A powerful voice for hope, international speaker Susan Norris helps teens and women find freedom from strongholds in the areas of purity and spiritual identity. In her debut novel, Rescuing Hope, she frames the realities of sex trafficking in America. This woman of boldness, known to many as Miss Susan, spent countless hours with survivors, their families, detectives and a former pimp, emerging a voice for victims and a catalyst for action among her peers. She networks on behalf of organizations such as Resolution Hope, Not for Sale, and Out of Darkness, lobbies for stronger laws to protect victims and walks alongside rescued girls as they piece together shattered lives. Having graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Master’s of Education, Susan taught in public and private schools and served as a leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before being called to full time ministry. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia, and considers them to be her highest calling. Susan can be found at her website, Twitter @SusanCNorris, and Facebook.
Susan, what made you decide to write a novel about this?
I first heard about the issue of human sex trafficking two and a half years ago. Once I learned this was taking place in my city I had to do something about it. When I met with Mary Frances Bowley of Wellspring Living, she said we needed to make people aware this isn’t just a problem overseas, but it’s a problem in our backyards. Thus began my journey to write a book telling the story for those whose voice is not heard. I’d never written a book before, but I was willing to learn as I went.
How long did it take from conception to completed manuscript?
I spent six months researching the issue, interviewing survivors, family members of trafficked girls, detectives, organization that fight the issue and a former pimp so I could gain a variety of perspectives. I spent about nine months writing the manuscript and another ten to twelve months doing editing and revisions before it was finally ready for print. During the editing and revision writing, I met Brian Shivler of Resolution Hope who said they’d love to launch the book at their New Year’s Eve kick off to a national awareness campaign on human sex trafficking of minors. In order to have the book ready for the event, I had to self-publish. Resolution Hope’s New Year’s Eve event will take place in Pittsburgh, PA and there will be a simulcast location at Riverstone Church in Kennesaw, Georgia. The book will be available at both venues on New Year’s Eve as well as online.
Did anything unusual happen while you were researching?
The most unique or unusual thing that happened was having the opportunity to sit down with a man who had pimped for thirty years before he gave his life to Jesus. Hearing his take on the lifestyle and what has happened in his life since then was captivating. He is now on the front lines fighting against human trafficking, rescuing girls and getting them into treatment centers. It was encouraging to hear such a story of redemption. As I listened to him share stories of his childhood and how he ended up pimping, I realized the pimps and the johns are wounded and need Jesus just as much as their victims.
What type of writer are you?
I never thought of myself as a writer. Honestly, I’d say I’m more of an intercessor. It’s through prayer over all I had learned that the story of Rescuing Hope was birthed. Each day, while in my prayer closet, the Lord would show me glimpses of Hope’s story. I would record what I had seen and pull from my interview notes to bring the characters to life. With the assistance of a fabulous editor, we were able to clean things up a bit and deliver a powerful story.
Each day as I wrote, I played the song, Restoration, by David Brymer, Clay Edwards and Audra Hartke, as I sat down to write. It helped center my focus on what the message of Rescuing Hope was.
What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
I’m a former elementary school teacher and a public speaker. All my life I’ve been teaching and telling no matter what the topic. The hardest shift for me was to go from telling to showing. It felt like I wrote three million revisions of the manuscript shifting from telling to showing. Thankfully, I had a very skillful editor who pointed out when I got it right and when I needed to rewrite.
Where do you write?
Rescuing Hope was written in two different venues. When I needed a quiet place to focus and work without being disturbed, I locked myself in my office and dared anyone to come through the door. However, there were days I need people around, just not interacting with me. When that happened, I would sneak away to what I refer to as my satellite office, The Daily Grind. It’s a great little coffee shop where they know me well. They would have my Chai Latte ready and waiting on me as I unpacked my computer. If I worked through lunch, they would bring lunch to my table and I’d pay for it when I packed up to leave. It was like having an office staff take care of me while I worked. I can’t say enough fabulous things about the Daily Grind.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard?
Show, don’t tell. Obviously, it’s what I needed the most help with, so today, that’s the best piece of advice I’ve heard. I have so much to learn.
Any parting words or advice?
If God calls you to write, just do it. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know. If He called you to do it, He’ll equip you or bring people into your life to help guide you along the way. There are countless people who have touched Rescuing Hope to make it the book it is today. If I had waited until I felt capable or trained enough to write it, I probably never would. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told God I never asked to write a book. He chuckles and reminds me that I did tell Him I wanted to be used by Him. We don’t always get to pick how He uses us. We have to be willing to do whatever He sends our way.