Q&A with Carrie Stuart Parks

CarrieStuartParksMelissa:  Hi Carrie.  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.  I very much enjoyed When Death Draws Near; it is simply fun to read.  It’s a great blend of mystery, drama, religion, and small town politics.  What is your favorite part of this book and what storyline did you most enjoy writing?

Carrie:  Hmm. It was a challenge to write the whole book—set in a different part of the country, with different traditions, beliefs, and customs. I usually enjoy the drama part—how to get tension on every page, keep folks guessing and planting clues.

Melissa:  Gwen is such a great character.  She’s smart, funny, and has an inner strength that she doesn’t even seem to realize.  What do you think are some of her ‘hidden’ attributes that maybe she’s not even aware of?

Carrie:  She is totally loyal, loving (but afraid of love,) resilient, and has a deep love of God—although in this book she has a knock-down-drag-out fight with Him.

Melissa:  In addition to being a fun character to follow, Gwen is also multitalented.  She’s a forensic artist, which is fascinating by itself.  However, as part of that job she also is skilled in reading body language and ‘tells’.  After reading this book, there were times that I did a double take on some of the ways I phrased things to see if it matched what is described in this book.  In what ways has knowledge in this subject changed the way you speak or interact with people?

Carrie:  Funny! Fellow author, Ronie Kendig, sent me an email after a political person’s interview on TV saying, “you’ve ruined me!” I’ve been working with her on her books on signs of deception. I often get this question after doing a presentation on signs of deception. The simple truth is I don’t “turn it on” unless someone gives me a obvious clue or if I’m working on a case. It’s too much work to pay that much attention to what someone is saying.

Having said all that, the “gothic romance” lie is my favorite and is not described in any textbooks. When I hear it, it takes all my willpower to not totally crack up laughing.

Melissa:  I absolutely love how you handled the snake handling church in this book.  You did a fantastic job of not judging, but rather presenting both sides of the issue in a non-biased manner.  Having studied these churches, in what ways are they misunderstood.  Conversely, which controversial elements are true of these churches?

Carrie:  The idea was from my husband, Rick. I purchased every book on the subject and read them, just to get a grasp on where they were coming from and how they got to their particular practices. I watched some Youtube interviews and at least one TV show. In my books, I wanted Gwen to be an observer, to not judge but rather describe strong belief systems. I had characters who hated them for their beliefs, some who accepted but didn’t practice, and of course the actual serpent handlers.

The church members who handle serpents (we were corrected—they want to call the snakes ‘serpents.’ In my book, before Gwen gets to know them, she calls them snakes. When she finally understands them, she calls them serpents) believe Jesus told them this would be one of the signs of their faithfulness. The snakes are real, not milked or defanged, and the handlers tend to be afraid of them when not handling them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The signs following believers’ love and faith is deep, powerful, and infuses every element of their lives.

Melissa:  What are your thoughts about laws regarding snake handling churches?  Do you find they are protecting innocent people or violating freedom of religion?

Carrie:  I selected Kentucky as it’s the only state that prohibits snake handling specifically in religious circumstances. The people who handle snakes do so knowing the possible consequences of their actions. I think the government needs to stay out of our lives on every level.

Melissa:  As I was finishing this book, I kept thinking about how much material there is for this series.  I can see the potential for this being a long running series much like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books.  What are your thoughts?  What do you envision for the Gwen Marcey series?

Carrie:  I agree!! The folks at Thomas Nelson as well as my wonderful agent, Karen Solum, wanted me to have Gwen look at something besides religious groups—which was a shame as I had a dandy idea with the Christian Scientists. Sooo, the current book I’m writing reveals Gwen’s background from when she was four until she ended up with Dave’s family at fourteen. It also takes a look at the AIM—American Indian Movement.

As a forensic artist myself, I know all the types of cases Gwen can work on without getting too far fetched. Other writers have had characters who do just one type of forensic art (think Iris Johansen and her Eve Duncan/facial reconstruction,) but Gwen can do so much more—AND the descriptions are accurate and factual. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Gwen’s skills.

I also love looking into little known history, strong belief systems, and lesser known parts of the country. I love weaving real facts with the story.

Book five will have Gwen firmly with the Interagency Major Crimes Unit. This is loosely like my work with the North Idaho Regional Crime Lab. I’ll be able to add characters to the Unit with special skills as well as keep Gwen busy.

Melissa:  What’s next for you?

Carrie:  Writing wise, see above. 🙂 I keep plugging along teaching forensic art across the US and Canada, painting in acrylic and watercolor, and showing my Great Pyrenees dogs. God is good, and i thank Him every day for all His blessings.

Thank YOU so much for this interview, Melissa.

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