Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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.

In 1994 Terri was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. As she was praying about her transition, she went on a cruise and noticed that almost everyone on the boat (including her) had a John Grisham novel. It occurred to her that some of Grisham’s readers were Christians, and that if she wrote a fast-paced thriller with an added faith element, she might just find her niche. As God would have it, Christian publishers were showing interest in the suspense genre, so she quickly sold a four-book series to Zondervan. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, most of them suspense novels.

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. Terri makes her home in Mississippi, where she and her husband Ken are enjoying their empty nest after raising three children.

Hello, Terri! Welcome to The Borrowed Book. Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?

Since I was eleven years old I’ve wanted to be a writer. Before that, I thought I wanted to be an actress. I made up plays and got all my friends to act them out with me, so even before I could write I was writing.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

That’s a difficult question, because I started writing at age twelve, but I didn’t write my first novel until I finished college. That first book didn’t sell, but by the time it was rejected by publishers, I’d finished my second one. I sold it when I was twenty-five.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

My favorite writing advice is, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” I don’t remember who first said this, but it’s not original with me. But it’s such great advice because so many writers don’t get past chapter three in their manuscripts, because they keep rewriting and polishing as they go. Eventually they’ve written those three chapters to death, and they lose their momentum and eventually their interest. I prefer to write the first draft through without slowing down to fix anything. Then, when the first draft is finished, I can go back and rewrite multiple drafts until I’m happy with how it reads.

Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

My guilty pleasure is HGTV design shows. I love watching decorators make homes look beautiful, though I’m not very good at that myself. I also stay busy with Kay Arthur’s Precept Bible studies and Chuck Missler’s Koinonia Institute. And my husband and I love going to movies (I have a secret addiction to popcorn).

Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?

I’ve been very blessed to sell most of what I’ve proposed since my first published book. I sell most of my books before I write them now, but I do talk to my editors about my ideas and make sure I’m on the right track before I put anything into writing. They usually guide me away from the bad ideas before I spend much time on them.

It wasn’t always that way, though. I wrote complete manuscripts for my first five or six books. Then, when I was able to sell by proposal (usually a synopsis and three chapters), I would sometimes get rejections. But I didn’t take it personally, because I always had something else ready to submit. Publishers reject things for many reasons. They may have already published something like that, or they may have seen a glut in the market for that type of book. Or it might just be something that doesn’t appeal to them. You can actually learn a lot from rejection. The important thing is not to let it slow you down.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Vicious Cycle is the second book in my Intervention Trilogy, and it continues the story of Barbara, Emily and Lance Covington. 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.

His mother, Barbara, looks for help from Kent Harlan—the man whom she secretly, reluctantly loves and who once helped rescue her daughter from a mess of her own. Kent flies to her aid and begins the impossible work of getting Lance out of trouble, protecting a baby who has no home, and finding help for a teenage mother hiding behind her lies.

If you could only share one line from VICIOUS CYCLE, which one would you choose and why?

My favorite line was not original to me, but it’s the theme of this book—a prophecy spoken by Isaiah, but later quoted by Jesus, and in Vicious Cycle, quoted by my character: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners ...” (Isaiah 61:1) There’s nothing I wrote in the book that’s more poignant than that.

Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in VICIOUS CYCLE that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?

The whole idea for my Intervention Trilogy came from my experiences with my daughter’s drug addictions. While the first book, Intervention, is based on our story and our real-life intervention, this sequel is based more on the people we met when she was in treatment. My daughter never used crystal meth, but I was astonished at the number of middle class kids raised in good homes who were in bondage to that drug. Those addicts had the easiest detoxes, but the drugs took over their minds and bodies, and did more damage, than any other drug. Think about it. Meth can be manufactured at home, so people who might never seek out a drug dealer could make this themselves. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” And one of those ways he devours people is to make something made of rat poison and blood thinners and battery acids seem like something exciting and fun. Who else could make people think that ingesting that into their body, smoking it or shooting it into their brains is a good idea? It’s pure poison, and the damage from it can be irreversible.

It’s my hope that those who haven’t yet tried it will never want to go near it after reading this book, and that those who are already on it will stop before things get worse. And I also wanted to create compassion in the hearts of those who aren’t addicts, and make them see that we’re not all on level ground. Some people had truly awful upbringings, and everyone in their lives are on drugs. When that’s all you’ve known, you really don’t have the same chance as those who were raised in good homes. But there’s always hope for them to start over and break the vicious cycle of drugs in their families.

Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?

I don’t like to talk much about my villains because I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone. Almost anything I say will give clues to who he/she/they are. But I like to create villains who have a reason to be the way they are. Very few people are evil without something in their background to make them that way.

I don’t feel the need to redeem my villains, however. Everyone has a choice, and it can go either way. But I think it’s okay for readers to hate the villain and hope he gets his. That’s part of the payoff of the book, so they feel like justice has been served.

What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?

My favorite web site about crystal meth addiction is And I’d encourage everyone to go to this page on that site: This site shows mug shots of meth addicts who are arrested time and time again over a number of years, and you can see the deterioration in their faces, their teeth, their skin, and their hair. They seem to age fifty years over just a couple of years of meth abuse.

In my work in prison ministry and my acquaintance with meth addicts I’ve met along our journey, I’ve never been able to guess the age of meth addicts. They usually look like elderly people when they’re only in their twenties and thirties. Yet more and more kids continue to experiment with crystal meth, thinking that it’s glamorous to put these substances in their bodies. It’s really hard to understand unless you connect the dots straight to Satan, the source of all evil.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’ve just finished the third and final book in the Intervention Trilogy. It’s called Downfall, and it will release early in 2012. It deals with a man who became an addict after an accident left him with chronic pain, and it will tell the story of all of those who never intended to become drug addicts, and the consequences of going from dependence for pain management to addiction for mood control. As a person with chronic back pain, I can really relate to those who, in the privacy of their homes, quietly become mastered by the medications that help them function.

The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?

I would tell them not to fall into the trap of rushing to publication. These days there are ways to skip a lot of steps and still get published, but that doesn’t mean your book will be something people want to read. I’d encourage them to attend writers conferences and learn all they can about their craft, then submit to traditional publishers and use every bit of criticism they get to make their books better. If they wind up going the self-publishing route, I would encourage them to hire very experienced editors, no matter how much they cost, to take their books through the same process that traditional publishers do. That makes a much better product, and will help you with longevity in this business. I take at least a month to do revisions after my editor critiques my book, and I rewrite it from start to finish. Getting a book to the point where people want to read it all the way through, then wait anxiously for the next one, is hard, hard work. Skipping steps won’t get you what you want.

What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?

I was afraid you’d ask me what kind of tree I would be if I were a tree. But thankfully you’re not Barbara Walters, so I don’t have to answer that. :-)
Terri is giving away a copy of her book, Vicious Cycle. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win! Or visit her on the web at:

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for joining us here at BB, Teri. You produced a great interview.


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