“Left-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of— well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Ten books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.”
A history professor with an awesome sense of humor and equally good taste in television viewing (he chose to start the first day of the semester by discussing the Targaryen succession), Terry’s novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it.
Q. Dystopian sci-fi with dragons. Paranormal urban fantasy. Young adult fantasy. Time travel. Sword and sorcery. You are a most prolific writer. Tell us briefly—if that’s even possible—about your books. Do you have a favorite?
My favorite book is whichever one I’ve just finished. That gusty sigh you hear is me getting ready to crack my knuckles and start again, however—I have a favorite character. I love Tammy Cincotti, from the Halfway series. She makes me laugh out loud every single time I write a scene with her from the fingers guns to her hairdo to her unapologetic use of perfume. I love everything about her, right down to her weirdly intense loyalty and affinity for acid washed jeans. She’s a female version of me if I had a nuclear libido and still thought big hair was the only way to go.
Q. Do you have a new book or series in the works? How will it differ from your other novels?
I’ve got two series and five novels in the works, and they’re all over the place. One of them (out in Spring 2018) is quite a departure for me in the sense that it’s a male antihero who has a basis in truth. I read an incredibly sad story about hundreds of children being found in a grave behind an Irish orphanage, and something clicked in my head. As a father, the story made my stomach flip with rage and sadness, and I created a character who is the lone survivor of that orphanage. As he turns eighteen, he realizes that he isn’t crazy—he is hearing voices, but they’re the children who came before him in that sad, lonely place. I think it’s going to be visceral, sad, but oddly beautiful, too, because despite all of this, he’s going to survive.
Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?
VILLAINS. Oooooooo, they’re delicious to write. I lift my lip in a sneer, imagine myself glaring at someone while holding a glass of scotch, and write the most glorious insults. As a history professor, villains are everywhere—I just put them in front of my heroes, and the good news is their pride will always cause them to lose. Almost always, that is.
Q. Why did you choose to write science fiction and fantasy? What draws you to those stories?
I was a strange, dreamy kid who liked fishing, sports, and books. I was always off in my head, thinking about dragons or light speed spacecraft or long lost treasures. I think that the larger part of my brain never matured. If you ask my bride, she will confirm this.
Q. How do you write such amazing and strong female characters?
First: thank you! Second: write real people, and then make them women. That’s it. The details are things that real people experience, like Carlie’s short girl problems and morning hair, or Risa’s hatred of socks and sandals. I give them personalities based on who they are, not just what they are. Characters react, and denying that a female character may react differently is being dismissive of their reality. I’m proud of them, and can say that to me, they feel real.
Q. What’s different or unique about your stories?
I like to think that my readers feel like they’re in the moment with me. If Waleska is sad, so are you. If Aurelia kills someone who deserves it, you cheer. Their emotions are three dimensional and present. Also, waffles. We’re going to talk about waffles and pie. A lot.
Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research do you do?
45 years of rabid reading. A relentless curiosity about everything except butter beans, which are of the devil and should be removed from the planet. A Master’s Degree in History. That’s the start. The rest is filled in by a passion for simple questions, like, “What would happen if a demon went to the beach? Do Vikings like jokes? What kind of dog would be friends with a ghost?” These are the simple seeds of stories that I love to write.
Q. Which works and authors would you say influence you the most? How?
Anne McCaffrey taught me to love dragons, and the unknown. Ernest Hemingway taught me that a simple sentence can make you cry for days. Robert Frost showed me that a poem can take me there. These are just a few, but the simple truth is that writers are the sum of their experiences, shaped by the voices that have made them feel something in their heart.
Q. What is your favorite type of scene to write?
Two people, in a room, being uncomfortably honest. Think of something that makes you feel like you’re intruding—that’s where I want the reader to be.
Q. What is the hardest portion of a novel for you to write?
THE MIDDLE OH PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. The middle. It’s just so far from the beginning that I’ve forgotten things like they hair color of characters. And their gender, sometimes. And why they hate each other. So, yeah. The middle.
Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?
I was sitting up with my son (I took night shift when he was a toddler) and started writing a novel. I wrote 88,000 words with one hand while holding him, more or less. After the first sentence, I realized I had found my true voice. This is not to say it was perfect, but for the first time, it was me. I’m also responsible for some truly dreadful poetry, thus I write books now.
Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?
I don’t mind, because I’m ashamed of the idiotic errors I make. It’s like the ability to take back dumb things you’ve said. Who wouldn’t love to do that? Okay—maybe I say more dumb things than the average person, but you get my point.
Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?
History Professor, but I treat my writing as a business. I have a written plan, goals, and hit them in my third year. Candidly, the first two years made me better, the third year taught me to write efficiently. In year four, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t just love writing; I need it. I’ve never been happier, and am an author coach as well. I love working with young writers who are talented but might need a bit of guidance.
Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?
I eat, I bake, I run, I drink alarming amounts of coffee, and read. We have a lot of animals, so rescue is a big part of our lives. Our son is nine, and he’s the best thing on the planet, so the simple truth is that enjoying our family helps me get over the fact that my bride won’t let me have a giraffe. I’m not happy about this.
Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?
1. Get a great cover. 2. Get a great cover. 3. After you get a great cover, get advice from someone you trust. I’m an author coach (mostly first time novelists) and our concern is always being professional and avoiding fraud.
Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?
I don’t wear tweed. Ever. Oh, and writing from one to three in the morning while cats make biscuits on your head is hardly dignified, but it IS accurate.
Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?
When the author is more concerned about politics than a great story, I close the book and walk away. Every single time. If you’re not writing the best possible book, then I’m not devoting my time to it.
Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?
The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey. It’s the distillation of her series “The Dragonriders of Pern” and I’ve had my copy for more than thirty years. It’s part fable, part sci-fi, and just perfect to me.
Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?
Magnum, PI. Thomas Magnum was the picture of honor, and I value that. Also, he rocked Hawaiian shirts all the time, and I value that, too.
Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?
A strange film titled, “The Big Blue”. It’s about the sport of free-diving, and as a kid who grew up on the water, it’s a sort of love letter to the mystical quality of the ocean. Also, I love dolphins, so it’s almost a fantasy set in the modern era.
Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?
I travel a lot, but I must go to Africa because there’s a hotel where you can have breakfast with giraffes. I wasn’t kidding earlier; one of them is coming home in my carry-on. It’s going to happen.
Author Name: Terry Maggert
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