Do you prefer Milk chocolate or Dark? The darker the better.
Coffee or tea? Neither one—I drink hot chocolate or vanilla cappuccino.
Vodka or tequila? Neither one again. But I love spiced rum.
Romance or a Thriller? Romance, definitely!
Mystery or Horror? Mystery. Horror frightens me.
Did you always want to be an author?
I discovered that I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade when the school principal encouraged me to write. It was liberating and it set me on a lifetime path of writing.
What authors had an impact on you growing up and as an adult?
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made me want to be a writer of suspense. I never seriously considered writing non-fiction but I loved the style in which he wrote the true story of the Clutter family murders. In my teens I read Deborah and the Many Faces of Love by Davenat C; I loved the book and hated the title. It took place against the backdrop of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I’s adversarial relationship. I found the history of Scotland and England and particularly of these two cousins fascinating and I felt pulled into a world I’d known nothing about.
Lately, I’ve become a big fan of Erin Quinn. Her Mists of Ireland series reminds me why I fell in love with reading. They transport me to a different world, a different time. I love the way she writes and how she can turn a phrase.
Since beginning a series, I’ve also been influenced by Robert B. Parker, particularly his Jesse Stone series. Though the series deals with murders and crimes, it’s as much about the personalities of the main characters and their inner struggles and demons.
Did anyone in your life influence you or encouraged you to be a writer?
My 4th grade school principal first introduced writing to me and my earliest attempts were in poetry and short stories. My 8th grade English teacher further encouraged me and made me believe that I was actually good at it. Without the influence of these two women, I doubt that I would ever have written anything at all.
What is your writing atmosphere like?
I have two places where I love to write. One is in my office behind my desk. The window in front of me opens to a small garden below filled with crepe myrtle, butterflies and hummingbirds. When the house is empty, I enjoy writing in the living room, where I am surrounded by aquariums filled with beautiful angelfish. Both areas are serene and calming so I suppose it’s surprising that I write fast-paced and frightening suspense there!
What is your favorite aspect of writing? Your Least Favorite?
My favorite part of writing is feeling the characters come alive under my fingertips; seeing their words jump off the page at me; and getting to know them as intimately as houseguests.
My least favorite is the pressure placed on authors to sell their own books. Every bit of promotion and marketing takes me away from writing my next book and I long for the day when I can hire someone to help me with the ever-increasing marketing demands so I can do what I love to do—write.
The current book you’re promoting is:
Secrets of a Dangerous Woman. It’s my 14th release and the 3rd book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series.
How did you come up with the story line?
For a while it seemed like every time I turned on the television or opened a newspaper, I was being bombarded with reports of politicians doing things they shouldn’t be doing—whether it was posting a nude photograph on Twitter or Facebook, using money inappropriately, or lying when the truth could easily be found out. It was always something.
The main character in the first book of the series is a computer hacker who prefers to be on the wrong side of the law. So I thought it would make perfect sense for her to use her hacking skills to find the dirt on as many national politicians as she could and then sell the information to the highest bidder. The plot of Secrets of a Dangerous Woman was born!
I don’t believe in touting my personal politics so parties are never mentioned in the book. In fact, Brenda (the computer hacker) doesn’t care what their politics are. She’ll get the dirt on anybody!
How do you choose your characters names?
I use websites that give meanings and backgrounds, whether they’re given names or surnames. The series takes place in an area with a large population of Scottish immigrants and one of the main characters is Irish, so I looked for names with a UK connection.
I have also found when I want to pull a reader closer to a character, they need a nickname. One of the main characters is Vicki Boyd—not Victoria, or it would put space between the reader and the character. When I want to keep the reader at arm’s length from a character, I use a more formal name.
One of the characters in the book is Sam Mazzoli, the CIA head of the psychic spy program. I patterned him after Robert DeNiro’s Mafia characters. He’s the kind of guy who can fix you with his eyes once and you know you’re not ever going to try and cross him. But in a twist, Vicki finds out his real name – Shirley A. Mazzoli. Of course, no one would ever dare call this intimidating man “Shirley” so he goes by his initials – Sam.
In Secrets of a Dangerous Woman, Dylan Maguire is back in his first assignment with the CIA: to interrogate recently captured Brenda Carnegie. But when she escapes again, it's obvious she's had help from within the CIA's own ranks. With Vicki Boyd's assistance, Brenda is back in Dylan's custody. And now he must find out why some in the highest levels of our government want her dead while others are willing to risk everything to help her. And when he discovers Brenda's real identity, his mission has just become very personal.
Dylan and Sam stood in the wide, hushed hallway as they observed the interrogation room through the one-way mirror. Inside was a metal table in the center of the room with empty chairs on one side. Against the far wall was a counter that ran the length of the room, comprised of a sink and cabinets above and below the stainless steel countertop.
But it was the single chair on one side of the table, the side closest to Dylan and Sam that riveted their attention. The metal chair was arranged so they viewed the occupant from the side. The ankles were cuffed to the slat at the bottom of the chair while each wrist was cuffed to the chair arms. Thick copper hair hung in waves that reached to the person’s waist and obscured the face.
“That’s a woman,” Dylan said.
“Very observant,” Sam replied.
Sam crossed his arms in front of him. “Not this one. She’s not even close to breaking.”
“What’s ‘er name?”
“Ah, a Scottish name…What is it you want me to do with ‘er?”
“Keep her awake, for starters.” He glanced at him. “It should be good practice for you. Use some of those interrogation techniques they taught you.”
“She’s got blood on ‘er.”
“You got a medical bag, do you?”
“I’m sure we can round one up.”
“What is it you want to know?”
“Who she works for,” Sam said as he picked up a handset beside the one-way mirror.
p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 16 books, including Vicki's Key, a 2012 International Book Awards finalist, and River Passage, 2010 Best Fiction & Drama winner.
She is the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation whose slogan is "Buy a Book and Stop a Crook" and the co-chair of Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference & Book Fair. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.
Other Links: www.pmterrell.blogspot.com - Twitter: @pmterrell - Facebook: Patricia M. Terrell
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