Interview with Author Terry Tyler

aa a a The House of YorkI said before that there might be one more author interview, and there is, and what a whopper to go out on. Today I give you, the truly fantastic, utterly prolific author, huge supporter of fellow writers, Zodiac queen and twitter mogul Terry Tyler. I am genuinely honoured to host her and her recent book release The House Of York. You can find Terry on: Twitter, Blog or Amazon.

12030283_885861258156152_6523872875282767003_oWhat are you currently writing/working on?

I’m very pleased with myself because today I wrote the first draft of the prologue of the new novel, which is called ‘Elodie’, and is the sequel to ‘The House of York’. I’ve also written the basic chapter plan for the first 8 chapters.

When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?

I don’t know! Sometimes they arrive in my head fully formed, with name and appearance attached, other times I modify them as they grow. Honestly, Sacha, this is a really hard question to answer. For many of them, I think about what character I need to make the plot work best, and take it from there. But even then that isn’t exactly how it happens. I think I’ll stick with my first answer; I don’t know.

There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?

Undoubtedly, after writing about 20 character filled novels! In the ones I’ve published on Amazon there is a little of me in many of them. Perhaps it’s best not to say which ones. Not Elodie, by the way, for anyone who has read The House of York!

How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?

Character interview sheets??? I’ve never heard of doing that! I’m sorry to be so vague, but I really find this hard to answer because they just… are. Oh dear, I’m not very good at this, am I?! They grow as I write them, and sometimes I realise that a personality has changed slightly, so I have to go back and amend earlier passages. I hate lack of continuity in characters. I often find that they mature in my head as they get older, which is reflected in how they think/speak, and the decisions they make.

Are you a planner, or free writer?

A bit of both. I plan the basic story out for pace and continuity, and each night when I finish writing I make notes for the next bit. I get loads of ideas as I go along, though, which are incorporated.

When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?

Scribbled notes, and the basic outline which is in the same document as I’m working on. My most recent novel had a lot of characters and took place over 20 years, so I wrote a chart out of all the years and all the characters, with their dates of birth, with who was doing what when in each little box, so I wouldn’t forget exactly how old someone was, or if they’d finished their ‘A’ Levels and should be at college, or whatever.

Has your technique changed over time?

No, apart from the bit about writing notes for the next day when I finish each evening. That really helps, because I have an appalling memory.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?

No. If I did, I’d have 10 books on the ‘to-be-written list’, instead of 5. I groan inwardly when I think of another book I desperately want to write.

What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc.

At my desk in silence, whenever I can.

Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?

As it’s the first one you’ve written, I’ll go back to the very first one I wrote, 22 years ago, and think about what I learned from that. 1. Decide when you’re going to write that day, or the next day, whatever, then sit down and do so. Repeat until it’s finished. 2. Don’t confuse reading it through and changing the odd word for redrafting. 3. Make sure you know where it’s going so you don’t write a load of stuff that you’re going to have to cut later. 4. Write from the heart, not what you think sounds good. 5. Don’t try to emulate anyone else’s style.

The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?

I wonder if reading is perhaps too slow an entertainment for a lot of people these days, but yes – good point. Kindles and Kindle apps bridge the gap

50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have such a book going mainstream?  

I find it sad that readers these days seem less likely to be able to tell when a book is badly written, but then TV shows like The X Factor and Take Me Out are hugely popular too; perhaps they’re badly written fiction of television. I think it’s a reflection of lowering standards in the use of the English language, generally. My 13 year old niece had to pick up her teacher for saying it was okay to say that she ‘would of’ done something instead of ‘would have’. If teachers don’t understand the language and parts of speech, what hope have children? I haven’t read 50 Shades so I can’t comment about its merit, or lack of.

If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?

All of them.

Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?

I self-publish. I have submitted to literary agents with a view to trad pub in the past, and had some interest, but only if I’d re-written the book to fit in with what publishers were currently looking for. When I first started writing the only self-pub option was vanity publishing; Kindles didn’t exist. The opportunity to self-publish arose during the time I was writing, so I took it and am not tempted to deviate right now. Getting trad pubbed is so, so hard, and I’m not interested in going with an independent publisher or small press, I’ve heard such horror stories. Of course there are some good ones (and you get paperbacks!), but a writer saying ‘my publisher’ is no guarantee of quality in these days when anyone can set themself up as a publishing company. I’ve read some books published by indie presses which, frankly, need several more redrafts and a good edit. At least when you’re self-published you can make your own decisions about the whole process.

What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?

If I answered this in its entirety, I’d still be sitting here in an hour! So, so much. It’s hard to take the right amount of information in, though; these days, some new writers amass so much of it that they don’t trust their own judgement about anything. When I started writing there was no social media and online writer and blogger community; I just wrote. On my own, and showed what I did to a few friends. Then I wrote another. When I wanted to submit them, I bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook and did what it said.

What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?

See the bits of advice in the question a bit further up! Apart from that, if you must join a writers’ critique group, online or in real life, choose it carefully. So many people have their own agenda. I joined an online operation about five years ago. I thought they wanted genuine constructive opinions, but it turned out they all just wanted to hear how brilliant they were. If you want to know if you’ve got any talent, show what you’ve done to someone you can trust to give you an honest opinion. Once you’ve published, don’t get into the swapping of reviews with other writers, either officially or unofficially. Only read and review stuff you want to. 

Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?

I don’t know enough about it to comment, it’s not something that interests me; I don’t think I’m even sure what it is.

I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?

Just writing. I’m pretty creative when it comes to excuses for not doing housework, too.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Ha ha, I answered this in an interview yesterday! I haven’t a clue, really; if my life had taken a different path, other opportunities might have presented themselves that I have no way of imagining now. A fabulously talented actress. A travel journalist. An MI5 agent. None of which are remotely likely, whichever path my life had taken.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t. I’ve never thought, ‘I want to be a writer’. I just started writing novels one day, found that I loved it and was quite good at it, so I carried on.

What authors do you admire, and why?

*rolls up sleeves to embark upon long list*

Historical – Norah Lofts, Phillipa Gregory, Deborah Swift, Carol Hedges, William Savage, Susan Howatch, April Taylor, John Boyne, because reading their books is like a magical look into another world.

Contemporary fiction – Douglas Kennedy, Mark Barry, Robert Leigh, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Deborah Moggach, Davina Blake, Emily Barr, because there is no finer escapism!

I’ll stop there, the list would get too long. Tons more, though.

***

Author Bio

Terry Tyler has just published her 11th book on Amazon, complex family drama The House Of York. She spends a daft amount of time on Twitter and being bloggy with the blogging community, reads until her eyes feel like sandpaper and loves serial killers, zombie apocalypses, humanity destroying pandemics, gangsters, history and South Park. And Aerosmith. And ice cream.

50 comments

  1. Great interview, with some good advice and insight into the life of an indie writer. Thanks Sacha. I am a fan of Terry’s books and can recommend them as very enjoyable reads. Plus if you ever need advice on Twitter, She’s your gal.

    1. I know right, she’s so prolific she is such an inspiration to me, one day I hope to have that many books. And as for her Twitter base it blows my mind! Wish I could do that. ?

      1. Ha ha, Sacha – people have often said to me, how on earth did you manage to write so many books? My answer – I started a lot of years ago!!! It helps if you don’t go out to work, have no social life and couldn’t give a stuff about the House Beautiful, though.

  2. Loved this brilliant interview as I have been a fan of Terry’s for some time now. She comes up with good books and great advice (or the other way around!) and must be a lovely person to know personally…

  3. Well, what a crackin’ interview!! Really enjoyed it! Great questions, extremely interesting, informative answers and good advice! It’s even more obvious from my reading this just how shamefully disorganised I am. My OH even formulated a rota to help me stay focused with my daily writings an’ stuff…but the only bit I really stick to is the bit that reads ‘break for lunch’! Thanks for the tips, Terry…I’ll have another go at being disciplined…but that’ll be later ‘cos it’s lunch time now… 🙂 x

    1. Thanks, Deborah – now you’ve made me feel the need to go through all the other interviews and see what everyone else said!!!

  4. This was a fantastic interview. I loved the answer Terry gave to your question, “What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists….” Her answer was more in-depth and well thought out than most.

    1. Thank you, Michelle – I really appreciate that. I so often see stock replies to this ~ ‘Never give up’ or ‘Believe in yourself’ or ‘Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it’. That’s all very well, and may be inspirational to some, but I prefer to be a tad more practical! I do think these things out… I try to think about what really will be useful. Thank you!

  5. What a totally brilliant interview Sacha and Terry – I love the answer to the character one as this is exactly how I have worked so far but I’m planning on being a bit more organised with my next book – haha – and let’s see how well that goes 🙂 Well done guys, really enjoyed this, many thanks 🙂 And good luck with finishing your novel Sacha.

    1. Thanks, Georgia. The character chart was solely for continuity – I kept writing and thinking, hang on, is Tommy supposed to be still at college or did he finish last year????? So I stopped, and made the chart. Only took an hour or so but proved so useful, and ditto for the sequel because I’ve forgotten how old everyone is supposed to be!

  6. My favourite part of this was the “Character Interview sheets?????” hahaha! You’re so on my page, Terry. I’ve been advised to do them. I can’t. I just can’t. I tried, but it feels just so contrived. The more I read from you, Terry on this whole writing process, the more I believe I can do it if I just trust my own instincts a bit more and pick out the sensible advice not the parts I roll my eyes at!

    Great interview, Sacha with searching questions on writing. Good stuff. I’ll have to check out the others in this series. 🙂

    1. That’s what I think about things like that, Joanne! I mean, your character is either going to ‘come across’ or he’s not, and if he doesn’t, character interview sheets won’t help. The other day I saw something called a ‘character interaction chart’ – whoever was using it had consulted it and deduced that there was not enough conflict between two of her characters, so she was about to add some, presumably. I mean, WTF???? If you can’t see this sort of thing without some handy little writing aid, perhaps you need to find another hobby, right???!! Talk about ‘writing by numbers’!! It’s a bit like the writer who once told me that she did a special edit to inject the humour bits into her chick lit novel. Again, WTF??? Presumably she got them from her list of ’20 ways to add humour in chick lit’. I could go on, but I won’t….

      1. Interestingly your writing process (ie plan a little and then feel your way) is more my style too. I also subscribe to what you said about not writing stuff you might need to cut out later. In fact I’ve spent a month and a half on 4 chapters as I like to get it as perfect as I can before I move on. I’m not personally one for throwing down a first draft as quickly as possible and hang the consequences. It works for some, it doesn’t for me. I end up with too many continuity errors to fix!

        As for a character interaction chart?! *sigh. I too make notes on my characters as they develop as I go along so I don’t forget things like age, hair colour etc. But surely how they interact with another character is going to not need planning out? Where’s the fun in writing if you already know how they are going to react. I think of my characters like actors. They react off the other characters in the given circumstances. Anyway…I’m taking over Sacha’s blog here so I’ll disappear, but yes I think a certain amount of the “anyone can do it…write by numbers” approach is killing the art. Also if it turns out I can’t do it well without resorting to writing by numbers I will jack it in! (Or at least just not bother publishing. I still enjoy the process of creating regardless.) 🙂

  7. Good interview! I always enjoy hearing what other people’s writing process is like. And Terry’s little tidbit about making notes about what you plan to write the next day is golden! Took me years to figure that one out, but when I finally did, I got a lot more done and spent a lot less time floundering in front of an empty page.

    Had to chuckle, too, when Terry mentioned the “inward groan” she hears when she gets the urge to write another book. I can relate!

    ~Tui, @TuiSnider on Twitter, dropping by from #MondayBlogs

  8. *loud noise* <<<—Joanne, that's me applauding you! Especially this bit "yes I think a certain amount of the “anyone can do it…write by numbers” approach is killing the art". btw, I can tell by your blog that you CAN write in such a way that people want to read what you've written. I'm no expert, but I'd say that's fairly logical. 🙂

  9. Seems like it’s best to develop own way of doing things
    Taking tips from others that suit
    Taking motes during day is way l will go because memory could be better

    1. Sorry about the memory thing, Ken…. used to be married to someone with short term memory loss post accident, remember what it was like for him. x

  10. I’ve just realised there is an appalling error in the first question about writing tips. Should be ‘confuse… with’ or ‘mistake…. for’. Just felt the need to point that out!!!!

      1. Here!!!

        2. Don’t confuse reading it through and changing the odd word for redrafting.

        Not that it really matters that much now, I don’t suppose!

    1. Isn’t it just, Tom. I also worry that some words will lose their real spelling, as teenagers tweet ‘bcoz’, ‘thru’, etc. I find myself writing ‘tho’ in emails, sometimes….

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