How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My mother was Japanese, born and raised in Hawaii. During World War II, the Japanese American’s attempted to shed their Japanese culture to prove they were “true” Americans but, while cultural traditions can be easily changed, cultural attitudes are far more ingrained. I was born and raised in the Midwest by a mother with this mixed cultural background and a father whose family haled from the Southern U.S. states. Between visiting relatives and interacting with my Midwestern friends, I could see the cultural assumptions that few others noticed. This has been a great help in developing my characters’ motivations and world views.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing fiction around six years ago after toying with the idea of writing a series of short stories for probably ten years before that. I rather quickly discovered I was no good at short stories, so at the prompting of a younger writer friend, I tried my hand at plotting and writing novels. Given the length of my novels (400+ pages) and the multiple plot-lines, you can probably see how the short story format just wasn’t going to work for me. Maybe someday I will learn to write a much simpler story, but right now, it doesn’t interest me.
What inspires you to write and why?
Story premises just appear in my head like wildflowers popping up in a field. But the inspiration to get through the hard work of developing them into stories built on solid plots comes from my muse - a specific writer friend of mine with whom I will chat online to tell her what I am thinking or where I am stuck. By some magic or divine intervention, the process of telling her what I am doing creates a burst in my head, showing me exactly how to proceed.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Thrillers with some sort of science/ supernatural component. I call that science fantasy thrillers, but you can call it whatever you like. More important for me is having characters and a story where I can make the writing disappear.
What made you want to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer, but I spent years refusing to acknowledge it so that I could be conventionally successful instead. Been there; done that. Learned a lot. Now it’s time to write the books people like me want to read.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
Even though my novels are fast-paced and have a fair amount of action, my personal reason for writing is to indirectly explore questions about human nature. You know, those “life, the universe, and everything” questions, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams. As a result the most challenged part for me comes after the novel is finished when I am asked to summarize what it’s about in a couple sentences. The worst is when I’m asked to provide pithy 140 character answers the questions raised. I don’t know that I have the answers - or at least not the answers for anyone else.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
Before writing the sequel to Foreseen, I never understood why some reviewers feel the need to qualify a positive review with the fact that it’s a debut novel. Once I got started on Choices, I understood immediately. I’m thrilled with the praise Foreseen has received from professional reviewers and real readers alike, but Choices is better - or was at least a lot easier to write. In some undefinable way, I understood better what to do and how to do it. So, I would say that writing Foreseen taught me a lot. I just can’t put in words what it was.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Yes. I am now working full-time as an author. A bit of a gamble, but I will not end my life wondering what might have been if I’d fully committed myself to it.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
It’s unlikely anyone will ever pick up a novel and from a few lines say, “Terri-Lynne Smiles wrote this.” That’s not because I don’t have a style, but because my style is to be as transparent as possible. I want the reader to live the story, unaware of the words on the page.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Characters. This posed a challenge for me in learning to write a novel because my first beta readers got swept up in the characters and told me there wasn’t a problem with my plot structure, even though I knew there was. It took awhile to figure that part out.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I don’t get writer’s block much, but that is from working out a chapter by chapter outline before putting words on paper (or pixels on screen). How I get past it when it happens depends on what I am writing. With Foreseen and the Rothston Series, if I am writing from the perspective of Greg, the male lead, I lift weights. It usually works. If I am stuck on the story flow, I talk to my muse – a woman who I tell my writing problems to and find them instantly solved.
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Genre - Science, Fantasy, Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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