Debra Coleman Jeter

How I Started Writing:

I’ve loved writing all my life. I attempted my first “novel” when I was about nine after being captivated by Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. In college, I studied everything from Theatre to Pre-Medicine. In an acting class, I received the highest grades in our class, not because my acting was superior but because I did the best job of describing (on paper) my “Inner Resources” for each scene. It dawned on me then that I was more a writer than an actor.

Who Influenced My Writing:

Being southern myself, I’m drawn to southern writers and settings: To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, the stories and novels of William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, William Gay, Larry Brown, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison, Donna Tartt, Lee Smith, Zora Neal Hurston, and Alice Walker.

When I first encountered Crime and Punishment as required reading in 9th grade, Dostoyevsky became my favorite writer and remains so. The idea that a character doesn’t have to be noble in his or her actions to be a viable protagonist, that one can be guilty of the vilest actions imaginable and yet still redeemable in fiction as in life, struck a chord with me. From the Russian writers (Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak and Chekhov), I discovered that “not being able to put it down” was not necessarily the highest praise for a book. Another writer I can read over and over is C.S. Lewis, and I learn something new each time I read him.

Jan Karon is one of the writers who inspires me because she never expected her books to have a great audience, and she published her first novel late in life. I’m also inspired by the fiction of Madeleine L’Engle and by her book on writing, Walking On Water, in which she discusses the connections among faith, spirituality, and creative work.

Among my favorites to read (which always influences me, even if at a subconscious level) are a number of literary writers, as well as authors who are commercially very successful but also incredibly talented and often lauded. They include: Anita Shreve (my daughter once told me that her writing reminded her of mine, and I was thrilled), Daphne du Maurier, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Richard Russo, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Barbara Kingsolver, Wally Lamb, Amor Towles, Elizabeth Berg, Lisa See, Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Khaled Hosseini.

What I Have Written:

The Ticket is a novel about a family struggling financially who comes into a sudden windfall, and the impact this win has on the various members of the family. Edited by Eva Marie Everson and published by Firefly Southern Fiction (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), The Ticket was a Selah Award finalist in two categories and a finalist in Jerry Jenkins’ Operation First Novel.

Pshaw, It’s Me Grandson: Tales of a Young Actor: The road to maturity is filled with chug holes and chuckles for rambunctious child actor Clay Jeter and his grandfather Clifton Coleman.  This true story is a fly-on-the-wall account of making the television series Christy, based on the Catherine Marshall novel, as well as a great examination of country living in the first half of the twentieth century. It was a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards.

Joy After Noon is the first novel in the Sugar Sands series.  This novel explores the challenges of second marriages and dealing with stepchildren during the crucial years of puberty and teenage angst. College professor Fatima Joy marries a widowed bank executive caught in an ethical dilemma and misreads his obvious frustration while struggling to integrate into her new family.

Song of Sugar Sands: Acadia Powers knows herself to be too selfish, too sinful, and too skeptical in her faith to marry a preacher. And yet she does. A deeply devout young man falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Acadia, and the young couple embark with high hopes on a new life pastoring a small church in a southern community. Song of Sugar Sands is the second novel in the Sugar Sands series, and is scheduled for publication in 2019 by Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.

I have also coauthored two textbooks, one in its 7th edition, and the screenplay for a feature film. Jess + Moss premiered in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered a number of international awards.

What I'm Working On Now:

The book I’ve just finished is based on the life of my grandmother, who was born in 1900. The working title is When the Rest of Heaven Was Blue. It’s a story of hardship, poverty, and struggle but also of love and joy and the wealth that comes from immaterial things in life. One of the messages that emerge is to cherish the moments we have in this short stint on earth and to let our loved ones know how we feel about them.


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