Tragedy brings out either the best in us or the worst. However, it is nearly impossible to predict what a person’s response will be until something life-changing happens. In his latest release, Darkness Before Dawn (Abingdon Press / March 1, 2013 / ISBN: 978-1426714672 / $14.99), best-selling author Ace Collins tells the heart-wrenching story of a young woman’s pursuit of justice after losing her husband in a senseless accident that never had to happen.
Q: You categorize Darkness Before Dawn in the genre of moral issues suspense. How would you define that category?
A novel has to be entertaining, so authors have to use some kind of genre, be it adventure, romance, drama, suspense and intrigue, in order to pull the reader in, then we can focus on moral issues. But the lesson has to be a part of the plot. This book uses drama, heartache and suspense in a way that might mirror Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, but its goal is to leave the reader thinking about choices. Those values or issues in Darkness Before Dawn include abortion, suicide, DUI and a judicial system that can be swayed by influence, power and money. Those are pretty heavy topics, and they are wrapped in a plot that centers of cost or price of revenge and retribution. In other words, Darkness Before Dawn is a wild ride going into areas a lot of Christian books really don’t want to touch. That includes showing the bad side of a really good woman and flipping our feelings for the villain from hate to actually empathizing with him.
My goal is first and foremost to create books you can’t put down. In other words I want these novels to be page turners, to keep you reading by being so interesting that they cost readers some sleep and examine life decisions. It will explore them not just in a black-and-white fashion, but in these pages I want to get readers to consider the middle ground as well. Moral issues are not easy, and when faced with doubt, grief and pain, many Christians often make choices that others don’t understand. So I want to leave readers with a lesson that there is great wisdom in leaving the judging to God and for readers to realize that there is great power in embracing those in need even if we don’t agree with their choices. After all, a doctor can’t heal anyone until he or she lays their hands on that sick patient.
Q: What message do you hope readers walk away with after reading Darkness Before Dawn?
I am hoping folks see the real pain and suffering in a life fueled by hate and vengeance. I hope in the end they also see the greatest power on earth is forgiveness and love.
Q: Meg is very angry at God after her husband is killed by a drunk driver. Do you think there anything wrong with asking, “If there is a God, why did He let this happen?” when something bad takes place in our lives?
I think it is a natural question. I think we all ask it when tragedies happen. When a hurricane or tornado hits and so many die, we wonder “Where was God in this?” I think the same thing is true when we see a child who has a terminal disease. Thus I think Meg’s reaction is one most of us would have, but I’m not sure how many would admit having it. That is why we have Nancy in the story. The dying woman who really knows about life not being fair gives Meg and us a perspective to consider.
Q: In dealing with her grief, Meg becomes very set on seeking justice for the drunk driver involved in her husband’s accident. How does her anger and bitterness make her situation even worse?
Seeking retribution and revenge brings out the ugliest side of any person. They become consumed by it and therefore lose their ability to reason. As we say in the story, a little bit of hate unchecked becomes a cancer that destroys all that is good in a person. So hate and bitterness gave her focus, but it made Meg’s life far worse and it took her being confronted by her own answered prayers to see the full cost.
Q: Meg found out she was pregnant on the very same day her husband died, which makes a difficult time in her life even more complicated. Once the baby is born, she names her Dawn. Can you share some of the symbolism of this choice as it relates to Meg’s life?
The name Dawn represents Meg living through a darkness she could not imagine and then once more finding the faith and the light. Dawn therefore represents not just a hopeful name for a baby but Meg actually finding a reason to live and the power to forgive. So it represents a new start for her as well.
Q: You’ve written everything from novels to biographies and how-to books to devotionals. What do you enjoy writing the most? How do your projects come to you?
I have had so much success in nonfiction over the years, I should say I really like that. But in truth I most love the challenge of the novel. Fiction’s only limit is imagination while nonfiction is limited by facts. Thus, to have the freedom to create lives and then take them on adventures is just an amazing experience. That said, I want to continue to write nonfiction, too. And both fit well with my fascination with history.
Q: Is it difficult to come up with new material constantly?
In truth, the ideas are pretty easy for me. I have all these characters locked in my head, and if I didn’t put them in books they might just drive me crazy. It is the writing that is the work. On top of that I have a log book where I keep ideas, book outlines, hooks, plot twists, etc. I figured out the other day I have to live to 128 and write four books a year to go through the whole log book. I also have more than 50 church bulletins filed away that have detailed book ideas on them.