Terry Blackstock

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 success.

But …

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 over again.

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 she wrote.

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 stories.

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 believe.”

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