Recently, Randall Murphree interviewed Jerome Teel regarding "The Election," the Tennessee attorney's debut novel. Teel practices law in Jackson, Tennessee. His first foray into fiction is anything but politics as usual. It packs a punch that will keep readers on edge, start to finish.

AgapePress:  What motivates a lawyer to write fiction?

Jerome Teel:  I think the same thing that would motivate a non-lawyer to write fiction motivated me – I had a story I wanted to write. There's nothing magical about being a lawyer. I believe many people have a compelling story that begs to escape into print. And I believe that sometimes people can receive a message through an entertaining story. So that's what I've tried to do in my writing. I've tried to tell an entertaining story about something I know, and work into that story a redemptive message.

AP:  Why did you decide to write Christian fiction?

JT:  First, from a purely business standpoint, I see the Christian fiction market as a growing market and only a few authors are writing in the sub-genre of legal or political thrillers. Although the barriers to entry are extremely high, I believed that I had a better chance of getting a Christian publishing house to look at my work than a secular house. But more importantly, I wanted to write a novel that I would be proud for my mother or my children to read.

AP:  When did you become a Christian?

JT:  I was reared in a very supportive Christian home in rural north Mississippi. We were regularly in church, a church my ancestors helped found. But being in church regularly doesn't make one a Christian. That comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. At a church youth camp during the summer before I entered my freshman year in high school, I realized that I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was there one evening following the worship service that I knelt on the front porch of the main camp building with my youth pastor and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

AP:  How did you find an agent and/or a publisher?

JT:  As an unpublished author, convincing a publisher to contract to publish "The Election" was one of the most difficult things I've ever accomplished. I have the rejection letters and e-mails to prove it. There were times when I decided to simply give up on this dream, but I just couldn't let it go. I tried contacting publishing houses myself. Some were polite enough to accept the submission. Others simply said they weren't accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

So I tried to find an agent, and did have an agent for a period of time. He pitched the manuscript to numerous Christian publishing houses. There was interest but nothing concrete developed. There was one acquisition editor, Terry Whalin, who received my submission and wanted to publish it. He was at a different publishing house when he first received the manuscript, but subsequently moved to Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Terry contacted me when he started at Howard and asked to submit "The Election" to their publishing board. They were gracious enough to offer a contract.

AP:  Tell us about the process, from conception of the idea for "The Election" to the finished product.

JT:  When I was in law school at the University of Mississippi, a new author spoke in one of my classes. His name was John Grisham, a fellow Ole Miss law school alum. As I listened to him speak, a seed was planted in me. I set a goal to one day write a novel.