Kat's Blog

Kat's Blog

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Bash - Day 22!

Today my guest here at the party is Terri Main and I am so excited to have her. So please help me welcome Terri.

1: When did you first begin writing?

Actually, my first attempt to write a novel was the summer between grade school and junior high. That was $& years ago. I hope you could read that, my number keys don’t always work right. It was a science fiction story about a guy living in the twenty-first century whose grandfather from the twentieth century and his grandson from the twenty-second century end up arriving in two different time machines at the same time. He is just an accountant not a scientist and likes his nice ordinary life and has no idea what to do about these guys. Unfortunately, all I had was a premise and not a plot.

I sold my first poem when I was 18 that was $) years ago. (Funny how that number thing comes and goes). I got two dollars and was thrilled. I’ve been writing ever since.

2: Do you have any rituals that help you get in the mood to sit down and write?

My “ritual” if you want to call it that, is to sit down in my recliner, prop my feet up, open my laptop and let my finger push keys.

There’s nothing mysterious about writing. Like the man said, “It means applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair in front of the typewriter and staying there until you are finished.”

3: Are you a plotter or a pantser when you write? Why does that work for you?

I’m a follower. I start with a premise and then some characters. I spend a lot of time with my characters. I live with them until they become real to me. Until I know them better than I know myself. Then I set for them a problem to solve. Then I imagine them solving that problem. I see the story unfold in my mind in a very general form. From that visualization, I set forth landmarks for the characters to advance toward in their own way.

Then I step back and follow them as they pursue their goals. In short stories they usually have a single goal. In Parmenter’s Wager I have a pastor who is asked by a parishioner who has revealed to him she is a clone, “Do I have a soul?” His goal is to answer that question and decide what to do about her participation in the life of the church? Along the way he must struggle with personal prejudice, pride, ignorance, theology and church politics trying to answer that simple yet profound question. I hope the solution he comes to is not simplistic or expected.
I follow the characters around and record what they do. Sometimes I do that from within a character. In that case the point of view is first person. Sometimes I do it from outside the person, in which case it is third person.

My characters constantly surprise me and often take me down side roads I never saw coming. It’s kind of weird and kind of fun all at the same time.

4: Who are some of your favorite authors to read when you are not writing?

There are so many. C.S. Lewis both fiction and nonfiction. Isaac Asimov, Clifford D. Simak and Arthur C. Clarke are my absolute favorite “modern” science fiction writers. I am however rediscovering through The Gutenberg Project (http://www.gutenberg.org/ ) many older and sometimes forgotten nineteen century science fiction writers. On the mystery side, of course, Agatha Christie with my favorites being the Hercule Poirot mysteries and the Sherlock Holmes stories are classics to be enjoyed by all generations. A more recent addition to my collection is Lillian Jackson Braun and her wonderful (and often imitated) Cat who… stories. Great place to learn characterization and the interplay of setting with plot.

5: Are you currently reading anything right now?

Yes, I’m reading The Planet of the Damned by Harry Harrison, The Cat who went Bananas, several short stories by H.P.Lovecraft and Dracula by Bram Stoker

6: How do you deal with writer’s block?

The same way I deal with not feeling up to getting up and going to the school to teach. I get up and go to the school and teach. I get up and go to the computer and write.

7: What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?

You mean there are other FUN things than writing? What are they? Seriously, I don’t do fun well. At least not in terms of what other people consider fun. I enjoy writing. I enjoy teaching my classes. I enjoy writing and teaching Bible studies. I play with my three cats. I collapse and watch TV. I read. That pretty much covers it. But you see I consider all of that fun.

8: If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

If my asthma was better, Egypt. Visit the Cairo Museum. Love ancient history. I’d like to go back to Yellowstone and then go over to Cody Wyoming and visit the Buffalo Bill museum. Contrary to the sound of the name, it is the premier museum of the old west. It has several wings including one devoted entirely to Western art. Then I’d like to go to England. It’s just part of our heritage and see all those places that inspired the great works of Johnson, Pope, Shakespeare, Tennyson and the like.

9: What advice do you have for new authors?

Learn about writing. Write. Learn. Write. Learn. Repeat.
Seriously, you should be reading and taking classes to learn the craft of writing. However, that will not make a writer out of you. You need to write and to write often. Then you need to learn enough to be able to knowledgeably edit your writing. Then you need to write enough so you understand what you are reading and learning. It’s neither theory nor experience that gets anyone to a goal. It’s both together.

I would also say, don’t let people deter you or your own perception of what they might think. When I was in high school, I would look over my shoulder when I went to the news stand to pick up my copy of Writer’s Digest then snuck it out under my coat for fear of what people might think. But I kept getting my copies of the magazine.

Finally, read. You cannot write if you will not read. Read the type of books you would like to write. But also read those you don’t. You can learn from both. Read the masters, but also read the mid-range. Oddly enough, the bright stars often, in later years, write more poorly than the person who continually has to work to get his or her next novel published. Let’s face it, Stephen King could write like a fifth grader and still get a six-figure advance.

10: Tell us a bit about your book. What’s it about?

Dark Side of the Moon is the first in a series of cozy mysteries set in an underground lunar colony at the end of the twenty-first century. Carolyn Masters, history professor and former FBI profiler, finds herself uncertain about her future after her mother dies of a stroke. This is shocking since a substance, ironically enough mined on the moon, has made cardio-vascular disease almost extinct. A genetic quirk in about one in a hundred thousand people makes them immune to the effects of the drug.

Carolyn feels at a loss as to what to do with the rest of her life, which might be thirty years or so shorter than she always assumed. When she gets the call from an old colleague who is now president of the new Armstrong University on the moon, she jumps at the chance to get a major change of scene.

She isn’t on the moon long, though, before a colleague is murdered. This is the first murder on the moon and the local “security counselors” are out of their depth. So they call in Michael Cheravik, a criminology professor and former Dallas homicide detective and Carolyn to work on the case. The trail leads them to the “dark side” of the moon from the casinos of Tranquility to the halls of acadamea to the small shops of the underground town that is sort of like Mayberry at one-sixth G. Carolyn finds herself once again having to think like a murderer to solve the mystery, stop a terrorist attack on earth and fight off her own demons, and maybe, just maybe, find love before the curtain falls.
Thank you so much for being here today Terri. It's been fun.


MuseItUp Publishing said...

Another great interview!

It's always fascinating to read other writers writing processes.

Nice! And Terri's got a great book, bit of sci-fi mixed with mystery that makes it an interesting read.

Lin said...

I am one who loves being Mooned by Terri. There is a short story of Terri's available now that everyone can read over at the muse it hot blog. Go to http://museithot.blogspot.com and scroll till you find it. It'll make you an instant Carolyn Masters fan.

Great Interview Kat and Terri.

Rhobin said...

Good questions Kat, and great answers Terri. Enjoyed reading the interview.

Roseanne Dowell said...

nice interview, kat.

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri,

That was a great interview,very insightful to those who don't know you in regards to your writing talent by the answers you provide to the questions. Your book sounds interesting. Would like to read it. Talk to you soon!!!