I interviewed Teresa, a fellow author and friend a few days ago and am posting that interview here, for your enjoyment. I hope you enjoy it and will visit the other blogs that are also interviewing her over the next few days, that I post a couple of days ago.
First, I’d love to have you introduce yourself to my readers, in case someone isn’t familiar with your work. How long have you been writing and what books have been published so far? I quit work in 1999 to focus on my writing full time. It has been a dream come true. I received my first contract in 2001 and my first book, Streams of Mercy, was published in 2004. Redemption’s Song is the second book in the Jenna’s Creek Series. I also have two other stand-alone books out, A Tender Reed and The Ultimate Guide to Darcy Carter.
Your current book, Evidence of Grace, is the third in your Jenna Creek series. Could you give us a brief summary of the book, and do the first two in the series need to be read before they read this new one? I purposely wrote each book in the series so that if someone picked up book 3 first, they could still enjoy a good story. The books don’t need to be read in order. Of course the goal is that after you read any of the books, you just can’t rest until you’ve read every book in the series.
Streams of Mercy is the book that started it all. On the day of her father’s funeral, Jamie Steele discovers he was once the prime suspect in the disappearance of an old girlfriend. Since the young woman’s body was never found, he couldn’t be prosecuted. Jamie has to find out for herself if he was capable of this crime like everyone in their small town believes. Book 2, Redemption’s Song, is the story of the catastrophic chain of events that are set into motion when one gives in to sin. Abigail Blackwood is willing to risk everything to protect the secret she’s safeguarded for 22 years, even if it means destroying the man she loves.
What triggered the desire to write this type of fiction and how was your story line birthed? The first book, Streams of Mercy, was rattling around in my head for years before I finally put it down on paper. All the others have been a natural progression from there. In Streams of Mercy, Jamie has to deal with forgiving her father, even though he doesn’t deserve it. I think we’ve all been in that situation—needing to forgive someone who doesn’t even think they did anything wrong. That’s what I love about Christian fiction. Readers can see themselves in the characters and empathize with what their situation. Hopefully the reader will take something away from the book that can help them with whatever life lesson they’re going through.
What was your favorite thing about writing this book? Any unusual experiences during your research or writing, that you’d care to share? I created a character in Redemption’s Song who wasn’t going to be a major player in any of the books. He was just mentioned in passing. When I started Evidence of Grace, I wasn’t sure what to do with him. I thought of making him crazy (Crazy people are almost as much fun in fiction as hateful mothers-in-law). I thought of using him for comedic relief. But once I turned him loose, he hit the ground running. It is always so much fun to watch a character take on a life of his own. After all, isn’t that what fiction is all about? His name is Calvin Trotter and I hope readers learn to love him as much as I have.
Can you give us a peek into the fourth book in this series, or have you started writing it yet? If so, any idea when it might release? Many, many moons ago when I was doing one of my first book signings for Streams of Mercy, a gentleman told me a story about his father that took place during the Blizzard of ’78. If you are from the eastern half of the United States and are old enough, you probably have your own Blizzard of ’78 story. I had forgotten all about it, but realized you can’t write a book that takes place in the 1970’s without mentioning the Blizzard. So Book 4 is going to begin with an episode based loosely on the story this gentleman told me. I haven’t started the book yet, so I can’t really tell you much else at this point.
If you had to compare your writing to two or three other Christian writers who write suspense or mystery, which would they be? Particularly any that the avid Christian fiction reader might recognize? While she isn’t a mystery or suspense writer, several readers have compared my writing style to Karen Kingsbury. I think because my books are character driven and the characters are so true to life. As far as the suspense element, I would have to say Terri Blackstock and Colleen Coble. The mystery/suspense I just finished is written in the style of Mary Higgins Clark. I would love to put an endorser copy in her hands if you have any influence in that area.
What do you feel sets your writing apart from other current writers of suspense? I try to blend humor with a little suspense and a little romance, no matter what I’m writing. With Tsaba House I have the green light to write in whatever genre I want so that really gives me freedom to find my voice.
Which character did you most enjoy writing in Evidence of Grace and why? Which one did you have the hardest time writing and why? I loved writing Calvin’s story and getting deeper into the character of his aunt Paige. Neither character is very likable in the beginning, yet you can’t help hoping that everything will work out for Calvin. You might even feel a little sympathy for Paige, though she doesn’t make it easy. And of course they are very funny.
The hardest character for me to get to know was Christy Blackwood. She is a tough nut on the outside, but like a helpless little girl on the inside. She’d never tell you that though. Once I got past that tough exterior, I fell in love with her just as I’m sure the reader will.
Do any of the characters reflect you or your life in any way? Not as much as with other books. All of these characters sprang forth from circumstances in earlier books, so that’s where their greatest influences came from. Basically, this book and the rest of the Jenna’s Creek series is out of my hands.
Can you share your long term plans for your fiction career? Any more series in the works? My long term plans are to keep writing until they put me in the ground. No one ever retired in the Bible, and I don’t plan to either. I have finished the first installment in a contemporary mystery series. I love the story, but my publisher has decided not to do anything with it until after the last Jenna’s Creek book is released.