Christmas yet in publication. So, in terms of sales I really don’t know, I’m going to have to be fairly vague here and I do apologize about that. I know people were more open to publishing The Wager, because the genre is more marketable and people love to be excited and thrilled. I don’t think the 18-month gap really hurt or helped. I’m in college right now, so the gap was more for my schedule because there were things at school I needed to accomplish. I think there will be something coming out before the next 18 months pass.
What have you done in terms of book promotion? What has been most successful for you?
Getting awesome people like yourself to allow me this great opportunity to interview on blogs has been a HUGE help. A lot of these interviews have been self-initiated. Sadly I didn’t have a huge marketing package set up for me. But, I think it is a great blessing because it has allowed me to learn how to market and get readers excited about my books, ideas, and website at http://www.christianthrillernovels.com/. Radio interviews have been awesome as well. I have really enjoyed meeting some great men and women who have helped me to develop a platform and sell lots of books. So, blog and radio interviews have been awesome!
Where can readers purchase copies of your books?
Please email me at brianwrites15(at)yahoo(dot)com and I would be happy to get you a DISCOUNTED, autographed copy of my books to you! If not you can look at my website http://www.christianthrillernovels.com/. Or, you can look at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and Borders.com. Those are all online sites for my book. Ask your local bookstore, they may not have it, but the more people who ask the better chance they’ll have in picking it up!
What’s up next for you? Are there any new projects in the works our readers would like to know about?
I am just finished editing my third novel, A Necessary Deception, which in my humble opinion is AWESOME. It is a highly intense, exciting, but also meaningful political thriller, with a shocker of an ending. I promise to keep you posted about this work, because I have some very high hopes for it. I also am working on a few children’s novels and picture books. I ordered an online cartooning course and I think this would be a good use for it.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Being able to read this on a computer means that your life is really blessed. Having the money and resources to go to school, live in a good home, and have a meal each night puts you in among the top 5% wealthiest in the world. Please look to give back whether it is through your church, mission organization, prayer, money, time, or whatever give back because being able to read this means you are very blessed.
Thanks for joining us today, Brian. We wish you continued success in all you do.