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Terri Blackstock
If I Live

  With her fugitive series If I Run racing toward its finale, the author talks about why her thrillers are infused with romance - and faith.

  Bestselling author Terri Blackstock wraps up her latest series with the thriller If I Live (Zondervan). Casey Cox is on the run after being indicted for murder, and investigator Dylan Roberts is now her only hope. But with the clock ticking, exposing the real killers is more complicated than they knew. Will one life have to be sacrificed to protect the other?

  In April, If I Live entered the Christian Booksellers' Top 50 list at #5. It's now #1. That wave of popularity has swept the two preview books in that series, If I Run and If I'm Found, to #5 and #7 respectively. On the Top 5 Fiction list in the Suspense/Mystery category, the three books occupy the top three spots. Click Here.

  In this interview, Terri shares the childhood memories that sparked the series, why she chose to end the series now, and why the faith in her novels is always woven into the story...

Terri, in your If I Run thrillers, Casey Cox is on the run because she's wanted for
a murder she didn't commit.
Dylan Roberts was sent to bring her to justice.
What inspired you to create characters with this kind of complex relationship?

  When I was young, I used to watch The Fugitive TV series starring David Jansen, in which the hero has to run from the law while he tries to find his wife's real killer. In each episode, he'd be found out, and he'd leave town and start over again in a new place.

  I wanted to explore a female fugitive who has to keep running and start over in new places, and try to forge a life when she knows that everywhere she lands will just be temporary. It gave me a lot of great opportunities for her to get into situations that were fun to write about, and I hope were compelling for the reader.

  Casey Cox is one of my favorite characters in any of the books I've written. She's complex and simple at the same time. She loves people and gravitates to them wherever she goes, but she's also pretty adept at staying off the grid.

  She's been accused of committing a heinous murder and knows that her DNA is all over the crime scene, because she found the body. Instead of calling police, she decides to run. She knows who really did it, but she can't go to the police because they've failed her abysmally before. She knows that if she's caught, she won't just go to prison, she'll be murdered.

  Dylan Roberts is hired by the victim's family to work in conjunction with the police department to go across the country looking for Casey. He's struggling with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after surviving improvised explosive device (IED) explosions in the war, and when he begins to research Casey Cox, he realizes the two of them have more in common than he thought.
  He's pretty sure she has PTSD, too, but he doesn't know if it caused her to snap and kill her friend, or if she just did the wrong thing because of it.

  In If I Run, he's chasing her to bring her back for prosecution, but by the time we get to If I'm Found, he realizes Casey is innocent. In If I Live, time is running out for both of them, so - well, you have to read to find out!

There are lots of TV series that have borrowed that model and they go on for years. How long were you planning to wait
to let this play out?

  I decided to make it three books. I've gotten to the place where I kind of get bored when I get to, like, the fourth and fifth book of a series. I knew myself well enough to know that I didn't want to just drag it out.

  I like to do series because my readers like it so much. But it's tough doing a series because there are so many things you have to remember that you've written in the previous books.

  For instance, If I Live - the final book in the series - was really tough, because I had to tie up everything. I had to tie up every loose end that I had in the previous two books and bring about a satisfying ending.

  Another thing is, I just didn't want to leave my readers hanging forever. They really want an end to the story. I didn't want to just drag them on for years.

You bring up an interesting point. I've noticed that for a lot of suspense writers in the general market, it's either a lot of stand-alones or series that go on for years.
In the Christian market, it does seem to be more normal for suspense series to be shorter. Why do you think that is?

   I think it has more to do with the author and what they want. Gilbert Morris and others like him have done series that go on for dozens and dozens of books, because their readers love that. Karen Kingsbury, for example, has her Baxter Family series. I don't know what book she's on, but her readers love that, and they come back for each new book.

  In my case, it's about my attention span. It takes me a year to write a book - so, if I do three books, that's three years. Am I still passionate about something four years after I started? I have to consider all that.

Sir Arthur Conan tried to kill off
Sherlock Holmes because he wanted
to do something different...

  Exactly! I don't want to get to the point where I'm sick of my characters. I try to plan the series in such a way that I'm still excited about writing it when I get to that last book.

You write suspense, but they often include romance. What is it about that combination of suspense and romance that makes you gravitate in that direction?

  Well, I think in my mind, most romantic suspense novels center more around the romance than the suspense. In my case, it's the opposite - the suspense drives the story, and then the romance is sort of secondary. And there are some books I've written that don't have any romance at all.

  I really like writing about all kinds of relationships - family relationships, husband and wife, mother and son, mother and daughter, that kind of thing. When you like writing about relationships, the most natural thing in the world is writing about romance.

  In this series, the romance is developing between Dylan and Casey. In the first book, If I Run, he was chasing her to prosecute her. And he took it personally because he grew up with the victim and was one of his best friends. The victim's family has hired him to find Casey and work with the police. But by the second book, If I'm Found, he's realized that she's innocent. He's trying to find her so he can protect her from the killers.

  So, the chemistry begins to really work between them. I just love it. I think my readers love it, too. They're hanging on from book to book to see what's going to happen with Dylan and Casey.

  I do tend to have that in every series. I may not have in the first book, but it works toward that in the series. As much as I can, I try to get romance in there. I think that's what engages readers. Even the men.

As you develop the characters, it carries more weight when they're in danger...

  Exactly. I like for time to be running out in a story, so there's kind of that ticking bomb and time's running out. If that person dies or if something terrible happens - like you said, it just raises the stakes when there's romance.

How does your faith impact when you're writing about people who are in danger? There are crime elements, your stories have murders - where do you find that balance between being realistic without dwelling on it? Where do you find that line?

  The fact is that I'm a Christian reader as well. So, I really think about when I'm reading a book, what makes me feel defiled in some way? If I'm reading a really gruesome book, and there's a lot of blood, and there's a lot of violence, you know it makes me feel defiled.

   I don't want to do that to my readers, so there are lines I won't cross.  But I do have murder, and I do have blood. But I try not to make the reader wallow in it.

  Probably my most gritty book was Predator. I deliberately did it in that book, because I wanted to scare the socks off people who were dumping all their information on social networks. I wanted them to understand that social networks are a predator's playground. And that if you were a predator, where would you go to find out where somebody was at any given time, you know, and what their habits were, what their routines were.

  I just wanted to scare mostly young people, but even adults. I think that book was probably the grittiest, and that was for a purpose.

  But mostly, I try not to show too much blood, not to get too gory, and to describe things in a way that it gets across what happened, but they don't have to wallow in it.

You've mentioned in in the past how you draw from your own personal trials to create plots for your books. Tell us about that...

  I often use events from my own life, and the emotions I've experienced, in writing my books. I don't waste much in my life. When I go through something painful, there's a part of me that's always kind of standing outside myself recording how it feels to be in that situation, and later I process it by writing about it in some way.

  I don't always use the exact event from my life, but I might have someone going through something similar to it, so the emotions I write in those characters are real.

With so many books to your credit,
is it difficult to create so many
new characters and storylines?

  You'd think that with 80 books published, I would recycle plots and characters over and over, but that isn't the case at all. My books have to be exciting enough to hold my attention, and I get bored easily. So, I try to make each book different from all those that came before. I don't seem to have any trouble coming up with new ideas, and new ideas for plots always generate new, unique types of characters.

You started out as an author in the general market. Why did you make the transition to writing Christian fiction?

  After I'd been writing for the romance market for 13 years, I became miserable. I loved being a writer, but I wasn't fulfilled at all. I was a Christian and had what I call a spiritual awakening, and I felt an intense conviction that I wasn't using my gift the way God had intended. I had several books under contract at that time, but I didn't want to write them.

  I remember the day I got down on my knees, literally, and told God I didn't want to write anything else that didn't glorify Him. I didn't know how that would look. I knew there was a Christian fiction market, but I didn't know anything about it.

  I told my publisher that I wanted to buy back my contracts, and it happened that they owed me more than I owed them, so that worked out really well. Then I was able to get an agent who sold to the Christian fiction market, and I wrote my first book proposal for a suspense novel with a Christian theme. It just so happened that Christian publishers, who had mostly published prairie fiction and historical or biblical fiction up until that point, were ready to expand their list to include more genres.

  I came in at exactly the right time, and Zondervan not only bought that suspense novel, but they gave me a four-book deal. I've been writing suspense for them ever since.

When your novels have faith and romance
and suspense, which of those elements
is the easiest for you to write?

  Faith is the easiest. Sometimes I have to sort of dial it back.

  When I started writing Christian books, I didn't really know anything about the market. At the time, there really weren't suspense novels in the Christian market. I was coming from the romance market, and I was learning my way. But the one thing I did know is that I wanted the faith element to really have an impact on my readers.

  In that that first book I wrote, I had my Christian character falling to her knees a lot and praying a lot. My editor had to show me, well, that may be what would happen in real life, but your readers may not buy that. They may not think that seems authentic. He kind of had to teach me how to restrain it a little bit and pull it back so that I'm not preachy.

  Over the years, the faith element comes very naturally to me. I write about characters who don't have it all together, who maybe are suffering in some way - or I put them through the suffering  - and that makes it easy for me to get the faith element in. I think people who are reading my books are suffering in a lot of ways. They're going through trials, and I want to show them that even though God doesn't necessarily erase all our trials, He certainly is there for us through them. Romans 8:28 you know really applies.

  As long as I kind of keep that in my mind as I'm writing, the faith element just weaves its way naturally through my plots.

How is faith generally reflected
in your stories?

  I first try to tell a great story, and my worldview naturally comes through. I think every writer has a specific worldview that works their way into their books. Mine happens to be a Christian worldview.

  Faith is always a part of my plot. An example is my Cape Refuge series. That first book, Cape Refuge, opens with the murder of a beloved couple in town, and their daughters are determined to find the killer while they deal with their own grief.

  The theme through those books is why God allows suffering. I have a character who wants to be as far removed from her parents' ministry as she can get, because she's outraged at God for letting them die that way. But over the course of four books, she comes to a better understanding of who they were and why they did what they did, and she begins to understand how God used what happened in their lives.

  My Restoration series - beginning with Last Light - was about a massive global power outage, because of some electromagnetic pulses that knock civilization to its knees. My modern family who were addicted to technology now have to live without transportation, communication, currency, electricity or any technology. They come to the place where they have to decide whether to hoard the food they had left, or share with others - even if it means they risk starving themselves. They choose to put their Christianity into action and help the desperate neighbors around them.

  While people are looting and killing to survive, this one family tries to be light in the darkness, even while they're having to defend themselves from all the danger around them. They change in drastic ways that wouldn't have been possible without the hardship. I take that family through some tough times before it's all over.

  So, the faith element is a critical aspect of the plot. It's not just plugged in. I want to write page-turners that entertain my readers, but ideally, I'd also like to challenge them and encourage them before they get to the last page.

From familyfiction.com Click Here

 
 

Terri Blackstock
"If I Live"



Casey Cox spends her days changing disguises and on the run for fear law enforcement will capture her for the false murder charges her friend Brent. Dylan Roberts is the investigator in the case, who now believes she is innocent. He must come up with a plan to safely help her connect with the DA as she makes a deal with him to turn over all evidence she has against two corrupt cops, only to find out that the DA is working with them. Without knowing who to trust, they must expose the real killer before they both end up dead. 

Terri Blackstock
"If I'm Found"
(The sequel to If I Run"



Casey Cox has been framed in the murder of her best friend by a shady detective on the local police force. She goes on the run changing her identity a few times to stay one step ahead. Dylan Roberts is a private investigator hired by the detective to find Casey. Little does the detective know; Dylan believes Casey is innocent. Together Dylan and Casey must find a way to prove her innocence so Casey
can stop running.

Terri Blackstock
"If I Run"



Casey didn't kill her friend Brent, however her clothes and car are so covered with bloody evidence that she's forced to flee and live as a fugitive until she can discover who did. Former army criminal investigator Dylan Roberts is determined to track Casey down. Can she stay one step ahead of him until she's vindicated?

Terri Blackstock
"Dawn's Light: Restoration Series #4"



In the final book of the Restoration Series by bestselling author Terri Blackstock, the end of a global electrical blackout signals the beginning of the Branning family's ultimate test. Murder and affairs of the heart form the backdrop for a family sifting through the lessons they have learned-and how well they have truly learned them.

Terri Blackstock
"Double Minds"



As talented singer/songwriter Parker James struggles to make her mark on the Nashville music scene, she finds the competition can be fierce - even deadly. When a young woman is murdered at the recording studio where Parker works, Parker is drawn into a mystery where nothing is as it seems. Unraveling the truth puts her own life at risk when she uncovers high-level industry corruption and is terrorized by a menacing stalker. As the danger escalates, Parker begins to question her dreams, her future, and even her faith

Terri Blackstock
"Last Light"



Terror reigns when electrical power is cut off across the world-creating a global crisis that reveals even deeper darkness within human hearts. What would you do? Whom could you and your family trust, especially if there was a killer in the neighborhood? The first book in this exciting new series from Terri Blackstock.

Terri Blackstock
"Night Light"



As global catastrophe plunges the world into darkness, survival becomes everybody's new lifestyle. The Brannings must choose between hoarding their possessions or sharing with others. When young thieves raid their pantry, Jeff Branning tracks them down, uncovering a trail of desperation and murder---and a new purpose that'll transform their family and the community! 352 pages, softcover from Zondervan.

Terri Blackstock
"True Light:
Restoration Series #3"



On so many chilling levels The "what if" question arises as a global catastrophe affects the residents of Oak Hollow. They now have had to deal without electricity for eight months and the deep winter nights have set in. Tension mounts when a young man is murdered. Is Mark Green the killer? The darkness from the blackout also reveals the darkness in human hearts as the survival of the fittest gets more intense.

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