It is my great pleasure to bring you an interview I did with one of my favorite authors: Terri Blackstock. Terri is a best-selling, multiple award-winning, Christian fiction writer who has over six million books in print. Her latest release is called Truth Stained Lies, and is the first book in The Moonlighters Series. Truth Stained Lies releases on March 12, but can be preordered now at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, or Christianbook.com. You can learn more about this book–and all her great books–by going to her website at http://www.terriblackstock.com. With over 25 years of experience, Terri knows how to write books that will keep you up all night.
And now….my interview with Terri Blackstock.
*Terri, having already enjoyed great success as a best-selling writer (with over 6 million books in print), what keeps you passionate about writing Christian fiction?
Thank you for saying that. I think my ideas are what keep me passionate. God has always gifted me with ideas that I can’t wait to write. So even as I’m getting to the end of a book or series, I have new ideas that keep me going on to the next thing. And sometimes God is working in my life in a way that I think will help my readers, and because I believe that everything happens for a purpose, I try to fulfill that purpose by passing those lessons on to my readers.
*Where do your story ideas come from? Do you develop them from the perspective of a seat-of-the-pants writer or from the mind of one who carefully plots out the entire story before launching into it?
I’m a careful plotter. Usually an idea comes like a light flicking on in my mind, and I have to flesh it out and develop a plot that I hope will be a page-turner. I tend to do a loose plot for the whole book, then I very meticulously plot the first fourth of the book, write that, then plot the next fourth, etc. I use a storyboard to plot each scene so I know where I need to take the story each day.
*Emotionally speaking, which book or series has been the most difficult to write? The most rewarding?
Definitely the Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). The series was inspired by my experiences with my daughter who had severe drug addictions. The whole series was very personal to me, and the mother, Barbara, felt and thought things that I had felt and thought. But I’m really glad I wrote the series, because it brought healing to so many families. I hear from family members of addicts, and the addicts themselves, telling me that they felt they were alone until they read these books. They finally knew that someone got what they were going through. The books give them hope, because they remind them that God is the parent of prodigal children, and He understands the pain and suffering.
*Do you enjoy or endure the editing process?
I actually enjoy the editorial process. The worst part for me is the first draft, but the second draft, all the way through editorial, are kind of fun for me. With each pass I’m able to make the story better. I’ve worked with the same editor for over fifteen years, and he usually gives me a long critique of the story. Then I’m eager to dive back in and take it to the next level.
*One of my greatest highlights from the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in St. Louis (2011) was the privilege of getting to meet you personally. How do you balance your time so that you can meet the demands of writing at such a high level with the need to maintain a certain amount of personal contact with your readers?
I’ve had to clear my calendar so that I can focus more on writing than other things. For that reason, I don’t speak or teach much, and I keep traveling to a minimum. But I do try to stay connected with my readers through Facebook, Twitter, and email. But I realize that there’s always more for me to learn about my craft, so I do try to make time to attend writer’s conferences when I can. I always enjoy meeting my readers and getting to know other writers. I love the wit and kindred spirit of fiction writers.
*The Restoration Series was a bit of a departure from the type of suspense you normally write. What drew you to that series?
Sometimes I get an idea that doesn’t fit perfectly within my genre, but no one can talk me out of it! That’s kind of what happened with that series. My publisher was concerned I was off-brand with it, but I was determined to write it, and I’m glad I did.
I got the idea for the series after Y2K, when everyone expected technology to stop when the calendar turned. When nothing happened, my imagination kept taking that story in a different direction. What if something actually happened that knocked out all our technology? I researched what could make that happen, and found that EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) are an actual threat. In the first book, Last Light, my middle class family finds themselves without electricity, transportation, communication, etc. I thought it would be interesting to see what a family like mine would do when all of our modern conveniences are taken away. How would they survive? Would they hoard what they had, or would they share at the risk of starving? And I realized that I could bring in the suspense element through the looters killing for food and provisions. In times of crisis, darkness is darker than ever, and light is lighter than ever.
I called it the Restoration Series because I wanted the crisis to be a time of restoration for this family. And at the end of the series, when the power returns, I wanted the family to be different. They have a choice to go back to the way they were before, or to embrace the changes in their family and live in light of what they’ve learned.
I have to say that the series has had renewed interest in the last couple of years, probably due to the economy’s downturn and TV series such as Revolution. My publisher is repackaging the series and will re-release it in the fall, hoping to give it a second life. The subject matter is pretty timely right now. Just for the record, my series began coming out in 2005, before all these similar programs/movies/books were written.
*Even though it was published under a different title and you used a pen-name, Shadow in Serenity represented a transition in your life as a writer. What was it like for Terri Blackstock the Christian writer to revise something by Terri Blackstock the secular writer?
It was kind of difficult because it’s not the kind of book I write now. But I liked the characters and the story–kind of a modern day Music Man–so when I got the rights back, I decided to rewrite it. I have done that with five other books. My Second Chances series was made up of four books that had been rewritten from my early days, and Emerald Windows was also “redeemed.” Revising those books wasn’t quite as hard as writing something from scratch, so it was a nice way to clean my palate between books.
*I’m very much looking forward to the release of Book 1 in the Moonlighter’s Series, which is about three sisters who try to prove that their brother is not guilty of his ex-wife’s murder. In addition to Truth Stained Lies, what can we expect to see in this intriguing series?
I got the idea for the first book during the Casey Anthony trial. I was very interested in that trial, and I followed some blogs written by people with legal backgrounds, who were digging for behind-the-scenes information, some of which wasn’t being allowed into court. It occurred to me that these bloggers probably made some people angry, and I began to do my usual What-If routine. What if someone set up the crime to turn the tables on the blogger? What if that crime put the blogger in the position of being judged? So I created Cathy Cramer, a former prosecutor who started her blog after her fiance was murdered. She’s determined to make guilty people pay–so she investigates and speculates, and posts her findings.
When a reader warns her that she’s about to get a taste of her own judgmental medicine, she shrugs the warning off. But then her sister-in-law is found murdered, and her brother is set up as the killer. The killer has orchestrated events so that her brother’s true story sounds completely unbelievable. Despite Cathy’s efforts to defend her brother, she knows that no one is going to believe the truth.
Cathy is one of three sisters–a blogger, a stay-at-home mom, and a ne’er-do-well taxi driver–who moonlight as private investigators to help solve these crimes related to their family. Michael Hogan, the brother of Cathy’s dead fiance, is a PI who eventually hires the unlikely trio to help him solve crimes. (And he’s Cathy’s love interest.) The personality differences among the sisters creates some humor and conflict as they learn how to work as PIs without getting themselves killed. Each book will feature one of the sisters, and I’m having fun exploring these characters and the relationships in this family.
*How do you handle the ups and downs of being a writer?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, so over the years I’ve learned patience. It used to be so hard to wait…to hear back from a publisher if they were going to buy my book or reject it, to actually get the contract, to get paid, to have a book come out a year later, to see if anyone bought it, to see my royalty statements. I was always waiting, and my emotions were like a roller coaster. One minute I’d be dancing because I’d sold a book, and the next I’d be devastated because someone wrote a nasty review. But I have to say that I don’t let those things bother me much anymore. Deadlines keep me pretty focused, I avoid reading most of my reader reviews, and I try to remember that God doesn’t judge me the way the world does. As long as I’m staying true to Him, I’m succeeding. That keeps me steady.
Thanks to Terri Blackstock for being a part of this interview! You can learn more about Terri and her books in the following places: