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Interview with Kristen Terrette

Kristen Terrette initially penned stories as a hobby, but the more she wrote, the more she longed to write. So five years ago, despite working with the best pastor on the planet, she took the plunge and resigned her job in children’s ministry. Now she spends her days with fictional characters creating stories of faith, forgiveness, and love.

Congratulations on the release of Morning Star, book three in your Moanna Island series. Did you set out to write a series, or did that just happen? What was the inspiration for this story?
Thank you. While I was writing the first Moanna story, I was already plotting the second, and the same happened while writing the third. The setting of the series was too hard to resist bringing more characters to! Moanna is much like the island of Hilton Head off the coast of South Carolina, where I vacationed as a kid. It’s the perfect getaway location for love to catch one off guard. Plus, I enjoy reading book series that focus on a small town or a family, so I think I it was natural to think of how to interweave my new and previous characters so my readers could catch up on old friends.

In addition to being a novelist, you write articles and blog posts for Crosswalk and Wholly Loved ministries. How do you balance the various aspects of your writing life?
I won’t lie, it’s hard some days. I tried to write for four hours a day at one time, but lately, my priorities at home have caused me to implement more of a “weekly” due date system. I might have one blog and two devotionals due by the end of a work week, so I put those as my top priority. Then, the rest of my week will be filled with my five thousand words a week goal for my current fiction project. I don’t always meet it, but I can usually get close.

You’ve written adult and young adult fiction. What do you do differently to write for the two genres? Do you prefer one over the other? How do you decide which project to work on?
All my adult fiction novels have been romances, and the dialogue and crazy circumstances in them have come easily compared to my young adult projects. However, God has given me these amazing and unique stories dealing with racial prejudice, bullying, identity/self-awareness, and families that I can’t keep hidden in my heart. It was hard to find the voice of a teenager, to get the adult out of my head, but once it happened, their angst, lingo, and way of thinking now flow more readily. I also read a lots of young adult novels, more than I ever have, to help with this.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Which authors have influenced you or your books?
Definitely Susan May Warren, Lynn Austin, Becky Wade, Courtney Stevens, Melinda Marchetta…

I’m ashamed to admit that I only started reading Inspirational Fiction maybe eight years ago. I prayed to find novels that were God-honoring, or at the very least came from a Christian worldview, but still showed some passion and the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with falling in love. I found all of this in Susan May Warren’s books, and it was a breath of fresh air. So, if anything, the authors I love show real life situations, desires, and even brokenness, but do so in a way that I don’t feel dirty after reading their works. I want to write like that.

How does your faith play a role in your writing?
I don’t know how to answer this question because my faith is (hopefully) the strongest characteristic about me. It doesn’t hold only a role, it’s simply me coming through my stories. My characters are not all Christians, so I process what their daily life would look like dealing with their hardships and being without Jesus. What would I look like without being able to turn to God for help?

And my characters who already know Jesus set an example. They make mistakes but turn back to God and keep taking steps forward toward forgiveness, wholeness, joy, and love.

I take very seriously my relationship with God, and work to grow in maturity, trust, and closeness to Him every day through quiet time, devotion, Bible reading, and prayer, and some of my characters do versions of this practice. I pray I’m able to write real characters who need God and once they realize this, turn to Him where He can heal and love on them. We all need to know this truth.

Research is a key component to writing. What sort of research did you do for Morning Star and did you stumble on any tidbit(s) you knew had to be included?
I knew early on that Addie was going to restore a historic home on Moanna—think Nicole Curtis on Rehab Addict—and that Shane would be some kind of soldier. I settled on him being in the Coast Guard because there is an Air Station in Savannah. While researching this area, I became fascinated with helicopter rescue swimmers. They jump off a chopper into the ocean during storms to save people! It also helped that the movie, The Guardian, with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner came on television. After watching it again, it was settled. Shane was an AST, aka a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer. I watched probably thirty YouTube videos on the Coast Guard, the types of helicopters they use, AST training, and live rescues caught on film. I also read many newspaper articles to get a feel for the types of calls they’d get day in, day out.

Addie’s career and character traits came a bit more easily. I worked real estate, namely new homes construction, for many years, so I know the process of building a home from the ground up. But Addie revives old homes, so it was fun to explore Pinterest and find houses that represented the southern/old world style. I found my imagination closely resembled Second French Empire architecture. I pinned many homes like this and even searched the hip colors of fifties décor and its furniture style. You can check out Morning Star’s Pinterest page here to see what I landed on for this story:

What do you do to prepare for writing? For example, do you have to be in a specific place or do you listen to music?
I write in the same few spots every time—at my desk (boring!) and on my screened in porch when the weather permits (much better!). I feel the familiarity helps me get into the creative headspace needed to write more quickly.

And not all the time, but yes, I do turn on music or even the TV for some noise to flow and keep the stagnant feel in the air away. I also love to jog and walk to get my creativity rolling. It’s then I often hash out fights or sweet scenes with my characters in my head, or even think through possible plotlines and story timeframes.

Are your characters entirely made up or are they based on people you know? Which of your characters are most like you? Most unlike?
Though parts of my backstories stem from real events in either my life or the life of a friend, I’d say they are made up. It’s exciting to figure out their personalities and how they’d react to situations.

Ryan, my heroine from Time and Tide (the second Moanna Island story) relates most closely to me. She loves coffee, jogging, and finds joy in the chaos of life, which is my motto. Though she has long legs, a tan, and an adventurous spirit, which aren’t my giftings. I wish I had a “drop everything to go on an escapade” type of attitude. I flourish in structure and planning. I love to go on getaways, but they still must make it on my calendar. The thought of a surprise trip terrifies me!

Eva, my very first heroine and Moanna Island’s Book One, is the least like me. She’s closed off to love (for good reason), and I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. Proof is that it takes her a while to fall for Thad, who I fell in love with at their first encounter on page five.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love when I’ve thought through a scene for a while—the words they’ll say and the look in their eyes—and it flows beautifully when I sit to write it, even turning out better than I imagined. I also crack up when my characters do something funny and unexpected. When I go back to read a scene and laugh at their banter, or the situation they find themselves in, I know it’s good. Especially when some of the time I don’t even remember writing it. Those are the killer moments where I love what I do even more.

What do you want your readers to take away from your stories in general and from Morning Star in particular?
The pain from grief is gut-wrenching, and Shane’s has caused him not only to retreat, but it threatens his career. His fear is standing in the way of being able to do his risky job. Addie deals with fear too but turns to Jesus to pull her through it. Because of Addie’s example and words of Truth, Shane is able to overcome.

2 Samuel 22:29 (NIV) says, “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” And Psalm 40:3a (NLT) says, the Lord has “given me a new song to sing.” These precious verses are found in the pages of Morning Star. God can take your darkness stemming from the loss of someone you love and bring light to it. He can rework you, refine you, and bring new life, a new song, from something you thought was dead. That’s what I hope people understand when they read Shane and Addie’s story. God has the power to heal any wound.

What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?
I wish I knew how to and enjoyed cooking. I say all the time the only reason I cook dinner is because my family has to eat. It’s certainly not because I receive pleasure from the act of preparing food. I wish my mother’s love and know-how had passed down. I was in charge of cooking the corn-rice casserole for Thanksgiving a few years back and completely left out the corn! God sure has a sense of humor though, because I love eating food of all different varieties. 


Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.

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