Over the EdgeOver the Edge
Brandilyn Collins
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Janessa McNeil's husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, has spent his life "proving" chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist. Because of doctors like Brock many Lyme patients remain untreated. One embittered man--who lost his wife to the disease--has seen enough. He breaks into the mcneil's house and places an infected tick on Jannie while she sleeps. After jannie develops Lyme symptoms the man states his demand--or her daughter will be next. Jannie must convince her husband to publicly change his opinion about Lyme. But her marriage is already rocky. She's so sick she can hardly walk or think. And her husband denies that she has Lymes at all.
     

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Brandilyn CollinsBrandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e . . ." Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn's awards for her novels include the ACFW Book of the Year (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice.

Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). The Writer magazine named Getting into Character one of the best books on writing published in 2002.When she's not writing, Brandilyn can be found teaching the craft of fiction at writers' conferences. She and her family divide their time between homes in the California Bay Area and northern Idaho.

Favorite Verse: Psalm 138:8 The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.


 

 Our Interview with Brandilyn Collins


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

As an author I’m known for my trademarked Seatbelt Suspense®--fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an underlying thread of faith. Over the Edge is my 22nd book, and my 20th novel. It is the story I was born to write.

What is your favorite Bible verse?  Why?

I live by Psalm 138:8—The Lord will accomplish what concerns me. In fact I have memorized all of Psalm 138 and pray it every morning. Really, if I can live by this verse—completely trusting that God will accomplish what he has determined is important in my life—I will keep firmly on His path.

How did you come up with the concept for Over the Edge?

Over the Edge is a suspense about Lyme disease—an illness I have personally survived. I am passionate about raising awareness about this disease. Lyme sufferers must battle the horrific illness itself, plus fight a medical community that is ill-equipped for, and often downright hostile toward treating the disease.
At the end of Over the Edge I’ve included an Author’s Note that explains why I wrote this story. (It also includes further details about the history and issues of the so-called “Lyme wars,” plus offers helpful online links for further information.) Here is an excerpt from the Author’s Note that answers your question about how I came up with the concept:

I remember slumping in the waiting room of my doctor in 2003, so sick I could not remain sitting in the chair. (They had to move me to the doctor’s personal padded armchair with footrest in a private office.) Hanging on the waiting-room wall was a framed newspaper article summarizing the 2001 findings written in The New England Journal of Medicine. (While Brock McNeil’s part in writing those findings is fictional, they are very real.) The newspaper article explained how researchers had once again “proved” that Lyme was never chronic and was, in fact, very easy to treat with a short-term round of antibiotics. People claiming months or years of crippling symptoms from the disease were just wrong." 

What those know-it-alls need, I thought with an admittedly un-Christian attitude, is a real good case of Lyme.


And so the idea for this novel was born. It would take another seven years before I was ready to write it.

 

What is your experience with ticks?

I never knew I was bitten by a tick. Many Lyme sufferers don’t. The growth phase at which ticks most often transmit Lyme disease is in their nymph stage, when they’re no bigger than the head of a pin. Very hard to see on your body, especially once the tick is halfway embedded under your skin.

Do you have a favorite character Over the Edge? Why?

It would have to be my protagonist, Jannie McNeil. She suffers all the symptoms I suffered from Lyme disease. In fact there’s a scene in the first chapter in which her legs give way while she’s in the kitchen—and she falls down, then can’t get up. That scene is straight out of my life.

Jannie, now a mother, was the child of an alcoholic /abusive father. She’s overcome some hard issues in her life. Now she faces the worst one yet. She’s more of a fighter than she realizes, especially when it comes to the safety of her daughter.

How much research did Over the Edge take?

My research was a combination of personal experience with Lyme plus learning in-depth information about Borrelia (the bacteria that causes Lyme) through studying books, articles, presentations, research papers, etc. When you have Lyme you have to learn a lot about the disease in order to drive your own treatment. But when I started to write Over the Edge, I had to delve much deeper, and be absolutely sure of my facts. Not only did I spend many hours in research, but when the book was done, I had it fact-checked by my early endorsers (Dr. Nick Harris from the Lyme lab IGeneX, Jim Wilson of the Canadian Lyme Disease Association, Dr Christine Green, and others.) In general I’d say this novel took more research than my other suspense novels.

What are the most interesting facts about Lyme disease a reader can learn from Over the Edge?

Woven into the suspense (and it is a tension-filled story!) are numerous facts about Lyme. Further information about Lyme is laid out in my Author’s Note at the end of the book. First, readers will learn that some things they may have heard about Lyme are indeed myths:

“You have to know you were bitten by a tick to have Lyme.” – False
“You have to display the “bulls-eye rash” to have Lyme.” –False. Many patients never have the rash. (I didn’t.) Others may have a rash, but it doesn’t look like a bulls-eye.
“Lyme isn’t in my state.” –False. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has verified Lyme in all 50 states.
“A negative Lyme test means I don’t have Lyme.” –False. Lyme tests are notoriously unreliable. Lyme is a clinical diagnosis, meaning the doctor must take into account the patient’s symptoms.
Readers will also learn about the symptoms of Lyme—what it really feels like to have it—through Jannie’s eyes. And they’ll learn about the double whammy of the Lyme wars. Patients are often denied diagnosis of Lyme when it’s early onset and easy to treat. Then when they’re in late-stage Lyme, which requires long-term antibiotics, they’re denied the treatment because the administration of long-term antibiotics goes against the medical standard.
 
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Writing.

Well, it’s true. I find writing very hard to do. Every time I finish a book, I hit the “send” button to email it to my editor, then I get on my knees and thank God for getting me through another one.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Finishing a book!

What clubs or organizations are you involved with that teach the craft of writing?

I am on the Advisory Board of ACFW—American Christian Fiction Writers. I also am a regular teacher at Mt. Hermon Writers Conference in California, and I often teach at CWG (Christian Writers Guild) conferences. I teach at other writers conferences as my schedule allows, but I’m sorry to say I have to turn down numerous requests each year.

What new projects are on the horizon?

Since finishing Over the Edge, I’ve written my next novel, Gone to Ground, and am now working on the novel following that one. When this current book (my 24th) is done, it’ll be on to the next one. Such is my life.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Over the Edge?  (besides being afraid of ticks!)

Readers will have a better understanding of Lyme disease and what Lyme sufferers go through. As a result, I hope Over the Edge readers find more compassion in their hearts for the chronically ill. On the spiritual side, I want readers to see that no matter what trauma they are going through, God is still worthy to be praised. (A lesson I learned from my own battle with Lyme.)

What was your favorite book as a child?

Can’t say I had a favorite book. I’ve read novels since I was eight years old. I remember my first full-length novel (well, for a kid) was one of the Bobbsey Twins stories.

What is your greatest achievement?

When my daughter was 13, she said to me, “When I grow up, I want to have a marriage just like you and Dad.” I figure if Mark and I never do any other accomplish in our lives, this is enough—to model for our children what a stable, God-based marriage looks like.

What do you do to get away from it all?

My paradise is our second home in Idaho, on 11 acres with a smashing view of the lake. I can’t say I get away from work there, as I have a home office in that house also and often write there. But we do leave the California freeways for the forest and wildlife. Pure heaven.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

You can read more about Over the Edge, including the opening scene on my web site at www.brandilyncollins.com. You can also view the trailer for the book. And I have a page on my site about Lyme disease with further information and helpful links.

 

 


 
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