I had the pleasure of interviewing author and lawyer, Jerome Teel, last year for TitleTrakk.com. I discovered today that I hadn’t posted here so sorry Jerome! For those of you interested in the US presidential race, Jerome’s blog, Christian Political Fiction, makes for interesting reading – do check it out. Now, here are Jerome’s thoughts:~
Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us.
Jerome: The seed to start writing was planted in 1991 or 1992 (I’ll discuss this more below in response to the next question) but it wasn’t until July 2000 that I began to write. I decided that if I didn’t get started I would never realize my goal of publishing a book. That manuscript was completed in the fall of 2001 and ultimately was my first novel, The Election. I received numerous rejection letters and e-mails, and often thought of giving up on this dream. But I persevered and eventually I was able to sign a publishing contract with Howard Books in December 2004. The Election was released in September 2006.
You are a successful lawyer and a family man – what drove you to add writing to an already demanding schedule?
I attended law school at the University of Mississippi. This was around the time that John Grisham rose to fame. He is also a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law and he and his family moved to Oxford, MS, where the university is located before I graduated. He spoke one day in one of my classes about his publishing journey and the seed was planted in me. I decided at that time that one of my life goals was to write a book. It was about eight years later that I began to write the first words of a manuscript. Often times I thought about giving up but the desire to accomplish this dream never fully went away. And now here I am fifteen years after the seed was planted with two published books.
What project or book are you working on now?
I have an idea for a book that I’ve tentatively titled The Kingmaker and I’ve written a few pages. It is early in the process and I’m waiting to see if the publisher will contract for a third book before I burn the midnight oil writing.
I’m also working on another project that I hope to release in the summer of 2008. I am the board president of a local charity (The Exchange Club Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse) and I’m working on a novel that I hope to release next summer as a fundraiser for the Center.
What does a regular writing day look like for you?
I don’t write every day. With my active law practice, active family and church and community commitments, it is just impossible to write daily. But when I’m in the middle of a project, I typically write late at night. I start writing after 10:00 p.m. (after my family is in bed) and write until about 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. As I near completion of a project I’ll take time away from the office and finish the manuscript.
On The Divine Appointment…
There are numerous political and social hot potatoes ~ what made you choose the abortion/pro-life issue?
I think that the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was a poor decision both constitutionally and morally. And I wanted to point that out in a fictionalized story. But also I think my target audience is politically conservative Christians, the so called “Religious Right”. From a marketing standpoint, I thought they would be attracted to this storyline.
I’ve enjoyed politics since I was a young boy, and it is so intriguing. I’m a political junkie and I think it is important for Christians to be involved in the political process. My purpose behind writing about politics in Christian fiction it to point out to Christians the differences they can make in society by being involved in politics on a local, state and national level.
How hard is it for Christians to be successful and have a positive impact in the political arena, like your character President Richard Wallace, without compromising his or her beliefs/integrity?
It is difficult but there are several Christian politicians out there like Mike Huckabee who is running for president and served two terms as governor of Arkansas, and President Bush. We just need more Christians actively involved in the process and we can change the political arena to where the norm is to have men and women who are Christians serving in key political positions.
David White and Kirk Cameron come to mind as potential lead actors.
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
My hope is that Christians will realize the impact they can have on the political process and will become more involved in local, state and national politics. We need Christians serving on school boards all the way up to the White House.
Will we see more of Eli and Jill? If so a sneak peek please?
I doubt it but won’t rule it out. I see a lot of Christian authors who write sequels or a series. Both of my novels (The Election and The Divine Appointment) are stand alone works.
On matters personal…
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favourite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
I enjoyed the Left Behind series by Lahaye and Jenkins. I also enjoy Joel Rosenberg, Jack Cavanaugh and James Scott Bell. Secularly, I’m obviously a John Grisham fan and also enjoy Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading Try Dying by James Scott Bell.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
My favorite movies are the Star Wars series and any movies based on a Tom Clancy novel or Robert Ludlum novel. My favorite line comes from A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise’s character is questioning Jack Nicholson’s character in the courtroom. Cruise emphatically says, “I want the truth!” and Nicholson screams “You can’t handle the truth!” That’s a classic.
Who inspires you?
This is a tough question. I think my writing style is influenced by writers like John Grisham. I like fast paced, plot driven stories. But influence and inspiration are different. And, I think my inspiration comes from my family.
You are obviously passionate about your family, faith and politics ~ does your dinner table conversation often revolve around these topics?
Sadly, as busy as our lives are we don’t often have time to sit down as a family and eat a meal. It seems that we are always eating on the go. One of the kids always has a practice of some type or a game, or my wife or I have an evening meeting somewhere. And Sunday evenings and Wednesday evenings we are at church. So when we do eat together the conversation is more light hearted and usually focused on what is going on in our kids’ lives.
How do you cultivate in your children an awareness of social, political and justice issues?
Our children are 15, 12 and 10. The fifteen year old and the twelve year old pick up on some things but it is probably still a little too early to for the ten year old. But there are some deliberate things my wife and I do to make them aware of the world around them. I’ve taken each of them to a courtroom. We openly talk about why we support one political candidate over another and typically the reason is that one is pro-life and the other is pro-choice. And the kids have begun to associate that with different political parties. We also take our kids along to community events such as fundraisers for the American Cancer Society or the Carl Perkins Center I mentioned above. Our kids have also been involved in raising money or donating money themselves to local charities. And we deliberately and intentionally make sure our children understand that all persons are entitled to respect regardless of their age, color or political party affiliation.
Please share some of your faith journey…
I was reared in a Christian home. My father is a retired Baptist minister and one of my brothers is a minister. My parents had my brothers and me in church every time the doors were open. So we were frequently exposed to the gospel message. When I was fourteen I was on a youth camp trip with our church youth group. During one of the evening services I felt the Holy Spirit moving me and it was at that time that I knelt on my knees and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and become my Lord and Saviour.
Some lawyer to lawyer questions… I love your firm’s motto ~ “Attorneys dedicated to Family, Community and Professionalism”. How do you go about applying that?
First and foremost we are dedicated to our families. That means not only the families of the partners but also the families of the other attorneys in our office and staff. All of the attorneys in our office are actively involved in the community by serving in civic clubs, serving on charity boards, and helping raise money for local causes. And many of our staff people are also involved in community and charity events. Lastly, is professionalism, and it is intentionally listed third. We believe that family and community come before business, and we will sacrifice our business to take care of our families and community. But when people do encounter us professionally – whether as a client or colleague – they don’t have to worry about whether they will get quality, ethical service. Our reputation in the area is one of top level, ethical representation.
Lawyer jokes ~ do you laugh, ignore them or make up some of your own?
I always laugh at them because many are hilarious. And when I speak to a group I often open by reading several lawyer jokes.
I practised in personal injury litigation for 12 years and am now practising exclusively in estate planning. You do both (among other things!). What attracts you to these areas of the law?
Our office provides a broad range of services. Although I do handle some personal injury litigation, one of my partners primarily heads up that practice area. I do some simple estate planning but involve another partner if things get too complex. My primary focus is in the areas of social security disability and bankruptcy, and I also serve as the county attorney for our county. I was drawn to social security and bankruptcy work because I get to help people in some of their most desperate times of need. And my itch for politics drew me into seeking the county attorney position.
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
You are visiting Australia ~ do you say yes or no to some vegemite on toast?!
NO!! I’ve tried it before!
Thanks Jerome Despite your decided view against vegemite this was a great interview – LOL!