Saturday, August 1, 2015

Author Interview with Jodie Bailey

Heidi here. We've all met Jodie Bailey on this blog. But, today we are going to talk about a relevant issue in her latest book, Smokescreen, panic attacks. I'm hoping that Jodie's story may help one of you out there.

Jodie after she won the Selah award
Jodie Bailey writes novels about freedom and the heroes who fight for it. Her novels include 2014 RT Reviewers Choice Award winner Crossfire, from Love Inspired Suspense and the 2015 Selah in Contemporary Romance for Quilted by Christmas, from Abingdon Press. She is convinced a camping trip to the beach with her family, a good cup of coffee, and a great book can cure all ills. Jodie lives in North Carolina with her husband, her daughter, and two dogs.  You can find her on the web at

Jodie, thank you for visiting with us today! I’d like to do a different twist in this interview, let’s talk about the motivation behind Smokescreen, your latest novel. I know that the main character, Ashley, has panic attacks brought on by PTSD. You modeled much of her behavior after a portion of your personal life. Could you share your experiences with us?

Outer Banks (Jodie's favorite place)
Growing up, I had the tendency to stuff the bad things that happened in my life. I was the master of “being strong” by the time I was in middle school.  My dad tells the story of how, when I was ten, I took a HUGE swig of hot chocolate at church and just sat blinking back tears and saying nothing.  According to him, that’s when he “should have known something was wrong.”  People complemented me on how well I handled some very heavy duty things that happened in my childhood, so I thought it was a good thing to be so strong. 

The problem is, when you stuff something full, it explodes.  The week after I graduated high school, I completely derailed.  My best friend and I were at the beach and got food poisoning and were carted to the hospital by ambulance. (It’s actually a funny story now, but it’s better told in person with dramatic hand gestures and facial expressions.)  She got better.  I did not.  I started having panic attacks anywhere I felt like I was “trapped” with too many people.  At the mall.  At a good friend’s wedding.  (Who just happened to be my ex-boyfriend, so boy howdy, was THAT ever taken wrong by a few people…) By mid-summer, I refused to leave my house, even locking myself in a closet, leaving my dad terrified I was going to do something horrible.  I was scared to eat, to talk on the phone, to get the mail…  I couldn’t begin to tell you what I was afraid of, I only knew that I was afraid and being around a lot of people triggered it. 

Gosh, that sounds scary. How did God show Himself during that time?
At the time, I was so angry, scared, depressed…  I lost my scholarship to my dream college.  I watched my friends go off to school while I sat in my bedroom and wondered if I’d ever be normal again.  I saw a good counselor and was put on medication after a few months, and I was able to live a fairly normal life again for the next ten years.  But it was always there in the back of my mind.  I had a lot of angry words for God over those ten years about why He didn’t fix it immediately.  But I look back and all I see is Him, hovering over that whole time.  Right beside me.  He held me through it all, even in those times I couldn’t feel Him.  Even when I was mad at Him.  All I see when I look back now isn’t fear… it’s God and all of the people and places He put in my life, all of the work He did on me.  My life is so different than it would have been without that season, but in the very best of ways. 

That sounds like a painful season, but necessary to build you up to the awesome person you are today! How did that time mold you into the Jodie Bailey that we love today?
God waited ten years to heal me, and I honestly now say I wouldn’t trade that time. I don’t want to relive it, but I wouldn’t trade it.  It made me lean on Him so hard. I used to think I had my life in control and all planned out and I was doing fine on my own, but He taught me differently.  I trust Him in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I have so much sympathy for people who suffer.  It’s easy to be judgmental, but when you’ve been there... I’ve sat with students having panic attacks and known what to say, how to comfort them… and that right there makes it all worth it.  Because it’s so easy to think you’re the only one when there are literally millions of people who’ve had at least one—and usually more—in their lifetime.

I’m with you. I went through a hard time years ago but, like you said, I would not trade that hard time because it grew me. But, back to you. In the beginning of the story, Ashley experiences a panic attack and Ethan pulls into a gas station so that she can get out of the car. The scene was very vivid. How real were Ashley’s symptoms compared to your own?
Spot on.  That scene was so hard to write, because I had to draw on emotions that have been absent from my life for over a decade.  That’s a place I never want to go to again, but I had to force myself back into that feeling in order to make Ashley real.  The pounding heart, the crawling skin, the wanting to jump out of a moving vehicle.  Digging fingernails into anything trying to hold it together. For me, it literally felt like my insides were pounding their way out of my skin and if I didn’t get out of wherever I was RIGHT THAT SECOND, I’d blow into pieces.  It’s hard to describe that you literally can’t control yourself.  I used to say imagine you’re hiding in a closet from a man with a knife, and he’s turning the doorknob.  How would you feel?  Now imagine feeling that randomly… and for no reason at all.

Very scary. And in that same scene, Ashley revealed that she didn’t care if the bad guys found her. At least she wouldn’t be tormented by terror anymore. In the moment of a panic attack, does the victim feel that powerless?
Most definitely.  I was never suicidal, but I can easily see where someone might be.  There were moments where I’d think that dying would be better than suffering through an attack. 

Can you share how you were able to overcome your panic attacks and how you currently keep them at bay? 
I will say this unequivocally and truly…  God healed me.  After ten years of fear, on my birthday in 2001, after a long period of having me face some things from my past and letting them go, He healed me.  I grew up not believing in God’s healing in that way, so I know that’s a tough one for a lot of people to believe, but I stand here in the truth. I am nearly 14 years free and there is no explanation but God. He took a decade to heal me, but in that time I became a different person, one I’m grateful to be.  I’m also aware that, for some people, it doesn’t happen like that.  I was careful to make Ashley still have after effects, because I don’t want to act like it’s an easy fix or that everybody’s road will look like mine.  He had His reasons, and it all had to happen.

I found Ashley and her faith very believable. Before the incident that started the panic attacks, she believed in God, prayed to Him. But after that incident she felt God had left her. During the book, she is faced with difficult circumstances and out of a deep-seated habit, prays to God. Towards the end of the book, she realizes that God never left her. That scene was powerful!

Jodie, thank you for sharing such a personal matter with us and congratulations on the release of Smokescreen. I really enjoyed Smokescreen (I actually reviewed it yesterday on the blog!), especially the intense interplay between Ashley and Ethan.

Compromised Identity, another Love Inspired Suspense, releases in January 2016. Then, in 2016, Jodie steps away from suspense with The Dellinger Racing Series, the first title is Going in Circles.


  1. Jodie, that pic of you at the Selah awards says a lot - you struggled, made sense of that extremely difficult time in your life, and triumphed. I'd like to know more specifics about your healing - so intriguing how God works. Thanks, and blessings to you/your book.

  2. Replies
    1. Anytime! Amazing story about how God worked through the pain in ur life.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your testimony. It certainly makes me appreciate what you have written so much much.

    1. Thank you, Ann! I really appreciate you saying that.

  4. I enjoyed your post, & I'd love to read your book..