I first “met” Terry on an online authors group for one of our publishers. And we have something else in common — we both retired from Florida to Colorado.
Now I have high hopes of meeting Terry face-to-face one of these days, maybe at one of the Colorado writers’ conferences.
Here’s what Terry has to say about her own path to publication.
How I Traded Needlepoint for Writing.
The second-most often question I get asked when I tell people I’m a writer is, “How long have you been writing?” (The first is, “Have I heard of you?”) Other authors spout off their histories of wanting to write since before they could talk, or how they wrote their first manuscript in crayon. My answer: “About six years.” I was a card-carrying AARP member before I considered writing anything.
From there, it’s, “How did you get started writing?” The short answer? I ran out of room on my walls for needlepoint and had to find another creative outlet. But the real answer is, “By mistake.”
I never had any dreams of being a writer. Creative writing classes weren’t my forte. I knew all the rules of grammar, got A’s in English, but I was a reader. I devoured books. I read anything, from comic books to cereal boxes. My parents tell everyone that we moved when I was 12 because I finished the library. I made up stories, but they were in my head. I never thought about writing one down. They were usually daydreams, or continuations of books I’d read, or stories about characters on television. The closest I came to writing was two pages of a story I’d had running around in my head. But the actual typing was a total drag. Punctuation mattered. You had to start sentences with capital letters. There were quotation marks to deal with. All that use of the ‘shift’ key was a nuisance.
Years later, my son was visiting. He, as all men are wont to do, was “watching” television by flipping the remote. He stopped on a show. “This one’s cool,” he said. “It’s all about these guys who can’t die unless you cut off their heads.”
My son went back home. Being a good mother, I decided to watch the show so we’d have something “cool” to talk about. I found “Highlander” in the listings, set the recorder, and watched an episode. Okay, I’m not proud. Watching Adrian Paul was no hardship. But the show also raised questions about what these Immortals could and couldn’t do, and I got curious. I discovered the world of fan fiction. I found an author whose voice resonated with me (although I had no clue it was her ‘voice’ back then) and read all her stories.
Then, one day, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to write a story. The beauty of fan fiction is that your world and your characters are all there. You can work on the skills of the craft in small increments. I cranked out my little story—actually, sweated it out, because it still didn’t come easy, what with getting all those quotation marks in the right place—and bravely sent it to the writer I’d befriended.
I’m sure she got a good laugh, but she came back with advice and comments. What the heck was POV?
I accepted the challenge. She had immeasurable patience, and when I finally had her approval that it was done, she insisted I post it to one of the Highland fan fiction forums. I got positive feedback, and like any good puppy, kept trying to please. (Had I known then how low the bar was for positive feedback, I might not have kept going, but since I didn’t, I did.)
Eventually, I thought I’d try writing some original fiction, just to see if I could. I recall an exercise, where we were supposed to write a “hook” in under 200 words. I sent mine in, and got lots of “Wow, what happens next?” comments. How the heck did I know? So, I kept writing. 143,000 words later, the first draft of Finding Sarah was finished, and I’d hooked up with a local, in person, critique group who drove me to consider the “get it published” side of the writing craft.
Much later, I was talking with my son. I asked him a Highlander-related question. His reply. “Oh, I never actually watched the show. I just thought it was a cool concept.”
And that’s how I became a writer by mistake. I don’t think I’ll go back to needlepoint.
My latest release is a romantic suspense, Nowhere to Hide, from The Wild Rose Press. It began as a spin-off to Finding Sarah, but was revamped as a stand alone. There’s a story behind that one, but it will have to wait.
Thanks so much for being here today, Terry. The transition from needlepoint to writing is novel. I enjoyed reading how you tumbled into this new adventure by accident, and I wish you continued success.
Terry Odell is the author of five published romantic suspense novels, and an assortment of contemporary romance short stories. You can learn more about her and her writing at her website and her blog, Terry’s Place. Watch for her new novel from Five Star Expressions, Where Danger Hides, in 2011.