It was the publication of a poem she wrote in 7th grade that cemented best-selling author Terri Blackstock’s path. “I loved knowing that people were reading what I’d written, and from that moment on I was determined to be a professional writer.” The seed of success was planted early and grew quickly. For more than 25 years, Blackstock has delivered award-winning romance, selling six million copies of her novels worldwide. In the first 13 years of her career, she published 32 books from such publishers as Harlequin, Silhouette, and HarperCollins. Though she first set out to write clean romance novels, those books struggled to find their place in the market.

After she compromised and added sex scenes and profanity to her novels, readership and sales grew. But she found this concession spiritually suffocating. “I made myself like all the other writers who seemed to be selling,” Blackstock says. “Eventually, that took its toll on my spiritual life, and I wound up hating my job.” In 1994, Blackstock experienced intense spiritual conviction, and that altered the course of her career. “I believed God had wired me as a writer for a purpose, and I was squandering that purpose. I finally repented of doing things my way and told God that, in the future, I would only write books that glorified Him. That meant I had to buy back some of my contracts.”

Blackstock started over, leaving behind the pseudonyms she previously wrote under and writing for the Christian market under her real name. “I didn’t want to use either of the names I’d used before, even though I could have brought my readership with me, because I didn’t want readers to pick up earlier books and get confused about when I’d written them.” It was a daunting task to start over, but Blackstock needn’t have worried. “I really thought I’d have to get a job to supplement my income, since I couldn’t imagine making a living writing to a much smaller market, she says. “But that wasn’t necessary--God brought the readers, and I can say that today my readership is much greater than it was back then. I’ve also had two Christian books make the New York Times list, which had never happened with my secular novels.”

Influenced by writers like Barbara Kingsolver, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Jodi Piccoult, Harlen Coben, Pat Conroy, and a host of Christian authors, Blackstock believes great stories feature characters in which the reader can see him or herself. “I put ordinary people in jeopardy and give them the opportunity to be heroic. Then there’s a great payoff for the reader at the end, when the heroic character gets what he or she deserves. Readers will come back again and again if they feel satisfied at the end.”

Blackstock’s next novel, Distortion, comes out in March from Zondervan. The book was inspired by real-life fear Blackstock experienced when she and her husband returned a U-Haul truck one night after moving. “As my husband walked through the dark parking lot to return the key, I worried someone would mug him. My suspense writer’s mind wouldn’t let go of that, and by the time we were home, I had ‘experienced’ his murder and plotted out who killed him and why.” Juliet, the protagonist in Distortion, lives out Blackstock’s fear and then some when she is catapulted on a quest searching for her husband’s killer, in the process uncovering lies and secrets her once idyllic life was built on.

Blackstock hopes Distortion offers readers a great escape and will also inspire them to peel back the layers of their faith. “I want readers to rehearse that day when everything shatters and think through what they’ll hang onto when that happens,” she says. “Bad days will come for each one of us, and the more we’ve thought these things through ahead of time, the better prepared we’ll be when tragedy strikes or struggles emerge. I want them to understand that their faith can’t rest on their circumstances, because Jesus guaranteed we would have trouble. Our faith must rest on God, who sees around corners and over hills, and has the best interests of his children at heart, even when we feel forgotten.”