by Justine Johnston Hemmestad
Award-winning author Urcelia Teixeira writes gripping Christian suspense novels full of mystery, twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
She made her writing debut in December 2017, kicking off her newly discovered author journey with her fast-paced archaeological adventure thriller novels that readers have described as ‘Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft with a twist of Bourne.’
But, five novels in, and nearly eighteen months later, she had a spiritual re-awakening, and she wrote the sixth and final book in her Alex Hunt Adventure Thriller series. She now fondly refers to The Caiaphas Code as her redemption book. Her statement of faith. And although this series has reached multiple Amazon Bestseller lists, she took the bold step of following her true calling and switched to writing what naturally flows from her heart and soul: Christian Mystery and Suspense. The first book in her newly discovered genre went on to win the 2021 Illumination Awards Silver medal in the Christian Fiction category and the series reached multiple Amazon Bestseller lists!
A committed Christian for nearly twenty years, she now lives by the following mantra: “I used to be just a writer. Now, I am a writer with a purpose!”
In a candid conversation with our Interviews Editor Justine Johnston Hemmestad, Urcelia opens up about her inspiration, career, and beyond.
How and when did you start writing?
U: As a child, I kept journals, wrote poems and devoured books, but I never once thought of writing a book. It was an unattainable honor reserved for the literary greats. In South Africa, we didn’t even know eBooks existed until about 2014, and even then it was a foreign concept. A friend introduced me to self-publishing for the first time back in 2017. She’d already published several books and was doing very well. The notion of writing and publishing a book intrigued me, so I naively added it to my bucket list. I dipped my toes in the water with two short stories, both hopelessly terrible, but the writing bug bit. I wrote my first novel, The Rhapta Key, at night, after work and once the kids were in bed—I was a real estate agent at the time. A few weeks after it released in December 2017, I got a message from a complete stranger via Facebook asking when the second book in the series was out. I had no intention of writing another book, let alone a series! But I am a bit of a people pleaser, and when a week later two more readers sent me the same request, I threw my hands in the air and obliged. What I couldn’t have guessed at the time was that God’s plan was set in motion to where it unfolded to a brand new and exciting purpose for my life.
Where do you write? Do you need to write in a dedicated space, or can you write anywhere? Can you write amidst chaos, or do you need to have a clear window of time?
U: I have a tiny corner in our bedroom that I’ve turned into a writing corner. It’s said to be a big no-no to write from your bedroom, but at this stage, I don’t have anywhere else to write. I set the mood with aromatherapy oils, candles, and background music, and simply get stuck in. I can’t write in chaos. My space needs to be organized and aesthetically pleasing, and having a big window overlooking the adjacent woods, definitely helps. My goal is to one day soon replace that view with one of the ocean! I have, on occasion, written in coffee shops, but I prefer writing in a quiet place where there are no distractions. Also, I am extremely disciplined with my writing and stick to it daily. I believe this is the secret to achieving your writing goals.
What have you learned about yourself through writing? What have you been enlightened to?
U: I’ve always known to be tenacious, but I never knew just how much determination I had. To be an author, who continues to release books, requires grit and a never-give-up attitude. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to do this full time, but because I am not doing it in my own flesh, knowing that this is my purpose, lightens the load.
How do you get your inspiration for writing? Does God lead you through scriptures?
U: My inspiration comes from everywhere. I believe there is a writer in all of us if you allow yourself to observe your surroundings. I love watching people, and often my stories start with a character that slowly takes shape in my head. Sometimes I sit in the park or a coffee shop and I see someone walk past. Then I wonder what they do for a living, what’s their story, what’s their struggle? It’s a silly little game I’ve played in my head since I was young. But, I do also pray for God to reveal scriptures, which I then study and hopefully translate into biblical application to real-life issues. That is in essence what my books are about: faith-filled stories that encourage, inspire, and entertain my readers as they deepen their relationship with God.
You had said that there was a “spiritual awakening” after your fifth novel? What happened?
U: As mentioned earlier, I never gave my writing any thought. It was just something I had fallen into and enjoyed doing. But halfway through my Alex Hunt series, I started feeling that something was missing. I wasn’t feeling complete joy. I was wrestling with writing what readers wanted to read, and who I truly was: a daughter of God. There was a disconnection between the genre and my soul and in order to gain success in that particular genre, I had to write content that was expected to fit the expectations of its readers. I couldn’t do it. But I also couldn’t disappoint my readers and abandon a series midway. I prayed about it and God sent me clear guidance for the way forward. Which is why you’ll see a gradual migration with the fifth book’s religious undertone, resulting in the final book’s blatant ‘this is who I am’ message. Transitioning to Christian fiction was brutal, and I lost two-thirds of my readers, but starting over, pleasing God before man, was ultimately all that mattered.
How do you know what the titles of your books will be? Is it inspiration and leading, or is it deduction and a distinct process?
U: I would love to give you some intellectual answer, but I can’t. My BP (before purpose) series was purely trend-driven, whereas my subsequent Christian novels were most definitely inspired by the message and related scripture.
What made you choose the Christian mystery, thriller and suspense genre in the first place?
U: In a nutshell: I love suspense. I love mystery. I love clean action (no gore or excessive violence!), and I love God.
Are there aspects of your stories that are derived from your own life?
U: I suppose there will always be some personal underlying spiritual nuance that makes it into my stories as my own spiritual walk transforms. That’s how, I believe, God uses me to bring Him glory through my writing. But, as Christians, we strive to live according to the messages set out in the Bible, making our individual spiritual walks relatable. If I continue to let the Holy Spirit guide my writing, the message will seem familiar and relevant to anyone.
What is your statement of faith, as integrated in your books?
U: I believe that there is one true God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible to be the living, inspired and authoritative Word of God. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, his sinless life, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven. I believe that salvation and entry to Heaven are only possible through true repentance and the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.
Your author bio states, “I used to be just a writer. Now, I am a writer with a purpose!” How do you feel to be a writer with a purpose? Where do you envision your purpose to take you in your writing?
U: It’s an amazing feeling to know my books have meaning, even if I don’t always know who and how it impacts a reader. God gave me an instruction, I was obedient, and I am serving Him, striving to bring Him glory through all my writing. Knowing that I am playing a small part in His plan brings satisfaction beyond measure. As for where I envision my purpose taking me? I’ll wait patiently for God to reveal that.
What do you want your readers to come away with after reading your books? What do you hope God will teach or bring to others through your writing?
U: I want my readers to be entertained, but equally be spiritually transformed. My hope is that I successfully translate scripture into real-life application where readers might relate to a character’s circumstance or struggle, and thereby draw encouragement and ultimately a deeper walk with God.
Who are your favorite authors and why? Is there a book that inspired you in your genre?
U: I don’t have any favorites. I am drawn by the story and not necessarily the author’s name. Growing up, I’ve read books spanning several genres, even romance! In a way, they all shaped and influenced my writing.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
U: As it stands, I am writing the final book, Wages of Sin, in my Valley of Death series, which is based on Psalm 23. It’s a trilogy about an ex-master art thief who desperately tries to bury her past. As she discovers God and her faith, she becomes unwillingly entangled in the events of her past as her enemies seek to take their revenge. Lots of mystery, lots of educational aspects, and plenty to keep you turning the pages!
What’s your advice to aspiring writers in the Christian thriller/suspense genre?
U: Seek God, stay true to who you are and what you believe in, and have fun!
As a writer, where do you see yourself in five years from now?
U: Hopefully still writing the same gripping faith-filled suspense thrillers, a Netflix series or three, and a closer relationship with God. Oh, and a dedicated office with a view of the ocean would be an added bonus! 😉
To pre-order Urcelia’s latest book, The Wages of Sin, click here
To download an ebook for free, click here
You can connect with Urcelia at www.urcelia.com