Tom Threadgill is a fresh voice in suspense, and his new novel, COLLISION OF LIES, will keep you guessing and zipping through its pages until the end.
The novel follows San Antonio police detective Amara Alvarez as she investigates an accident involving a school bus full of kids. Despite all official reports, she learns that one of the children may still be alive. If she’s right, it would mean that everything the police believe about the accident is wrong.
Alvarez is a fascinating character, perhaps the last person you’d meet at a cocktail party, and if you did, she would be standing off to the side alone. She would rather be home, sipping a cold drink and bouncing her latest case off Larry, her pet iguana.
“She doesn’t have a lot of friends outside of work and likes it that way,” Threadgill says. “It’s not that she’s an introvert. She’s got no problem hanging out with others now and then, but her job takes precedence.”
Alvarez does not see herself as a heroine. She tends to focus too much on the things that she could’ve done better. Her creator doesn’t see her as a heroine either.
“She’s an independent woman who is determined to prove herself,” Threadgill says, “Although she’s never really sure who she’s trying to prove herself to. I love a strong female character and that’s why I wrote COLLISION OF LIES. From the beginning, the protagonist was going to be a woman. Maybe readers will see her as a heroine, maybe not. Honestly, I think Amara would prefer that they don’t.”
While this novel is clearly character driven, setting is also important. Threadgill plants the story solidly in San Antonio. Having lived in Dallas for many years, Threadgill visited San Antonio several times.
“It’s such a great city and I knew that’s where this story had to be set,” Threadgill says. “You’ve got the River Walk, the Alamo—way smaller than you think—Market Square, and so many other possibilities for unique settings. That’s an important part of my writing style. My stories start with a very basic ‘what-if’ and grow from there. I do very little plotting and my characters guide me through the story. Amara has a strong Hispanic heritage and I wanted her to grow up in a city where that culture flourished and is honored.”
Threadgill’s feel for character development shows in his scene building. One standout appears fairly early in the book where Amara meets Douglas Pritchard, the medical examiner.
“I wanted him to be unique, quirky even,” Threadgill says, “but not so over the top he wasn’t real. That led to some web searches for LifePro Tips, those things that always pop up in your Facebook feed and you wonder why you didn’t think of it. For example, the good Dr. Pritchard likes Cheetos, but doesn’t like the mess on his hands. The solution? He eats them with chopsticks. And when he gives Amara a lesson on the proper way to remove a Tic Tac from its container, she’s not sure how to deal with him.”
Threadgill has sprinkled a few of those scenarios throughout the novel, and says he really enjoyed writing them. This skill helps him turn what could have been a simple mystery into a serious suspense novel. For him, it’s all about listening to the characters.
“I know how I want the story to open, and possibly the vaguest idea of its conclusion,” Threadgill says, “but beyond that, all bets are off. That allows me to keep the story’s pace moving while allowing the characters to grow. It cements them in my mind as real people who aren’t going to sit there and do what I tell them to do. I’m a big believer in keeping stories real. You can’t force people into their assigned roles. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do.”
Threadgill admits that he’s often surprised by some of the things his characters come up with. And there is a downside to not plotting: he ends up doing more editing or rewrites than many authors might.
“The worst was a week or so after I finished a book and woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that I’d made the wrong person the killer. It was right there in front of me as I wrote, but I didn’t listen. Based on reader feedback, lots of other folks missed it too and were surprised by the ending.”
In addition to being an author, Threadgill is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, which may prompt readers to wonder if he thinks of himself as a suspense author who writes Christian fiction, or a Christian fiction writer who happens to write suspense. His answer? Neither.
“I think of myself as a Christian who writes suspense,” Threadgill says. “I’m not sure what the definition of ‘Christian fiction’ is these days, and my novels don’t specifically target that market. I know the term ‘crossover’ has been used, but in my mind, I’m simply writing to entertain adult readers. My faith is who I am, so I have to be true to that when I write, but I don’t know of anyone who’d read my books and say they’re Christian stories, per se.”
The challenge Threadgill faces is keeping his stories realistic without using profanity or explicit sexual description, especially since he’s dealing with cops, killers, and everyone in-between. And it seems he’s been successful at accomplishing his goal of clean suspense.
“One of my favorite emails came from a fan in Australia who read one of my books and loved it, so he checked out my website. That was the first time he realized there’d been no profanity or sex in the story. Music to my ears. If it’s not needed, you shouldn’t miss it.”
And there is nothing missing from COLLISION OF LIES, except maybe a lull in the story where it would be easy to put it down. So if you’re looking for a novel that earns the label suspense, this could be your next fun read.
Tom Threadgill is a full-time author and member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and lives with his wife in rural Tennessee.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.