Today I am happy to welcome a new writer friend, Terry Conrad to my Creekside Café on this rainy day. It is so good to have you here.
Terry: It’s good to be here. I loved living in the Raleigh area and have many fond memories of my time in NC.
Sherri: I’m on my way to Raleigh for the North Carolina Book Festival. Are you from North Carolina?
Terry: I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but have moved around a bit since having left home for college. I lived in Florida while completing my undergraduate degree, then moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina while getting my first Master’s degree, and then moved to Atlanta when my wife’s job relocated her. We’ve been living here now for 18 years.
Sherri: I love Atlanta but it’s a little too busy for this country girl. I lived in Columbus, Georgia for a while but that was many years ago and I have a son who lives in Ohio now. I hope to visit soon.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have another occupation as well?
Terry: I’m a Senior Manager Accountant now, having recently switch careers from being an auditor for the State of Georgia. Prior to that I was a middle school guidance counselor and a high school Assistant Principal. When my days of working for the State are over, I will probably spend my retirement writing more.
Sherri: Now I find that interesting, you are analytical as well as creative. Your novels follow this path as well, do they not?
Terry: To a certain extent they do. I am a fan of and write suspense and/or action fiction, and the creative side of me comes out when I try to write stories that are as unique as possible. Nearly everything under the sun has probably been written at some point, but I try to put my unique twist on it, if it has. The analytical side of me is evident in the way I approach my writing, which is very structured in nature.
Sherri: Tell us about your books.
Terry: My third book, The Idealist, having just been released in January this year. It is a political thriller, which given all that is going on in politics these days, fits perfectly with what most Americans are thinking about at this time. It is about someone who figures out a way to remove corruption from government, only to find that those in power aren’t willing to give it up so easily.
My first book, Illusion of Grandeur, was published in 2011 and was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award (top 250 out of the original 10,000 entries). It is about a cult that is attempting to bring about the end of the world, and the PI and cult specialist that attempt to stop them.
My second book, Fugue, is a psychological thriller. A fugue state is similar to a mix between amnesia and multiple-personality disorder. Someone in a fugue state forgets who they are, and reinvents themselves as another person, usually moving to another place in the process. They live as a completely different person until they begin to remember who they really are. In my book, a person in a fugue state is believed to be a serial killer and is being chased by a rogue policeman and the father of the latest missing victim. Since he’s in a fugue state, he doesn’t think he is a serial killer, but as he begins to recover his memory, he begins to wonder whether or not he is who they think he is. It’s only at the end, when he fully recovers his memory, that the truth is revealed.
Sherri: All three sound like books I’d love to read. I’ll will have to check them out. I’m a suspense writer as well and find I like a faster paced, action-filled book more often than something that is more leisurely paced. Who do you like to read?
Terry: I have read quite a bit of James Patterson novels, and I am a big fan of Lee Child (Jack Reacher). Additionally, I’ve read the series that led to the TV show Dexter (by Jeff Lindsay) and the Stieg Larsson/David Lagercrantz novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.).
Sherri: We have similar tastes in books and television shows.
Who or what has most influenced your own work?
Terry: My writing style is probably most influenced by James Patterson. My books are fast paced with lots of action/suspense, and generally have shorter chapters. I would also say that my editor and long-time friend, Jay Waitkus, has played a role in helping shape my writing as well. He is a journalist and a published author as well.
Sherri: Tell me about your writing journey. How did you get published? Are you traditionally published?
Terry: I have been published by Elizabeth River Press, a very small, up-and-coming indie publisher.
Like many aspiring writers, I wanted to be published by a traditional publishing company, and I wrote letters to various publishers in the Writer’s Market, a large volume with thousands of publishers listed in it. Unfortunately, none of them were interested in my first novel.
Eventually Elizabeth River Press came around, however, and it is a small publishing company that helps good writers get published. ERP decided to publish my first book and has published my other two books as well.
Probably the best feeling in the world came shortly after my second book was published. I was back in school getting another degree so I could change careers, and we had a class in Washington DC. I was able to go to the Library of Congress and confirm that both of my books were in there.
That’s when I realized that it didn’t really matter to me whether the big publishers had picked my book or not. I may never sell the amount of books that someone like James Patterson does, but my stories are out there just like his are, and that’s enough for me.
Sherri: I feel the same way, Terry. While I might want to be the next James Patterson or Nora Roberts, I’m okay with being Sherri Hollister and just having my books out there for people to read. I love to write and no matter how many books I sell I will continue to write.
So, tell me, what is one of your favorite things about being a writer?
Terry: For me, it’s about getting to express myself creatively. I don’t generally have many outlets for it, but with writing I do. There are lots of great book ideas floating around in my brain – it feels good to get them on paper and share them with others.
Sherri: Like any job, even one we love, there is always a downside, what is the worst thing about being a writer?
Terry: The editing process can at times be a bit grueling. It certainly was with my latest book and took a long time to get through for various reasons. I despise making mistakes/typos, but unfortunately sometimes they still happen no matter how careful you try to be in not making them. This does imitate life though – not everything will go perfectly, no matter how hard you may plan and work at it. It’s about doing the best you can and improving as you go.
Sherri: I agree, the editing can be rough and finding people you trust who will tell you the truth but not crush your spirit is important.
With that revelation, would you be willing to bare all and tell us your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I know for me, when I read the authors I love, I think, oh they just sat down and wrote an amazing story. They didn’t have to do all of this learning and fixing I’ve had to do.
Terry: I’d say one of my strengths would be creating suspense and ending a chapter in such a way as to get the reader to want to read on. I’d like to hope I’m good at keeping my reader guessing about what is going to happen next as well. I’d say that my weakness might be character development. Since I write more of a commercial style of fiction, it is harder to do, but I am working on it.
Sherri: You mentioned your wife, how long have you two been together?
Terry: I’ve been married to my wife Dawn for 16+ years and we’ve been together for over 18 years. We live just outside of Atlanta with our dog Boomer.
Sherri: Does your wife support your writing? How long have you been writing?
Terry: Yes, she’s very supportive and is always the first person to read my book other than the editor and maybe publisher. She also helps me catch things that I or my editor may have missed.
Technically speaking, I’ve been writing since I was in the 5th grade, so about 36 years. Back then I was a fan of the Hardy Boys Mysteries, and my short 40-page books reflected that, with non-stop action. They were the Stephen Chase Mysteries. I took a long break though before writing again, as my focus became my academics. I started writing again as an adult about 10 years ago and have written when my busy schedule allows.
Sherri: How do you juggle work, writing and a social life?
Terry: I work a schedule that gives me every other Friday off, and that is generally when I will do my writing. Sometimes on the weekends I will as well, but it depends on whether I have other plans or not. Weekends are generally when we get together with friends, so I usually don’t write much on the weekends, but if I do it would be earlier in the day. It can be difficult to find time to write sometimes with my hectic schedule – more than half of the year I’m working close to 50-55 hours a week and don’t have time to write at all. It’s during the “slower time of year” that I try to plan and do my writing.
Sherri: Do you have any other hobbies or interests? Do these show up in your stories?
Terry: My main hobby/interest would be sports. I used to play soccer when I was a kid and as an adult, have refereed and coached it as well, and now I just attend and watch. I am a founding member and season-ticket holder of Atlanta United FC. To this point they haven’t showed up in any of my books, but possibly one day.
Sherri: What are your future writing plans?
Terry: Soon I will be starting on my fourth book, which is a sequel to the first book, Illusion of Grandeur. Tentatively, it is called, Numbers Game, and will involve the return of the cult and its numerologist leader as they work with a group of domestic terrorists to accomplish their plan of death and destruction.
Sherri: Terry, it has been so nice to meet you. I look forward to reading your books and to seeing what happens next in your career.
Thank you for joining me at Creekside Café and a special thank you to your publisher for suggesting we get together.
Check out Terry’s links below for his books and social media.
TerryConradAuthor – https://www.facebook.com/IofGbook/
New Day Party (related to my 3rd book) – https://www.facebook.com/NewDayParty/