I'm not a controversial person. I'd much rather sit with someone over coffee or enjoy a walk outside with a friend than engage in a political or ideological debate.
As an author who's active on social media, I've been careful to keep my political biases out of the public eye. You're much more likely to read a funny quote from one of my kids or see a cute picture of my goats than ascertain which political candidate I support or my opinions regarding a particular hot-button issue of the day.
Publishing my Agent Ko Spy Thriller Series is one of the most controversial things I've had the guts to do as an author. Sure, I wrote a book about abortion when it involves a minor and suspected incest. I've published a novel about police brutality that raises all kinds of questions of racial tensions. But nothing has dragged me out of my comfort zone as much as making the switch from Christian suspense novels to secular thrillers.
First of all, a caveat. I'm not hanging the towel when it comes to Christian fiction. My Kennedy Stern fans wouldn't let me, and of course anyone who's read The Beloved Daughter knows that the rest of Chung-Cha's story needs to be told. Lord-willing, you will continue to see many Christian novels from me.
But you'll also see something else on my author page. Books by A. J. Terry (the "J" stands for Joy if anyone was dying to know). Yup. Still me. But my A. J. Terry books are going to be different. They're going to be more gritty, more violent, and more intense than what you've come to expect from an Alana Terry read. (Oh, and by the way, my Alana Terry books get pretty intense already in case you didn't know).
Take my Agent Ko series. Ko is plucked from her comfortable Pyongyang life and thrust into a world of fighting and training to become an elite North Korean spy. None of the main characters are Christians. They don't talk or act like good Christians should either.
Why would I write a book like this? The answer boils down to relationships. I love developing relationships with my readers. There's a great-grandmother who shares emails with me on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. What started out as a simple fan letter turned into a surprising friendship where we're learning about each other's families and encouraging each other through difficult times. There's a virtual friend I've never met face-to-face who has become a regular prayer partner as we pray together over the phone. Through my writing, I've met people from New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, and quite a few other nations I can't name off the top of my head (sorry, friends!).
But you know what? The people who read Christian fiction are usually Christians. And I don't read anything in Scripture that tells me to isolate myself from the world until my only friends and the only people I interact with on a regular basis are believers. I know for a fact that God has called me to write fiction. It's a ministry. And ministry is two-fold. It involves encouraging and uplifting people in the church to help them grow closer to Christ (and I hope my Christian books do this well). But ministry also involves reaching out, growing friendships with people from all faiths and ideological backgrounds, and that's why I'm venturing out into the world of secular fiction as well.
I don't read anything in Scripture that tells me to isolate myself from the world until my only friends and the only people I interact with on a regular basis are believers.
My books and my writing boil down to relations. If my new series about an intelligent young girl who is forced to endure horrific and traumatic training at the hands of the North Korean government opens doors for me to get to know folks who wouldn't walk into a Christian bookstore and start browsing the fiction aisle, if my novels are so entertaining or my characters so complex that a reader just has to email me to ask what was going through my head when I was writing it all out and we strike up a genuine friendship, I'll consider myself one of the luckiest authors around.
It is a real privilege to craft words into a story that makes people think, feel, or react. And as nervous as I once was about writing a series so far outside of my regular genre, I'm giddy with excitement at the prospect of forging into new territories, where I hope an even wider, richer world of relationships is waiting for me.
If you're interested in my Agent Ko series, the first book, Marionette, will be live on amazon soon. In the meantime, you can grab a pre-release copy NOW if you make a donation to Liberty in North Korea and their underground railroad to help refugees find safety and freedom.