I recently had a chance to catch up with Alana Terry, the award-winning author of a number of books, including”The Kennedy Stern books,” a series of Christian suspense that bring up hot-button issues facing the church today, and the “Whispers of Refuge” series, novels set in North Korea that highlight some of the human-rights abuses in that area. I asked this popular indie author a lot of questions, from how she shows up for her art, to how she prepares for launch, and even how she markets her books. This will be a 5-part series exploring how this talented author shows up for her art. I hope you enjoy it!
If you haven’t read Alana’s work yet, check it out! In the meantime, let’s dive into part 1 of this interview series:
Bio: Alana is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom, self-diagnosed chicken lady, and Christian suspense author. Her novels have won awards from Women of Faith, Book Club Network, Grace Awards, Readers’ Favorite, and more. Alana’s passion for social justice, human rights, and religious freedom shines through her writing, and her books are known for raising tough questions without preaching. She and her family live in rural Alaska where the northern lights in the winter and midnight sun in the summer make hauling water, surviving the annual mosquito apocalypse, and cleaning goat stalls in negative forty degrees worth every second.
Laura: Alana, how do you develop your ideas?
Alana: A lot of my inspiration comes from real-life stories. I read a lot of memoirs and biographies. For my North Korean suspense series, I try to keep up with the changes going on over there, and for my States-based Kennedy Stern series, I keep my ears open for different sorts of controversies going on in the evangelical world that could make good stories.
Laura: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alana: Somewhere in the middle. I can’t go into a book with absolutely no idea, but I don’t bother plotting in depth more than two or three chapters ahead. I’ve heard writers like this called “headlights writers” since we have enough light in front of us to see what’s ahead but not much beyond that.
Laura: I love that! This is the first I’m hearing “headlights writers,” but I love it. Any tips or suggestions for those, be they plotting or pantsing?
Alana: I figure you just need to figure out what works for you. I like to plot out a brief outline for my next day’s writing right before I go to bed. I also believe that in the end it will save me time to sit back and ruminate over an issue for a few days if I have a plot issue instead of ploughing ahead, so I try to be gentle with myself if I have to step back and reevaluate my ideas.
Laura: Do you write daily or when inspiration hits?
Alana: I do try to write every day although I recognize that sometimes I need to be more gentle with myself if I’m stuck on a plot point. I also try to schedule about one week out of every month that’s more focused on editing and marketing and not drafting.
Laura: You know we focus heavily on “butt in chair” commitment here at Accountability For Writers, however, I agree that it’s also important to be gentle with oneself when stuck. I too find that switching to editing or marketing for a period each month makes a big difference in my overall productivity. But, even then, we can still hit blocks. How do you push through blocks or even just the drudge-work aspects of writing?
Alana: I think there’s a balance between being disciplined and being gentle with yourself. I try to take enough breaks (like I’m pretty good about taking weekends completely off the computer) that I don’t really burn out, but I also recognize that I can’t make myself write if I’m really stuck. That’s why I try to have a few projects going on at once so if I get stuck on one I can ideally go work on something different.
Laura: I get that, thank you. OK, next question for you: Character or plot driven?
Alana: I’m not sure you have to be one or the other! I’d say my North Korea series is definitely character-driven, and my Kennedy Stern more plot. I write a lot of suspense, which tends to be a plot-driven genre, but I do like to go deep into my characters’ POV to give them the justice they deserve.
Laura: Fair enough. What about your favorite type of hero? Villain? Anything else you LOVE to see in a work?
Alana: I really like antiheros, like Agent Ko in my North Korean spy thriller series. I’m also a fan of complex characters where you can empathize with their motives even if you find their behavior inexcusable.
Laura: I’m a big fan of the antihero, too! And complex characters make the most fascinating. What’s your favorite genre to write for?
Alana: I’ve been writing for years now but still don’t know that I’ve nailed down a favorite genre. Most of my books are suspense, but I also enjoy the literary fiction/women’s drama series I’m working on.
Laura: Do you sprint, participate in NaNoWriMo, or use other motivation or supports?
Alana: Yes, my basic writing day includes four half-hour sprints. I don’t always officially sign up for NaNo, but I do try to set and keep the 50,000 word goal.
Laura: Wow, that’s wonderful! It sounds like you have found what works for you in terms of keeping you productive. But that can’t be all that motivates you – who or what helped you get to your first and/or last book?
Alana: My husband is one of my biggest encouragers. I couldn’t do any of this without his support. He keeps me going when I feel like giving up.
Laura: That’s wonderful, the support of loved ones can make all the difference in the world, from my experience. Why do you write?
Alana: Such a hard question to answer because seriously I can’t picture not writing! So in that sense I write because that’s how I feel I’m fulfilling my calling. (And I know from experience I get really grumpy if I go too long without making one of my characters suffer!)
Laura: I get that 🙂 I think a lot of us feel that way. That said, beyond fulfilling the need to write, what do you love most about being a writer?
Alana: I love the chance to meet and connect with so many other writers and readers. I always assumed writing was a pretty solitary gig until I found out how many relationships a book can build.
Laura: Oh! I agree! I so deeply value the relationships I’ve developed with other authors – they are some of the best I’ve built. I too long thought writing would be a solitary gig, but then I’ve had the opportunity of getting to know many wonderful authors such as yourself!
This is the end of part 1 of the 5-part interview with Author Alana Terry on Showing Up For Your Art. Stay tuned for part two, where Alana answers questions about “Perfecting The Product.”
You can learn more about Alana Terry and grab a free novel at www.alanaterry.com/free-book.