by Michelle L. Levigne
Terry Blackstock had the kind of writing career that many writers dream about.
A little more than six years ago, she had over 32 books under several
pen names and over 3.5 million copies in print. She had several writing awards to her
credit and contracts to write more books with the leading publishers in the Romance field.
Writing romance novels was her career, not just a hobby. Not just
something she managed to cram in between a day job and housework and raising the kids. She
supported her family with her writing income.
Many struggling writers nowadays would sell their souls for that much
Blackstock wanted to branch out in her writing and try something new.
She wanted to add some mystery and suspense to her novels but her editors wouldn't
let her. They didn't want her to disappoint the readers, who knew exactly what they would
get when they picked up a book with one of her pen names on the cover.
The sheer numbers of romance novels on the market, and more every
month, dictated a very short shelf life. Blackstock wanted to make an impact on the world
with her writing, but if her books only sat on the shelf for a few months each, what
chance did she have?
Her drive in writing romance novels came from a
conversation she overheard at the neighborhood pool one day. She heard a woman say,
Wouldn't it be great if we could fall in love one more time? Blackstock had
the talent and skill so her stories let people fall in love one more time over and
She wanted to have a positive effect on the world, and reach more
people, for a longer time frame, than what the romance field offered.
At the same time, she started to experience a spiritual hunger and
renewal in her life.
So what did she do?
She turned her back on her successful career. Walked away. Gave it all
up. She bought back a contract, finished another book she was writing, and turned her
talents to Christian fiction.
Why, you may ask, would anyone take such a big risk with her career,
her family's income, and the success she had worked so long to attain?
Blackstock was raised in church and knew what God wanted in her life.
Yet as time went on, she got distracted. By marriage. Family responsibilites. The books
Then six years ago, she started to feel burned out by what should have
been a successful, exciting career. She started searching and examining her life and began
to believe that God wanted her to be more useful as a Christian.
She started thinking and praying about what God intended when He gave
her the gift of writing. As she got closer to God, she began to believe she was meant to
write things that glorified God. It was a difficult decision to give up a steady, reliable
career and the income that came with it. I said, if I quit this, I have to buy back
my contracts. I don't have the money. I'm probably not going to make money. The
family would have to give up things in order for her to change careers and basically enter
God's service. Then my wonderful husband said that was fine, whatever you need to
do. So she took that step of faith.
God returns the days the locusts ate. He makes good come out of
everything. Her years of apprenticeship in the romance market taught her
the discipline and creativity to enter the Christian writing market with strong, quality
When Blackstock became a Christian at age 14, she was excited. She
wanted to give her whole life and everything she did to God. Then life got in the way. She
fell out of fellowship and married a man who wasn't a Christian. Blackstock thought she
would eventually lead him to Jesus, but she was pulled away from her spiritual walk
instead. When their marriage ended after 13 years, she started looking at her life and
realized just how far she had fallen away.
She started seeking the Lord and got involved in church again. She met
a wonderful Christian man there (He was motivated; his wife wasn't dragging him to
church!) and they were married after a whirlwind 6-month courtship. She learned,
however, that appearances deceive. He wasn't the Christian she thought and she
admits she wasn't the Christian she appeared to be. Their first year of marriage was rough
because there were so many things wrong in her life. Including the stories she wrote.
Then God started moving in her life. She and her husband got involved
in a very devout Sunday school class, with people much more serious about God and their
faith than anyone she had ever known. It challenged both of them. One day, her husband was
driving and he started listening to a Christian radio station and he usually
avoided Christian radio. Something touched him. He pulled over, weeping on the
highway, started praying, repented and gave his life to Christ.
Blackstock, to say the least, was stunned when he told her. I
couldn't believe I had married two men who weren't saved!
Her husband changed overnight. He was excited about his faith and that
excitement has continued. He is deeply involved in evangelism in church, and it's not
unusual for him to come home and say I led someone to Christ today. He is now
a spiritual leader, someone Blackstock has hungered for all her life. Comparing herself to
him, she came to see the height she had fallen from. Once, she was as excited about God as
her husband had become.
That prompted changes in her life, and re-evaluation of everything in
it. Blackstock admits it's a struggle. Everything she knows about the Bible, she learned
in the last five years. She was saved at 14, but her spiritual life was on
hold until then. This is something that drives her now, in her writing. Something
she still struggles with in her own life, and needs to tell her readers. They might all
have started out strongly in their spiritual walk as she did, but got distracted and
wandered off the path. So many people are sitting in church thinking just because
they walked the aisle and got baptized, that's all that's not it! The word
believe in Jesus means to cling to him, not just recognize He is Lord.
Now, she and her husband are leaders at their church in the precept
Bible studies by Kay Arthur. Until the change in her life, Blackstock admits she was never
interested in reading the Bible, but now God has given her a hunger. I can read the
Bible for hours a day.
The changes God has made extend not just to Blackstock's writing
career, switching from romance to the Christian marketplace, but the type of stories she
writes. She wanted to branch out to write mystery/suspense, but her former romance editors
wouldn't let her. Blackstock realized that in the Christian marketplace, she could start
over, write what she wanted to write, and even use her real name instead of pen names. Her
married name wasn't known, so no one had any expectations. She could, quite
literally, leave her past behind.
Along with the Suncoast Chronicles, Second Chance series and Newpointe
911 series, she has co-written a mainstream novel, Seasons Under Heaven, with
Beverly LaHaye, which arrived in March.
Some of her current novels are rewrites of earlier books.
Justifiable Means, (book 2 in the Suncoast Chronicles) was written for
Harlequin. She bought back the rights and rewrote the proposal for the Christian market.
It just came alive. That was what the plot was supposed to have been.
A definite plus in the switch from the romance market to Christian is
that her books have been out a few years now and are still on the shelf, as opposed to the
few months of shelf-life romance novels enjoy. People are still reading her first books
and being touched. Blackstock still receives letters from readers, reporting how her books
have affected their lives.
Rewriting isn't as easy as it sounds, whether on paper or in real life.
Blackstock cringes at what she originally wrote in some books. Some of the stuff I
wrote, I wish I could take back. That's why I don't write under those (former pen) names
anymore. I don't want people to read my old books and be confused about what I
Right now, her career is going strong. What does she see in her future?
I feel like I'm going a million directions now. I just finished
the third Newpointe. The next project is another book with Beverly; maybe two more after
that. She would like to continue writing in the community she and Beverly LaHaye
created. I had the best time writing that book.
Even though she feels she is going in too many directions, she is
having fun. When God gives her an idea, she goes with it. She commented that she loves
writing suspense, but when writing with Beverly she felt more in her element than ever
before; not romance or mystery/suspense, but a warm mainstream type family novel for
women. It fit me perfectly, and she will probably move more in that direction
in the future.
The important thing, though, is that she is where she believes God
wants her to be, making an impact on her readers lives and being more
useful as a Christian.
When I get up in the morning now I know that someone is going to
be touched by what I'm doing here, and I take that very seriously. And I do feel a mission
now. It's been a great experience.C