S.R.Claridge writes Mystery and Romantic Suspense novels. Her work has been said to have the energy of Dan Brown, the mystery of Mary Higgins Clark and the humor of Janet Evanovich. Claridge novels will take you to the edge of your seat, keep you guessing until the very end and ultimately warm your heart. It is on the pages of every S.R.Claridge novel that Mystery and Sensual Suspense collide.

For more information on bookings, interviews and upcoming releases, please visit the author website and Facebook fan page.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Reader Questions

As promised, I am going to answer some questions from emails I have received over the course of the past few weeks.  I have been unable to answer them because I was busy on the Mystery We Write Blog Tour. 

I believe most of these questions are driven from the release of my latest novel, House of Lies, and its connection to the murder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) intern, Bethany Deaton. 

If you are unfamiliar with this Deaton story, you can read it here.

With no further ado, here are your top ten most frequently asked questions:

#1:  “Is House of Lies written about IHOP-KC because I see a lot of similarities between the characters in your book and the leaders of IHOP?”

No.  The characters and events in House of Lies are all fictional and any likeness to real persons, past or present, is a coincidence.  That being said, I studied five cult groups in order to educate myself so that I could create believable characters and scenes for my story.  IHOP was one of the five I researched, as was Jim Jones/Jonestown and David Koresh/Waco.  I will not name the other two groups because I don’t want to receive a bunch of hate mail from them. 

I will say this:  all of the groups I have studied have similar structures and belief systems and are all built upon foundational lies, heresies and extreme hypocrisies. 

If you study the leaders of past and present cult groups, you will see that they all possess a similar agenda.  They may carry it out differently, but they all possess certain cult qualities, initially masked by charisma and deception. 


#2:  “Have you ever been involved in a cult group?”

Yes.  Years ago, I met a man who, for lack of a better term, was a cult leader.  He had radical ideas about spirituality and God and I was drawn to the group by his charisma and what I, in my ignorance, deemed as his wisdom.  I spent almost three years completely obsessed with his teachings.  I was more concerned with meditation and achieving deeper levels of spirituality than I was with my job, my family, my friends or my husband.  I prayed, fasted and meditated more than I did anything else.  See, I believed I was chosen and others in my life were not.  I had become elitist in my spirituality.  (Which, by the way, is a big red flag.  God does not give people a spirit of elitism.  If elitism exists, beware of the group to which you have tied yourself.) 

I even went as far as to tell my husband that we should divorce because I was chosen to do something great for God and since he was not, we would eventually be ripped apart anyway.  Thankfully, and by what I deem as God’s grace and love flowing through my husband, he refused to leave me.

I’ll never forget what he said.  He said, “Susan, when the woman I married can look at me and tell me she doesn’t love me anymore, I’ll leave…. But you’re not the woman I married.”

He nailed it on the head.  I wasn’t the same woman he married.  I had become an empty shell.  All the meditation and fasting and the seeking revelation had left me completely hollow.   All of the so-called wisdom was a mere deception.   

See…there is a fine line between truth and a lie.  There is a big difference between meditating on God’s Word and engaging in meditation tactics for the sole purpose of receiving deeper revelation from spiritual depths.  One is beneficial.  The other is dangerous.

Breaking away from that group was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It stripped me of my identity, of my sense of belonging, essentially of my reality and it left me raw to the core.  I felt unsure, unstable and more scared than I have ever been.

But… God is good.  He brought me out of the darkness using my parents and my husband as pillars of strength.  Today, I stand on my faith because I now know it is a solid foundation.  Sometimes we have to walk through the darkness to be able to truly recognize the light.

This experience made me realize how easily anyone can be deceived and how easily the mind can succumb to manipulation.  The mind is a powerful tool and it can be warped, twisted and made to believe almost anything…. especially the stuff that feels good.


#3:  “Did you study IHOP because you have a sister involved in it and is that why you wrote a book about a girl trying to save her sister?”

Ever since the Bethany Deaton case has been likened to House of Lies, it is no longer a secret that my sister is in leadership with IHOP.  She is the Director of the Gateway House of Prayer in St. Louis, Missouri.  She has been involved with IHOP for over ten years.

I began studying IHOP because I had heard things about the movement and I had concerns for my sister.  I visited IHOP-KC numerous times and these concerns were substantiated.

My relationship with my sister, and her involvement in IHOP may have inspired the idea for the novel, but the story is not written about her, about IHOP or about me.  It is a fictional story.


#4:  “You call yourself a ‘Christian’ but you don’t take a stand against homosexuality which is clearly, biblically wrong.”

This really isn’t a question, but I felt like I needed to comment on it.  Yes, I call myself a “Christian” because, by definition, I am one.  I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal savior; thus, I’m a “Christian.” 

BUT…that title does not give me license to judge or condemn others.

Yes, the bible does say that God hates homosexuality.  I won’t try to argue that point nor engage in a theological debate about it.  God hates a lot of things in our world (adultery, murder, rape, stealing, lying, taking advantage of other people, etc.) that have deviated from His original plan; but more than that, He loves people.

He loves homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals and metrosexuals.  He loves all of us the same. 

Whether or not someone is a homosexual is between that person and God.  It doesn’t involve me.   My opinion of someone is not based on their sexual preference any more than it is based on their race, religion or political viewpoint.

God said don’t judge others.  That is my stance.

#5:  “Does it bother you to say you are a Christian and then write books that involve so much violence and murder?”

No.  It doesn’t bother me at all.  Read the Old Testament and you’ll see plenty of violence and murder.

I write murder mystery stories and that’s really hard to do without involving a murder.  I also write Mafia stories, and unfortunately the Mob world is a violent place; thus there is some violence in my books. 

I try to lighten it by adding some humorous characters.  J


#6:  “Do you believe IHOP is a cult?”

Yes.  I believe it is extremely dangerous and detrimentally deceptive.  It is no different than the groups led by Jim Jones and David Koresh. 

I pray it doesn’t end in the same fashion.


#7:  “Do you think cult groups start out knowing they are cult groups?”

No.  I think a lot of leaders start out with a genuine heart that is seeking God and somewhere along the line they lose sight of God and allow their ego to push them toward something mystical and alluring.  They want to believe they are the next big thing, the chosen of God, and from there, it spirals out of control.  I don’t believe Jim Jones began his ministry with a plan to have everyone drink poison Koolade.  It evolved into that monster.  David Koresh didn’t begin his ministry seeking a shoot-out with police.  It evolved into that monster. 

These men had a common trait from the beginning… ego.  Foundationally, when they started, there was a flaw…ego.  They wanted to be known, to be famous, to be chosen…ego.  They wanted followers…ego.  They wanted to be prophets of the Lord…ego.

If you look Biblically at the people God used, they were not the men with charisma and elevated egos.  One example is Moses… a humble man…telling God he couldn’t do it, telling the Almighty to find someone stronger and better. 

Study these things yourself and it will become clear that God isn’t interested in human egotism.  It gets in the way.  Satan, however, is all about ego.  He always has been…in fact, his desire for greatness is what got him booted out of Heaven to begin with. 

This is why it is so important to look at the foundational principals upon which any group is built.  If it starts out as a sham it isn’t going to end up truth.  Look at the foundation of IHOP, which is built upon lie after lie after lie.  It’s an ego-based ministry, same as Jim Jones, same as David Koresh, same as many others.


#8:  “I’ve read some of your writing on sex and am wondering if you think that is a good message, as some people just don’t have a sex drive?”

Admittedly, my view of sex is probably not the “norm.”  However, I think it is healthy.  In a nutshell, I believe sex should be part of a healthy lifestyle.

I’m speaking in terms of married individuals or those in long-term relationships.

Sex is one form of bonding or connecting.  It is not the only important form; but it is important nonetheless.  Human beings need emotional, mental and physical stimulation.  We need to be touched on all levels.

Some people have less of a sex drive than others, but that’s irrelevant in the context of what I’m talking about when I say sex is important.  Most women feel like having sex less often than most men.  That’s normal.  Let’s be honest, if a woman waited until she “felt like” having sex, she’d never have it.  It doesn’t fit in our schedules and there are a handful of other things we’d rather be doing.  I get it.  I feel that way too. 

BUT… I know that when my husband and I have an active sex life, our overall relationship blossoms.  When we are physically touching more frequently, we are more in tune with one another emotionally and mentally as well.  It is all connected.

Thus, I encourage people to make-love and to have sex as often as possible.  Kiss, hug, stroke, rub, snuggle, touch as often as you can.  It will change your marriage for the better.  Do it for each other…. Do it for your relationship… Do it for yourself… because let’s face it, once you start the process, it gets more and more enjoyable.  J


#9:  “Do you believe Bethany Deaton was murdered or do you think she committed suicide?  If murdered, why do you think she was killed?”

I believe, wholeheartedly, she was murdered and I think it was to keep her from telling the truth about what she had experienced while involved at IHOP.

I cannot tell you how many people have shared their IHOP experiences with me and asked to remain anonymous because they are afraid of what will happen to them or to their families and friends if they speak up.  People are terrified.

What could be so bad as to cause this much fear?

What could be so bad it would make you kill someone who threatened to expose it? 

If you want to know the truth, then send your questions to media outlets.  Empower the media to investigate further.  And if you have experience with IHOP, now is the time to speak up and share your story.  Your voice will empower others to speak.


#10:  “In your book , House of Lies, the P3 cult is paying off the police.  Do you think this is happening in Grandview?”

I don’t know, but I can tell you that previous grievances, cases and accusations against IHOP have magically disappeared in the past.  Are they paid off like in the book?  It wouldn’t surprise me.

Again, take this question to the Kansas City media and to the Grandview police or the Prosecutors office, and to the local government there.  Empower them to dig deeper into IHOP and the truth will spill out.


Remember, through all of this, a family lost their loved one.  Please pray for Bethany’s family as they will be spending Christmas without her this year.  ~


1 comment:

  1. I'm finally reading HoL, Susan, and I read the first three chapters in, like, 10 minutes--it's that gripping. And horrifying.


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