Author Spotlight: Terrie Todd
We are pleased to introduce Terrie Todd. Terrie recently published Lilly’s Promise with us, which is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Terrie to share a little bit about her new book and her writing. But first, a little bit about her.
Terrie Todd’s debut novel, The Silver Suitcase, won the 2017 Word Guild Award for Historical Fiction. Her second, Maggie’s War, won the same award for 2018 while her third, Bleak Landing, was a finalist. She was awarded the 2018 Janette Oke Award by Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. She released her first nonfiction book, Out of My Mind: A Decade of Faith and Humour, in 2020. Her fourth novel, Rose Among Thornes, won the 2022 Debra Feiguth Social Justice Award as well as being given recognition for Best Cover. Her fifth, The Last Piece, took the award for Contemporary Fiction from The Word Guild. Lilly’s Promise won the 2022 Braun Book Award from Word Alive Press.
Terrie has published eight stories with Chicken Soup for the Soul, two full-length plays with Eldridge Plays and Musicals, and writes a weekly faith and humour column for her hometown paper. She’s also a monthly contributor to the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog.
A former church drama director and administrative assistant at city hall, Terrie now devotes her time to writing and teaching a creative writing class. She lives with her husband Jon on the Canadian prairies where they raised three children and where her novels are set. She’s a proud grandma to five boys. She’s available for speaking, writing workshops, and book clubs.
Q: What inspired you to write this story?
A: Gianna Jesson, who was born alive after a failed abortion attempt, said, “The best thing I can show you to defend life is my life. It has been a great gift.” In 2019, I learned that someone dear to me had chosen to have an abortion. In the months that followed, I couldn’t stop thinking about who that little one may have been and the life they may have lived. I chose to write about a fictional character who survived an abortion and the ripple effects of his life.
The original title of this book was From the Ashes. Around the time I learned about the abortion, one of the songs we sang a lot at church was “Raise a Hallelujah.” Each time, the words of the chorus spoke deeply to my heart: “Up from the ashes, hope will arise. Death is defeated, the King is alive.” A deliberately set fire plays a significant role in this story and serves as a metaphor for how our decisions affect our lives and the lives of others. Although we later changed the frequently used title to Lilly’s Promise, the metaphor holds. God can redeem every regrettable decision, bring hope from ashes, and life from death.
Q: Why did you choose to write split-time fiction?
A: I wrote my first novel, The Silver Suitcase, as a split-time because they’re my favourite. I had no idea how hard it was! After that, I stuck to straight historical for a while, but The Silver Suitcase is still my most popular book! I decided to try it again, using the things I’ve learned about writing in the past twelve years. It worked well for this story and was completed with fewer revisions.
Q: Is split-time fiction more difficult to write?
A: I think so, because you’re really writing two separate stories and they need to connect. But it’s fun for readers, and it’s a great way to show how events from the past affect our lives today and how people really aren’t much different than they’ve always been.
Q: What can readers take away from Lilly’s Promise?
A: I want readers to walk away with increased and profound compassion for women facing incredibly difficult choices. If Lilly’s and Diana’s stories help just one woman choose life for her child, or help one woman receive healing from a decision she regrets, I will feel it was worth every effort.
Q: What has God done in your own heart as a result of your work on this book?
A: This process has reminded me of the fact that we are all broken. I believe it increased my compassion for others, regardless of what reproductive choices they make. The story also served to remind me in a powerful way that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares for all his sheep, but he especially pursues the ones who stray.
Q: Do you have a set time of day that you write?
A: When I retired from my day job as an administrative assistant at city hall in Portage la Prairie in 2019, I’d been used to working from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. I decided I would keep my pattern the same, devoting those hours to my writing instead. For the most part, that has worked well, although it’s amazing how easily those hours can fill with other things if I allow it.
Q: Where do you write?
A: When my husband was a student at LeTourneau College in 1980 (a former WWII military hospital), he acquired for free a big old solid oak army desk, painted grey. We had it stripped down to its natural colour and varnished. In the early days, the two of us shared that desk in our bedroom. And later, we had a computer in the living room. When our kids began leaving home, we set one of their bedrooms up as a shared office, which did not work well. One of us can’t tolerate clutter.
Now I’m thrilled to have my own home office where, in addition to my writing desk and bookshelves, I have a small electric piano, a cozy book nook, and my sewing machine. With its south-facing windows and bright colour scheme, I still love that space even nine years in. I’m still using that WWII desk and love the fact that most of my books are set during WWII.
Q: Do you have any advice for new writers?
A: Write something every day. You wouldn’t dream of becoming a concert musician without practicing your instrument every day. Your writing dreams deserve no less effort.
Be teachable. Editors, mentors, and more experienced writers have much to offer and want you to succeed, but you must be willing to learn. And there will always be more to learn.
Never give up. This can be a discouraging business, and I allow myself to quit on a regular basis—but always “when this project is done.” I have yet to finish a project before something else is in the fire or my inspiration has been restored. I always ask, “I wonder what might happen if I don’t give up?”
I have a couple of unpublished novels that I’d love to get out into the world eventually, but right now God has me teaching a creative writing class at a local community college and a second-level course lined up for winter 2023. The prep for these classes takes a lot of my time and focus, but I’m loving it and learning, too. This is something I never really dreamed I’d do, but God opened the door and here I am.
Some of my stories and devotionals will be featured in upcoming Guideposts books in 2023 as well—Blessings in Disguise and Pray a Word a Day, Volume II.