Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writing What You Know

As an author of international intrigue, I am often asked why I write what I do. Why such controversial subjects as the international counternarcotics war, Marxist guerrillas, Islamic fundamentalist threats in Latin America or the war on terror in Afghanistan?

It's actually simple. As writers, we are told to write what we know, and this is the world in which I have spent my life.

A brief introduction for this blog. I grew up daughter of American missionaries (Bob and Dawn Archer, TEAM) in rural areas of Colombia that are now guerrilla hot spots. My own childhood memories include canoeing up and down Amazon rivers, crossing high mountain passes to boarding school just across the border in Venezuela (now closed because of guerrilla activity), hiking up the Andes and slogging muddy jungle trails. I was six when I wielded my first machete, a necessary instrument for climbing the path to the outhouse.

I met my husband Marty, a missionary kid from Bolivia, while attending Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta. We spent 16 years as missionaries in Bolivia with Gospel Missionary Union (now AVANT), an interdenominational Christian mission organization. Three of our four children were born there. While my husband served as field director, I worked with women and children at risk. My husband and I moved to Miami in June, 2000, where my husband served as vice-president of Latin America Mission.

In January, 2006, we moved again to Lancaster, PA, when my husband became president of BCM International, once the Bible Club Movement, which includes 700+ missionaries and thousands of volunteers from more than 40 nationalities working on five continents. I head up the BCM communications department, edit a magazine and continue to teach writers conferences and mentor Christian writers in a number of countries around the world along with writing the occasional international intrigue title. To date, I have lived in six countries and traveled in thirty from Latin America and Europe to Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Kenya.

I have always written, whether thesis papers, journals, or communication to family and constituency, publishing my first short story in college. But my first book was written literally out of boredom. We were living at the time in Tarija, a southern Bolivia town. While my husband was touring rural Andes churches for two weeks at a time, I was stuck at home with three preschoolers, no car, TV, radio. Once my children were in bed, I had only the handful of English-language books I’d read dozens of times. I finally decided if I had nothing to read, I’d write a book instead. That became Kathy and the Redhead, a children’s novel based on my growing-up years at our missionary children's boarding school in Venezuela.

From there I began writing Spanish-language material for women and children at risk as well as articles for a variety of international and Christian ministry publications. That was followed by the Parker Twins Series, juvenile suspense set in a multi-cultural background, and a teen novel, Jana’s Journal. My first adult fiction release, CrossFire was set in the counter-narcotics war we were witnessing first hand in Bolivia. This was followed by The DMZ, (Colombian guerrilla zones), FireStorm, (Islamic terror ties in Latin America), all published by Kregel Publications, then my first Tyndale House Publishers title Betrayed, (Guatemala), released in 2008.

My ultimate goal in every book I write, however much a "thriller," is to share with the reader my own heartfelt conviction that, for all the turmoil and conflict and pain in our world, this universe does make sense and has both a purpose and a loving Creator. If I did not have the absolute assurance that the course of human history and current events as well as my own life lie in the hands of a loving heavenly Father, I would not have the nerve to research, much less write, the stories that I do.

My most recent title, Veiled Freedom, set in Afghanistan, was released by Tyndale House Publishers this past summer (I have recently finished the sequel and am waiting for publication date). Again, I have been asked: 'Why Afghanistan?"

That answer is not so simple. Like so many reading this blog, I rejoiced in the post-9/11 overthrow of Afghanistan's Taliban, believing it presaged new hope for freedom and peace in that region. Neither freedom nor peace ever materialized. Instead today's headlines reflect the rising violence, corruption, lawlessness and despair. The signing of Afghanistan's new constitution, establishing an Islamic republic under sharia law--and paid for with Western coalition dollars and the blood of our soldiers--tolled a death knell for any hope of real democracy.

And yet the many players I've met in this drama have involved themselves for the most part with the best of intentions. The more I came to know the region and love its people, I was left asking, "Can outsiders ever truly purchase freedom for another culture or people?"

That question birthed Veiled Freedom. A suicide bombing brings together a disillusioned Special Forces veteran, an idealistic relief worker, and an Afghan refugee on Kabul's dusty streets. The ensuing explosion will not only test the hypocrisy of Western leadership and Afghanistan’s new democracy, but start all three on their own personal quest. What is the true source of freedom--and its cost?"

The answer with which I came away from Afghanistan is again simple, if neither easy nor cheap. True freedom will come to Afghanistan, or anywhere else in our world, only through the love of Isa Masih [Jesus Christ] transforming individual hearts. When enough hearts change from hate to love, cruelty to kindness, greed to selflessness, their society will never be the same. Change a heart, change a nation.

For more, visit my website: and primary blog, From the Eye of the Storm:


  1. Fabulous post, Jeanette. And d'you know what? I'm sure I saw your book,Veiled Freedom, in a South African bookstore not long ago.

  2. Wow. I'm going to download that book right now!! Ack, this is the downside to this blog - my reading list is getting rather long! But I feel very privileged to be counted among such talent and can't wait to hear more!

  3. Jeanette
    What an incredibly interesting life you've led, although I'm sure some things have not been easy to see or deal with. You have so much amazing writing material. You are truly an international fiction writer extraodinaire!

  4. What an amazing life you've led already. You certainly have a wealth of experience from which to write.

    Straight From Hel

  5. Imagine my surprise a few years ago when someone handed me Crossfire by Jeannette Windle. My aunt thought I'd enjoy the book because she knew I'd visited Bolivia years before to spend time with my missionary sister. But more than the story (at least at first!), the author's name caught my attention

    I'd known a Jeannette Archer back in Bible School who was dating Marty Windle. Could this be the same person? Indeed it was, though it took a few more years for us to 'meet' again in cyber-space.

    Congrats, Jeannette, on so many life-touching novels and the ministry God has called you and Marty to.

  6. You know I love every one of your books, Jeanette, and am so glad you set your books in the locations you do and tackle the hard issues.


  7. I haven't seen these books before but I am going to look out for them! Sounds like great stuff.

  8. Wow - these sound absolutely intriguing. Can't wait to get my hands on a couple. Great post Jeanette :)

  9. What a great story. Thank you for sharing pieces of your life.

  10. Jeanette, wonderful post! I'm adding your books to my wish list. Thanks for sharing your fascinating life with us :-)

  11. I love that "Change a heart;change a nation." Thanks, Jeannette.

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