Friday, April 01, 2011

Author Tessa Stockton ~ Interviewed

Bio: A choreographer, dancer and musician, Tessa worked in the Christian performing arts for over twenty years, including directing the International Christian Dance Theater under the auspices of missionary organization, Global Ministries. Besides traveling worldwide in performance and outreach endeavors, she contributed as a writer and editor to the ministry's newsletter.

Now retired from dance, Tessa enjoys crafting novels at home. Up until recently she also edited political literature for patriot groups and politicians. She served on the Leadership Team of Cross County Patriots-Tea Party, a group in which she co-founded with a handful of dedicated and passionate individuals who labor to instill and maintain conservative values in America.

Of German and Jewish descent, Tessa's upbringing filled her with many questions yet she acquired a solid foundation. Through all, she has come to a very real understanding of who Jesus is, what he came for, and why. The call placed on Tessa's life, through fictive writing or otherwise, involves bringing spiritual comfort to those who battle an assortment of ethics.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest near the ruggedly handsome coast of Washington State, she currently lives in the Southeastern U.S. with her husband and son.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW), and the Lost Genre Guild (LGG).

Tell us a bit about your current project.

“The Unforgivable” is the first book of a political intrigue series, Wounds of South America, where each novel is wrapped around political, psychological, and spiritual conflicts in various countries in the region. I have held a longtime fascination with Argentina, and especially, the Dirty War – a military dictatorship that took place during the years 1976-1983. “The Unforgivable” is set there, modern day, and is about a Christian North American woman who travels to Buenos Aires for a quilting expo, then unexpectedly meets and falls in love with a retired Navy officer whom she discovers is accused of war crimes.

The Lord began speaking to me years ago, while involved in politics and human rights, about those individuals who society often labels “monster.” As an author, I began asking the “what if.” What if a man wasn’t born a monster, but somehow, through a viable conflict, he found himself in irreversible circumstances? What if he has regrets, experiences remorse, but whenever he gets close to knowing a loving Savior and true forgiveness, those seeking retribution rob him of crossing that threshold? What if things aren’t always what they seem and there’s another whole story, a misunderstanding that needs told? What if God really cares for the soul of this person, that he is God’s child, regardless of sins? I’ve explored these issues through the protagonist’s eyes, where she stumbles to find the truth in a very gray, not easy to decipher, realm. It’s a monster versus God’s redemption sort of book, staged through the romance of an unlikely couple, Carlos and Genevieve.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.

“Convoluted” is a great word and just about perfect when it comes to describing my own novel journey. When I first started out, I tried writing in every genre to find what felt right, to discover my niche. Almost ten years later, I had come full circle when I received a three-book contract for what sparked my interest in writing in the first place. I almost cringe when I glance back at other subjects and stories I’ve attempted, as well as the slew of rejection letters that followed them, yet I can also sigh with relief that they weren’t chosen for publication. Along with growing a thicker skin, which I needed, and greater patience, which I needed, I’m grateful for the past experiences and the dabbling. I learned who I really am as a writer and developed my literary voice through this long process. In gaining a clearer understanding of the passions the Lord placed in my heart, much of it through human trial and error, I was reintroduced to my true calling. And there’s always room for more growth! In fact, I embrace it.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?


I’m a dreamer. Vivid, poignant, colorful, sometimes disturbing dreams, stay with me until they find a place within my stories.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

Uh…yeah. I have to do a lot of research. Since I often create scenarios around war crimes, I buy, own, and borrow a number of books on interrogation practices and the psychology surrounding torture. I’ve raised an eyebrow or two over that. I can’t say I’m completely desensitized, but I do find these issues are digested more easily if there’s humor involved (in my novels, too). For instance, it’s not uncommon for a family member to remark or giggle if I use phrases such as, “heads are going to roll,” or “nails are going to be yanked,” or “someone is going to fry” if their room isn’t cleaned, etc. My family knows I love them and that I don’t mean it literally, however, I’ve seen some concerned looks when out and about and using expressions like that. It almost always makes for good conversation later.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if beginning this writing journey today?

Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It took me years to get published. It was all about building, growing step-by-step, and a lot of prayer. When the decision was made to become a novelist, I embarked with the desire for instant results. I didn’t want to have to work as hard as I did in getting established as a professional dancer - my first career - in the performing arts. While there are a few of those overnight success stories, for the most part, it’s unrealistic. For me, becoming a novelist was like starting a business. I explored options, then I had to lay the groundwork down, a foundation. Build from there. And it took a long time to get to a place where I was ready. Early on I wanted to believe I was ready for publication, but I wasn’t. I needed to mature in many ways in order to be positively influential through my work, to accept that I had a lot of things to learn and still do. Networking is a huge part of it, too. You gain readers one post at a time, one blog at a time, one interview, etc. It all takes time and effort. Today, I’m closer than I was yesterday. Tomorrow, I’ll be closer than I am today. By closer, I mean developing a steady readership, becoming a more effective writer. I wish someone had said to me at the start, “If you really believe this is what God would have you do, don’t worry about how or when you’re going to get there…just enjoy the experience.”Of course, it’s quite possible someone did and I just didn’t listen.

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?

Online marketing. Actually, marketing in general, but since much of it is done via the Internet these days, it can create a challenge for those reclusive types who are also not tech-savvy (that’s me). Even a few years ago, I didn’t even know what words such as “blog” meant. I’ve learned a lot in a hurry, and am still struggling through. It’s a necessary part of the business. Although, at times, overwhelming, I try to conquer one thing at a time. God enables us to accomplish what we need when we need it. Like The Little Engine That Could, I begin scaling a mountain by saying, “I think I can. I think I can.” I remind myself that eventually I’ll be gliding down the other side saying, “I thought I could. I thought I could.” With divine help, anyway…

Parting words? Anything you wish we would’ve asked because you’ve got the perfect answer?

There were times I experienced discouragement in my novel journey and even quit once (or twice). But my “novel” wouldn’t let me. Months later I was writing again (and again). You know it’s a calling if you let it go but it doesn’t let go of you.


Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Tessa.

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi Tessa,

I'm curious if dance has snuck into any of your political intrigue books. I've never danced professionally, but dance has been a big part of my life. I find dance and poetry seeping into all of my books.


Carrie L. Lewis said...


Thank you for an encouraging and uplifting post!

Tessa Stockton said...

@Kelly:Thank you so much!! I appreciate the opportunity to interview on Novel Journey. : )

@Dina:It's interesting that dance and poetry have seeped into all of your books. That's a beautiful image that you've brought to my mind, actually. Dance has shown up in one novel that remains unpublished, but in none of my political intrigue stories-however, there's always the possibility.

@Carrie:Thank you for your kind words.

Kathy Harris said...

Tessa, I could relate to so much of what you shared. Especially the part about enjoying each day, no matter where we are in our journey.