Welcome to the six hundred and sixty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery suspense novelist and short story author Terry Ambrose. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Terry.
Terry: Hi Morgen, and thanks for having me here today.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. It’s great to have you back. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Terry: I’m from Southern California, and I started writing many years ago as a way to relieve stress. I found that, while I wasn’t very good in those days, I did feel better when I wrote. Once I started writing, there was also the realization that it was a process I’d enjoyed since I was a kid. I’ve just kept on doing it for more than 20 years now.
Morgen: Writing is often therapeutic and like anything, takes practice. The more you practice something, the more you enjoy it. What genre do you generally write?
Terry: My long fiction is typically mystery or suspense. I’ve done some short stories, one that you featured on one of your Flash Fiction Fridays called The McKenna Chronicles: Home Warranty Companies.
Morgen: You did and I really enjoyed it. Thank you. Apart from that, 🙂 what have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Terry: I’m one of those writers with a foot in both the indie world and in the traditionally published world. My debut novel, “Photo Finish,” was self-published; but, “License to Lie” was published by Oak Tree Press in the US. If I wrote under a pseudonym, I’d never know what to call myself, so I just go with my real name.
Morgen: 🙂 Yours is very easy to spell (unlike my first name). Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Terry: Both of my books are available in print and e-book format. I like to read both print and e-book. I still enjoy the feel of a paper book, but also like the ability to pack a bunch of books onto my iPad and take them wherever I go.
Morgen: Isn’t it great – I’m an iPader too. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Terry: This is actually a difficult question because I like all of my characters. I mean, if I didn’t like them, I’d kill them off or not write about them at all. The one that’s closest to me is McKenna from “Photo Finish”.
Morgen: Like choosing between children. Sorry about that. 🙂 What are you working on at the moment / next?
Terry: Right now I’m editing the sequels to “License to Lie” and “Photo Finish”. Now that the characters are established in both of these series, their lives are getting more complicated. I’ve also started writing the third book in the “Lie” series.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Terry: I don’t have time for writer’s block!
Morgen: Me neither.
Terry: What I suffer from is time-block. In addition to my fiction writing, I write columns for Examiner.com and run our own business. Some days, squeezing everything into the day is simply impossible. A friend of my recently joked that when you own your own business, you get to work whatever 12 hours a day you want. It’s true!
Morgen: It is true. Mine tend to be at the beginning of the day… and the middle… and the end… but I love what I do (blogging and occasional writing). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Terry: I do a mix of both. I start with the overall storyline, which is the driving force behind the novel. This might be a question; it might be a character problem. Once I’ve got the main story line established, I start looking for the problems that will surface beneath that. For “License to Lie,” that question was “could two people from opposite sides of the law that are attracted to each other ever learn to trust the other?”
Morgen: ‘Duplicity’ and ‘The Laws of Attraction’ spring to mind, both great films. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Terry: My characters typically grow as the story develops. I’ll have an idea of their general appearance and a speech pattern—that’s pretty easy. But, for me, how my characters react to a situation is exactly the same as it is for real people. I never know until they’re forced into something. Then, take an action and I may have to go back and fill in some of the blanks that were there before. Unlike real life, where coincidence and happenstance can cause almost anything to happen, I do my best to avoid using them and only resort to those tools when all else fails. By building character with strong motivations, they become much more believable.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Terry: I do a huge amount of editing. The first draft is a starting point and when I’m done, I know almost everything about the story. But, as I go back and edit the full manuscript in the next full pass, some details may change. Then, the manuscript will go to a few readers for feedback. The cycle continues until I’m satisfied. And believe me, I’m really picky when it comes to fictional characters.
Morgen: 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Terry: The point of view I use depends on the situation. I do use second person, but usually only in my non fiction work. In “License to Lie” I use both first and third. Roxy, the con artist, is in first person. Skip, the criminologist, is in third. I had very specific reasons for putting those characters in those points of view, including making a criminal a sympathetic character.
Morgen: I’ve had a few authors recently say they use second person. It’s great that it’s getting better known. Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Terry: I do a huge amount of marketing in social media, I write for Examiner.com to promote me as a brand, and I do public speaking engagements about scams and cons to help promote that brand. Most writers I know hate doing marketing, but if we don’t do it, we’ll never sell a book.
Morgen: Indeed. It’s usually the answer to the ‘least’ part of my next question. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Terry: The least favorite is the promotion. And while I was intellectually aware of the amount of effort that would be required based on what I’d heard from friends, nothing prepared me to emotionally understand the level of commitment required to constantly promote, promote, promote. My favorite part of writing is the process itself. Being able to sit down, build a scene, see the characters in motion, and know that no one else has seen that picture is a rush. When I start feeling the emotions of the scene and the characters, I know I’ve got it right.
Morgen: And hopefully the readers do too. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Terry: I’d offer two pieces of advice. The first is dead simple and just mechanics: don’t be cheap, go buy your domain name today and set up a simple website! As someone who writes about writers to help them promote themselves, I find it very frustrating when they don’t have their own website. This means there’s no place to send readers for more information. Second, and this one’s harder because it demands restraint—don’t rush to publication. Ask yourself, how do I want others to remember me as a writer? Did I put out the best possible product I could or did I just hurry this book? As part of that process, find 5-10 readers to go over your manuscript and give you honest feedback. You Mom will tell you it’s great. Your friends will do the same. Find the people you don’t know and have them read it. They’re the ones who will be honest.
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more but then I could be biased as a blog owner / developer (specifically for other writers). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Terry: When I first published “Photo Finish” I started frequenting many of the author forums, but soon realized that I was talking not to the people who might buy and read my books, but to people who wanted me to read their books. Duh, talk about a smack on the side of the head! Yes, I have to spend some time on those sites, but my real focus and my real energy goes into finding readers!
Morgen: They are often both but yes, writers are there to market more than anything else. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Terry: Here’s a freebie for your readers. Scams and cons are a constant threat to our online security. If your readers would like to know more about those threats and how to avoid them, check out my Crime and Courts column on Examiner.com. It’s free and it just might keep them one step ahead of the con.
Morgen: Thank you, Terry. It’s a shame that some just want to spoil others’ enjoyment of the internet but then we’ve always had baddies… and we get the fun of doing wicked things to them in our fiction. 🙂
I then invited Terry to include a synopsis…
Never trust a soul—even your own. With Five Million Dollars and their lives on the line, can a determined criminologist and a beautiful con artist learn to trust each other—or themselves? Both are experts in the art of communications. Both are driven by their goals—but they’re on opposite sides of the law. When her father is kidnapped, they join forces—and learn that it’s hard to trust each other—or themselves.
“License to Lie is fast and well written, almost sure to satisfy discerning readers of thrillers. There’s a verve to Ambrose’s language and the story moves with assurance, defying easy predictions. Bravo to this writer. I hope there’s more to come.” — T. Jefferson Parker, Author of “The Jaguar” and “The Border Lords”
Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life.
He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed.
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