Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
This week we are featuring Terri Blackstock! To enter to win a copy of her book, Distortion (Zondervan), leave a comment on this post.
My husband and I are empty nesters. We have three children and four grandchildren, three of whom were born last year. I have worked full-time at writing for thirty years.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write Christian suspense novels.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I have been writing since I was in seventh grade, and yes, I dreamed of being a published author. My mother sent one of my poems to the local newspaper when I was a young teen, and they published it. After that, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I majored in English in college, then got involved in a writers’ group in my area, where I learned the actual business of writing. I wrote two books that never sold (thank goodness!), but when I was twenty-five, I sold my first novel. I’ve been writing professionally ever since.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I guess I’ll start that countdown from the time I graduated from college, so it was about three years. But before that I’d been writing since the age of twelve and had been seriously trying to learn the craft.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?
I’m not a coffee drinker, but a nice cup of tea gets me going. Then I run to my favorite fast food place to get a Diet Coke in a styrofoam cup (which I sip on all day), and that seems to get my brain into gear.
Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?
I do better when I start the day with Bible study and prayer. Then I make my daily run to get my Diet Coke. I often do some writing in my car when I get home. The car is one of my favorite places to write, even though I have a nice study, which I love.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
For most of my career I’ve kept school hours, since I could only write while my children were at school. Now that they’re grown, I do allow myself to sleep a little later, but once I get started, I try to write for about six hours each day.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Writers’ conferences played a huge part in helping me get published. I made my earliest and most important contacts at RWA conferences, and I always recommend that aspiring writers attend conferences where they can get meetings with editors and agents. I got my first agent from one of those pitch sessions, and that ultimately led to my first sale.
I have also enjoyed the writers’ groups I belong to. It’s so helpful to have friends who are on the same journey. Writers don’t think like normal people, so it’s important to have people who “get” me.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I don’t think I had huge expectations, because it wasn’t my goal to “be an Author.” I just wanted to write. I didn’t expect to be rich or famous. I just hoped there would be someone out there who would want to read what I’d written, and that I’d be able to make at least a modest living while doing that. That was my best-case scenario, and that’s how it’s turned out.
What are your biggest distractions?
Family, email . . . Honestly, life can be a huge distraction. I have to work hard to build distraction-free days so I can meet my deadlines.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The worst was this past year, when my beloved agent, Lee Hough, died of brain cancer after a two-year-battle. He was a fabulous agent and always looked out for me. He worked hard for his clients, yet he did it with great integrity. I still feel a little stunned at the thought that I can’t pick up the phone and call him.
The best was when I got that phone call that the first book had sold. I remember holding the phone to my ear as my knees buckled and I wound up sitting on the floor. I felt I was finally vindicated to all those who doubted I could do this. By then I’d finished two more books, so I knew this was going to be the beginning of a career.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
I most like hearing from readers that something in my books impacted their lives. What I like least is the business aspect of writing—the paperwork and ancillary stuff that has to be done.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
I’ve been spoiled in that area, because I’ve been very well represented. Lee looked out for me (and his other clients) in every way, protected my best interests, negotiated excellent contracts with good advances and royalty rates, helped with career strategies, and handled things that might have been awkward for me to handle with the publisher. He knew what was going on throughout the industry, and he was able to advise me accordingly. He was a constant support and always encouraged me. I was blessed to call him my agent and friend.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Focus more on the writing of the book than on the marketing, and don’t rush to self-publish before a book is ready. In the past, writing was a profession that required lots of patience, and before a novel was published, it had been vetted by professionals like agents, editors and publishers. Today writers have other options, so they get impatient, and they’re uploading books that will not help their careers in the long run. Learning your craft takes time, and it isn’t something that happens with one book.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
A husband’s lies can have deadly consequences.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’ve just finished the third book in the Moonlighters Series, and we’re about to start the editorial process on that. Meanwhile, I’ve started working on my next series, which has been in my head for a couple of years. I had to finish the last series before I could start on this one, so I’m really excited to finally have the opportunity to dig into a new set of characters.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Web Site: http://www.terriblackstock.com