Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader’s choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. Burning Hearts is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series.
When did you realize you wanted to become a writer? And How long have you been writing?
Well, actually, I’ve always been a reader. As a child, I loved the possibilities beyond my own life I found in novels. I wrote the usual things many writers do as a young person. My first book, about horses, was written in Crayola. Then, as a teen, I penned the requisite poems filled with angst. For years and years there was something niggling at the back of my mind that I’d be a fiction writer. About five years ago, that nudging got more persistent. I began to conceptualize myself as a writer, began to get that maybe I had a calling in that area.
I’ve been writing seriously for publication for about five years. As you know, I’m the leader of an ACFW critique group. I think my stories take form before they get to the group, but they get polished in the group into something marketable.
How long did it take you to write your manuscript?
BURNING HEARTS wasn’t my first manuscript. I wrote another really bad story that shall not see the light of day, though I keep it around for laughs. While I was writing that one, I was also taking the Harlequin free online writing course offered at that time. My recommendation to newbie writers is that they take any free or affordable writing courses or workshops that are available. It took a combination of getting rejections for the first story with a few valuable comments and taking that writing course for me to realize there was a huge difference between writing an “A” college paper and writing fiction. I started getting that there was a craft to writing fiction. So, I started on BURNING HEARTS and spent about two years on it from the first notes about plot until I submitted it to Desert Breeze Publishing.
What genres do you write in?
I write historical suspense, suspense, and crime fiction, and historical. When I seriously began writing for publication, I was shocked to find some inspirational judges in writing contests found my writing edgy. Erica Brogna, my heroine in Burning Hearts, is rather naive as far as men are concerned. And for that matter, Lorne Kincade, the hero, is awkward around women. They don’t even kiss until the final chapter. So, that feedback floored me. I thought, what’s edgy about this? When I did get more in-depth criticism, I realized it was because I don’t present the darkness of life in a neat package. I don’t soften the edges of evil, so I guess my writing is edgy in the classic sense of the word. However, I think Christian readers are not only ready for realistic writing with plausibility, they’re hungry for it.
What types of books do you read?
I read crime fiction, suspense, detective novels, and mysteries. The authors who shaped my early writing were general market authors. I couldn’t find any Christian writers who wrote the way I wanted to. They were out there, but it took me a while to find them. Michael Connelly, who was the crime beat reporter for the LA Times for twenty-five years and who writes the bestselling Harry Bosch series influenced my writing the most. His knowledge of police and court procedure is vast and the man can write. The movie, the Lincoln Lawyer, recently out, is based on his book. Mathew McConaughey did an outstanding job — oh, pluck my eyes out.
Then of course, I did find Christian writers. James Scott Bell was the first, then Robert Liparulo, J. Mark Bertrand, Steven James, and Sibella Giorello. I guess you could say, I follow in their footsteps. And I’m finding new Christian authors all the time. My to read list is very long.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I want to show how ordinary people can rise to great heights in standing for what is right and against evil. I hope my readers can see the “natural nobility” unpretentious people can display when against all odds they do the right thing. I hope my main characters Erica and Lorne come off in this way. As we’ve talked about in the earlier questions, there is great ugliness in the world. I don’t want to deny the ugliness, but want to show there is greater beauty. I hope my readers come away knowing the greatest, most powerful force on earth is love.
Are you currently working on another book?
I’m working on GOODBYE NOEL, the second novel in the Sanctuary Point series. It’s set at Christmas and of course is a murder mystery, and of course I seek to shake my main characters up as much as possible. In my research for GOODBYE NOEL, I found it fascinating how in the 1940s Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were simply part of the warp and woof of American lives. I tried to convey the ease Americans had about these holidays at that time.
Tell us how readers can contact you (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, website, etc.).
Burning Hearts can be purchased from the Desert Breeze Publishing site. http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/StoreFront.bok
It can also be obtained through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
You find me shooting my mouth off mostly on my Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408995495&ref=profile#!/profile.php?id=1408995495
My blog is http://crimefictionandfaith.blogspot.com
If you would like to purchase Burning Hearts, click on the book image above.
A special thanks to Nike Chillemi, for sharing her experience on this blog.