Interview with Terri Blackstock

» Posted on Feb 25, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Terri Blackstock

This week I’m hosting Irene Brand with An Appalachian Christmas from Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe, Roseanna White with Jewel of Persia and Terri Blackstock with Vicious Cycle. If you want to enter the drawings, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (February 27th) evening.

Interview with Terri Blackstock:

1. What made you start writing?

I was raised in the Air Force and we moved around a lot for the first twelve years of my life, so I was always the new kid. I think God used that time of loneliness in my life to feed my imagination, and I would make up stories to pass the time. Without that background, I might never have become a writer.

When I was in seventh grade, my mother sent a poem I wrote to the local newspaper, and they published it. It was a poem about the Vietnam war, from the point of view of a little sister of someone at war. My dad had served in Vietnam a couple of years before, so I used those emotions to tell the story in poetry form. The accolades I received after that made me realize that writing/publishing was what I wanted to do with my life. It fulfilled me in a way I’d never experienced.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I sold my first book in 1983, at the age of twenty-five. So I’ve been writing and publishing for twenty-eight years now.

3. How do you handle rejections?

I don’t really get rejections much anymore, because I have such a good relationship with my editors that I usually pitch my ideas before putting pen to paper. By the time I write a proposal, I’ve vetted the idea pretty thoroughly. In the early part of my career, though, I had rejections, and I’m very happy that those ideas didn’t see the light of day. They weren’t very good, and would probably have hurt or hindered my career if they had been published.

4. Why do you write?

I write because God gave me this gift, and I believe He wants me to use it for His glory. It’s very important to understand your purpose in life, and I truly believe that my purpose in God’s kingdom is to tell stories that point readers to Him, challenge them to live more fruitful and righteous lives, raise awareness for the suffering in the lives of my readers, create hunger in them for God’s Word, and pass on to my readers the lessons God’s teaching me in my own life.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I might have been a family therapist, because I’m fascinated by human interaction and solving problems. I think that’s why I like to write about them. If I were to lose my career right now, I would probably become a Bible teacher, because I love studying scripture and passing insights on to others. I’ve been a Precept Bible Studies student and/or teacher for many years, and I would put a lot more time into that.

6. What are you working on right now?

I just turned in a book called Downfall, which is the third and final book in my Intervention Series. The second book, Vicious Cycle, is just out. Since turning in Downfall, I’ve been working on a collaboration I’m doing with David Lambert, who’s been my editor and friend for over fifteen years. We’re working on a novel together that will be out in 2012.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

I often do have at least one character in whom I pour my emotions and experiences. In my Intervention Series, I have a character named Barbara Covington, who is just like me. In Intervention, Barbara sets up an intervention for her daughter Emily, who’s a drug addict. On the way to rehab, the interventionist is murdered, and Emily disappears. Barbara has to search for her, not sure whether she killed the woman or if she’s been kidnapped. This story was inspired by my experiences with my own daughter who had severe addictions, and a true-life intervention that we had for her (though the murder in the story is purely fictitious). Barbara’s experiences throughout the series came from experiences I had and people I met along that dark journey.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

Vicious Cycle deals with crystal meth addiction. When fifteen-year-old Lance Covington finds an abandoned baby in the backseat of his car, he knows she’s the newborn daughter of a meth addict he’s been trying to help. But when police arrest him for kidnapping, Lance is thrust into a criminal world of baby trafficking and drug abuse.

There are very few families left who aren’t impacted by drug abuse in some way, so I want to tell the stories of those dealing with this. And it’s my prayer that those considering using crystal meth will be turned away from it, and that those who would never use drugs would have more compassion for those who are caught in its bondage. We’re not all on level ground with our backgrounds and upbringings. Some people have grown up with abuse, neglect, and drugs/alcohol at the center of their families, so they don’t have the same chance as the rest of us. But it always comes down to a personal choice whether to follow in the footsteps of family members, or to make the choice to break the vicious cycle of generational curses. Nothing is impossible with God, and I want to show that in my books.

9. What’s coming next?

I have a book coming out in September that is a little different. Shadow in Serenity is more upbeat and fun than what I’ve been doing for the past few years. It’s about a con artist who comes to a small Texas town to fleece the people out of their life savings, and encounters Carny Sullivan, a woman who was raised by con artists. She has changed her life and made this her home, and she’s determined to protect her friends and neighbors from this fraud. But Logan Brisco is a loveable fraud with a complicated history, and as he butts heads with Carny, he realizes he’s finally met his match. I’m excited about this and hope my readers will enjoy it.

10. Do you have any advice for other writers?

The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me was, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” I don’t remember who first said this, but it freed me early in my career. I used to rewrite the first three chapters over and over, then lose interest in the book and never finish it. Once I heard this advice, I began writing first drafts all the way through, quickly, without judgment, and without going back to rewrite anything. After the first draft is finished, I’m then able to rewrite several more drafts, finally getting it right, and working on depth and texture and consistency in each draft.

The other piece of advice I’d give is to remain true to your values and beliefs. Don’t sell out so that you can get published. In my early career, I sold to the secular romance market. I went into that as a Christian, and told myself I would only write clean love stories. But in the interest of fame and fortune, I wound up compromising over the years, until I was writing things that were as graphic and profane as anything else out there. It took its toll on my spiritual life, and I eventually repented and started completely over in the Christian market—with my real name instead of the pseudonyms I’d been using, with suspense rather than romance, and with the true themes that God had laid on my heart, rather than the themes that my secular editors wanted. God gave you your gift for a specific purpose in His kingdom, and you’ll be happiest if you fulfill that purpose.

11. How important is faith in your books?

Faith is the most important thing in my books. As a Christian, it’s my job to do what I’ve been given to do in God’s kingdom. If I’m disobedient, I believe God will remove His blessing from me. When I started writing Christian books, I told God I would only write books that glorified Him, and I’ve kept that promise.

However, I’ve had to learn how to write a strong faith message while still entertaining my readers, so I can’t be preachy or overbearing with my message. Sometimes you can pack a powerful punch with subtlety. I never want to write scenes that make readers roll their eyes, or scenes that take them out of the story. To me, “gratuitous gospel” is as out of place as “gratuitous sex” is in a secular novel. So it’s very important to weave the faith message into the texture of the story, so that it’s organic and natural. That’s not easy to do, and it takes lots of drafts and lots of thought to pull off.

12. What themes do you like to write about?

I think an over-riding theme in all my books is that the crisis can sometimes be the blessing. So many blessings in my life have come after a crisis that seemed like the end of the world. I want my readers to know that God can use even the darkest times in our lives, and that He can bring beauty from ashes. That He has a purpose for all of it.

13. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

Intervention is certainly the most personal book, and it has the most of my own emotion in it, but “favorite” is not really the right word. It’s bittersweet, because memories of that time in my life are sad, but I know that writing that book has helped lots of other families dealing with that issue. I’ve heard from them, and their stories are powerful. So I see God’s work in that book more than any other.

14.What is your writing schedule like?
For many years as I was raising kids, I kept school hours. But now that they’re grown and out of the house, I start writing about mid-morning and sometimes go into the night. I do try to write for several hours each day to stay on schedule, but I often take weekends off. I have a book due every nine months, which is about as fast as I can manage to write, and that doesn’t leave much free time.