Author of Annabel Lee
What inspired you to venture into writing suspense novels after your success in other genres?
[MN] I started writing suspense fiction because that’s mostly what I was reading at the time—Dennis O’Neil, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, Dennis LeHane, that kind of stuff. At some point, while I was working toward my master’s degree in English, I was reading Denny O’Neil’s BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL on the side. I wondered whether I could ever write anything like that. Up to then I’d written only nonfiction—mostly inspirational and Christian Living books—and one or two allegorical/inspirational novels. Then I couldn’t sleep one night and started imagining a thriller movie. I made it my master’s degree project, and it later became the first suspense book I published. Interestingly enough, I had to publish it under a pen name because no editor would read it with my name on it. They kept telling me “Mike Nappa is an inspirational writer, he can’t write suspense fiction.”
Tell us a little bit about Annabel Lee. Where did you get your inspiration to write this story?
[MN] Insomnia. When I can’t sleep at night (which is more often than I like), I start imagining movie scenes in my head. If the scene sticks with me for a few weeks, I go ahead and write it down and then file it away in case more of the story presents itself later. For ANNABEL LEE, I couldn’t sleep one night, so to entertain myself I invented the title character, and then asked myself, “How does her movie begin?” That’s how the first chapter (and Dog) was created. After that, I just followed the story to see what would happen.
What were you hoping the reader would take away from your focus on trust and obedience in Annabel Lee?
[MN] Sad to say, I didn’t think about it that deeply. I just tried to tell Annabel’s story through Annabel’s eyes. Her story isn’t so much about trust and obedience as it is about discovering that God exists—and that he pursues her in and through all situations. The parable of the Pearl of Great Price was (loosely) the backdrop for this story, with Annabel being the pearl.
Is this series only for Christian readers?
[MN] I don’t think I’m qualified to answer this question. When I was pitching the book to publishers I sent it to both mainstream and Christian houses. The mainstream publishers told me it was “too spiritual” and that I’d have eliminate that “supernatural stuff” for them to publish. The Christian houses (with the exception of Revell) told me it was “too dark” and “not Christian enough” for Christian readers. So I have no idea who will actually read this book. I guess I’m about to find out.
How does this book relate to the entire series?
[MN] ANNABEL LEE is the first book in the Coffey & Hill series. It tells the story of wunderkind Annabel Truckson, and also introduces my dynamic duo of private investigators, Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill. Although each book features Coffey & Hill prominently, each book is really about the title character in that book. And, just because I’m a literature nerd, that title character is always named after an Edgar Allan Poe poem. Then, you know, stuff happens, people are in peril, Trudi and Samuel try to figure things out without getting killed, that kind of thing.
Is there anything you can share about book 2 of the Coffey & Hill series?
[MN] I’ve finished the second book in the Coffey & Hills series, which is titled THE RAVEN. It’s a story of a young street magician/petty thief who gets caught trying to blackmail a member of the Ukrainian mafia. And then, well, things happen. THE RAVEN releases in fall of 2016. After that, we’re planning a third book in the series tentatively titled, A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. It’s about a mild-mannered art forger who may or may not also be a brutal murderer. That one was scheduled for release in 2017, but it looks like we’re going to have to put that off until 2018 just because I need more time to finish it. Hopefully people will be willing to wait for it…
You have written a lot of books about Christianity and family. Was it difficult to explore and create a story involving brokenness and death?
[MN] Again, I didn’t think that deeply about it. I just tried to tell the story that was unfolding in my head. I think brokenness and death and life and family are all part of the same Christian faith though, so it doesn’t seem odd to talk about one or the other, or all, even in the same breath. There’s no need to compartmentalize the experience of life. All these things are beautifully found in the person of Christ, and reflected in each of us. So we live, we break, we laugh, we heal, we search for meaning and feel lost or found, we seek out family and we hurt the ones we love, we die and live again. This is our daily existence, so it feels natural to write about all of it in any book, fiction or nonfiction.