Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

Colleen's blog

  • Modern Ink Society June 2016

    June 22, 2016


    Amy Christine Parker

    Exploring the Dark Side

    Welcome to the twenty-seventh session of



    “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side. If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny.”

                                                                       — Darth Vader (James Earl Jones)

    Introducing Amy
     Her Featured Book is

     Exploring the dark side

    Right now you’re imagining Darth Vader aren’t you?
    Heavy breathing.
    Deep James Earl Jones Voice.
    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.
    Whenever I think of villains, he’s the first one that comes to mind. That’s what happens when you grow up in the seventies and eighties! But, it isn’t bad at all that we’re thinking about him. He’s just the type of character I try to create in my books: bad, but also somehow able to draw you in. Definitely evil with a capital E, but capable of good at unexpected times. There are shades of gray and that is what makes a character—good or bad—special.
    For me, characters are central. If I don’t get who they are, I can’t get the story right. Probably because I’m fascinated with psychology and trying to understand what makes people tick. Every writer has themes they seem to explore in their writing either consciously or subconsciously and those themes tend to crop up in book after book.
    For me, there are two: how and why some people allow themselves to be influenced by other individuals enough to sacrifice their own will and what makes people do bad things. In Gated and Astray, that meant trying to explain why people join cults and what about the leaders who create them draws people in.
    When I was writing both books, I spent loads of time researching real life cult leaders Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, and Warren Jeffs. The one thing I realized is that none of these men were simple to define or easy to explain away. They weren’t villains in the sense that everything single thing that they did was overtly evil.
    Sometimes they could be charming or they could say something that felt like an almost truth (this is why I chose to add quotes from these men at the beginnings of my chapters—it is eerie how what they said is similar to things you might hear from a church pastor or community leader, just a little off-center). Their singular talent was their ability to manipulate situations, their words, and people so that figuring out what the truth really was got harder for their followers. I wanted Pioneer to be the same—someone a reader felt both drawn to and unsettled by.
    Working on Pioneer taught me a lot about villains and heroes and how I wanted to portray the characters I put in my books. Bad people aren’t bad all the time just as good people aren’t good all the time. Once I really took this to heart, all of the characters in my novels became richer and more complex. There needed to be light and dark in each of them.
    If Gated and Astray were all about making the villain have shades of gray, Smash & Grab is all about the heroes. Both of the main characters are attempting to rob the same bank and then frame each other for the heist—neither are what you might consider the usual hero, but on closer inspection, they both absolutely are. Each of them are doing some bad things, but for reasons that I hope will make readers empathize with them.
    The initial idea for this book stemmed from a real life news story about a dad who convinced his teenaged children to start robbing banks with him. What fascinated me most was that there were these two kids who hadn’t gotten in trouble before, but who became criminals within a short period of time. Their father was someone they loved, but also someone who did them real harm and betrayed their trust in him. Smash & Grab grew from there.
    What I attempted to do was explain how two inherently good kids could get caught up in a very bad situation and how they might justify that situation to themselves. My characters aren’t from the same family and the story is delivered in a much lighter way than in Gated or Astray, but if readers have read those books as well as Smash & Grab I like to think they will see the themes in all three are similar.
    Both of my characters, Lexi and Christian, are criminals in the strictest sense of the word. They steal multiple times, and break more than one law. However, they aren’t really bad. When push comes to shove they attempt to do what they feel is the right thing. Up for debate is whether readers will decide that they actually accomplished this. There are moral gray areas for sure, ones I put in on purpose because I like creating situations where the right path isn’t always crystal clear, even in a book as fun and over all lighthearted as Smash & Grab.
    My hope is that readers will put the book down and wonder what they might do if they were in the same situation. I don’t want to provide an answer so much as open a discussion. That’s when I love a book the most—when it has me thinking about the characters and how they navigated the story after I’ve put the book down. If you read this book or my other two, my fondest hope is for them 
    to resonate with you and that the characters feel like real, memorable people you will think about long after you’ve finished the read.
    Thank you Colleen and fellow book clubbers for choosing Smash & Grab for June!
    Happy reading!

    This entry was posted in Featuring Authors, The Modern Ink Society.

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    Author Bio

    I’m Linda Louise, one of the bloggers on this website and Colleen’s little sister. I’m just a girl in her mid-thirties who feels thirteen when I play outside with my boys, fifteen when I sing my heart out listening to tunes while driving by myself, and sixty five when I go out past ten at night. I have a thing for junior mints, Mt. Dew, shrimp and kale (though not all at once) and I have a crush on Superman. I still get girlish butterflies when I read Twilight, cry when I read These is My Words, and smile from ear to ear when I read Anne of Green Gables. I have nightmares about aliens on a regular basis and I have a bad habit of midnight snacking. I love everything sports, except golf (although can that honestly be considered a sport??), and I hate anything that slithers, hisses, or stings. I have a problem with giggling at inappropriate moments and I sometimes wish life was a musical. I love science, hate math, love Dr. Seuss, and hate olives. My family is my world and my joys come from their happiness. I’ve learned I don’t know much about anything and I live for a good adventure, naps, cuddles, stories, exceptional food and The Shire.