Heart-pounding suspense meets heart-challenging truth as best-selling author Kathy Herman returns to Sophie Trace in her new page-turner, The Last Word (David C Cook, October 2009). Based on Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the gentile,” Herman’s second installment in the Sophie Trace series triumphantly demonstrates God’s miraculous ability to heal the broken.
Herman believes that works of fiction can often address real life issues better than non-fiction can because they are less confrontational and more easily relatable. In the interview below, she shares more about her latest release, The Last Word.
Click on book cover to watch the book trailer for The Last Word.
Why do you consider your novels to be Bible studies without the homework?
I guess because my characters ask the hard questions that we all ask—and struggle until they find answers. Even though my books are exciting and entertaining, I weave the morality struggles through the storyline right along with the suspense elements to keep the reader turning the pages. I like to think of my books as “no guilt” reading. It’s fiction, but with a biblical, inspirational message that is relevant to everyday life.
For those who didn’t catch the first installment in the series, can you give us a little background about Sophie Trace and its main characters?
Sophie Trace is a fictional town in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains (not far from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge). It’s pretty town of 13,000 and tourism is big. Many people who grew up here believe that a history of unexplained crimes is the work of the red shadows—the spirits of the departed Cherokee who roam the countryside seeking to do wreak havoc on the descendants of those who took their land.
In the first book, The Real Enemy, the main character, Brill Jessup, is the first female police chief in Sophie Trace. She took the position after a stellar eighteen-year career on the Memphis police force—mostly to escape some painful memories.
Brill and her husband, Kurt, are struggling through marital problems and are staying together to raise their youngest child, nine-year-old Emily. Their two oldest children, Ryan and Vanessa away at college.
While Brill is trying to cope with her unrelenting bitterness and un-forgiveness, she is faced with a series of bizarre disappearances in Sophie Trace—the biggest crime in the town’s history. She has to come to grips with the superstition around the red shadows legend and how it affects the community’s thinking—and figure out the truth of what’s going on.
Meanwhile, Kurt commits to winning her back by taking seriously the words of Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” He strives to overcome the very evil he has created and put his family back together.
Tell us about the Scripture verse upon which The Last Word is based. Why is this theme so important to you?
The Last Word, the second book in the series, is based on Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”
I chose Romans 1:16 and built a story around it because there’s never been a time in history when believers have had a greater chance to make an impact on lost and dying world. With the Internet all the social networking venues, each of us has a chance to share our faith in ways never before possible. But so often, we don’t speak up. In fact, we don’t look or sound any different than the world. It’s as though we’ve lost our zeal for the Great Commission or simply don’t feel comfortable acting on it. My hope is that this riveting story will inspire believers to be ambassadors of the faith as we’ve been empowered to be.
Full of suspense, The Last Word follows Police Chief Brill Jessup as she tries to catch a killer on the loose. Can you describe Brill for us?
To quote her detective captain, “She’s a redheaded spitfire.” Brill’s intuition has served her well, and she can crack open a case faster than almost anyone. She’s an honest cop who brings a lot of experience to this town that is starting to experience big city crime. She’s principled. Fair. Tough. And prayerful. Her faith has been tested many times, not just on the job, but in her marriage. For Brill, law enforcement is much more than a job—it’s a calling. Though she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve, Brill strives hard to honor God in the way she treats her officers and the way she protects the community.
What dilemmas does Brill’s daughter, Vanessa, encounter during the book?
Vanessa has to decide whether or not to keep the baby she’s carrying or give him up for adoption. She’s single and still in college. The baby’s father is her psychology professor. And after she told him she was pregnant and then refused his ultimatum that she get an abortion, he disappeared without a trace. Vanessa is heartbroken but is crazy about the baby. She has no way to support him.
As if that weren’t enough, Vanessa is also friends with an old man who is dying—and she’s forced out of her comfort zone by some of his taunting spiritual questions and must decide whether she’s willing to stand up for her faith and tell him he needs Jesus. Especially when she knows she’s not a shining example of what a Christian should be.
Ultimately, Vanessa must confront the affair she had with her professor and admit to herself that it was sinful—and allow God to take away the guilt she doesn’t realize has crippled her relationship with God.
What we can expect from the last book in the trilogy?
More of the same fast-paced suspense! The final book, The Right Call, is based on 2 Peter 2:19, “For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” It features a character from book two that everyone is going to be wondering about, and who will be a prominent character in my Langley Manor Trilogy coming in 2011. This is a story about choosing whom we will serve—and it’s serious business!
The Last Word Book 2: Sophie Trace Trilogy by Kathy Herman
David C Cook/October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6785-1/390 pages/softcover/$14.99