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Interview With Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris is a multi-published, award-winning author and missionary who pens stories of romance, suspense and international intrigue from her home in the heart of Africa.

Lisa, your new book, Blood Ransom, tackles a subject close to your heart and home: the modern-day slave trade. Tell us a little about how you ended up writing on this topic.

In using Africa as a setting, I wanted to explore a situation that didn't just affect Africa, but the entire world. In our "modern" society there are over 27 million people enslaved from California to Cameroon to Cambodia. This statistic, and the stories I began to read while researching the subject, tore at my heart and my conscience.

So I began writing, wanting to use ordinary characters like you and me who, through the course of the story, would be forced to rely on their strength in God. Interestingly enough, God has been doing the same thing in my own life as He is stretching me with new opportunities. Later this fall, my co-writer of another series of suspense novels, Lynne Gentry, and I will be unveiling The ECHO Project, a non-profit organization where ordinary people like you and I can make a difference in changing the world one individual at a time.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I've learned that what is most significant is the journey and not the destination. For those of you who write, no matter what stage you are at in this journey, you know that the road to publication and beyond is full of ups and downs. There are mountains to summit and valleys to trudge through whether you're facing rejections from agents and editors, or feeling the triumph of signing that first--or twentieth-- contract. But even in those moments, the journey isn't over.

For me, I'll never "arrive" because the journey continues to teach me so much. I've learned to persevere despite rejection and lately, learn that my identity doesn't come from awards I've won or books I've published, just like it doesn't come from rejection letters or bad reviews. Instead, and this is true for each one of us, our worth needs to come from who He is and from His great love for us.

What's your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Finding balance is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. We're in our third year of homeschooling, something that was never a part of "my" plan. But God's plans are always better, and I now see this phase of my life as very important as I mentor my children. Family has to come above writing, and with my husband involved in full-time ministry, I also have the roll of supporting him and our work here.

Juggling life's demands is something every woman and man face. Everyday, we have to find a balance between the urgent, the important, and even the mundane things like laundry and dishes. Between children, husbands and wives, friends, ministry, our relationship with God, finding time to rest. And I'm learning as well how important it is to accept and give grace in the many times we fall short in the process.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I've always tried to weave God into my stories. I especially like taking imperfect characters who face impossible circumstances, then use them to paint a picture of how--just like in the Bible--God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him. I want people to be to read my stories and be challenged to let God lead them and use them for His service and glory.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
For many years I dreamed of writing books set in Africa, a place that has become my home. Being able to write these stories, both for Zondervan and more recently for Summerside Press, has been an exciting step in my career and one I'm extremely grateful for.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
Like most writers I know, I write because I have to. Stories and characters play in my mind until I finally sit down and write out their stories on paper. (And when I don't, my wonderfully, supportive hubby tells me to get to work!) The ideas come from random "What if?" questions, newspaper articles, a comment, or a picture that makes me want to know more.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I believe everyone's stories are unique because we each write them through our particular colored glasses or worldview. The stories I'm writing now meld different cultures and people with adventure. Living in six different countries and studying three languages other than English has helped give me that unique perspective.

If you could pass on one piece of advice for a beginning writer, what would it be?
Never give up! As I mentioned above, writing is a journey and it's not one that is always easy. The road is filled with both rejections and triumphs no matter where you are in the process. Keep praying for God's direction, learn the craft, write everyday, and grow and stretch yourself to reach beyond what you ever believed possible!

Finish this sentence: The one thing I've always wanted to do but haven't yet done is ... spend a month (or two) along the English coast of Cornwell writing a gothic novel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Lisa! (P.S. I'm coming to Africa next summer ... can we have coffee??? :o))
I would love that! The front door is always open.

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