Alana Terry is an author with a heart for her subject matter. Her first novel, The Beloved Daughter tells the story of Christians in North Korea. Slave Again explores human trafficking in China, while Torn Asunder revisits the plight of the underground church in North Korea. Abortion is the focus of Unplanned, a suspense novel set in the US.
I am pleased to welcome Alana to By The Book today.
By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?
Alana Terry — I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an author. Even before I could read, I would tell my dad stories, and he would patiently write them out on the typewriter. My grandma tells me that when we used to go on walks, I would make up stories to tell her along the way. Even though I always wanted to be an author, my parents encouraged me to pick a more “professional” course of study, so in college I studied biology and was a premed major but I was burnt out from school by the time I graduated and never went on to med school.
Alana — My husband is definitely my biggest encourager. I doubt I would have had the courage to jump into the world of writing professionally without him backing me up. When we first got married, I was frustrated because it was so hard to break into the publishing world. My husband challenged me to start small and submit fifty articles to fifty different magazines in a year. That didn’t really open many doors for me on a practical level, but it helped me create the schedule and discipline I would eventually need to become a professional writer.
BTB — When did you decide to write Christian fiction? Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?
Alana — That’s actually a really good question and one I have thought about quite a bit. I can’t imagine writing without the help of the Holy Spirit. Many of my novels have truly been prayed into existence. That being said, I think that the secular literary world needs Christian writers who will weave redemption stories that can appeal to a broader audience, not just those who read Christian works. It’s hard to project into the future, but I imagine that some of my novels will have very strong faith elements, like The Beloved Daughter and Torn Asunder, which both deal with Christian persecution and the underground church in North Korea. Some of my other novels, however, might have Christian themes of redemption woven in more subtly. Slave Again is about a young woman who escapes a North Korean prison camp and is trafficked over the border into China. Since this is a “Christian book,” I felt compelled to give her a big, dramatic conversion to Christianity, but that didn’t ring true to her character. Her redemption is much more understated than that. Interestingly, this seems to be my most popular novel amongst my non-Christian friends. I love that some of my books can touch people in ways that are accessible to people regardless of their religious background.
Alana — I have three young boys, and I also homeschool, so I find I need to be pretty structured or it’s hard to make headway on a project. I try to write in half-hour spurts while the boys are involved in schoolwork or play throughout the day. At night once they’re in bed is my most consistent writing time, and I try to do another two hours or so before I go to sleep. My writing schedule also varies depending on my current project. When I’m drafting a novel, I write more. If I’m editing or working on formatting, I don’t have to be quite as militant in my schedule. I usually take weekends off writing and focus on blogging and family, or else it would be easy to get completely bogged down.
BTB — Your previous books have been set in North Korea and China and deal with the plight of Christians in those countries. Unplanned is the first book you have written set in the United States. Why the switch in setting? Is the book connected in any way to your other novels?
Alana — Unplanned was fun to write because of the change in setting. It was also the easiest of my novels to complete so far. My North Korea series is very heavy. I love that I’ve had the chance to tackle deep issues like sex slavery and Christian persecution, but these are hard books to write and to read. I created the Kennedy Stern suspense series to give both my readers and me a little bit of a break from the heavy issues in my other books. Even though it’s the first novel in an entire new series, Unplanned does share characters with my North Korea series. Kennedy Stern, the main character, is the daughter of American missionaries living in China and ministering to North Korean refugees. Roger and Juliette Stern (Kennedy’s parents) are main characters in Slave Again and minor characters in Torn Asunder, and Kennedy is mentioned even though she is already in college in the States when these books take place.
BTB — What inspired the writing of Unplanned and how did you research the subject matter?
Alana — Unplanned takes place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is close to where I went to college. The premise is based on a phone call I received when I volunteered for our local crisis pregnancy center. I got a call from a young teen who said that she was pregnant and that her father was going to force her to have an abortion. Even though she didn’t want to undergo the procedure, she wouldn’t tell me her name, so I was never able to help her. In Unplanned, Kennedy gets a very similar phone call, and her search to find the mysterious caller leads her into both danger and intrigue. As far as research goes, even though it wasn’t as in-depth as it was in my North Korea series, there was still quite a bit that went into it. While writing Unplanned, I interviewed an OB nurse, a pregnancy center director, an EMT, and even an FBI SWAT team member to get all my facts straight.
BTB — What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing one of your novels?
Alana — There are so many things I want them to take away! I would hate to write a book that didn’t emotionally touch my readers. Even though I hope my books are fun to read, and I love it when I hear readers tell me that my novels kept them up all night, entertainment isn’t my primary goal. I love to hear that my books have changed a person. One of the biggest compliments I get about my North Korea series is that it has encouraged people to pray more. Another goal of mine is to get people to think about questions they may not have wrestled with before. What do you do when your faith doesn’t just threaten your own safety, but that of your family and dependents? How do you handle the abortion issue when you’re dealing with a 13-year-old victim of abuse whose body may not be able to safely carry a baby to term? The goal of my novels isn’t to change anybody’s mind on a particular subject, but instead to make them think through hard issues they may never have struggled with before. I hope that I do so in a way that is both artistically pleasing and glorifying to God.
BTB — Readers are always curious as to what a writer is working on or just what is ext to be published. Can you give us a glimpse of current works in progress?
Alana — I’ve already started Kennedy’s second book. I’m also working on my North Korea series. It’s a little too soon to project publication dates or anything, but I post snippets of my works in progress every week on my blog (alanaterry.com/blog) if you ever want a sneak peek.
BTB — What would you like to share about your personal life?
Alana — Not all my readers know this, but my middle son spent several months in the hospital during his first year of life. He sustained serious brain trauma at birth and stopped breathing shortly after his delivery. The doctors expected him to be pretty vegetative if he survived, but we were surrounded by love and prayer and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Now seven and finishing first grade, Silas truly is a miracle child. He was tube-fed until two years ago, but he has made amazing gains which have astounded his doctors and therapists.
Thanks so much to Alana for sharing her heart and her work. If you would like to be notified when Alana has new books out, she encourages you to sign up for her newsletter — alanaterry.com/newsletter. Alana loves being in touch with her readers ~ both old and new!