I am pleased to spotlight Teresa Hirst on my blog today. Teresa’s latest novel, Flowers of Grace, will be released on February 20th. Set in an upscale St. Louis boutique amid a fragile economic climate when retail customers are trading brick and mortar stores for online shopping, Flowers of Grace is a story of love and loss, friendship and forgiveness.
Teresa, I understand that you are about to release your second book, Flowers of Grace. What inspired this moving story?
I inherited a beautiful hibiscus plant from a woman just before she died from cancer. Despite all of my best efforts to water, feed and care for her plant, it died. The idea for Flowers of Grace developed and her plant gained a new life in this novel. Grace, the manager of an upscale boutique, also receives a hibiscus from a departing friend and is sure that she will kill it if she is left to care for it on her own. She rallies the women on her staff to help it bloom, and their dynamic personalities fill the clothing store. Grace and the plant blossom through a wedding and a birth, but its unexpected death pushes her to face false assumptions, opening a path for new love to appear.
What challenges did you face in the writing process?
Because I also write nonfiction and use source material topically, I struggled to write scenes for a novel chronologically. When I discovered that I could write scenes as they came to me and then insert them together, the story unfolded at a good pace.
Do you have any advice to offer other writers?
Pursue a genre that speaks to you. Be cognizant of your audience as you write, because you will need to sell it to someone, but don’t write according to the trends just to ride on those. Also, write in a variety of formats—long and short, fiction and nonfiction, creative and informative. Writing in this way generates good skills but it also helps you practice one of the most challenge tasks —really communicating with a reader.
What genre do you most enjoy reading? What are you currently reading?
I enjoy women’s fiction—both contemporary and historical. I also love biography. Although I don’t generally read young adult fiction, I just finished the first book in the new series, Citizen of Logan Pond: Life by Rebecca Belliston and enjoyed the characters and imagining what survival skills I might use in the event that the Great Recession had become an impetus for unchecked government control.
What writers or books have most inspired you?
My husband introduced me to the short story or novella Babette’s Feast many years ago by author Isak Dinesen. In this quirky remote Scandinavian setting a congregation of devout followers have a famous chef living among them and do not even know what they have. Clever stories like that inspire me to find similar connections and twists that characters work to uncover.
As a contrast, in my young mom days I read a lot of Maeve Binchy novels because I liked getting involved in the family settings she develops. In my own writing I like the themes of family life and working through relationship issues. I read widely from old classics to new indie published authors.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to Flowers of Grace, which is Open to Joy. I shared a chapter with my writing group last month, which wasn’t a resource I had when I wrote Flowers of Grace. It was fun to workshop with other writers, and I would encourage writers to gather with other writers to do this. It doesn’t need to be a list of best selling authors who meet in a premiere location. Some of the best writing groups simply look like six to eight writers (published and unpublished) who share their work face-to-face and receive feedback from each other.
What role does social media play in your life?
Social media plays a huge role in my life. I studied journalism, worked for a newspaper and worked in public affairs. Social media allows me to stay informed and develop my own channels to communicate with people in a professional but social way as I build relationships and share content.
I’m pretty authentic in what I share about my personal life online. I received a rare cancer diagnosis last year, just after I released Twelve Stones to Remember Him, an inspirational nonfiction book about how individuals and families managed through the financial crisis. That was sort of ironic to receive my own new crisis as I was marketing that book. Cancer brought an unexpected twist to my life and added a new dimension to how I use social media.
What do you do when you’re not busy reading and writing?
I have great conversations, of course! I love to connect with women to talk, talk, talk. I still call old friends on the phone at least once a week. I gain so much from my female friends, my sisters, and my daughters. The women I’ve come to trust have a way of talking through things with me that helps me make decisions and feel connected.
Books by Teresa Hirst
- Flowers of Grace – available for preorder (special price) at Amazon and other online retailers. (Enter the Goodreads giveway to win a free copy of Flowers of Grace and add it to your shelf on Goodreads.)
Twelve Stones to Remember Him (available on Amazon)
About Teresa Hirst
Teresa lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage children. She is a Mormon choosing faith and gratitude to cope with neuroendocrine cancer. She enjoys cooking, sentimental movies, Sunday afternoon walks and great conversations.
To learn more about Teresa and her books, please visit http://www.teresahirst.com or follow her on social media.
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