Monday, September 15, 2008

My Friend & Mentor, Author p.m.terrell

I get to meet a lot of fantastic people in my travels, but one of the most amazing individuals I've ever met was Trish - better known as author & speaker, p.m.terrell.

Trish has the most giving, genuine spirit, and she's helped me out in so many ways. I so admire her and hope that one day I can grow up to be someone like Trish!

So it is with great pleasure I introduce Trish as she begins touring for her latest book, "Exit 22"!

Good day, Trish!! It is an honor and delight to feature you here today.

“Exit 22” is your tenth book! How do you feel you have changed and grown as an author since the first book?

In the writers’ courses I took early in my career, I was instructed to focus on action. While that has served me well, resulting in books that readers said they couldn’t put down or that kept them on the edge of their seats—I’ve found as I progress, I give more attention now to the characters, especially those little quirks that make them memorable or unique… such as the sociopathic assassin in Exit 22 who knits baby booties when he isn’t killing.

Your current release, “Exit 22” is based in North Carolina and near your own hometown – what made you decide to place the story there? Was it easier to write about a familiar area or more challenging because you knew details had to be correct?

One of my favorite authors is Daphne du Maurier, and many of her books take place in the moors, such as Jamaica Inn. I always thought they were so haunting. When I moved to Robeson County and was searching for a place to live, I was captivated by the swamps, which remind me so much of the Scottish moors. I could see the climactic scenes in my mind’s eye, taking place across those foggy, treacherous swamps…

It was both easy and difficult to write about this area: easy in the sense that research was at my fingertips, but difficult in that I knew I had to get the facts right. I still changed some things to fit the plot, such as a Saturday afternoon paper when it actually comes on Saturday morning…

You always do so much research for your books – how long does this process usually take?

With my contemporary suspense/thrillers, I usually spend about three hours in research for each one hour of writing. This is a piece of cake compared to my historical novels, though; Songbirds are Free averaged closer to 30 hours of research for each one hour of writing!

I envy anyone who can write mystery/thriller! Why did you select that genre for your fiction work?

I can tell you the exact moment I decided to write suspense/thrillers. I was reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I knew I wanted to write stories with suspense and adventure. I do not have a journalistic background and the thought of writing a true story with all of the potential liability felt daunting to me (though less so as my career has progressed) so I opted to write stories that could be true, that could be ripped straight from the headlines, but which were fictional and suspenseful. My father is also a retired FBI Agent, and I think the whole concept of crimes and investigations was instilled in me at an early age.

Every author has a unique road they followed – what is your publishing story?

If there is one thing I regret, it’s not majoring in literature in college. If I had, my writing career might have had a more direct path. Instead, I “fell” into computers at a time when the first Apple computers were rolling off the assembly lines, and my writing took a back seat to a career in computer software. I had four computer how-to books published by Dow Jones and Scott-Foresman from 1984 through 1989, but they weren’t the type of writing I really wanted to do. It wasn’t until I was asked to hide a trucking kickback scheme through the use of a computer program that I began to realize my dream of becoming a novelist. In real life, I turned over evidence to the FBI; but the experience led to the writing of my first suspense/thriller, Kickback. In the book, Sheila’s adventure and her escape from the bad guys was a lot more harrowing than my own experience! That book was released in 2002 and I began writing full-time that year.

You are co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation, which is an amazing organization!!! How did that all come about?

I became the spokesperson for The Virginia Crime Stoppers Association and traveled the state, telling citizens about the role the organization plays in our communities. I also donated a portion of my book sales to local Crime Solvers, Crime Stoppers and Crime Lines. I met Officer Mark Kearney of the Waynesboro, Virginia Police Department during one of those events, and we began discussing the correlation between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. I thought if I could raise money for Crime Stoppers just through my individual signings, I could help to raise even more by getting together a few of my author friends. We anticipated getting about six authors together for a Book ‘Em Event – a book fair with the slogan “Buy a Book and Stop a Crook” – but instead, we got 75 authors from all over the world! The event became an annual one in Virginia and since then we’ve added New Hampshire and South Carolina, and there are more in the works… We’ve even had tremendous support from best-selling authors Janet Evanovich, Catherine Coulter, Ellen Hopkins, Cathy Maxwell, and others.

You are very active in your community – talk a little bit of the work you do outside of writing.

Where do I begin? I am the Vice President of the Robeson County, NC Arts Council, whose mission is to nurture, promote and celebrate regional arts, including books, theatre, painting, sculpting and everything in between. I am also on the Board of Directors of the Robeson County Friends of the Library. In 2007, I started the Writers Rally in Robeson visiting author series, in which we bring in at least one author a month to speak at the Osterneck Auditorium in downtown Lumberton. We’ve had wonderful authors travel here from Scotland, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Alabama, and from all over the Carolinas. It’s very rewarding to me to see what an impact one individual can make in his or her community.

In the world of authors, you are my hero! So many writers don’t realize how much the persona of an author really matters. What is your secret to mastering such a genuine, caring attitude?

Wow, I really appreciate you saying that, Diane! I don’t consider myself a hero at all. I believe that it’s the journey that matters. I see so many authors who are trying to make it onto the bestseller lists, and so many leave their compassion and care for other human beings behind in the process. I don’t want to be one of those people… I’ve also learned that it’s NOT “all about me”, that I am but a tiny speck on this planet. If I can make a difference in another person’s quality of life, I’ve done far more than I could ever do just by selling a book; after all, when I make it to those pearly gates, I doubt they’ll let me in based on the number of books I’ve sold!

I was at a literary event a couple of years ago that was very poorly attended; in fact, I think there were two attendees versus two dozen authors! One of the authors had just self-published his first book. After a couple of hours, he stood in the middle of the room and announced to all of the other authors how this was a total waste of his time and how he was entirely too important to be there, and he left! Soon after that, I attended an event in New Hampshire with Janet Evanovich. When she arrived at the signing, she learned they had neglected to order her books! She was already a best-selling author many times over and no one would have blamed her if she’d turned around and left. Instead, she grabbed a box of donut holes and balloons and walked around the room, chatting to other authors and attendees, handing out donuts and balloons while someone scrambled to get some books there for her. Hours later, I was still encountering star-struck readers who were saying, “Janet Evanovich offered me a donut hole!” I learned a lot from her that day. She is one classy lady.

It’s all in the journey…

After “Exit 22”, you have a prequel to “Songbirds Are Free” coming out – what else do you have planned?

After I finish the second book in the Songbirds series, I will return to another suspense/thriller set in Robeson County (those swamps are beckoning again!) Some of the characters in Exit 22 will return—but I can’t tell you which ones, or I’d give away the ending to Exit 22! My plan at the present time is to write a contemporary suspense/thriller every other year with an historical suspense in the years in between. Of course, those plans can be altered depending on the readers’ and critics’ response to my books!

What has been the highlight of your author journey so far?

There have been so many… Meeting so many wonderful, special people and getting to know their stories is always a thrill for me. I absolutely LOVE the book tours. They can get tiring and sometimes I wake up in a hotel room and wonder where I am… but I wouldn’t trade meeting all the terrific people for anything… Second to that was going to Hollywood and meeting movie producers and learning how books are adapted to the big screen.

What piece of advice would you give to a new author?

Write the best book you possibly can. Don’t let your ego get so tied up in your book that you can’t take construction criticism. Try to improve your craft with every book you write. I firmly believe those books that get published are not necessarily the best; they are the ones in which the authors simply didn’t give up.

And the last word, Trish?

Always allow yourself to hope. For without hope, what do you have left?

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