FBI agent Scott Malkin, investigating a string of bank robberies, is having a frustrating week. There's the latest bank robbery that goes badly wrong when a hostage situation develops, then inexplicably right when the hostage survives what should be a fatal shooting. Then, to the annoyance of the agnostic Scott, his co-workers unanimously decide that the hostage--a mysterious young woman called Grace--must have been an angel. And worst of all there's Grace herself--sweet, crazy, and prone to leave chaos in her wake, whether it's resisting arrest with violence or kidnapping Scott's dad. Could Grace really be an angel? Do miracles happen? What is the Methusaleh Law? And who is behind the bank robberies?
This was a fun, sweet book with a well-woven plot. While all the books I read for this feature week are flawed in different ways, the one aspect many of them struggle with is writing style, and Only Angels Are Bulletproof was no different. The problems were most apparent in the first few chapters, but seemed to even out a little as the plot progressed. While the narration and dialogue tags were the most awkward, the dialogue was actually good fun and made me laugh out loud a number of times--this, for example, when two characters come to Scott's house:
The themes mainly revolved around Grace's attempts to convince Scott of the reality of the supernatural and his need for God. This could also have been more deftly handled, but I appreciated that the happy ending doesn't come about through an overt miracle--that would have been too cheesy--and it was nice to see a presuppositional apologetic approach used at one point!“Good gracious! Look at this place. There must have been a struggle.”“No, darling. This is the way it always looks.”
The characterisation was also a mixed bag. On the one hand, I felt that some of the supporting characters--Tech, for instance--were almost flattened into one-note jokes. On the other hand, the author clearly had a great deal of fondness for all her characters, and I liked all of them. Scott was uptight, Grace was wild, and they went together like ham and eggs. I particularly enjoyed Grace's character--she walked the fine line between awesome and annoying and did it with great flair. Emily Ann Benedict convincingly portrays a character who is both good and wild--someone who you can never trust not to do something dangerous or stupid or highly illegal, but who always has an excellent reason for it. She could have very easily become irritating, but never did. Well played!
I also enjoyed the plotting, particularly the climax and resolution, which follows logically from everything else and was emotionally as well as logically satisfying. And while I was just a little disappointed by the answer to the question of whether Grace was, or not, an angel, I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle spiritual-warfare slant to the book.
Interview with Emily Ann Benedict
Emily, hello and welcome to Vintage Novels! Can you introduce yourself briefly to our readers?
Oh, I'm just your average American. I work as a project coordinator for an architectural firm by day, then I come home and try to punch out at least one chapter a night. I'm extremely grateful for both sides of my life, because each has opened me up to opportunities I never dreamed of.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I had been writing novels for a while and just handing them off to family members for their reaction without any real plans as to what to do with my stories. My mom was actually the one who made the mental jump for me. She was talking to a group of us about the importance of finding purpose in our lives, then she looked at me and said, "Obviously Emily has found her purpose in her writing." It felt like it was a confirmation of what I was inwardly hoping, but not yet ready to admit.
What are some ways your favourite authors have influenced you?
Agatha Christie has been in many ways the biggest influence on my writing life. She was an ordinary, shy, primarily home educated girl who one day started writing novels and ended up living an extraordinary life. I finished a biography on her titled The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie, and for some reason the first thought I had was, "If she could write a book, why can't I?" I think in writing style I am very influenced by Jane Austen's love of dialogue and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's sense of movement in his stories.
For the encouragement and edification of other writers, what’s a good piece of writing advice you’ve benefited from?
The best piece of writing advice in the world is, just write. It has been said by many authors that the day they made the choice to write when they didn't feel like it is the day they truly became authors. I know that takes some of the romanticism away from it, but there will be plenty of days when you don't feel like writing or it seems like there are a million other things you need to do first. When I make the decision to start a new draft, I also make a conscious decision not to watch TV when I'm at home and not to feel like the house has to be perfectly clean. I’m not saying you have to follow my pattern, but if you feel like you don't have time to write regularly, taking a good look at what you do with your time can help.
Only Angels Are Bulletproof is a great title! Irresistible! How did you come up with the idea?
I think titles and book covers are the two most important factors in marketing a book, so I wanted something that sounded different. The book is basically detective fiction with a question of theology wrapped around, so I wanted a title that combined both worlds.
I think my favourite character in the book was Grace—she was such fun, walking the fine line between awesome and annoying with perfect flair. I could tell why Scott wanted to strangle her, but it also seemed believable that she would act the way she did. Can you share some of your inspiration for her character?
In a lot of ways Grace is a voice to things that I want to say, but can't always find a time and place to say them. She's a little too blunt and open at times, which could make her annoying to some, but at the same time I think that is what makes her refreshing and fun for an author to work with. It's also fun creating characters to react to her.
Of all the books I’ve read for Home Educated Authors Week, this is the only one that’s a contemporary thriller, while most of what I’ve read for the feature is fantasy or historical fiction. What drew you to this genre? What do you think are some specific strengths that come with it?
I actually grew up in the mystery genre, from The Box Car Kids and Nancy Drew on up to Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. It just felt natural to write in this realm. I tried out several different forms of mystery writing, but I found suspense/thriller to be a lot less constrained in its structure. Traditional mystery is, "a body, six suspects and a detective in a room." Suspense allows for more movement. The action is an important factor and the character subplots can become part of the overall story, not just a place to hide clues. While all genre types create connections to readers in different ways, contemporary fiction creates a kind of instant connection. No matter what the setting is, there is no need to wrap the mind around a new world.
What’s the main thing you hope readers get from or learn from Only Angels Are Bulletproof?
Naturally I want people to enjoy the story. Every novel has a point to it, but if it not wrapped in a good story it's not a novel, just an on topic paper. The overall theme of Only Angels Are Bulletproof, however, is two questions. Is there a God? And if so, how does that impact our lives?
Do you have any general thoughts on the place of fiction in the Christian life? What purpose is it most suited to?
I think Christian fiction has two purposes. One is edification of Christian readers. This day and age it is very difficult to find books that aren't filled with profanity and/or immorality, so it is good to have an outlet for readers who don't want to be frustrated every time they pick up a book. It also, again, gives a voice to ideas and concepts that we may not always be able to share with people verbally, but they might be willing to read a book.
Are you working on any other books at the moment?
My past few years have been centred on Christmas Novels. I’m not really sure how that happened. I released one on a whim and mentioned that I would make it into a trilogy if people liked it. Well, people liked it so I've stuck with it. Hopefully this year will see the release of the third and final book in the series, but I've got a lot of writing between now and then to accomplish! After that is all said and done, I'd like to pick up a few of my older manuscripts and see if I can repolish and release them.
And finally, where can readers buy your books?
Only Angels Are Bulletproof is available to order in traditional print, eBook and audio book from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Christian Book Distributors.
The Father Christmas Series is available exclusively through Amazon Kindle.
I also have a free novel titled The Moment Max Forgot Me available to download through my website for subscribers to my newsletter. Visit emilyannbenedict.com.
Thanks so much for participating in the Home Educated Authors Feature Week, Emily!
Thank you very much for inviting me!
Tomorrow on Home Educated Authors Week: the talented KM Weiland, with Dreamlander!