My Signs of Life series began with the book Signs of Life, which explored how a mass shooting in Portland, Oregon impacted several specific survivors—including the young shooter, Rogan Sneed; the lead interrogator, Wayne Deetz; and a city school teacher, Tyson Cooper, who lost his wife and faith in the shooting.
The organic, grass roots themes of each of my eight novels have reflected upon where I’ve been, spiritually, at the time of writing. So, Signs of Life hit on the topic of, how and why God allows tragedy in the lives of human beings, especially those who love him? As a Christian, I was struggling with that, and that crucible came out in the pages of Signs of Life.
As a novelist, I am not a plotter, but write by the “seat of the pants” each day. So I walked with the characters in the aftermath of the shooting, day by day. It was extremely emotional. I found myself questioning God and trying to experience what the characters would be feeling in the midst of such anguish. Especially Tyson Cooper, whose wife died in the attack, and Wayne Deetz, a Portland PD investigator close to retirement, who repeatedly interviewed the young shooter, Rogan Sneed.
For my new book (two in the Signs of Life series), Let My Daughter Go (June 1, 2020), we follow our favorite character Wayne Deetz as he investigates the case of a missing teenage girl. Deetz himself, approaching 60, has two adult boys of his own, as well as an 18-year-old daughter, Leena, who has special needs.
In the aftermath of the mass shooting, Deetz believes all people responsible for the massacre are either dead or behind bars. But, he gets wind there may be another terrorist still on the loose from the original shooting. Here, we follow the dark lives of two scoundrels who knew each other from the same foster care home and are now wreaking havoc in the life of Deetz, his family members, and the entire city of Portland.
In our family and community here in Buford, Georgia, we’ve had much involvement with children and young adults with special needs. I personally find these people to be among the most honest, lovely, humorous, and genuine human beings on the planet. So, I decided Deetz’s daughter, Leena, would become the focal point for Let My Daughter Go.
I can’t say much more about the new book without giving away spoilers, but I will say it is a tension-filled story from page one until the last page—precisely the type of book I love to read.
If there is anything that really shines about this new book I think it is the pacing. Pacing is so critical for thriller writers. I have a good author friend, Diane Moody (whose novels are amazing) who read an early copy of Let My Daughter Go and had this to say: “From the first page to last, I was absolutely riveted with Let My Daughter Go, the latest thriller by Creston Mapes. While investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl, Detective Wayne Deetz once again finds himself face to face with the suffocating tentacles of evil that almost destroyed him in Portland’s mass shooting two years prior. I devoured Deetz’s story, reading at breakneck speeds thanks to the author’s superb pacing and non-stop twists and turns. Could not put it down!”
I love reading books with tension; in fact, I will only read fiction that keeps me excitedly turning the pages. For me, novels don’t have to be action-packed, in fact, they can be about ordinary, everyday life, but they must have tension. As a reader, I want to feel genuine love and hate for the characters and feel emotionally connected and invested in their challenging circumstances.
I’m just starting to write book three in the Signs of Life series and have barely a clue what it will be about. Whenever I write a series, I design it so each book can be read as a stand-alone thriller. I don’t like cookie-cutter templates, so each book must be totally different. For instance, Signs of Life was about a mass shooting, Let My Daughter Go was about a kidnapping, and book three will be about something unique, but yet with the same characters with whom readers have hopefully fallen in love.
As far as being a writer from the South, I truly am. Although I grew up in northeast Ohio, my wife and I have lived in the Buford-Lawrenceville part of Georgia for almost 35 years—and love it. Portions of my books have taken place in the Atlanta area, some in Ohio, and some in other cities, including Las Vegas and Portland.
My favorite author is Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and one I’ve been watching closely from here in the South is Michael Farris Smith, whose written some tension-filled thrillers of his own, including Blackwood, Desperation Road, and Rivers.