Good Monday Morning, reader friends!
Today, we’re talking with Terri J. Haynes about her story “Free to Love.”
Enjoy the interview!
Interview with Terri J. Haynes about her story, “Free to Love” in the Underground Railroad Brides story collection:
Alexis: Why did you agree to write this story “Free to Love” for Barbour Books as part of their collection of stories titled, “The Underground Railroad Brides Collection: 9 Couples Navigate the Road to Freedom before the Civil War?”
Terri: This story was originally a part of a proposal but in a different time periods. That proposal was modified so that all the storied happened before the Civil War. Even though it wasn’t our original proposal, all the ladies in the collection had worked so hard on our stories.
Alexis: What is your story “Free to Love” about?
Terri: It is the story of Hiram and Winnie, two slaves in Maryland. Hiram has run from the south and Winnie’s church is a part of the Underground Railroad. Hiram ends up wounded near Winnie’s church and she helps nurse him back to health. But there is a storm brewing around them and it threatens their freedom and their lives.
Alexis: Who are the main characters in your story? Briefly describe the hero and heroine’s looks, personality, hopes, fears and outlook on life.
Terri: Winnie is a slave but she and her parents assist with the Underground Railroad. Winnie is strong, loyal and caring, but fears being on the run. Hiram has run from the south and his brave but gentle. He fears he will be captured before he can reach freedom.
Alexis: What is it about the hero that the heroine loves? Explain.
Terri: Winnie loves that Hiram is so gentle despite his size. She also loves that he enjoys growing things. She also loves his courage to run from his slave masters to freedom.
Alexis: What is the hero’s greatest skill and his most troublesome weakness?
Terri: Hiram’s greatest skill is his ability to make people feel at ease. His most troublesome weakness is that he is afraid of being caught and sent back to the south.
Alexis: What is it about the heroine that makes the hero want to protect her?
Terri: Winnie is one of the most caring, hardworking woman Hiram has ever met. She also is sacrificing for the people she loves. Winnie is also working toward her freedom, just in a very different way than Hiram and Hiram wants her freedom as much as he wants his own.
Alexis: How are your hero and heroine involved in the Underground Railroad?
Terri: Hiram is a runaway slave and Winnie is a conductress.
Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this story? Why?
Terri: That love can bloom in the darkest of places. I feel that many stories about the Underground Railroad focus on the pain, tragedy and abuse, but not taking into account that there were families, couples and children who loved each other. In my research for this novella, I found instances of runaway slaves risking a return to their slaveholders to free their families. Working so they could purchase the freedom of their spouses and children. Slaves were not an unfeeling mass. They had families, dreams and love.
Alexis: Would you like to see more stories like these that feature main characters of color, published by CBA? Why or why not?
Terri: I would. I would love to see more stories because I am a person of color. There is power in representation. Of course, I can connect with stories featuring other races, but I would love to read about my own. We have stories to tell that will further the Kingdom.
Alexis: What would you say is the greatest challenge in being an author of color writing stories about characters of color to be published by CBA?
Terri: The greatest challenge is that CBA, at the moment, publishes very few authors of color. It is heartbreaking to see it. It feels like there isn’t a place for me, even though I am a Christian and a consumer of Christian fiction. It’s hard to see a whole segment of literature devoid of people who look and write like me.
Alexis: Would you say that it’s easier for authors of color who write books about characters of color to become indie authors to get their stories out there? Why or why not?
Terri: This question has a hard answer. Yes, I think it is easier for authors of color to become indie authors. In the indie world, there is no “gatekeeper.” Authors of color are free to tell the stories they want how they want. Unfortunately, this has a downside. There is a lot of work in indie publishing, espically if you plan to succeed. You basically become a publishing house. I am thankful that we can indie publish, but I would like it to be one of my options, not my only option.
Alexis: What advice would you give the Marketing and Sales Department of traditional Christian publishing houses to help them reach readers of color and effectively sell books by authors of color whose stories feature characters of color?
Terri: Now I have to put on another hat I’ve worn in the past: bookseller. I used to work for a major bookstore so I understand that world. The truth is simple. All publishing houses need to do is publishing authors of color.
There were many days where people from all races came into the bookstore where I was working and ask specifically for books by authors of color. Christian authors of color. The demand is there. The problem is the books aren’t. Put the books out there and they will sell.
When we start taking about how to reach readers of color, there is the suggestion that readers of color are somewhere buried way under a rock and never set foot into a bookstore or library. Like there is some different process on how to reach us than readers of other races. I have been told several times that publishers don’t know how to market to readers of color and this statement makes it seem like readers of color are foreign and “other.”
There isn’t a different way. Christian readers of color find new reads the same way everyone else does. We browse bookstores. We get book recommendations from our friends. We read book reviews. Readers of color have been purchasing CBA books for years. If we found those books, have a little faith that we’ll find books featuring characters of color. Have more than a little faith, because we want to see ourselves in books and on covers.
Alexis: If you were not an author, what would you be?
Terri: Unhappy. I love to write and can’t imagine my life without it.
Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Terri! Do you have closing comments?
Terri: Thank you for interviewing me. I hope that this interview will broaden the conversation about authors of color in Christian fiction.
*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor
About the Book (story collection), The Underground Railroad Brides Collection: 9 Couples Navigate the Road to Freedom before the Civil War
Love Guides Hearts Along the Road to Freedom
Nine historical couples walk the road to love even as they dare to escape and help others break free from the injustices of slavery between 1849 and 1860. From Southern states of Georgia and South Carolina to above the Mason-Dixon Line in Indiana and Pennsylvania, they work within the network known as the Underground Railroad.
About Terri’s story “Free to Love” in the story collection: East Towson, Maryland—1850
Winnie is hiding a secret—Hiram, a fugitive. Their lives cross at an Underground Railroad station. Can they overcome danger and find freedom in love?
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. She is a storyteller at heart. Her passion is to draw readers into 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 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 off their favorite characters.