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Interview with Kristen Terrette

Before she was an author, Kristen Terrette was an elementary school teacher, a real estate agent, stay-at-home mom, a small-business owner, and on staff at her church. Now that she’s firmly settled in as a writer, read on to find out how writing compares to her other careers and which social media platform is her weakness.

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According to your website bio, you've worn a lot of "hats" career-wise. When did writing come into the picture for you? And how does it compare to all the other work you've done?

By far, writing gives me more satisfaction than any other career I’ve dabbled in. The only job that comes close was my job in children’s ministry, and even then, I knew my limitations. I was a terrific teacher and storyteller with the kids, but my creative mind wasn’t the best at staying organized and holding office hours. Over a course of events and life circumstances, I felt God asking me to write, to put to paper the stories I had in my head. It was a crazy dream, one I knew all along would require His help, but once I got started it became my most favorite thing to do. My husband jokes I have a love relationship with my computer, and it may be true because writing feeds my soul and is what I long to do. I am living this dream that has come true.

And you have a master's in theological studies. How do you weave spiritual truths and theology into your stories?

It is my desire for my readers come away with a better understanding of how God works, how He loves, how He redeems, how He shelters, how He heals…I could go on and on! As long as my stories leave readers examining their own lives and relationships with God, then I feel I’ve done what Jesus wanted me to.

I went to back to school for my Master’s because I read a passage in the Old Testament and thought, “I wish I knew the background of this story.” God spoke to me and said, “Then you should go to school to learn about it.” That moment led to months of me and God going back and forth, before I caved to Him because the conviction of not doing what He asked was so strong I couldn’t stand it anymore. I registered for classes. I thirsted to learn more about God and I feel like He wants me to pass that knowledge along. Though the only way I know to do that is through story…which, of course, is exactly what He expected me to do all along.

How did Safe Harbor come into the world? What inspired you to write it?

I can't remember when I decided on Moanna Island as the setting for Safe Harbor. God just started downloading details and circumstances into my mind as I began to outline the story. The beach always calls my name, and as I started writing out the first scenes, the island began to take shape as a remnant of my childhood vacations to Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Like Hilton Head, Moanna is a low-country island on the Atlantic. It’s quiet and peaceful with southern live oaks, Spanish moss, marshland, lots of golf courses, wildlife, extreme high and low tides, tree-covered bike trails, and even a lighthouse. It’s a beautiful place.

As for my characters, I began to outline Eva’s character and quickly decided she was a single mom with a young daughter. She was a teacher and going to move to Moanna Island for a fresh start, but a fresh start from what? That was the question I toyed with for a while. I knew her backstory would be one that pushed her far from God, one that caused her to build a barrier wall so high it would take numerous miracles from heaven for her to knock the wall down and allow God to reach her again. After time spent trying to decide the hardship she was running from, it hit me. Eva is my friend. One of my best friends was a single mom, a teacher, and grew up on St. Simmons Island, GA, a low-country island on the Atlantic much like Moanna’s inspiration. She was pregnant at the end of her college days when her boyfriend was in a car accident and later passed away, leaving her as a young, single mother. Not by choice, but by tragedy. I asked her if I could use her backstory for Eva and she consented. In the story, we watch Eva find her way back to God and fall in love. I have been blessed to witness this very thing happen to my friend as well. It’s a true story of healing and love.

When it comes to Eva’s hero, I knew right from the start he was going to be the sturdy tree with solid roots when it came to his faith in Jesus, the spiritually mature character with a strong and captivating faith. He was going to be the kind of man I want my daughter to end up with one day. The kind of man I want her to wait for. It didn't mean he would be perfect, but he was going to be on the other side of a tragic, desperate experience, having already hit his knees and cried out to God, who then changed his life for the better. Thus, Thad was born. God uses him to show Eva she can love again, and once she is opened up to love, she inevitably opens back up to God. I’ve already had readers tell me how much they love his character for his relentless pursuit of Eva and how they want this type of man in their future.

Tell us a little bit about your next (or current) project. And explain what you mean when you say it's literary fiction.

To me, literary fiction is an elusive genre.

The term has been defined as any fiction that attempts to engage with one or more truths or questions, hence relevant to a broad scope of humanity as a form of expression. That’s a lot of words to say it’s a genre with a little bit of everything and will touch on some hot-button topics. Some of the most famous ones are: The Help, Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and Life of Pi.

You can see with those titles that literary fiction may stir up controversy, may evoke a sense of justice or compassion, or may just baffle logic. It isn’t always lighthearted and funny. It can be those things, but there will be an underlining message for all people, men and women, young and old. It will span the gamut of human emotions…happiness, sadness, heartache, pain, love.

All that to say, I fell into writing in this genre. I started, See You Monday (which I am querying now), and once I was well into it, I decided, yes, this novel falls under literary fiction⎯at least I believe so! It is a story inspired by my mother’s childhood, things she went through or witnessed during a tumultuous time in history. The story alternates between present day and the early sixties, during desegregation, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, and even the Kennedy assassination. She was just a ten-year-old girl, but through a course of crazy events, God became very real to her. It spans many emotions and truths that will touch all types of people.

I am extremely excited and proud of this book and hope people get to read it soon!

Do you lean toward one genre or another when you write? How about when you read?

I definitely lean toward romance. I’m fascinated at how couples meet and fall in love. It’s so amazingly random and coincidental, and isn’t, right? To imagine God has picked one person on earth for you and you are destined to find them, is so astonishing, and the possibilities for that scenario to play out on paper are endless. But I also see my romance stories as a love story between the characters and God. It’s beautiful to watch someone come to know Jesus, and I thrive writing that love story as well.

I also read more romance than any other genre. But I do love certain literary fiction and mystery/thriller novels.

You confess a love for Pinterest. What catches your eye there? And how have you used it in conjunction with your writing?

It’s true. I get sucked in every time I click on that app! Ideas for any project can be found right at your fingertips! I live lots of house decorating and vacation dreams through Pinterest.

But I also use it constantly for my writing. I will have an idea for an outfit, and then go search it on Pinterest. I can then describe it because I’ve looked at an example first. My literary fiction novel alternates between 1960s and present day, and it was fun to search the 60s—outfits, shoe styles, hair styles, popular movies, TV shows, songs, home décor, popular styles of furniture and wall color trends, cars…you name it. Go to my website and check out the boards I have for my character and setting inspirations, along with Bible verses I love and have used, or will use, in my stories!

Finish this statement: When I'm not writing I'm exercising.

Thanks for sharing with us, Kristen!


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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