As a girl growing up in church, I always wanted to know more about Lot’s wife, the biblical character known only as the woman who was turned into a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom as it was being destroyed.
What was her name? Who was she before she was Lot’s wife? Why did she look back despite the instruction of angels to keep facing forward and moving ahead?
In her novel Angels at the Gate, local author T.K. Thorne imagines the answers to these questions and more. Thorne’s historical fiction spins the tale of Adira, who is secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan. As she grows older, Adira rejects womanhood as it threatens her independence and nomadic life. But the appearance of two mysterious strangers, rumored to be holy men or angels, changes everything.
With its detailed descriptions of desert life and in-depth character development,Angels at the Gate instantly drew me in. As I read about Adira’s treacherous quest to follow the “angels” I was a nervous wreck, worried about how she and her beloved dog, Nami, would survive the dangers of the desert and the perils of Sodom.
Angels at the Gate recently won the Gold Benjamin Franklin award, regarded as one of the highest national honors for small and independent publishers. When I read a book and love it, I often want to interview the author. This time, I did.
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 bookLast 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.
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.
Here in Birmingham, residents and city officials all year have been commemorating the events of the 1963 civil rights movement. The hope is that we will pave the path for a better future as we reflect on our past. 50 Years Forward has been the theme, the mantra, of the events held this year.
Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the infamous bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that claimed the lives of four little girls. Tomorrow and on Saturday, Sept. 28 author T.K. Thorne will be at local bookstores signing her new book Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers.
Thirty-seven years the bombing, the FBI reopened what some thought was a hopeless case. In Last Chance for Justice, Thorne gives readers an inside look into the investigation from the perspectives of police detective Sergeant Ben Herren and FBI Special Agent Bill Fleming. Publisher’s Weekly says, “Thorne’s story is a stunning reminder of just how tough the fight for freedom—and justice—really is.”
Upcoming book signings by T.K. Thorne, author of Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers:
Reed Books Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
2021 3rd Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35203
Books-A-Million Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 1 – 3 p.m.
757 Brookwood Village
Birmingham, AL 35209
Have you written a novel that you’re just letting collect virtual dust on your computer? Or maybe you have an idea for a book that you haven’t started on because you have no clue how you would ever get your book published once it’s complete.
If either of these scenarios sounds familiar, then the next See Jane Write panel discussion is one you don’t want to miss.
I Wrote a Book…Now What? is a panel discussion on the publishing world and is set for Tuesday, May 7 at 5:30 p.m. This free event will be held in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Branch of the Birmingham Public Library. To register visit: http://sjwpublishingpanel.eventbrite.com.
Whether you have questions about landing a deal with a major publishing house, working with a small press, finding a literary agent or self-publishing, our panelists can help.
Birmingham poet and novelist Irene Latham is the author of Leaving Gee’s Bend, published by Putnam/Penguin in 2010. That book is set in Alabama during the Great Depression and was awarded Alabama Library Association’s 2011 Children’s Book Award. Her latest novel Don’t Feed the Boy (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012) is about a boy who wants to escape his life at the zoo. Irene is also poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has authored two award-winning poetry collections, What Came Before (Negative Capability Press, 2007) and , The Color of Lost Rooms (Blue Rooster Press, 2010).
Self-published author Kathryn C. Lang was presented with the Nation’s first Tourism Fiction Awardfor her short story, “Digging Up Bones.” The short story will be featured in the third novel of her Big Springs novels. Kathryn’s books are published in paperback through CreateSpace (Amazon’s publishing wing) and online through Smashwords and Kindle.
Teresa (T.K.) Thorne is the executive director of CAP (City Action Partnership) and a retired captain from the Birmingham Police Department. Active in the community, she also moonlights as an author, and her debut novel, Noah’s Wife won ForeWord Reviews“Book of the Year” award for 2009. Her short stories and screenplays have garnered awards as well. A film from her screenplay, Six Blocks Wide, was based on her experiences in the Birmingham Police Department and has shown at juried film festivals in Alabama and Europe. Her next book, LastChance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers is being published by Chicago Press Review and will be out September 1, 2013.
Our panel discussion will be moderated by Stephanie Naman. Stephanie is an advertising and editorial writer with fifteen years experience. Her first book, BarCode: Your Personal Pocket Decoder to the Modern Dating Scene, was turned into segments for a syndicated dating show called “The Single Life.” In addition to writing for advertising clients like Little Debbie and AT&T, she is working on the Chloe Carstairs mystery novel series written under the pseudonym Billie Thomas. The first novel in the series, Murder on the First Day of Christmas was released in December 2012. Stephanie is also the marketing director for Indie Visible, a collective of writers working to use social media and other resources to promote quality independent work.
Leave your questions for our panelists in the comments section of this post and don’t forget to spread the word about this event to all your writer pals!