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Interview with Terrie Todd

Terrie Todd tried to kill me in front of 250 witnesses.

Terrie Todd trying to kill me! Or praying for me, you decide.

She and I, with three others, were finalists for Operation First Novel—a contest Jerry B. Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild put on to discover unknown talent. The winner would walk away with money and a publishing contract. I stood below the podium, Terrie behind me, and Jim Hamlett, another talented finalist and dear friend, behind her.

When Jerry announced the winner—me—I felt Terrie’s cold fingers wrap around my neck. But when I turned, she enfolded her arms around me in celebration. She was as happy for me as I was, because that’s the kind of person she is!

Since then, Terrie’s novel, The Silver Suitcase, was contracted by Waterfall Press and published in January. She’s been riding #1 in kindles sales for Inspirational Fiction for quite some time. Seven years after she decided to see if she could write a book to publication, God has taught her His timing is perfect, and He’s faithful. I hope you enjoy this feature on my friend, Terrie Todd.


The Silver Suitcase almost didn’t happen. Before starting the novel, with a fulltime job and other responsibilities, Terrie was debating whether she’d have the time to devote to writing a novel, pitch to publishers, and meet marketing demands. “I decided to spend an evening fasting and praying about it. I asked my friend, Julianne, to pray for me. She is a prayer warrior to whom God sometimes gives ‘pictures’ when she prays for people. That night as she prayed for me, she received a picture of me, sitting on top of an old-fashioned silver suitcase. It was stuffed with papers and spilling over, like they were trying to get out.

“Meanwhile, I came out of my prayer time committed to writing 500 words every day for a month. After Julianne shared her picture of me and the silver suitcase, I asked the Lord ‘where can I go with that idea?’ This book is the result.”

Shortly after that moment, Terrie left her full-time job for a part-time one, which freed up much-needed time—and her writing took off.

She began writing on January 4, 2009. “By June, the first draft was ready for a contest (I thought),” Terrie said. “When it didn’t even get an honorable mention, I was crushed. But I kept at it, revising over and over.”

Improvement course: Books, contests, conferences

She read books, took courses, entered more contests—even doing well—and went to writing conferences.

“In 2013, Jessica Kirkland of the Blythe Daniel Agency signed me (as a result of the book finaling in the Operation First Novel contest), and in February 2015, I got the call that she’d sold the book! So, yeah, a seven-year journey from start to release. But God taught me so much in that time, mostly about His faithfulness and the perfection of His timing.”

The Silver Suitcase is getting fantastic reviews—and is impacting readers in what Terrie sees as surprising ways. “Different readers receive different things, in some cases in ways I never intended. This speaks of God’s grace in meeting us where we are and fulfills my desire as a writer, which is that everything I write would bring readers just one baby step closer to their Creator.”

Terrie’s day job as an Administrative Assistant for Portage la Prairie in Manitoba, Canada, begins at 8:30 a.m. and stretches to 12:45 p.m. So what happens if she wakes up at 5 a.m., well before she needs to get ready for work?

An incentive that works

“If I can drag myself out of bed to write, I am allowed a cup of coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer,” Terrie said. “No writing = no coffee.”

While she loves those early morning, quiet writing sessions, they do come with a downside. “When it’s time to hop in the shower, it’s hard not to feel resentful about tearing myself away from my computer, and, usually, by the time I’m ready to head out the door for work, I feel ready to go back to bed! But since I walk to work, the walk wakes me up—sort of.”

When she returns home at 1 p.m., she eats and crawls into bed. What? That’s right, she grabs a quick nap. Her health is a concern. “If I don’t (take that break), the rest of the day is a write-off, pardon the pun,” she said.

Novels aren’t the only works she writes. “I recently had the first-time experience of seeing a play of mine produced by professionals. It’s called Irony: A Tragic Comedy about Life and Death and was inspired by my own struggle with chronic lung disease,” Terrie said. “An earlier play called Sleeping with a One-Armed Man is based on our experience with my husband’s arm amputation in 1995, and another, First Church of Gynecology and Obstetrics, was also inspired by personal health-related experiences. So, yeah, I guess you could say life’s challenges provide fodder for my characters. My family has grown used to seeing their lives on stage.”

Immediate feedback

Writing plays, she says, has an advantage over novels—you can see the collective reaction of the audience as the story unfolds. “Watching a play, whether it makes you laugh, cry, or gag, occurs in a group. Some of my most awe-filled moments as a writer have been witnessing this shared experience.”

In 2013, Terrie moved into a new home and loves her office. Sunlight streams through a large, south facing window and splashes against her big World War II surplus desk, tons of bookshelves, a piano, a sewing machine, and two matching director’s chairs. Her daughter’s artwork, and photos of her grandkids, are sprinkled liberally about the room.

But she has a secret insecurity. God is good, “but deep down I feel like some kind of fraud. Like, the jig’s up as soon as they figure out I can’t actually write.” But she keeps on writing. “I don’t want to arrive at the end of my life wondering what I missed out on because I gave up too soon.”

When writing a protagonist, Terrie creates characters she identifies with, then later discovers readers often find them bitter, cranky, spoiled, and annoying. “I’m not sure what that says about me,” she admits. “But my therapist and I are working on it.” When naming a protagonist, she made an oath. “I’ve vowed to never again give a character a first or last name that ends in ‘s’. It’s just too awkward making them possessive!”

Historical or contemporary? Yes.

What makes The Silver Suitcase such a gem, is Terrie’s seamless transitions between a contemporary story and a World War II plotline that weaves in an intricate family history. When writing the original draft, she switched to the other time period whenever she got stuck. “I Suitcase in two timeframes because I didn’t know any better!”

Terrie is Canadian, which causes some problems when marketing to Americans. “I was twice told by industry professionals that if I wanted my book to sell to an American publisher, I would have to move my setting to the States,” Terrie said. “Though I like to be teachable, this was one hill I wasn’t willing to surrender. I refused to accept the idea that American readers were that snobbish and would not appreciate a well-told story that happened to take place on Canadian soil.

“I’m glad I hung in there and proved those naysayers wrong. Not only was the book published in the United States, it has sold more than 5,000 copies so far—the vast majority of them in the States.”

What has Terrie learned through her journey to publication? “God’s dream for you is bigger than your dream for yourself. Trust him, keep doing your part, and He will do his part. Just don’t quit!”


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

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