Welcome to Monday’s author interview. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing one of our very own contributors: Terri J. Haynes!
~ About the Author ~
Terri J. Haynes, a native Baltimorean, is a homeschool mom, writer, prolific knitter, freelance graphic artist and former Army wife (left the Army, not the husband). She loves to read, so much that when she was in elementary school, she masterminded a plan to be locked in a public library armed with only a flashlight to read all the books and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As she grew, her love for writing grew as she tried her hand at poetry, articles, speeches and fiction. She is storyteller at heart. Her passion is to draw readers in the story world she has created and to bring laughter and joy to their lives.
Terri is a 2010 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest finalist, and a 2012 semi-finalist. She is also a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalist. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families, Crosswalk.com, the Secret Place Devotional, Vista Devotional, Urbanfaith.com and Publisher’s Weekly.
Terri holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology, a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and a certificate in creative writing and graphic design, meeting the minimal requirements of being a geek. She and her husband pastor a church where she serves as executive pastor and worship leader. Terri lives in Maryland with her three wonderful children and her husband, who often beg her not to kill of their favorite characters.
~ About the Book ~
Special Agent Will Anderson is counting the days before he transfers from the D.C. Human Rights squad of the FBI, but he’s leaving behind everyone he loves. He is asked to interview a victim of suspected human trafficking, a simple task, but finds himself deeply involved in the case. Social rights activist, Savannah Elliott, has made a fresh start in Washington, D.C., but a routine consultation on a D.C. Human Rights case brings her face to face with a terror from her past. As Will and Savannah struggle to solve the case, they are forced to face choices, some they’ve buried for years. Will their decisions, past and present, bring them love and safety or will they lose everything, including their lives?
~ Interview ~
KATIE: Well, I suppose I can’t really say ‘Welcome to the blog’, since you’re one of our contributors, but thanks for letting me interview you, Terri. If I can just go back to your bio for a moment, homeschool mum (sorry—mom!), executive pastor, worship leader, freelance graphic designer, prolific knitter… That’s a lot of balls to juggle! How do you carve out writing time in the midst of all that?
TERRI: My secret is scheduling writing time. Because I am so busy, there is no carving out time. If I waited until I was free to write, it would never get done. My prime writing time is 9-10 pm and sometimes later. I also strive to make the most of every minute of my time. For instance, I live in DC metro, the land of traffic. So instead of just sitting in my car for an hour or more, I go to my local Panera and use that time to write until the traffic dies down. I also work in spurts. I have plotted two story ideas in one weekend. When I get into the zone like that, I find that I can get quite a bit done.
KATIE: Sounds like a smart move! I hate rush hour, and I’m sure my little home city has nothing like the traffic in DC metro. Your first full-length novel, Love Simplified, features a professional matchmaker who ends up with on a reality TV show, while Captured delves into human rights and trafficking. They’re pretty divergent topics! Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
TERRI: My ideas come from all over the place. The world is full of ideas. Captured was inspired by a news story. I got the idea for Love Simplified from a television show about a relationship specialist. I have an extremely active imagination, and I think I could turn anything into a story. I have notebooks full of ideas, some of them sparked from the littlest things. I guess that means I will never be without book ideas.
KATIE: Lucky you! Unless they’re all clamouring to be written at once, I suppose! So is there a particular genre that you feel most at home in, either reading or writing?
TERRI: I am all over the place in both areas. I work in a bookstore, so I try to read broadly. My personal goal is to have a book recommendation in every genre. But if I had to narrow it down, I read more YA and historical. I’ve recently added culturally diverse sci-fi. I read a great Middle Eastern dystopian novel and a sci-fi short story by a Nigerian author. As far as writing, I lean towards romantic suspense and contemporary romance, but I have several historical, YA, and sci-fi ideas floating around in my head.
KATIE: I’m a bit of a genre-hopper myself, and I love your aim of having a book recommendation in every genre! Talking specifically about Captured for a moment, both of the main characters in this novel come from non-Caucasian backgrounds. What is their ethnicity, and how did that shape your characters?
TERRI: Both of my characters are black (it is my personal preference to be referred to as black). (KATIE: Good to know! I don’t know about others, but I’m never 100% sure of the best term to use.) It’s hard for me to think about how their ethnicity shaped them because they just are. In the past, I had editors, other writers, and readers tell me that the characters in Captured weren’t black enough. I still don’t understand what that means. There are many shades of brown in the world. I do believe that when there are black characters in a book, there is an expectation for them to be urban. Will and Savannah are professionals, just like I am and many other black people are. Yes, there some urban characters in the book, but race wasn’t the driving factor. I wanted to tell a story where anyone from any racial background could identify with the story. I wanted them to identify with Will’s desire to have something he couldn’t and Savannah’s desire to be free from her past. Those things happen to every culture, every race, and all people. It is a universal story. Captured isn’t a race story. It’s a people story.
KATIE: Great answer! And isn’t that the aim of all good literature? To find those elements that are universal to humankind and explore them in unique settings and situations? So, aside from an enjoyable reading experience, what do you hope readers will take away from Captured?
TERRI: The core message of Captured is to pay attention. Human trafficking is a serious problem in the US. But one has to wonder how traffickers can operate in the world unseen. I believe that, culturally, our focus is on ourselves. Very often, people are hurting and heartbroken all around us, but we are so self-centred that we don’t see it. And when we do see it, we don’t do anything about it. This behaviour is especially disturbing when it involves believers. There are many needs in this world that only Christ can fix. But how will that happen if Christ followers don’t have the awareness or the compassion to change the world? And I’m not only talking about the starving children halfway across the world. I’m talking about the hungry children right in our neighbourhoods and churches. Not only the marginalized and oppressed around the world but what about the people in our workplaces, our classmates or fellow church members? Do we see them? We should, because they are all around us. The scriptures say Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw Israel scattered, hopeless, and without a shepherd. We, His people, should also be so moved.
KATIE: So true! It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of our own lives, but imagine what an impact we could have if we all committed to being more aware of those in need around us. That’s a great message.
Let’s lighten thing up a little to finish: If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?
TERRI: I’ve travelled a bit in my life, so I’ve seen some great places in the world like the Caribbean and Western Europe. I really loved Germany and St. Thomas. But I would love to go to Italy, rent a villa, and eat as much great Italian food as I could handle.
KATIE: Oh yes! Pretty much anywhere in Europe would be A-okay with me! If you could assign one household task to the fairies forever, which one would it be?
TERRI: Cooking! I can cook but dislike cooking with a passion. I would rather clean bathrooms than cook. Besides, bleach and I are great friends.
KATIE: Hmm. Well, I’ll certainly let you keep the bleach. I’d definitely take the cooking! If you were a musical instrument, what would you be?
TERRI: As a singer, I consider myself an instrument. And I don’t think I would want to be another because my instrument, my voice, is always with me. I don’t have to lug around equipment. As long as I have a song in my heart, I have music.
KATIE: Beautiful! Isn’t singing a wonderful gift from our Creator? (And as a singer myself, I really should have thought of that! Lol!) What’s next for Terri J. Haynes, fiction author?
TERRI: Taking over the world. Just kidding. I’m not even sure I would want it once I took it over. My goal is to finish two manuscripts this year. I’ve finished one and am currently plotting another. I am also planning to another Brea Sutton novella to release later this year.
KATIE: Hahahaha! I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want the responsibility of this world on my shoulders either. But it sounds like you’re on track with your writing goals! Thanks for chatting with me today, and God bless. 🙂
Interview by Katie Donovan