|River's Edge, Cape Refuge Series #3|
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The man Lisa Jackson loved most may have betrayed her. Another used deception to manipulate her. But did one of them kill her?
Ben Jackson is sure to defeat Jonathon Cleary in Cape Refuge's mayoral race, until his wife turns up missing the day before a major debate. Suspecting foul play, Police Chief Cade launches an island-wide search. But it takes a psychic's "vision" to point police to the riverside--and Lisa's body.
|Our Interview with Terri Blackstock
How did you get started as a writer?
I was raised in the air force and we moved around a lot, so it was really hard for me to make friends. My imagination became my friend. I was a writer before I could even put things onto paper. I would act out scenes and perform plays for my family. Whenever I had a friend over, I would have them act with me. I became the writer, director and star of our homemade productions. When I was 11 years old and my father had been in Vietnam for a year, I had all these emotions so I put it down on paper as a short story in poetry form. My mother sent it to the local newspaper and it got published. I loved that feeling of having something in print and having other people read it. From that moment on, I wanted to be a writer. I kept writing all through junior high and high school. I would write short stories and send them to lofty magazines that always rejected them. I was proud that I had rejection slips from the New Yorker and other prestigious magazines. I felt that every rejection slip was one step closer to publication. And I just kept at it as I went to college.
Where did you go to college?
I graduated from Northeast Louisiana University. After I got my BA degree in English, I enrolled in graduate school there. But I never got my masterís degree because I wrote my first novel instead of a thesis. That book didnít sell, but it did get some interest from publishers. The second book actually sold. It was called Blue Fire and was published by Silhouette Books in 1984.
Tell us about yourself? Your Family?
My husband Ken and I have been married for twelve years. Weíre a second marriage with three children, ages 24, 22, and 16. One boy, two girls.
|What made you change from writing ABA fiction to writing CBA fiction?
I was a Christian when I sold to Silhouette Books, which published romance novels. I entered that market planning to only write clean love stories. But over the years I started to compromise a lot, adding a little more sex in each book, until finally I was writing books as steamy as any of the other books that Silhouette/Harlequin published. I was focused on doing whatever it took to be rich and famous. Though I was getting more successful, I grew more and more miserable. It was almost like God was letting me have that worldly success, but He wasnít going to give me any satisfaction for it. I was empty.
I went through a divorce during that time, and it just tore me up. There I was with two children to support. Even though the circumstances of the divorce were not my fault, I knew that if I had been walking more closely with the Lord, I might have saved my marriage. I started feeling very convicted that God didnít approve of what I was writing. I knew my work was a stumbling block to my readers, because I was telling them lies in my work. I was telling them that love conquers all, and that youíre not complete without that one special person. I knew those things werenít true, because I did still love God, and believed in Christ. I was in church every time the doors opened. But I was compartmentalizing. It was like I had two separate livesómy personal life, and my career. As much as I longed to be closer to God, I couldnít quite surrender my career to Him.
Then I met a man at church and remarried. About a year into our marriage, my husband, Ken, was listening to Christian radio in his car and he heard something on the radio that really hit him between the eyes. He pulled off to the side of the road and just started weeping. He repented of all of his sins and asked Christ to change his life. When he came home that afternoon and said, ďI found Christ today.Ē I was really shocked, because I thought I had married a Christian. He said, ďIíve known about Christ all my life, but Iíve never really surrendered to him until today.Ē And it really changed him. It changed him overnight! He became a new creature just like the Bible said he would.
I started remembering back when I became a Christian at age 14 and how it changed me overnight. I remembered how zealous Iíd been those early days about telling people about Christ. That had faded over the years. Watching my husband dive into ministries of our church and telling everyone he saw about Christ, made me want to do the same. But I knew I couldnítónot as long as I kept writing books with graphic sex.
I felt like I had this black cloud over me. What if I told someone about Jesus, and they found out what I did for a living. Wouldnít they call me a hypocrite? I started to long for the ability to bear fruit like my husband was doing.
I think thatís why God wants men to be the spiritual leaders of their families. Itís because they have such power and they donít even realize it. Just watching him led me to long for what he had. I think so often itís the other way. Itís the woman whoís the spiritual leader, and the men donít follow as well. But we women have tender spirits, and weíre powerfully influenced by our husbands.
Finally I came under such intense conviction, that I knew I had a decision to make. I told the Lord I wouldnít ever write anything else that didnít glorify Him. At that point I left my secular career, and started writing books that point my readers to Christ. My enthusiasm for my writing and for life in general came back, and Iíve never been more fulfilled or more blessed than I have for the last several years. Since then, Iíve realized that God gifts us with talents that He expects us to use for Him. When we donít, we can never reach our potential, and we canít help disappointing Him. And ourselves. But if we do use our gifts for Him, He blesses us beyond anything we can hope or imagine.
What are some of the challenges you face being an author?
I hate writing the first draft. To me, that part of the process is sheer drudgery. Several years ago, I had a problem getting through that draft, because I kept stopping and going back and rewriting. I had trouble moving forward. But several years ago, someone gave me an excellent piece of advice. They said, ďDonít get it right, get it written.Ē I started writing my first drafts through as quickly as I could without judgment. Then I go back and start getting creative. Iíll take each book through several draftsósometimes ten or moreóbefore Iím ready to send it in to the publisher. Those subsequent drafts are fun for me. After that first draft is finished, I feel like a real writer again, and my creativity kicks in.
How long did Riverís Edge take you to complete?
About 6 months. I try to do 2 books a year.
How much research did this book take?
I did a lot of research on infertility for RIVERíS EDGE. I have a good friend who has struggled with infertility for years. She was a great resource for me on the emotional side, and I interviewed two doctors. Theyíre friends of mine, so I was also able to call them with questions as they came up. I go to a really big church and you wouldnít believe the resources in that church! Whenever I need to ask someone a question, I can almost always think of someone in my church I can call. I also read a lot of books by infertile womens, so I got a glimpse into their emotions and the things they go through during their struggle to get pregnant.
I usually over research issues that I'm working on and know more than I need to for the story. But I enjoy the research.
Iíve wanted to write about infertility for a long time because I know so many women who are going through it. I thought this was a good time to introduce the subject of infertility because Morgan and Jonathanóa married couple from earlier books in the Cape Refuge Series, wanted to have a child. I thought it worked well to weave it into the murder.
How do you think of your characters?
I really donít know. The characters just come to me within the context of the plot. I see them clearly and get to know them as Iím writing the first draft.
When I was originally proposing the series, I had Morgan and Blair who were both beautiful and perfect. Blair had this feisty personality, but I thought they seemed a little too flat. I wanted them to be more interesting than beautiful. Thatís why I gave Blair the scar on her face. It gave her a new dimension. It made her a little more interesting and complex.
In the very first book of the Cape Refuge Series, Morgan and Blair are sisters who learn that their parents have been murdered. For the rest of that book, Morgan and Blair are trying to solve their parentsí murder, and of course Cadeóthe chief of policeóis an important part of the plot. When I first conceived of these characters, I didnít think of Cade and Blair having a relationship, but it just happened as the book went on. There was chemistry there, so I played off of it. Sometimes my characters do things that surprise me and then I just go with them.
The 2nd book in the series, Southern Storm, centers around Cadeís disappearance. In that book, Iím able to develop his relationship with Blair a little more as she searches for him. By book three, Riverís Edge, that relationship progresses a little more.
Blairís scars are an ongoing issue for her; she just canít see herself as being pretty. All she sees when she looks in the mirror is those scars. It makes her relationship with Cade so much more poignant because he can see the beauty. I think itís a sweet love story.
|Is Bill going to emerge again?
Bill is a character in Riverís Edge, but I donít refer to him much in Breakerís Reef, which is coming out in the spring of 2005. I try to allow each bookís plot to stand on its own, so that if readers read them out of order, they donít feel theyíre missing anything.
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
It depends on which book I'm working on and who the lead character is. In Riverís Edge I probably favored Morgan more because of her infertility. In book 4, Breakerís Reef, Blair was really my favorite.
How did you choose the setting?
I love writing about the south. I live in Mississippi, and the Newpointe series was set about 3 hours from where I live, close to New Orleans. I wanted to stay in the south, but in a more exotic location. My family and I were exploring the Savannah, Georgia area, and happened on this place called Tybee Island. It was exactly what I had in mind. But I didnít want to use that island because I wanted to have more license with it. So I just created this fictitious island right next door to Tybee and set the series there. So a lot of the research I did in Savannah and Tybee Island is used in Cape Refuge, but I was able to make up a lot of things.
How personal are your novels?
They are very personal to me. People ask me if I am one of my characters. I do put a lot of myself into my characters. I think that I am probably more like Blair than Morgan. I did a series with Beverly LaHaye about four women. I always felt that two of the women were me and two of the women were her. But there was one that I just really poured myself into. Readers never guessed which character that was. They thought I was Brenda, the earth mother type, all sweetness and light. Ha! I was Cathy, the mother who rarely had it together. I usually relate most to the characters with the most flaws.
When Iím going through something tough in my own life, even if I havenít resolved it, it helps me to write it into a book. Sometimes I can sort of find my own way out of my problem through having my character do the same thing. So yes, theyíre very personal. Itís very interesting how God will use what I'm writing to minister to me and help me with my own struggles.
Do you prefer to write contemporary novels or suspense and intrigue?
I think right now I prefer the suspense.
What made you pick that genre?
Well, thatís what I was reading when I switched markets. I was reading John Grisham and Mary Higgins Clark and books like that. And I was tired of romance. When I got into the Christian market there werenít many suspense novels. I thought if I wrote books like Grisham and Clark were writing, people would read them.
Do unbelievers read your books?
They sure do. They may not stumble across them in the secular stores because theyíre in the religion section. But theyíre stumbling across them in libraries. Itís so exciting. I get a lot of letters from those readers who will tell me they just overlook the ďreligious stuffĒ in my books. And I think they arenít really overlooking it, Godís speaking to them. They just donít know it. Itís great. I think itís wonderful that they would still want to read it. We Christian writers have really come a long way. Iíve been writing in this market for eleven years now. Our covers and packaging have improved, and the quality of the novels just keep getting better and better.
|Are there any new projects on the horizon?
Right now Iím working on a new series that I'm calling ďRestoration,Ē but that title might be changed. Youíll be hearing more about it closer to next summer.
How many more book in the Cape Refuge Series?
I have finished the fourth book, which is called Breakers Reef. Thatís the final book in the series and is being released in February 2005.
What made you decide that Breakerís Reef would be the last one?
I just tend to do things in fours. Almost all of my series are set up in four books. And my Newpointe 911 series was too, but I got so much reader mail asking for more in that series. That series centered around fire fighters, police, and paramedics. After September 11th, I was just so filled up with emotion about these heroes in our cities across America, so I decided that I would continue that series for two more books.
Will there be any more books in the Newpointe 911 Series?
I have one more book I'm going to do in the Newpointe 911 series. I plan six in all. I havenít done it yet and I'm not sure when its coming, but if my readers will just be patient there is one more in that series.
|Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
There isnít any one person, but I think when I was in college all of my professors really had a great influence because they seemed to notice that I had the ability. I had a couple of professors who really nurtured that. When I turned in a paper, they would sometimes read it to the class. They just encouraged me so much. I learned so much in college about what makes literature work. And I learned how to organize my thoughts. English majors are constantly writing papers. I learned how to organize my thoughts so that later when I started trying to write a novel, which to me was a huge project, I knew how to organize my thoughts so that I could carry it out to the end.
What were your favorite books as a child?
I loved the Little House books, Little Women, Nancy Drew Mysteries, the Hardy Boys. I read all the time when I was a child. When I walk into a bookstore or a library, my heart just starts pounding. Bookstores are such treasure troves.
What message would you like your readers to take away from this book?
In all of my books I hope to challenge my readers to bear more fruit and to study Godís word. I think that too many of us fall for false teachings and false doctrines, because we donít know what Godís word says. Too many Christians are just resting on their salvation and not studying Godís word. I would love it if my books pointed people to the Bible. If they never read another book of mine and just studied their Bible I would be happy. I would feel like I succeeded.
In my book Riverís Edge, I show Blair to be that kind of Christian, who has salvation, but hasnít yet grown in her faith, so she doesnít know what the Bible says. She falls for the ďpredictionsĒ of a psychic, and starts ordering her life accordingly. I wanted to write about this because Iíve been there. Years ago I actually consulted a psychic when I was going through my divorce. I was in a town where I had been attending a church, but I was not really a part of the fellowship, I didnít know anybody there, and I just needed someone to talk to. I had someone refer me to this psychic, so I called her and she counseled me on the phone. She said things that were really obvious if you knew my situation. They were really no- brainers. But I thought she was just seeing into my soul. She told me things and I made decisions based on that session with her. Those decisions turned out to be bad for my family. I want Christians to understand that we have no business consulting psychics. Itís dangerous, very dangerous. Not only that, but the Bible has lots to say about it. We need to know that. If I had read all the things in the Bible about that, warning me against that, I would never have consulted her. But I didnít know what the Bible said about it. I really hope that people take that message away from Riverís Edge. That we have to be armed with Godís Word, and that knowledge is what protects us from lies and half-truths that lead us wrong.
Why would we consult some psychic instead of God?
This one that I consulted talked about God a lot. So I thought she spoke words of God. But she didnít mention Christ. Even if she had mentioned Christ, I just really think that the fact that she was doing something that was forbidden should have been a red flag, but I didnít know. I knew it was wrong, but I didnít really know why, so I was able to justify it. And I think thatís how most Christians are. We know itís wrong; we just do it anyway because we think its fun or we need that glimpse. I made decisions based on that psychic and thatís terrible. Thatís just the wrong thing to do. Sometimes God puts us in those places of uncertainty where we need to cling to Him. But we donít cling, we go to someone else. We want the instant answer. We consult men instead of God.
I want my readers to realize that they shouldnít take any human says at face value. They need to search the scripture and know what it says, so that they will be armed against the enemies who would lead them astray.
Favorite verse from the Bible?
Jeremiah 29:11 has been a verse that has really worked in my life. And that is, ďI have a plan for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Ē (NIV) That became my life verse during some tough times in my life, and Iíve found comfort in it so many times. I also love Ephesians 3:20: ďNow to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.Ē