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Tag Archives: Fiction

  • Five Questions with Cindy Woodsmall

    Posted on October 2, 2013 by Family Christian

    Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family. Her new book, The Dawn of Christmas, is heart-warming tale of second chances.

    Below are a few questions for Cindy and her answers.

    What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of writing novellas?

    My favorite part of writing novellas is that I find them remarkably energizing and inspiring. If writing a novel were compared to running five miles every day during the dog days of summer, writing a novella is like a two-mile jaunt in fall.

    I think part of the reason novellas foster that feeling is the timing. I’ve been blessed to write two of my three Christmas novellas during winter, which includes Christmastime. Every morning, I would walk into my office, open the windows a little, and enjoy the rush of cold air with its aromas of evergreens and winter Daphne. Invigorating! I would get a large mug of hot chocolate, bundle up in a blanket, put my fingers on the keyboard, and slip into another world. There’s nothing quite like penning a Christmas story during that holiday season.

    As for my least favorite part, that’s clear in my heart too. The most difficult part of writing a short work of fiction is that I long to have at least three hundred thousand words to tell the story, which is what I have when writing a three-book series. When I’m writing a novella, I have to stop myself from allowing a character to fascinate me to the point of adding another subplot to the book. Without exercising restraint, I could turn any novella into a three-book series. For example, in The Dawn of Christmas, there’s a character named Andy. He’s the older brother of the main character, Levi Fisher. He doesn’t have any POV (point of view) scenes. But Andy’s story grabbed my heart and would not let go. So next fall a stand-alone novel of Andy’s story will hit the bookstore shelves. To be honest, even three hundred thousand words isn’t always enough for me to develop a story. Sometimes I need four hundred thousand words—which is why book four in the Amish Vines and Orchards series comes out this spring.

    Do you outline your books before writing or "wing it" as you go?

    I spend a lot of time outlining. A lot. Research is quite time consuming too. But while outlining for extended periods, I get my first glimpses into who the characters are, what motives them, what breaks them, strengthens them, terrifies them. And why. While outlining, I come to know the goal, motivation, and conflict for each character in each scene. I wish I didn’t need to outline. But even when an entire story comes to me through inspiration, I have to break it down into chapters and dig to uncover the background of each character. Once I start writing, the story doesn’t always follow my outline, certainly not as I hoped it would. But outlining is like planning for a child’s birthday party. You make meticulous lists and purchase all the items and make detailed plans for each activity. But once the party is under way, you meld the planned with the unexpected and enjoy it for what it is: exhausting and joyful.

    Is Sadie Yoder a real person?

    Sadie is based on a real person. With many brushstrokes of creativity, I used aspects of her personality as well as some details of her real-life journey. When it came time to write that first scene, I cried at the heartbreak Sadie Yoder went through. But with all of her overwhelming insecurities and her obsessive desire to please everyone, she found a way to blossom into someone God could use and someone she herself liked.

    Can you share more on the Amish and their view of foreign mission work?

    Most Amish don’t travel overseas to do mission work. It’s not unheard of, but it’s not a part of their traditional ways to do outreach ministry. At the same time, if an Amish person felt pulled by God to go, the church leaders would prayerfully consider it.

    The typical way the Amish minister overseas is through their Plain Mennonite neighbors. Plain Mennonites are heavily involved in overseas ministry. It’s expected of most Mennonite young people to spend a year or more in service, and that service is often overseas.

    So the Old Order Amish will join hands with the Plain Mennonites and sacrifice time and money to help get goods overseas. Miriam Flaud, a good friend of mine who’s Old Order Amish (and my coauthor of the only nonfiction book I’ve written), touches on this topic in Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women.

    The charity the Old Order Amish are most involved in is Christian Aid Ministries. Amish women make quilts, blankets, and clothes for poor people in other countries. They also gather clothing items and spend weeks washing, ironing, and mending them. They then go to a Christian Aid Ministries outlet and spend days or weeks boxing up the goods in individual packages to send overseas. (Think “shoebox” giving, only with larger packages.) Amish men help load the goods on trucks and also contribute money to purchase goods to send overseas—soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, books, etc.

    Because their hearts are very home oriented, the Amish rarely leave the US. However, they are extremely active in helping rebuild domestic communities after disasters. Whether they travel by hired driver, bus, or train, large groups of Amish will go to a devastated area to pitch in. As excellent carpenters and tradesmen, their help is highly valued. More men participate in these activities than women, because the women need to stay home with the children. But in a crowd of ten to twenty men, up to three women will go. They help with cleanup as well as provide meals and clean clothes for the workers.

    Every year or two, Amish districts work together to build a home from money the community members have donated. Once it’s built, they sell it for the best price they can get and give away all the proceeds, usually to families—either Amish or Englisch—who are dealing with overwhelming health issues and/or medical bills.

    What kinds of struggles do women who read your books have?

    From talking to readers over the years, I get the sense that they’ve experienced the wonders of love, the depths of grief, and everything in between. In other words, they’ve struggled with, either personally or through a loved one, every challenge my characters face. My readers seem to be very self-aware (able to see themselves for who they are and accept the beauty and challenges of this wonderful, difficult, fleeting life). They’re energized by faith, hope, and love, and they want to make a difference with their lives.

    I think that’s why they enjoy inspirational fiction. It reminds them of things they’ve experienced or heard about, but it takes them down a new path, opening their minds and hearts and bringing healing and understanding.

    For them, reading is similar to watching a heartwarming new movie that’s set in the hometown where they grew up or went to college. The experience feels both welcomingly familiar and yet fully original. And whatever their struggles, when they finish the book, they feel strengthened to walk or keep walking by faith. And to trust that there is hope in every battle.

    For more from Cindy's new book, The Dawn of Christmas, click here.

    For all of the books from Cindy, click here.

     

  • Five Questions With Author Tracy Groot

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by Family Christian


    Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several novels. Her most recent books exemplify her unique style of storytelling—reimagining biblical stories within other historical contexts. Tracy's novels have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called "beautifully written" and "page-turning" by Publishers Weekly and "gripping" with "exquisitely drawn" characters by Library Journal. Tracy and her husband have three boys and together run a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan.

    Tracy has a new book coming out early 2014 titled, The Sentinels of Andersonville. We thought that we would sit down with her and ask her a few questions about life.

    What got you interested in writing about the Civil War era?
    I watched a film when I was a kid called The Andersonville Trial. I was a film buff even then, and one element of the story stayed with me: a man testified that the commandant of Andersonville turned away four wagonloads full of food donated for the starving prisoners. He refused to allow Southern citizens to feed Yankees--even dying ones. The story haunted me. Then, in my twenties, a friend loaned me a book called John Ransom's Andersonville Diary. It was another heartbreaking story that never left me.

    In doing your research, how were you challenged the most?
    I had to get into the mind of a Confederate Southerner. I had to think like one in order to write like one. So to put it into a context I could relate to, I imagined how I would feel if, 10 miles from Hudsonville, Michigan, a prison had been built that housed up to 33,000 Muslim terrorists--and one of my sons had died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. How would I feel about feeding them, if I knew they were starving? Would I do what God told me to, and feed my enemy regardless? Or would I feel that to feed them is to be a traitor to my nation and to my son? And if I was inclined to help, then what would I do if my government actually forbade it?

    Are any of the characters in your books based on your personal life?
    Not any one particular character. I suppose they all have a little bit of me in them, because I have to tap into a lot of Me in order to get to Them. In early development, I tend to give characters recognizable elements from people I know, and then the characters take off with it and become who they are; I've found that real human beings defy getting trapped on paper. They won't stand for it, and fictional characters won't stand for it either. They want to be who they are, not Aunt Helen or my brother Rick. But when I start out with Aunt Helen or Rick, I start from a place where I am familiar with certain personality traits and I can write strongly--then the characters get some feet under them, and take it from there.

    What has God been teaching you lately?
    He's been reminding me that I need to put action to my thinking. G.K. Chesterton said that right thinking is a waste without right action. I believe that's true. Then we'd all just be a bunch of philosophers on a rock. I heard on the radio today that the action people took in the Bible brought about divine response. I've been meditating on this, from Psalm 50:23--"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me, and to him who orders his way aright, will I show the salvation of God." Basically--God helps those who help themselves. It's not enough for me to mentally assent. God wants action, whatever it is. I may not feel like taking action at all. I may not feel like I have faith. But, as I also heard today, "You can be full of faith and no feeling." And this: "You believe by following through on the action proscribed." If I know I need to bite my tongue about something, mental assent does no good unless I bite my tongue. I believe God blesses the most faltering steps, if step out, we do. I believe he even honors and blesses it when I holler, "You know what, God?! I sure as heck don't feel like biting my tongue right now--so if you want me to, then you're gonna have to pull off a miracle--give me the want to." If I can at least tell God how displeased I am about having to obey something, that opens up a line of communication between us--it shows me and it shows God that I know who I need to go to for the hard things, when I just can't pull it off myself. I've also been meditating on a George McDonald quote: "He gave man the power to thwart His will, that when he comes at last to do His will, he may do so in a higher kind and way than otherwise would have been possible to him."

    What is on your "bucket list?
    A few bucket list things: I'd like to visit Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, and the Scottish Hebrides. Not necessarily in that order. I'd like to be on the NY Times bestseller list. I'd like to have lunch with the entire cast of BBC's Merlin for a cast reunion to talk about old times. (Well--they'll talk about old times; I'll interject pithy comments and take pictures.) Then I'd talk them into a new series, where Arthur comes back. Finally, I'd like to co-star on Alphas, my current favorite sci-fi series; I'd hang out all day with my favorite Alpha, Gary.

    For more information on Tracy, click here.

  • One On One with Suzanne Woods Fisher

    Posted on July 18, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and A Lancaster County Christmas, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom, and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

    With Suzanne's signature plot twists combined with gentle Amish romance, she invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for The Letters, the first book in her The Inn at Eagle Hill series, featuring fresh stories of simple pleasures despite the complexity of life.

    Description for the book - Rose Schrock is a plain woman with a simple plan. Determined to find a way to support her family and pay off her late husband's debts, she sets to work to convert the basement of her Amish farmhouse into an inn. While her family, especially her cranky mother-in-law, is unhappy with Rose's big idea, her friend and neighbor, Galen King, supports the decision and he helps with the conversion.

    As Rose finalizes preparations for visitors, she prays. She asks God to bless each guest who stays at the Inn at Eagle Hill. As the first guest arrives and settles in, Rose is surprised to discover that her entire family is the one who receives the blessings, in the most unexpected ways. And she's even more surprised when that guest decides to play matchmaker for Galen King!

    I had a short one on one conversation with Suzanne recently about inspiration and life in general.

    Suzanne, what got you interested in writing about the Amish?

    The answer to that goes back to my grandfather and his siblings. He was raised Old Order German Baptist, a cousin to the Amish, and I grew up with an admiration for my Dunkard relatives. When I was thirteen, my cousin's little boy was passing away because of a genetic metabolic disorder. Watching my cousin and her husband walk through that period in their life with such peace in their hearts, such confidence in the sovereignty of God--well, it made an impact on me. In college, my major was American Studies and I learned more about the Anabaptists. Years later, when an editor from [my publisher] spoke to my agent about a non-fiction book about the Amish, I was ready!

    How have you been encouraged by the people living within an Amish community?

    Sometimes I think people get distracted by the buggies and bonnets and beards and they stop there. They assume the Amish are all about a simple, old-fashioned life. But there's much more to glean from the Amish--their sense of community, their commitment to forgiveness, their belief in the sovereignty of God in all matters. They take Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to heart--and that's what inspires and encourages me.

    Are any of the characters in your books based on your personal life?

    Oh, lots of them! Makes my friends ver-r-r-r-r-r-y nervous.

    What has God been teaching you lately?

    On August 1st, my youngest daughter is moving to China to teach at an international school. This is a terrific career opportunity for her and we had lived in Hong Kong for four years, so I have a comfort zone with living in an Asian city. It's all good! But...there's a part of me that's grieving, too. I worry about the what-if's--will my daughter move back to the San Francisco Bay Area when her contract is up? Will she get hooked on the international teaching life (which is a pretty sweet gig!)? Will she meet that "special someone" overseas and never come home? I've had to keep my palms open, metaphorically, about these worries and trust in God's providence for my daughter's future. I do believe that God has a wonderful plan for my daughter's life (for all my children...and yours, too!). I do believe it...and yet I don't always feel that peace. So that's what God is teaching me this summer--holding on lightly and trusting Him completely.

    What is on your "bucket list?"

    My first thought is to make it on the New York Times bestseller list--but I guess a bucket list isn't really a wish list, is it? On the short list: traveling to visit my daughter in China and seeing parts of Asia that we missed when we lived in Hong Kong. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are first on the list! Stay tuned...

    For more from Suzanne, click here.

  • Dee Henderson - The O'Malley Series

    Posted on April 23, 2013 by Family Christian

    Introducing "Jennifer - An O'Malley Love Story" from author Dee Henderson.

    It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley.

    The busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, Texas, and meeting and falling in love with surgeon Tom Peterson is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce Tom to her family--she's the youngest of seven--and thinking about marriage.

    She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested, and in a way she didn't expect. The results will soon transform her entire family.

    We asked Dee a few questions about her new book:

    Dee, you have had a lot of fans voice interest in the continuation of the O’Malley Series. With the up-coming release of Jennifer, are you excited to get feedback from your readers to this new title?

    The best part of my day is reader mail, and the most popular request I get is that readers want to know more about Jennifer O’Malley. So I am very excited that Bethany House is bringing out this novella. Jennifer and Tom are engaged in the first book of the O’Malley series, and this novella lets me go back and share their personal story in the year before book one of the series, The Negotiator. They had a wonderful romance, and a significant challenge to face together. I am eager to hear feedback from readers.

    How did it feel to bring back the O’Malley family?

    The O’Malley stories resonate because they are about Jesus, family, and falling in love – they’ve got a timeless quality to them which made returning to this series a wonderful opportunity. I’ve had the desire to go back and revisit this series for several years. After 18 books, Marcus O’Malley is still one of my favorite characters, and Lisa and Quinn one of my favorite couples. It was a personal pleasure to write this novella. It’s my hope Jennifer: An O’Malley Love Story allows another generation of readers to fall in love with this family.

    Do you have a special connection to a particular character in Jennifer? If so, who and why?

    Jennifer herself. Jennifer’s relationship with Jesus, her marriage to Tom, formed the core spine of the O’Malley series. Getting to now write her personal story was a wonderful joy. I admire her ability to cope with a crisis, and see it from the perspective of believing in God, to keep her faith, and her love for Tom. It’s a short and powerful story.

    Have any of the characters in the O’Malley series mirrored anyone, related or non-related, that has been a part of your life, past or present?

    I know a few guys like Jennifer’s choice in Tom, husbands who love their wives deeply and build a great life and marriage even through adversity. They stick when life is hard, and it’s a blessing to know them.

    Would you ever like to see one of your novels made into a movie? If so which one, and who would you want to star in it?

    My fans debate this question with great intensity so I will leave the choice of who should play which person to my readers. I would love to see one of my stories on the big screen, most writers would. The story most easily translated to film would be Full Disclosure, and I hope it does make it to the big screen one day soon.

  • Q&A With Irene Hannon

    Posted on December 21, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Fiction readers rejoice! Irene Hannon has a new book available, titled Vanished.

    Irene

    Are you familiar with Irene? Irene is a bestselling, award-winning author who took the  publishing world by storm at the tender age of 10 with a sparkling piece of fiction that received national attention. Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!

    Since then, she has written more than 40 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a six-time finalist for that prestigious honor. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, a HOLT Medallion, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Retailers Choice Award and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as one of the top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011.

    Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!

    In her spare time (like she has any), Irene enjoys cooking, gardening and singing.  A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church. When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.

    Recently we sat down with her to ask her a few questions.

    FC: Irene, we are excited to read your new book Vanished. Tell us about it.

    Irene: Vanished is Book 1 in my new Private Justice series, which features 3 ex-law enforcement operatives who join forces to form a PI agency. In Vanished, reporter Moira Harrison is new on the job in St. Louis…but she’s no rookie to investigative reporting. She knows how to dig for answers and get results. But when she hits a pedestrian on a rainy night in a wooded area—only to have both the victim and the good Samaritan who stopped to assist disappear—she turns to P.I. Cal Burke, an ex-homicide detective, to help her sort out the puzzle. Cal is more than a little skeptical of her story, especially since the police have dismissed it. But as clues begin to surface, bringing them closer to answers, the danger mounts. Because someone doesn’t want this mystery solved—and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret that will destroy a life built on lies.

    FC: Who’s your favorite character in all your books and why?

    Irene: Ooohh…that’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I love all my characters, especially the heroes and heroines. I also enjoy getting into the heads of my villains and trying to figure out what makes them tick.

    FC: Are any of your characters based on real people?

    Irene: No. All the characters are imaginary. But I work hard to make them real for readers.

    FC: Are you a character in any of your books or is there one character you relate to the most?

    Irene: I think there’s a piece of me in many of my heroines. As for which one I relate to the most—I like them all and could be friends with any of them.

    FC: Tell us something about you. Favorite books? Music? Your favorite thing to relax?

    Irene: I love to read, though I wish I had more time to read for pleasure. I also enjoy taking walks, travel and spending time with my husband and family. I was once an avid figure skater, but again, there are only so many hours in the day. I do love to sing, and in addition to being involved in the music ministry at my church, I love to perform in community musical theater productions. In fact, I was in a show last summer!

    FC: What has God been teaching you lately?

    Irene: To keep my priorities straight. In the new year, I’m going to try very hard to turn off my computer by 6 p.m. every night and work less on weekends. Writing (and the requisite social media obligations) can be all-consuming, but people need balance in their lives and I need to do a better job at creating that.

    FC: What’s on your bucket list?

    Irene: I’ve been lucky to do many of the things I’ve wanted to do. But in line with the previous question, high on my bucket list is finding a way to simplify my life so I have more time to spend with the people I love.

    For more on Irene and her books, click here.

  • The Life of a Storyteller - an interview with Dee Henderson

    Posted on September 19, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Recently, we exchanged a few questions with author Dee Henderson via email.

    FC: It’s been many years since your last book, we missed you. What have you been doing?

    Dee: It’s always nice to be missed. It wasn’t a plan to have so much time between books; it’s simply how this particular story evolved. Full Disclosure originated in a mystery series I had developed over the course of a couple years. That series turned into the back-story for a larger single title. I don’t recommend arriving at a book that way, but I personally like the results of a richer plot line and more complex characters.

    I’m wired by God to be a storyteller. Hours spent working on a story are not a job, but are in fact the reward for having gotten the rest of my life uncluttered enough that I can go do what I want. And most often that’s a pen and paper and being lost in a story I’m creating. So I hope to be creating stories for my readers to enjoy for decades to come, just hopefully with not as much time between finished stories in the future.

    FC: For those of us who are excited to read Full Disclosure. Tell us about it.

    Dee: In Full Disclosure I gave two very good cops a car wreck, a suspicious death, and a lead on a hired shooter. The case which began so simply will lead them to the kind of secret that will change how history is written once it is known. So at its most basic, Full Disclosure is a mystery and a romance.

    I enjoy writing about cops. With this story I wanted to portray the job that a cop’s life really is—the cases keep coming to be solved, and if you’re going to have a private life, space for it is going to have to be carved into the flow of work.

    I also like to write about falling in love. I decided to write a bit against type in this romance. From the beginning, Paul Falcon wants to get married and is looking for the right lady. Ann Silver is content being single and hasn’t been thinking about marriage. It created a unique romance that I loved.

    And I enjoy writing about faith. What characters think about God, whether they believe or not, interests me. I’m not ready to say a manuscript is finished until I’ve figured out what I want the book to share about God. In Full Disclosure I explore how God is involved and interacting with us in our day-to-day life.

    FC: How would you compare Full Disclosure to your other novels?

    Dee: It’s a more complex book with a richer plot than my prior books, and the story continued beyond the romance and wedding to the first months of their lives together. I describe it as an O’Malley book plus more.

    I write a lot about survivors—overcoming what’s happened, learning something about yourself and friends, deepening what you know about God. This adds a rich layer to the stories I want to explore. This book follows that basic theme, so I think it’s going to read as familiar to my fans even though it’s more layered than prior books.

    FC: Who’s your favorite character in all your books and why?

    Dee: I love Quinn and Lisa as a couple. Lisa has a depth to her back-story I didn’t realize was there until I wrote The Truth Seeker and it fit so well with the faith theme being the resurrection that I think it was God-inspired in small ways. There are scenes with Lisa and Quinn I remember better than any of the other stories I’ve written.

    FC: Are any of your characters based on real people?

    Dee: You can pretty much read a book of mine for the dog I either have or want to have. But the characters in my stories come from my imagination.

    FC: Are you a character in any of your books or is there one character you relate to the most?

    Dee: Ann Silver in Full Disclosure is probably the character I understand best. Her personality is closer to mine than most I’ve written. Part of that was simply the back-story Ann needed for the book required a certain type of personality in order to sound authentic.

    FC: What are your favorite books to read?

    Dee: It’s a family joke but true that I read everything. Recently, books on business, economics, marriage, painting, and politics. I love to understand how something works and what a job is like. I read a lot of fiction. I read to understand how another author got that emotional reaction from me or made me sit up and notice a well-developed plot.

    Some titles I’ve reread this year: Certain Prey and Mortal Prey by John Sandford—absolutely fascinating lady shooter and ripping plot lines. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz—a great hero and you don’t realize why until the end of the book. I loved how the author played out the information about his hero. J. D. Robb—I love the Eve and Roarke story line that threads through the series. I like the depth of their unfolding relationship and how well it’s played out across multiple books.

    FC: Are you a music lover?

    Dee: I don’t hear well enough to hear music like others do, so while it is often on in the background, I’m not one who could tell you what the words are to a song.

    FC: What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?

    Dee: I walk when I’m given the chance to fill half an hour. I pick up a book and read when I want to wind down at the end of a day. If I have a few hours where I know I won’t be interrupted, I may paint. I enjoy television where a good plot line is rolling out, where dialogue is flowing at an interesting pace.

    FC: What has God been teaching you lately?

    Dee: He’s working on teaching me to live within my limits. I tend to stretch too far and not leave enough margin in my life, around my finances in particular, or my health. I find it easier to manage areas like my time. On that, I keep a limited list rather than a to-do list. I know I won’t get done what everyone would like from me, so I choose the items that personally matter to me or impact my family. Most stuff simply doesn’t get done. It’s easier to accept that than to live like you can do everything. The other areas of life are much tougher for me to discipline. Anyway, God’s been working on that one for a while. I’ll be glad when he’s helped me solve it.

    FC: What’s on your bucket list?

    Dee: I was asked one time, “What’s your favorite holiday?” And I replied, “I actually don’t like holidays—they’re too busy. I’d rather have a regular day that goes 24 hours without something going wrong during it. That would be a nice holiday.”

    When I read your question about a bucket list, I had a similar reaction. I want more of the same. I want a week like last week, where I wrote some on a story, talked with friends, took a walk with God, read a few books, watched a movie, and slept. Oh, and my mother called and asked if I wanted something brought back from the Dairy Queen. It’s hard to beat that kind of nice week. Even the weather was nice. Sometimes earth feels like a slice of heaven. I don’t have major goals I want to accomplish or things I dream about doing. I’ve already got them. I simply want more of the same, and time to enjoy them.

     
    Video trailer for Full Disclosure

    Download an excerpt from Full Disclosure, by clicking here.

  • Between Heaven and Earth - an interview with Heather Burch

    Posted on August 13, 2012 by John van der Veen

    We’ve learned from the book of Esther that God’s timing is perfect – and that He allows character and a wealth of experiences to grow in us for an ordained season. In the case of Heather Burch, the journey toward becoming an author started the day she was born into a family of publishers. But it hasn’t been until recently that God has chosen to open the doors for her. And isn’t it interesting that just as society’s fascination with the supernatural is peaking, we get Halflings? It’s clear to us that Heather has been called to write “…for such a time as this.”

    Heather

    Family Christian: Where do you currently live?

    Heather Burch: We live in Southern Florida, maybe going on six years now. Branson, Missouri is where I grew up and we lived in Branson and Springfield. That’s where all of our family is. We felt like we wanted to move down here and like that was what God had for us. When we came down my husband said, “You really need to just stay home and write. Write full-time and really put everything into it because forever you’ve sort of put that on hold to do other things.” We’ve been in full-time ministry in different times of our lives, and we love that. He said, “This is really your dream and we should just do it.” So, I wrote four books before I started Halflings. It was sort of a learning process really. Halflings was, of course, the book that sold to Zondervan and that I got an agent with. My agent offered it as a three-book deal, which was little bit scary because at that time publishing companies were buying more single books. I think they didn’t necessarily know the climate and what was around the corner, so for her to offer it that way was kind of scary. But it was a leap of faith. And, of course, Zondervan grabbed it up. I have such a fabulous team there. Of course Jonathan (who works in some areas) and my editor are just amazing. She really has a big vision for Zondervan and where it’s headed in the next few years. I just feel very blessed to be part of the team there.

    FC: Now the four books you had written previously, did you publish those?

    Heather: No, they are still hidden on hard drives here and there on different computers. There are a couple of them that I might go back and revisit and clean up. But at this point, my writing has changed and grown so much that any of the four would mean major rewrites. Right now I’m so busy writing Halfling books, I’m not really even thinking too much about them, but, you know, maybe one day.

    FC: You grew up in an environment where writing was certainly talked about and discussed. Do you want to talk a little about that?

    Heather: When I started dating my husband, his mom and his sister wrote romances for Harlequin and Silhouette. At that time Harlequin or Silhouette didn’t have a specific line for inspirational books. But [his mom and sister] were Christians, and so they wrote what they called the sweeter romances, which are ones that are a lot cleaner. That was the first time I noticed that real, normal people write books. I’d always done a lot of writing. I grew up in a house [where] we were in publishing. We did school yearbooks as my family’s business. So I’d always been around publishing. Print shops are kind of hard to find anymore, but I love that smell because it reminds me of home. So I was kind of all over that already, then married into a family of authors. When they found [that] out it was like, “Write a book! Write a book! You need to write a book!” So I dabbled with that off and on for years. Five years ago [is] when I really got serious about my writing and was able to set aside time to invest in learning how to construct a great story—there are so many nuances of fiction...

    Halflings

    FC: So Halflings is your first published book with Zondervan, and you have two more coming out. What is the series actually called?

    Heather: It’s called the Halflings Trilogy. On each book it will say “A Halflings Novel,” and they’re each numbered. I actually do have more storylines beyond the three, so there’s a lot that can be played out. But the three are definitely a complete story arc for Nikki Youngblood, who’s the main character.

    FC: In the process of writing this, how much of your friends and family or personal experiences were part of the story?

    Heather: The two halfling boys, Raven and Mace – the two main male characters – are carbon copies of my boys. One of them is a very much a by-the-book person, a strong leader [like Mace]. The other one is my musician. He’s very much a free spirit, more like Raven. So anytime I have trouble with Mace or Raven, thinking “what would this character do at this point?” I would think “okay, what would my son do?” So there is a lot of it. And I’ve probably borrowed a lot more from my teenage sons’ friends, as far as teen lingo and language, and just how they communicate with each other. It really honors me when people say, especially teenagers, “Wow, you definitely know teenagers. You know how we talk and how we interact.” That’s one of the biggest compliments I can get.

    FC: It doesn’t appear that this book is specifically for teens, although the main characters certainly are within that age-group. Since it’s not confined to just that group, what is your goal with the book?

    Heather: Really the deepest internal goal that I would have is for us to realize that we’re sort of all halflings. Halflings are creatures that are caught between heaven and earth. When you get saved that’s sort of what you are: kind of caught between heaven and earth. You have the same address, but a new place in the world. I wanted people to really stop and think about the fact that there is a supernatural realm. Of course all that happens [in the book] is fictional, completely fictional. Not to be confused with anything biblical or theological, but there are nuances to it that I think can really ring true for people. And really understanding that there is a much bigger picture for each one of us. And understanding that we can walk out what we have on this earth, but making sure that we’re doing it to glorify God. One of the things about the Halflings is that they are serving God and they don’t know what their fate is, but God is so good they are still going to serve Him because they have a revelation of Who He is. If you have that revelation you’re going to serve Him. If you don’t have that revelation, you may or may not. Another thing that was close to my heart was that salvation is such a gift. My thought was that if you have beings that aren’t offered salvation, they’re very aware of what they don’t have a privilege to experience. I thought that was a neat way to show that. Beings, all people, should be thinking about the next step. I did say I had a purpose, and my purpose in writing Halflings was to tell a great story that teenagers and anyone couldn’t put down. I wanted to tell a story that they couldn’t walk away from. I’m a teacher by nature (my husband and I are youth pastors), and actually as I was writing it I would get in a groove and say “Oh this is good stuff!” And it felt like God was saying, “Wait a minute. Back up here. You’re getting into preach mode.” And that’s not what I think He intended to do in this book and series. I think it’s a great thing to lay questions out there and let people start to question and find out for themselves.

    FC: Do you think that the series would be good to give to an unbeliever?

    Heather: Very much so. I get a lot of feedback. One sad thing that has happened is if people think that a book has been put in their hand to preach or to teach them something, they’ll set it aside, even if they like it. I have at least as many reviews from people who are not in the Christian community as I do from people who are. It is a book that is crossing barriers—that is a crossover. I think that’s a delicate thing to be able to do. I think that if you can, it’s phenomenal because you’re reaching out to a wider market, you’re reaching more people and more young people. By the grace of God we’re doing that with this book. This book was actually birthed about fifteen years ago when we were youth pastors at a church that experienced a really fabulous revival up in Missouri. The young people in the youth group were really burdened that there weren’t that many books out there for teenagers that really pointed to God, and started praying. Some of them fasted. We had some of our teenagers do extended fasts with pastor approval and parents in mind, everything. They were concerned about this. They said, “We need more books for Christians.” Not just clean books that are in the regular market, but books that have a Christian world view. So there’s a big stroke of the brush with those. You’ve got books with a very clear message, and that’s awesome. And then you’ve got books that are a little more subtle. Those tend to be a little bit easier to crossover in some markets, which is exciting because you’re reaching more people with the message than you have.

    FC: Heather, as parents, we can certainly relate to both your concern for your own kids and those within your church community. If a teenager or college student has a stack of books on their nightstand or in their family room, Halflings would be a good book to see. What other titles?

    Heather: Zondervan has some fabulous books for the young adult market, for kids that are not Christians especially. Those kids are readers. They want that voice of the regular young adult market. We haven’t always necessarily nailed that in the Christian market. It kind of had its own tone and its own voice, which is fabulous, but now it’s branching out more. People can pick up Halflings and it reads very much like secular books other than the fact that it has a Christian worldview. Obviously there are no cuss words, no drinking, no smoking. The characters have a much higher moral standard. Also in the Christian market, Jill Williamson has a book called Replication, which is a wonderful book. She was on book tour with me. She, Bill Myers and I were together on book tour throughout the month of April. Bill Myers has a fabulous series right now that deals with the occult that is great for young people if they are teetering in that area at all. Melanie Dickerson has a few. She does fairytale retellings. They are like a nice, hot cup of tea, curled up in a blanket, sitting by the fire. They’re just really beautiful reads. Of course, I’ve got Halflings. We’ve got book two coming out, which is already in, and that will release in October. I know that Jill’s working on another storyline too. I’m not sure when it releases. I’m very excited about what Zondervan is doing right now.

    FC: You touched in this a little bit earlier when you said that the book itself and everything you’ve written in the book is not based on actual events – it’s a fictional tale. Have you ever had anyone approach you and use Halflings as some sort of doctrinal treatise for their Christian faith?

    Heather: No. I was all geared up with such a great answer for that! (laughs) I was ready to explain the differences in fiction and how we can use biblical truths to tell a fictional story. I kind of expected to get more angel stories too. I [also] expected to hear from some people, “Well that’s not biblical. That’s not in the Bible. It didn’t happen.” I haven’t, I’ve been really surprised – maybe because I was ready for it.

    FC: How would you answer that type of question? If someone came up to you and said “I’ve been using your book as a guide for my own personal and spiritual walk.”

    Heather: I would say that there’s only one Word of God. Find out what His Word says, because anytime you add to it or take away you’ve lost everything that it is about. It’s easy for people to want a new set of rules. The Gospel is a simple message, but it’s relational. You cannot have a relationship with Jesus any other way than learning through the Bible. There’s no other book that will lead you to what you’re looking for.

    FC: Heather, what do you do to relax? When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

    Heather: We just went to see Brave, so that was great fun. I loved it! It was great and had a great message. We live in Florida, so we’re in a really beautiful area. We drive around a lot; we look at the area, and go to different beaches. I’m a big theme park junky, so I was actually up at Disney last week which is very close. We also go to Sea World and Busch Gardens once in a while. They have great deals for Florida residents. Of course we’re youth pastors too, so that keeps me busy. We pretty much love the water.

    FC: Heather thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. We appreciate everything that you’re doing and looking forward to book 2.

    Heather: Thank you so much. I can’t wait for it. I’m sure this is the thing you should never say, but I actually think it’s a better book than Halflings. Now that the characters are established, we [can] get into the meat of the story a little bit more. We have book two, Guardian, coming out in October and book three, Avenger, in April, next spring.

    To download a sample of the Halflings book, click here.
    Experience Halflings for your ereader now!

  • The Caped Crusader

    Posted on April 30, 2012 by John van der Veen


    an interview with Frank Peretti

    Writers in the suspense/thriller genre are a unique breed. They weave words so you sense the tempo of each paragraph (and your heart rate) quickening toward crescendo; crafting stories with near-superhero ability. Frank Peretti is the quintessential suspense novelist. Like most superheroes, it took Frank awhile to discover his unique talent. But unlike them, he was far from alone in his journey…

    John: Good afternoon Frank, why don’t you kick things off by telling us a little about your upbringing.

    Frank Peretti: Well, I was born in Alberta, Canada. I was Canadian for a month or so and then my folks moved right down to Seattle. I was up in Canada just long enough to mess up my citizenship, so now I can’t run for president or anything…

    John: Oh, did you have aspirations for that?

    Frank: Well, no, I wouldn’t know the first thing about that! (Laughs) My dad was an American citizen who grew up in Seattle, went up to Canada to work for the summer and met my mom who was a Canadian citizen. About a month or so after I was born they came [back] down to Seattle.

    John: So that’s where you grew up. Well now we know you didn’t want to be president, but you did have aspirations of becoming a musician…?

    Frank: Yeah I did, that was clear back when I was just getting married. Man, I was between the ages of 19 and 22, right in there [somewhere]. I was starving (laughs), but yeah, I traveled with a couple of groups…

    John: And you played banjo for a band called Northern Cross, right?

    Frank: Oh my, yeah! I’ve played [banjo] for over 30 years. I’m learning the guitar now, maybe that’s because I’m mellowing in my old age (laughs).  Well way back when I was first playing, [my wife] Barb wasn’t even old enough to come in and hear us play. We were playing in lounges and things and the banjo was my primary instrument. I actually played the bass too, come to think of it. Then we got out that group and traveled with a Christian ministry group called Living Waters for two years. I think that was the sum and total of my musical efforts. I tried to do some solo ministry and that bombed (laughs), so I ended up being a carpenter and a printer working in a print shop, doing whatever I could to make a living. The thing is, after all of those early years of just doing this and doing that, I didn’t really figure out that I was supposed to be a writer until I was pushing thirty.

    John: So how did you make that transition from musician and print shop worker to your first novel?

    Frank: I think two significant things happened. Number one (I don’t remember the exact year, close to about 1982 or 83 but I remember where I was), I was at Deception Pass in Washington. Barb and I were on a little mini-vacation just to get away – we were so burnt out in ministry we didn’t know what to do. I had pastored a church with my dad for five years and we were just worn to a frazzle. I was kinda feeling like, well, here’s another thing I’ve failed at – I didn’t succeed at being a musician, didn’t succeed at being a carpenter and now I’ve kind of burned-out of the ministry. What am I supposed to do? I remember sitting on this bluff above the ocean just talking to the Lord and it was so clear, such a peace, such a joy, the Lord finally confirmed in my heart, “Frank you’re supposed to be a writer.” That’s what I’d always wanted to do. Through all this other stuff I was doing, I always went back to the writing, and it was writing that made me feel whole, complete. So, man! That was when I finally figured that out. Now the second thing that happened: I had started This Present Darkness, [but] I’d been pecking away at it for five years, so I just concentrated and got that book done. Then I went through the process of trying to get it published, which was long and tedious - about fourteen different publishers... and finally it got published in 1986 – 26 years ago… 26 years!

    John: Wow, so did you have other books in the works before that time?

    Frank: I’d written screenplays mostly. I was trying to get something going in movies and television (laughs), but [those scripts are] still sitting in a drawer somewhere… Interestingly, back in 1983 I told a story to some junior high kids at a camp and the other camp folks and pastors said, “You should write that down and get it published.” And so I wrote and sent it to Crossway Books and that was The Door in the Dragon’s Throat which turned out to be the first of the Cooper Kids’ Adventures [Series]. So that was published and (I think) Escape from the Island of Aquarius before This Present Darkness. As a matter of fact, it was The Door in the Dragon’s Throat that kind of opened the door for This Present Darkness because Crossway turned that [proposal] down the first time. But they liked the kids’ books and that convinced them that I knew how to write. So they said “Could you send us that other idea you had?” I hadn’t even typed [This Present Darkness] up yet, it was still in rough draft form, so Barb and her mom and I got three typewriters going, typed that up and mailed it to them (that was back in the old days when you mailed things) and by cracky! They published it! (In a booming voice) And the rest is history.

    I was working in a ski factory up until just about 1988, and I didn’t really become a full- time writer until Crossway decided they needed the sequel, so I started Piercing the Darkness. They asked me how long it was going to take, and so I told them “well it took me five years to do This Present Darkness,” so they said, “well how much do you need to live on?” (laughs) They gave me an advance to live on, so I knuckled down, finished Piercing and sent it to them. I remember my first day as a full-time writer. I got out of bed (I didn’t have to go to the ski factory!) and I turned on my very first computer: a Corona 4 megahertz computer with a big five-inch floppy drive. And so I wrote Piercing on that computer…

    John: What kind of computer did you write Illusion on?

    Frank: I have a Mac! I’ve moved up in the world.

    John: After both of the Darkness books you wrote a book called Tilly which was quite a departure from the other two. What brought about that transition?

    Frank: Wow, that’s a good question. Let’s see, I’ve got to turn back the pages of time here… Tilly had her beginning clear back before I was a published author. I was working odd jobs and thinking, Boy I’d like to do a movie or TV and so I came up with this story of Tilly. I realized I couldn’t do that [TV], but I did have a tape recorder, so I thought, I’ll write and produce a radio play. So I had this reel-to-reel tape recorder and I borrowed some microphones from my church. I was living in a 25-foot travel trailer at the time with Barb (laughs), so we hung sleeping bags and blankets up in the trailer to make a sound studio and I brought in actors (just people from my church), and we recorded this story. I managed to get it broadcasted on KCIS, the local radio station in Seattle at the time. From there we had a little bit of interest perked [so] then (they did, or I did, or someone) sent it down to Focus on the Family, and I remember someone told me that copies of Tilly (on little cassette tapes) were passing each other in the hallways at Focus... So they bought the rights to produce their own version for the radio and broadcasted it, and I think maybe they still are! That turned out to be one of their most popular broadcasts. Somewhere down the road [after that], I’ve got books out with Crossway and the radio show’s popular, so [my publisher] said “maybe we should come out with a book version” so then I wrote Tilly as a novel. So see, she had a history going way back before I wrote my other books but then became a book much later.

    John: Very interesting. You’ve been consistently keeping people on the edge of their seats with your suspense thrillers for years now. Tell us a little bit about your mindset for Illusion.

    Frank: Any book [I write] is just a whole bunch of different ideas that fall together. I wanted to do a book that was relational – which would talk about the marriage relationship – that was kind of a metaphor or parable of the body of Christ and its longing to be with the Bridegroom, Jesus. Ya know, that whole pervasive spiritual longing to be reconciled to our Creator and to be right with things. So those were kind of the thematic elements. I created Mandy as a metaphor for a lost soul wandering around wondering who am I, where do I belong, why do I feel lost? And then there was the cool story-vehicle that I found: let’s use stage magicians, because then we can create this situation where Mandy is reverting in time through some kind of a weird inter-dimensional “timewarpy” thing that also enables her to make these incredible illusions. [Then] that opens up the opportunity to create mystery and suspense and good guys and bad guys and the chase at the end. So all of these things come together and finally form a story, but those are the essential ingredients I started out with.

    John: At the end of the book you make reference to the story being a lot about you and your wife. How much of Illusion is actually you and Barb?

    Frank: Oh it’s woven through there! Mandy and Dane are their own characters, but boy-oh-boy yeah, as far as the spiritual journey and the emotion – really getting into the heart of the matter – I drew upon my own love and relationship with Barb. Mandy’s devotion to Dane, I modeled that after Barb’s devotion to me. And Dane’s (shall we say) awe at this wonderful woman that would love him and be so tenaciously devoted to him for 40 years, well that’s drawing upon my own feelings and experience. See, I’m 61 now and it’s interesting, you get to this age and you start looking back and reflecting on the journey you’ve been on. And that’s what Dane does. A lot of that happens in this book; Dane is looking back and reflecting on his journey and his relationship with Mandy over the years. So you don’t see a direct correlation between Barb and me with Dane and Mandy, but the content, the fiber, the grist, the experience from which the writer writes – that’s Barb and me.

    John: Have you ever approached a book and found it emotionally difficult to write?

    Frank: Yeah, The Wounded Spirit is the first one that pops into my mind. That was a very difficult book because it was talking about all of the bullying and harassment I got growing up. Dealing with wounds that go way back, it was still kind of a cathartic experience for me because there’s all of this stuff in there [that] just lies in there all your life. So I started writing about it and I had to dredge all that up and start dealing with it. So that was a real tough book emotionally. Illusion wasn’t difficult emotionally, but it was emotional. I went through a lot of emotions writing that because I was reflecting on my own love for Barb and what that’s been all about. It’s a very, very human book. The Wounded Spirit was human too, but also very difficult.

    John: At certain points in your career various people have used your books as sort of “manuals” for dealing with the spiritual realm. How comfortable are you with that?

    Frank: I’m not comfortable with that. That opens up this whole conundrum that (maybe other fiction writers haven’t run into, but for some strange reason I have, where at least in the realm of spiritual warfare) readers have a hard time distinguishing between fact and fiction. Maybe it’s because the books came out at a time when fiction was not a widespread genre in Christian publishing. Maybe Christians weren’t used to fiction being fiction! (laughs) But, I’ve had folks ask me, “Are you going to come out with a study guide to go with your Darkness books?” No, no! Study the Bible, don’t study these books. These are just an imaginative treatment on a theme, ya know, they’re just to paint a picture that inspires, uplifts and provides a fictional, imaginative model of what it could be like. Over the years, my books (as far as that goes) have been given a lot more credence than they should. I don’t think people should take them quite that seriously. They’re not a theological treatise; they were never intended to be. I find myself in awkward situations sometimes because people think I’m some great authority on spiritual warfare, but I’m not. I never have been.

    John: So, when you’re confronted with that, how do you respond?

    Frank: When I wrote those books and afterward, I opened myself up to all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences, some real and some delusional. I’ve gotten letters and books and conversations from people with the most sordid stories of demonic, satanic abuse and all kinds of things. I’ve talked to some who are clearly in need of professional help, who have a serious problem but now they’ve attributed it all to demons. Ya know, the second coming, the rapture, there are certain topics out there that are just juicy; they’re appealing, there’s a certain fascination with things like that. Over the years, I’ve taken a much more balanced and sober view of all of this. I believe in the realities of what I’ve written about, but [I think] we can get a little too obsessed with it and start getting into realms that really aren’t healthy, I don’t like going there anymore. I tell people I’m not a specialist about spiritual warfare… it was 26 years ago I wrote that book. I would hope as any Christian should, that I’ve grown and I’ve gone through other seasons and lessons of my life, and that the Lord is leading me on to other things... That’s the interesting thing about it: you write this book that [becomes] so popular that it’s the book you are known for, and people are still picking up it up and enjoying it – which is fine with me, but then I have to make an adjustment because wow, I’m not there anymore! (laughs) So when I meet people in the bookstores and that’s what they’re all excited about, I still have to engage them in conversation and show my appreciation (of course!) for how they’re enjoying [This Present Darkness]. You can look at all of the books I’ve written over the years, and each book reflects a different place I was in my Christian walk. In The Oath, I was concerned about sin, how we were harboring sin and being cavalier about it. Then in The Visitation I wrote from my own frustrations with my ministry and with Christianity in general, how we can go through times of darkness and disillusionment but the Lord is still with us. I wrote Prophet to talk about my concern at how the gatekeepers of information can control what we think. I wrote Monster just to take a stab at evolution, and Illusion because I’m reflecting on how beautiful it is – the gift of marriage and the gift of love – and how it’s so sorely needed in our culture right now. I sure would like people to catch a spark when they read this book [and say] wow, I’d love for my love to be like that or I’d like to find a love like that, instead of all this flaky stuff going on. It would be nice to find something that really endures.

    John: Frank, we really appreciate you giving us grace to ask a question like that. Switching gears a bit, are you a book reader?

    Frank: Oh yeah! Usually the pattern I fall into is reading fiction, to keep my own creative juices under discipline, keep learning. It’s the same way I learned how to play the banjo. I’d listen to other banjo players and pick up licks and see what they’re doing – that’s how I learned. I read other fiction readers and see what they’re doing, keep a good awareness of style and where fiction’s going. So I’m always learning. The other area of reading I do is usually whatever I’m interested in at the time, whatever God’s speaking to me about at the time. For example, right now I’m gravitating toward books that deal with church history, worship, where the church is now and where it’s going. I’ve got just a few pages left and I’ll be done with Where in the World is the Church? by Michael Horton. That was a good book because it shook me up in terms of the old “four wall syndrome.” [He talks about how sometimes] everything the church has to be within the four walls and we can’t touch the outside culture because that’s worldly. He’s just addressing hey, God made music, He made beauty, He made literature, and it’s to be created and used everywhere. We don’t want to get into a Christian ghetto where we stop engaging the culture and just come up with a Christian version of everything – staying within our four walls. So it’s a neat book anyway. And then I read Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and that was good because it gave a whole history of the church, real nice read for a layman like me to go through there and see where the church has been. That really provides context for what I’m thinking about now because I’m struggling a lot with what the church is doing, where it’s going, so that’s where I feel God prodding, ya know? It’s like when I write a book I try to figure out, what’s God saying to me? What’s the subject for today, or this year? And The Church is [the current subject], so that’s what I’m reading now.

    John: One last question: what do you do to relax?

    Frank: (laughs) Well I’ll tell you, I go out and work in the yard. I hadn’t been out to work in awhile and the weather finally broke a little bit, we had a little sunshine. So I went out and spaded the garden, pulled weeds, worked on our water fountain a little bit, and boy that felt good. (In a booming voice) There’s something to be said for nice manual labor out in the sunshine! (laughs)

    John: Well Mr. Peretti, we are huge fans of your work, and we appreciate how you’ve always been a witness for Jesus.

    Frank: Well, I appreciate that, ya know - I just want to let Jesus work through me. That’s the big lesson I’m working on from the Lord right now, “Frank, write from your heart and be honest.” There’s so many strains on the market ya know, write this, write that, this is what’s hot right now, and I’m dealing with what is God saying to me. What am I going to write about? What is from my heart and not just my wallet (laughs). I’m glad what I’ve written resonates with you.

    *To purchase Illusion, click here. Just now discovering Frank for the first time? Consider picking up the Peretti Three-Pack of his bestsellers including This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness and Prophet right here for a great price!

  • Fiction writer – True Believer

    Posted on April 13, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Take a heaping dose of the ability to twist a tale of intrigue and suspense, infuse it with the Gospel and cram it into one sweet, petite frame. That’s Terri Blackstock: part Novel-Writing-Powerhouse, all Dedicated Believer. Terri’s no stranger to the realities of living out authentic faith in a fallen world, but she’s learned the art of drawing on her own experiences to connect real people with a real Jesus. We chatted with her recently about all-things-Terri.

     

    Family Christian: From your bio we know that you grew up in a Christian home and eventually started writing romance novels. How did you get into that genre, and what eventually led to your transition into suspense?

     

    Terri Blackstock: I became a Christian at age 14 and walked with Christ through my teen years. But when I was in my early 20s I started writing and was really trying to break into the publishing market. At the time, the market was really opening up for romance novels. I told myself going in that I would not write anything that would hurt my Christian conscience – I would write clean love stories. But what happened was that those stories didn’t sell. So eventually in order to sell, I compromised and began writing wrote more and more stuff I had said I would never write. Finally over 13 years and (I think) 32 titles, I came to a place where I was spiritually bankrupt. I was very miserable and almost hoping that the publisher wouldn’t buy my next book (laughs) because I just felt this void. I knew that I wasn’t walking with Christ because what I was doing was pulling me away from Him and pulling other people away because I was creating stumbling blocks for them. I came to a place when I started praying about that and over a number of weeks and months I just felt very convicted to give this up. There was one day when I got down on my knees, repented of what I was writing and asked God to help me to never write anything else that didn’t glorify Him. So from that moment on I have been writing books with a Christian message and, I believe, using my gifts the way God intended me to use them in the first place.

     

    FC: So did you walk away from romance at that point?

     

    Terri: I did. I had some outstanding contracts I had to buy back – but that was a problem because I didn’t have the money at the time to pay the publishers back, but it turned out that they owed me more than I owed them, so it all worked out beautifully! It was almost like the moment that I made the decision and told God that I was going to surrender this last aspect of my life to Him, it’s as if He took me by the hand and led me the rest of the way, because doors started opening up into the Christian market. At that time I didn’t know anything about the Christian market, but what I did know was that I was tired of writing romance. I just wanted a clean break from that, so I didn’t want to write Christian romance. I was reading mostly suspense novels at the time so I thought, why don’t I try to write suspense and just see if the Christian readers like it? And they did. So Zondervan gave me a four book contract before I knew it and I’ve been writing for them ever since.

     

    FC: So you wrote over 30 romance novels, wow. How many Christian novels have you written?

     

    Terri: I think I’ve written about 40. I’m [somewhere] over 70 – sometimes I lose count because I have taken some of those earlier books and rewritten them, so I never know whether to count them a second time or not. I did extensive rewriting on those. Any of the books that you see from me that are romance novels; those are usually rewritten from my earlier days, but the suspense novels are all since I came to the Christian market.

     

    FC: What a wonderful story. We’re wondering if you could talk a little about your book, Intervention, as it was particularly close to you. And were there any other books that were especially personal to you?

     

    Terri: Well, the thing about Intervention is that it’s really about a mother who is trying to save her daughter from drugs. And that came out of my life because I have a daughter who has been struggling for years with drug addiction. When we got to a place where she felt that it was fine for me to write about it, I did. That was SO personal because I poured a lot of my experiences into that book and into the rest of that series… Vicious Cycle is the second book and Downfall, the 3rd book will be out March 6th I believe. I really think that there’s a little of me in every one of my books, because what I find happening when I’m writing is that I will come up with a plot and a story line and then God will do something in my life during the writing of that book, or He’ll deal with me in some way that I learn something and then I think that maybe I’m supposed to pass that on to my readers. Almost every book has that sort of event happen. I can’t say it’s always pleasant but sometimes I just really believe that God is working in a certain way in my life, so I wind up incorporating all that it into the plot. Then I know that the Holy Spirit uses [it] because I hear from readers that those books touch them in a personal way. So it’s not just me being smart enough to do that, it’s the Holy Spirit using what I give Him, multiplying it and making it into something He can use.

     

    FC: Have you ever felt the need or had an opportunity to move outside of the book realm and share your testimony in a speaking venue?

     

    Terri: I have done some speaking about it but she is still struggling – she has her ups and downs like any person with addiction. Until I know that we have had this in our rear view for many years I just don’t think I would want to go on a speaking circuit. Ya know, my dream is to do that with her someday – to have her give her testimony would really give hope to families. But at this point we’re just not far enough out of it to be able to do that and I don’t want that kind of thing to wind up being her destruction – so I have been very protective about that. I do speak about it sometimes. It was a very hard thing to write about, it drags up all those memories. It was fiction, but very much of what is in the book really happened in our lives. So it’s a painful thing to write and talk about.

     

    FC: Of course and it’s good that you’re sensitive to what she needs first and foremost. Switching gears a little, your suspense books certainly have the ability to pull people in. Have you ever been so caught up in one of your own stories that you felt frightened? Did you ever scare yourself?

     

    Terri: (laughs) Yes that does happen. Ya know, I think one of the reasons I love writing suspense is because I am so easily frightened, and my mind always goes to the worst possible thing (laughs). Like, if I’m letting the cat out I’m thinking someone could grab the door – I’m always on alert for that kinda thing. When I was writing my book Predator, I was just learning social networking and I was alarmed at the number of people who were dumping so much personal information onto their Facebook and Twitter pages. So I wrote a book that would deliberately scare them to death and understand how dangerous this is. But I do have to say it scared me too (laughs), so I did make changes to the way I was posting things and pictures – the kinds of things that would give more information than I wanted to.

     

    When I really decided to write [the book], I had been working in prison ministry for many years. And one of the girls from jail got out and posted on my Facebook wall how to reach her, what her number was, where she was living. And I just almost had a heart attack. Of all of the people who are so vulnerable – someone who just got out of jail. I quickly deleted it and sent her a message to please be careful and then I thought, ya know I’m just going to have to write a book about this (laughs), because that is really my way of communicating with people. When I’m passionate about something I’m able to convey it in a story and people really seem to get it. I did get lots of mail from people telling me that they’ve changed their habits. So hopefully it will save some lives.

     

    FC: So are your family members fans of your books?

     

    Terri: Well, my husband is one of those people that loves to read non-fiction, but when he reads fiction he falls asleep (laughs), so he only ‘reads’ my books through audio. That’s a good medium for him and he enjoys them that way. Two of my three kids don’t read anything I write (laughs), but one of them does so, ya know, what can you do? I think they grew up watching me do it and it’s kinda like knowing how the sausage is made. You just don’t have an appetite for it when you saw it all your life! (laughs)

     

    FC: That’s a great – and painfully true – analogy. Haha. So what do you do when you want a break from writing?

    Terri: Well, I am very active at church – I teach a precept class, Kay Arthur courses. I love that – I’ve been involved in that for years. I also lead a support group for parents of prodigals, so I’m busy at church a couple nights a week. I [also] love home decorating. When I have time and want to do something different it’s usually something related to my house or watching something on TV related to decorating, so I guess that would be my hobby.

     

    FC: So you’re a Martha Stewart junkie?

    Terri: Well, I like to watch what she does, but I’m not really that organized. I can’t pull it off myself, but I like to watch other people do it.

     

    FC: So do you read?

    Terri: I do read. It depends on what I’m writing at the time. When I’m writing a book I usually try not to read fiction because it interferes with my voice. I find myself writing the way that the other author is writing, so I mostly just read when I travel. But I love Christian fiction and I have favorites that I like to read. While I’m writing a book I’m usually reading non-fiction and doing research for that book.

     

    FC: Do you want to recommend any authors you like?

     

    Terri: Yeah! In the suspense genre for the Christian market, I love Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, Bill Myers, Colleen Coble, authors like that. In women’s fiction I love writers like Robin Lee Hatcher, Tamera Alexander, Angela Hunt, Mindy Clark – just a ton of them. You can find anything in the Christian market today that you can find in the general market. If you like science fiction you can find that in the Christian stores. We’ve come a long way in the last 15 or 16 years that I’ve been in this market.

     

    FC: For sure. Alright, really hard question next… Is it pumpkin spice latte or peppermint mocha that you most go for this time of year?

     

    Terri: Ya know what, neither one! I am a tea drinker. So I would probably go with an English breakfast tea or a hot chocolate, but I am not a coffee drinker. Anything that even tastes of coffee I am not interested in.

     

    FC: Would you consider yourself to be a Southern belle?

    Terri: Yeah definitely. Anyone who knows me I think would say that.

     

    FC: There’s a lot of people in this building who are huge fans of Terri Blackstock. You could probably come out with your own version of the Yellow Pages and I’m sure people would be ecstatic over it. You do a fantastic job and we’re excited about what you’re doing. Is there anything else you wanted to say before we let you go today?

     

    Terri: I just want to thank Family. They were really instrumental in getting me started. We had a big promotion with my first novel and we sent postcards from the character to the Family employees, and then we surprised them later with the manuscript. They created a lot of word of mouth buzz which really helped me because I was coming from a different market and had been using a pseudonym. Family really helped me get the word out.

     

    FC: Thanks Terri! We’re so happy to know that and grateful to have been a part.

     

    *Congratulations to Terri for earning a spot on the Library Journal’s Top Ten Best Books List of 2011 for Shadow in Serenity. What a great honor for a great author!

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