Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.
Her latest series is the acclaimed, award-winning Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, Downfall). Other reader favorites include her books Predator and Double Minds, as well as the Restoration Series, the Newpointe 911 Series, the Cape Refuge Series, and the SunCoast Chronicles series. And be sure to watch for her newest title, Truth Stained Lies, coming in March, 2013.
Terri has appeared on national television programs such as “The 700 Club” and “Home Life,” and has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.
We are honored to have Terri as our guest on the blog today, as she answers a few questions about the writing life.
LYNDA SCHAB: You started out writing for the secular market. When did you realize you wanted to write Christian fiction?
TERRI BLACKSTOCK: My first thirty-two books were published in the secular market, with publishers like Harlequin, Silhouette, and HarperCollins. But the things I was writing left me empty, and the compromises I was making as a Christian began to take a huge toll on my spiritual life. Eventually I came under intense conviction that God was calling me out of that market. In 1994, I got down on my knees and repented of the way I’d been using my gift, and told God that, from that moment on, I would only write things that glorified Him. God led me into the Christian market, where I proposed a series of suspense novels. I quickly got a four-book contract with Zondervan, and have been writing Christian suspense ever since.
LYNDA: What do you love about writing suspense? And what is the most challenge aspect of this genre?
TERRI: I have a short attention span, so I need to have something happening on every page to hold my interest. I love that suspense novels are full of twists and unexpected turns, and that you get the sense that time is running out for one or more characters, and that danger is getting closer and closer. They’re the kind of novels that you hate to put down because your heart is pounding and you can’t rest until you know what happens.
The challenge to writing suspense novels is that they require multi-layers of clues and events and timelines. Even the ones that seem linear and simple are very complicated to write.
LYNDA: I can imagine! But you do such a wonderful job of it!
So what does a typical day in the life of Terri Blackstock look like? Do you have a routine or does it vary from day to day?
TERRI: When I was raising my children, I kept school hours. I would begin working as soon as they were off to school, then quit before they came home. But now that I have an empty nest, I get started a little later in the mornings and work at night if I want to. I don’t have to be that rigid with my hours.
I usually try to start my day with my quiet time (Bible study and prayer), then I check email—my favorite way of procrastinating—and finally I get to my work in progress. I try to write 2500 words per day when I’m in the first draft stage, but quite honestly, I rarely meet that goal. I don’t often work at night unless I have a deadline approaching. I have back problems, so pain often dictates how long I’m able to work each day. Unfortunately, many years of sitting in front of the computer eventually take their toll on a writer’s body. It’s an occupational hazard.
LYNDA: I have only been writing full-time for a few years and can attest to that already!
Are there any books you’d recommend on the craft of writing?
TERRI: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King
Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell
Writing Screenplays That Sell, by Michael Hauge (This book will teach you how to craft a great story, even if you never intend to write a screenplay.)
LYNDA: Finally, what three pieces of advice would you give to a not-yet-published author?
TERRI: 1) Don’t get it right, get it written. I used to write the first three chapters over and over, until I got tired of the story. When someone gave me this advice, I learned to write the first draft without judgment and without slowing down to fix things. Then, once I had the story down, I rewrote and rewrote— sometimes up to fifteen drafts—before I felt comfortable letting anyone see it.
2) Ask God what His purpose was for giving you this gift, then use it that way. If you think you know better than God, think again. His purpose has nothing to do with fame and fortune. It has everything to do with honoring Him.
LYNDA: Where can we connect with you online and learn more about your books?
Terri Blackstock: http://www.terriblackstock.com
Truth Stained Lies: http://www.terriblackstock.com/books/coming-soon/
LYNDA:Thanks so much, Terri, for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. I know our members will be blessed and encouraged by your words of advice. Can’t wait to read your latest book, Truth Stained Lies, and wishing you years and years of continued success.