Tuesday, March 25, 2014

INTERVIEW with TERESA HIRST, author of TWELVE STONES TO REMEMBER HIM

Many thanks to Teresa Hirst for sharing her time and thoughts with us in this interview. Teresa's first book, Twelve Stones to Remember Him: Building Memorials of Faith from Financial Crisis, was released in January 2014. She has worked for a newspaper, in public relations, and as a freelance writer and editor. Today, Teresa lives in Minnesota with her husband and children. To learn more about Teresa and her books, visit her website.


You studied journalism in college. Did your journalism courses prepare you for writing full-length books? If yes, how so?

Certainly! Studying journalism taught me how to identify a story, determine the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why) and organize it with the most important elements. I particularly liked the interviews and features on people. I’ve used those same patterns and interests in most of my writing projects, including news releases and articles about interesting individuals. Many of those included interviews of individuals, transcribing their words, gathering additional research, identifying like information, and organizing it in an order that highlights the significant elements. This is the same process I used when I wrote the book, only multiplied by twelve. A friend recently asked how I write a book. I said, “It’s like organizing a filing cabinet.”

Do you prefer writing non-fiction or fiction more? What is more comfortable for you? 
Writing nonfiction is more comfortable for me; it feels more tangible when I’m working with facts, real circumstances and actual people. Even still, I enjoy writing fiction more because I like the challenge of creating something from scratch.


What was your inspiration for writing Twelve Stones to Remember Him?

The twelve stone memorial in the Bible story about the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River inspired me to think about memorials and why and how we build them today. Our country was going through a financial crisis at the same time that I read this story and the idea that we often build memorials after a time of challenge sparked me to wonder what our personal memorials of this hard time might look like.

How did the writing process work?
I conducted twelve interviews with individuals I found through my contacts and then transcribed each of these interviews. In this process I discovered common themes in their stories and decided the stories needed to be organized topically. These themes became representative of the “twelve” stones.

Was it a labored process, or did it come easily?
Writing is always a labored process, as a whole, but not more than any worthy project. Some of it flows easily as I piece research together. Other parts keep calling me back to add more or rewrite. Then, I involve readers who give me additional feedback, and I have to evaluate and rethink my work from new perspectives. This editing continues up until the book is published. What I love, though, is that ideas continue to build throughout the writing of the book straight to the finish.

What are you working on now?  
I’m preparing my first novel, Flowers of Grace, for publication with revisions and rewrites and all the other business details that go into the publishing process. It’s general women’s fiction about the manager of an upscale retail boutique who fears she will kill her legacy hibiscus plant. She brings it into the store and invites the dynamic mix of female employees to help it bloom. When that is ready, I have a Minnesota-based novel I want to start. Real settings are important to my fiction. Maybe it is that desire to make it tangible to my audience.  

What advice do you give to young people who are interested in writing?
Develop a broad set of writing skills. So many individuals start with fiction and only write fiction. If you want to write fiction, that’s okay, but develop all of your skills. Learning to write in many formats—articles, blog posts, reports, product descriptions, essays, and web-site content—will enhance all the writing you do and teach you how to communicate ideas in a way that others can understand.

Is there anything else you would like to tell Book Pound readers?

Challenges in this life are real, but they are manageable. Reading and writing can be an outlet to understand and gain rich insights from the seemingly negative experiences of life. In that way, writing can be such an expressive art.

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