Today I’m excited to announce that the See Jane Write Member of the Month for May is local author Teresa “T.K” Thorne.
Teresa has had a passion for storytelling since she was a child and she says this passion only deepened when she became a police officer for Birmingham as that career taught her about what motivated and mattered most to people and gave her plenty of fodder for her writing.
Teresa has won several awards for her work including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book Last Chance for Justice, which is about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Lately, Teresa has been busy with book signings and book club appearances to promote her newest historical novel is Angels at the Gate.
Teresa has been a supporter of See Jane Write for years. She was a panelist on our 2013 event “I Wrote a Book, Now What?” and she helped arrange last year’s public speaking workshop with Attorney John Saxon.
I had a chat with Teresa to discuss her new book, her writing process and her words of wisdom for other women who write.
Tell us about your latest book, Angels at the Gate?
Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the fine art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence. With the arrival of two mysterious Northmen, rumored to be holy men, Adira’s world unravels. She loses everything she values most, including the “Angel” who has awakened her desires. Caught between her culture and freedom, and tormented by impossible love, she abandons all she has known in a dangerous quest to seek revenge and follow the “Angels.” With only her beloved dog, Nami, at her side, Adira must use all the skills she learned from her father to survive the perils of the desert, Sodom, and her own heart.
Angels at the Gate is a story of adventure and the power of love, a compelling saga based on historical research about the ancient biblical world of Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the woman who “became a pillar of salt.”
You’ve said before that your passion for storytelling deepened when you were a police officer. How so?
Being a police officer exposed me to situations and people that I would probably never otherwise have encountered. The experience was a crash course in life . . . and death. Seeing how people, including myself, reacted to challenges and crises expanded my capacity to empathize and understand human nature and increased my desire to write about it.
You’ve published both fiction and non-fiction. Was your writing process vastly different for those different genres? Was your marketing strategy different?
With fiction, I write organically from a character-oriented base. Everything proceeds from the character and is about her journey of discovery and change. For example, in Angels at the Gate, Adira’s character started with the fact that she had a little problem with obedience, and so when she stashed a puppy in her robes, it was natural that she would have “stolen” it from the litter. Then I had to figure out why she would steal it, and, as a side effect, the character of Chiram the cook—who grumbles that he is going to throw the pups in the cook pot—was born. This kind of approach allows for the surprises and twists that make writing a joy.
Doing the research for a historical novel is very similar to writing nonfiction. The process feels like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The more pieces you have in place, the easier, but it can be quite daunting n the first stages. My nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, might lean toward “creative nonfiction,” as I used narrative tools to tell the story.
The marketing is the same for fiction and nonfiction in these ways:
- Marketing is about building relationships with readers.
- Finding your target audience and the best way to reach them is key.
- It is important to build an email list so you can market more than once to your target group(s).
Marketing nonfiction is different in that:
- Nonfiction is easier to market, in general because the target audience is usually more readily identifiable.
- More opportunities exist to be invited as a speaker.
What advice would you give to other women writers who want to publish and promote their books?
1. The only way to guarantee failure is to quit trying. Don’t quit.
2. Learn your craft. Read good stuff. If you find your heart strings pulled or that you are anxious about what happens next, or you go “Wow!”–stop. Study how the author did that. Go to writing conferences. Participate in critique groups. Write. No matter how may words you get down; a book is written word by word.
3. You must be prepared to market. The days of a reclusive writer sitting back and letting a publisher do all the work are, for the most part, gone.
What do you like most about being a member of See Jane Write?
This community of women writers is a very special one. I feel that we all want to support one another, and that is a rare thing in business. Having a mentor like Javacia who is focused and works constantly on finding ways to encourage us and help us reach our goals and dreams is quite unique. Writing is a solitary endeavor for the most part and it is helpful, mentally and emotionally, to have others to lean on and learn from. I love talking to writers about the process of writing. I always learn something, and their questions make me dig deep.
Anything else you’d like to share with the See Jane Write network?
Follow your dream. There are many disappointments and challenges along the way, but when readers tell you they can’t put your book down or they have read it twice, or, as someone recently told me, she sat in the tub reading my book way past the hot water state, you realize it was worth all the time and effort. My goal is to write at least one book that will move readers and continue to be read long after I am gone. I hope Angels at the Gate, and perhaps Noah’s Wife, may do that, and I believe Last Chance for Justice has added to our recorded memory of civil rights history. I can think of no greater satisfaction.
Send your nominations for the next See Jane Write Member of the Month to firstname.lastname@example.org.