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.
Today Susan joins us to tell about her new book and her passion for rescuing young girls. She is also offering a free book to one fortunate winner!!! So leave your name and email address below in the comment section for a chance to win. Let Susan know how much you appreciate her concern for this issue. (Continental US only, please.)
Susan, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from Greensboro, North Carolina and lived there for 31 years before moving to Atlanta, Georgia. I have two brothers. I’m the only girl and a middle child. We’re a very close family. My parents have always been two of my best friends. My daddy led me to Christ when I was in the sixth grade. Through the years, Jesus has gone from being my Savior to my Lord to my everything. He is the best friend I’ve ever had, because He loves me on my good days and my bad ones. Now I’m married and live with my family in Atlanta.
Such a sweet childhood you had! Were you an avid reader as a child?
I hated to read as a child. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a single book in its entirety until I was in graduate school. I have a Master’s of Education. From UNC Greensboro and taught elementary school. I developed my love of reading while teaching second grade. I required my students to have a time of silent reading each day and felt convicted that I should read also. I walked in a book store and asked the clerk to recommend something for me to read. She handed me The Firm by John Grisham and I’ve been reading ever since. I read a lot of non-fiction, but I devour fiction books.
I love to hear stories like that–stories of how people accidentally stumbled into the love of reading. As a child or teenager, did you ever dream of being an author?
I never aspired to be a writer. In fact, my husband is the one who insisted that I submit some of my devotionals to an editor for review. After some heavy persuasion on his part, I mailed them in. The editor contacted me and told me where to send them for publication. I was in shock. That was in 2008 and I’ve been writing ever since.
Why do you write?
I write because I feel called to write. Each morning I blog in devotional form whatever the Lord places on my heart. I usually end up sharing something I’ve learned through my own life.
Tell us about the journey to getting published.
It has been 2 ½ years since I first heard about the issue of human sex trafficking in America. I was rocked by what I heard. It caused me to dig deep to learn all I could about the issue. After six months of interviews and research, I packed my bags and left for Africa for a mission trip I’d been planning for over a year. It was a much needed break from the intensity of the research. When I returned home, I burrowed in and started writing. It took over nine months to write the manuscript and then another fifteen months to go through the editing and rewriting process to get it ready for publication. During that process, I met the founder of Resolution Hope, an organization intent on fighting the issue of human sex trafficking of minors in America (www.resolutionhope.com). They decided they wanted to release my novel at the launch of their national awareness campaign against human sex trafficking of minors on New Year’s Eve 2012. With that in mind, I opted to go the self-publishing route so I could guarantee a New Year’s Eve release date.
Rescuing Hope is based on the six months of interviews. While it is not one girl’s story, Hope’s story is a creation of bits and pieces of each interview and countless hours of research. The things Hope experiences are very typical of trafficking victims in the United States. When I think of Hope, I see the faces of the young ladies I’ve come to know through my work on this project and my fight against this issue. She is real and she needs for each of us to do our part in telling her story to bring an end to modern day slavery. I desire to see Rescuing Hope become a catalyst of conversation to get teens, parents, youth workers and friends talking about this issue. As people become aware of this issue, they will more likely become part of the movement working to stop it from continuing.
This book sounds very interesting and something that everyone should read in order to be aware of what’s happening in our world. What is your writing schedule and where do you write?
I write every morning before anyone wakes up. It is my quiet time with the Lord. I ask Him what He has to say for the day and begin my journey through His Word as He guides me through my morning devotional writing. I post five days a week on my website, www.susannorris.org.
Do you have to juggle writing with a job, family responsibilities or other obligations? How do you balance it?
Life is a balancing act. I find it easiest to have my office in my home. I converted our dining room into my office. It’s right off the kitchen, so I’m easily accessible to the family when they need me, but I can close the door and get in the zone when necessary.
Yes, life is a balancing act! Share something about your day-to-day life that might help readers feel as though they know you a little better.
I love people. I have always been a people person and the call to write has caused me to spend more time alone than any other time in my life. The best way I’ve found to accommodate my need to be around people is by having what I refer to as a satellite office. I work a lot at my favorite coffee shop. They know me there and allow me to set up my “office” at a corner table and work away. I am around the ebb and flow of people without being in the middle of it. It’s a workable compromise for me. I’ve come to love the staff there and even gave them a shout out in the acknowledgments of my book.
Now I absolutely cannot write in public. I would sit and stare at people all day and try to imagine what they were talking about and what troubles they were encountering in their lives. I’d get nothing done except plotting new stories, haha! Okay, so does your faith affect your writing? How?
My faith drives my writing. I know that I have very little to offer anyone on my own, but I can offer them Jesus and He’s everything. Through my writing, I’ve begun to see Jesus in anything and everything in my daily life, from cookies to snakes. It’s been amazing to see how He’ll take something that happens in my life or something I see driving down the road and develop it into a devotional in my mind. He’s the greatest writing partner I could ever have. He’s the creative one and the brains of the operation. I’m the obedient scribe.
Do you have a favorite scripture? If so, why is it your favorite?
With each season of my life, the Lord brings a new verse into the forefront of my mind. Today, my favorite Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” This verse has been my life line throughout the process of writing Rescuing Hope. There were so many times when I would sit in the floor crying out to Him, telling Him, “I can’t do it.” He would remind me, “You don’t have to, because I will.”
What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
The bravest thing I’ve ever done…. I would say the bravest thing I’ve ever done is write Rescuing Hope. Well that and walk across seven suspension bridges in the treetops of the rain forest in Ghana, West Africa.
Yes, I would say the suspension bridge thing is quite brave! If you could travel anywhere else in the world other than West Africa, where would you go and why?
If I could go anywhere in the world, well, the list is too long. I have a heart for the nations. I’ve been blessed to go to India and Africa on mission trips. There are very few nations you could list that I don’t want to see. Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go. I’m ready to do it.
That’s awesome! What is your number one spiritual gift?
I don’t know what I’d say my number one spiritual gift is, but I love encouraging others and I love teaching. Like I said before, I love people of all walks of life and I just enjoy being with them, panning for the gold that’s inside of each one.
Thank you for sharing your heart with us today. Where can readers find you and your books on the Internet?
Readers can find me at www.susannorris.org. On Twitter: @SusanCNorris and on Facebook: Susan Norris Author.
I will be doing a book signing at the Daily Grind in Marietta, Georgia on January 10th.