Interview with Award winning author p.m.terrell

IMG_0033     On February 19th 2012 I was at my sister’s home for the weekend to celebrate her birthday.  We had been shopping all day and were watching a movie or reading quietly in the room together.  I was just browsing around on my I-pad and saw something about a writer’s conference in Lumberton NC, where I live.  I cannot recall perfectly, but I believe it was in a newsletter from the Lumberton Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mickey Gregory.

A change in my career path had me thinking about writing, and a very personal event lead me to write a short story in October of the previous year.  This newsletter in February (a month I typically get the winter blahs) piqued my interest because just a few weeks prior I had been looking at a writer’s conference at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, wishing I had time to go.  Needless to say that once I researched the event in Lumberton, NC a little further and found out that it not only was a writer’s conference, but it was a charity event as well I knew I was definitely going.

My interest in this event kept growing and I have to say I was really excited about it and telling anyone who would listen that they too… should go.  Just getting to see the authors and hear them speak was so interesting to me.  The event was a huge success for the Book ‘Em NC Foundation and well, quite frankly for me too.bookem-nc-logo

When I found out about the event, I was interested in writing, but knew I had a long road ahead of me learning about the publishing industry and the craft of writing fiction.  Little did I know that I would leave the event with the business cards of a publisher who was interested in my make-shift cookbook that was really the paperless version of a wine journal I had created just for myself.  It looked more like a cookbook after I put some serious thought into it that night having a fresh glimpse into the publishing world, and meeting Mike Simpson of Second Wind Publishing.

Second Wind indeed picked up the book and it was released in September of 2012.  This year I will be at the Second Annual Book ‘Em NC event in Lumberton, NC on Saturday February 23rd, 2013.  This time, I will be there as an author (no more February blahs for me!).  This gift came to me through God’s grace and two very important people.  My publisher who decided to take a chance on the rough notes I sent him, and the person who created the Book ‘Em NC Foundation, award winning novelist, p.m.terrell.

I devote my blog this month to p.m.terrell, “Trish” and asked her if she would take a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to allow me to interview her.  The Book ‘Em NC event is less than a month away, please join us if you can.  You won’t regret it!

Trish, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to our town, for being the wonderful example of stewardship, and paying it forward that you are. I thank you for all of your advice and encouragement.  Thank you for taking the time to share your talents with all of us, and for allowing me to interview you for my blog.

Profile Pic Trish Terrell

Award winning author p.m.terrell

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Because I write suspense/thrillers, the first thing I do is plan the crime. Once I know that and how it should unfold, I determine which characters are needed and whose point of view will be needed. I usually have the first three or four chapters floating around in my head before I sit down to write, and I find that my mind stays at least three or four chapters ahead of my actual writing throughout the process.

Your books are very suspenseful and involve conspiracy and the investigative/intelligence community. Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I look for plot ideas by combing through declassified documents and reading reports from members of the Intelligence community, most of whom are retired. I may take a plot involving World War II and update it to the present day or something involving electricity and apply it to oil. I’ll often take two or three plots and weave them together as well. A lot of authors will begin writing with an eye toward the climactic scene, but I set my eyes on a midpoint scene that could be climactic in its own right. So the first half of the book is propelling toward that midpoint. Once that scene is done, it moves the rest of the book forward like a locomotive.

You are a prolific writer with two series in the works. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress and your next release which are from two different series?

In Dylan’s Song, Dylan Maguire is called to Ireland to rescue a CIA operative but he’s pulled into a past he thought he’d left behind forever.

The Tempest Murders introduces Ryan O’Clery, a police detective, who discovers a serial killer has his sights set on the woman Ryan is falling in love with.

Do you have any stories that live in the background, that you keep returning to, intending to write one day? If so, which one is at the top of that list and why do you feel it is so important to you as a story teller?

I had one story that I’d originally written in 1974 that I returned to again and again until I finally polished it. It was released in 2008 and the title was Exit 22. It proved to be so popular that it spun off The Black Swamp Mysteries series. Since that book was published, I’ve written the stories that I most wanted to write so I don’t have any left in the background–though I have plans for many more that have recently come to mind.

Exit 22Vicky's KeySecrets of a Dangerous WomanDylan's Song

            THE BLACK SWAMP MYSTERIES

Who is/was your mentor? What was the best advice you ever received about writing?

I don’t have a mentor but I try to learn from every author I meet. The best advice I ever received about my writing was to make every word count. Because of that advice, I find I don’t slow down and give long, drawn-out descriptions or boring backstory but keep the action moving forward at all times.

You have written a book specifically for other authors about promoting one’s own writing? What inspired that?

I met a publisher, Dave Smitherman of Palari Books, who told me everywhere he went I had either just been there or I was going to be there. He was impressed with my marketing and promotion abilities and he asked me to write a book about it. The result was Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book. At the time I wrote it, I was traveling the country and doing quite a number of book store signings. Because of the Internet, I’ve been able to replace much of my time on the road with blog tours.

Take the mystery out

Are any of your scenes adapted from your life? (Wondering if your drive during the tornadoes will end up in a book)

Yes, and the tornado is right up there at the top! I was driving across Alabama a few years ago when I found myself between tornadoes–trees were across the Interstate, power was out, and it felt like I’d ended up in a scene from War of the Worlds. I used those images when I wrote The Tempest Murders; Ryan O’Clery has just learned that the serial killer he’s been trying to apprehend has targeted his lover and he is trying to reach her during Hurricane Irene before the killer gets to her.

Have you, or would you ever write an autobiography?

I have been asked to write my autobiography many times. I’ve thought about it but if I do write it, I’ll need to be much older. And a lot of people would need to have passed away.

Your book covers are beautiful. Who designs them for you?

Thank you. The book covers are designed by various people, depending upon the storyline and which graphics artists is available at the time the book is in production. I’ve been very fortunate; sometimes I don’t get to see the covers until the book has been published, but I’ve never cringed in horror at one the way some of my author friends have done on occasion!

Describe your writing career in less than five words.

Determined, dedicated, long-term, ever-evolving, fulfilling.

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Thanks again Trish.  You are a fascinating individual, a talented author, and a wonderful person!

You will find all things p.m.terrell at the official site www.pmterrell.com as well as the following sites:

www.pmterrell.blogspot.com/

www.pmterrell.com/maryneely

www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/pmterrell/

Author of more than 17 books, including the Award-Winning books Vicki’s Key, River Passage and Songbirds are Free; internationally acclaimed suspense Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, Exit 22, Ricochet, The Banker’s Greed, Kickback and The China Conspiracy; the how-to book, Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book; and four non-fiction computer books. Look for her latest book, Dylan’s Song!

p.m.terrell is also the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and founder of Book ‘Em North Carolina.   Find information on the event at www.bookemnc.org or www.bookemnc.blogspot.com

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What is the most difficult thing about writing

” A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Thomas Mann

A recent blog post by a fellow author concerning hitting the wall and having to go off and write another story got me to thinking about why that happens.  There are many theories about the topic.  Tonight I stumbled upon this Thomas Mann quote and made a connection.   The fact is, as an author you are conveying an image that is in your mind and the words have to be exactly what will convey it best to the reader.  I think the wall comes when we don’t allow our minds to be relaxed and to let the stories come as they will.  We stress too much about form, and about what others want.  We need to remind ourselves to do what the story wants.  What is the story?  Just tell it.  You can go back and refine, but get the bones of the story figured out.

Yes, now before you start to blast me.  I do agree you have to nurture the craft, and learn how to craft a story.  BUT… and this is a big word folks.  You have to have a good story before it even matters how you tell it. 

I am working on a series and find the most difficult part of plotting it all out is figuring out the timeline and where certain events fit into each story so that they overlap just so.  I want the reader to be able to go from book to book and say, “Ah ha” that is why she felt that way and that is why xyz didn’t bother her.”  The trouble is not the story.  At least not in this case.  I’ve allowed myself to live with these characters and I love them.  I am in love with them and I don’t want to tell anything but their story.  So it takes time.  There are other projects that can fill in if they want to have a vacation. 

Now, that I have said all of that, what makes me sound so wise… lol

It is easier said than done.  If you hit the wall.  You work while you wait.  I’ve heard many stories about the best seller that came when the writer was at a wall on the story they absolutely wanted to tell.  The other story just came to them, so I figure that letting yourself be a channel is the best way to be at peace with hitting the wall.  In due time, all of our stories will surface.  Some characters and stories, just like some people take time to mature.

In the meanwhile write what is coming through you.  It is of benefit to someone who has experienced what you write about, and if not.  You are surely to benefit, for having kept at it. 

I am learning so much from all the writers in my circle.  It means so much to hear from them that they encounter the same challenges as I do.