APKY/AMP: Hello Terry. Thanks for being with us at AuthorMeProfessionals. To kick right off, please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer. What inspired you to write your first book?
I grew up in the country in Pennsylvania. We were very poor, but there were always books around the house. That was our entertainment source. So, because my whole family read a lot, I learned to love books very early in life and what better way to imagine a future than to provide others that which I loved and which helped me to understand the world. I started writing short stories and comics when I was in fourth grade. I started my first novel in sixth grade. Now, I write every day, and love it.
APKY/AMP: A great way to look at it. So what genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
I have written in many different genres, but my favorites so far are poetry, literary/mainstream fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. In fact, I have a science fiction novel and a poetry book both coming out within the next six months. I continually write in whatever genre interests me at the time.
APKY/AMP: A very versatile writer, I’d say. That’s rare, Terry. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I believe there are many messages in every novel whether the author knows it or not. Multiple themes will find their way into a particular work. But the themes won’t be fully understood by every reader. Each reader will get what he or she needs from a particular work. If, as an author, I push too hard to make a statement, then the reader will feel as though they’ve been hit over the head.
APKY/AMP: *laughing* I’m sure I’ve committed one or two sins there myself. Anyway. what have you had published to-date?
I’ve worked with several small, independent publishers over the years, many of which have folded after only a few years in business. But, I have been lucky enough to work with Booktrope Editions, who republished all my previous novels when they chose to accept my latest work. So, to answer your question, I now have seven novels published through Booktrope Editions, and two poetry collections through two different small presses (a third poetry collection will be out soon), and one nonfiction title about how to work with small presses that is published by Pink Fish Press.
APKY/AMP: Sounds heartening. Do you have any advice for other writers, Terry?
Always. Treat your writing like a profession whether it is or not. That means write (practice) every day for several hours if possible. It means study (take classes at your local college, go to writers’ conferences, attend writing lectures, etc.) and read about writing. I keep at least one book about how to write next to my reading chair at all times. Reading how other writers work, how they structure their novels, etc. is great information. Every writer needs to continue to learn. And, finally, read, read, read. It’s your business, so you must know what your competition is doing.
APKY/AMP: I love the last one: read, read, read. Terry, tell us why we should buy your book.
The same reason you would buy any book, because it looks/sounds interesting, because you wish to learn something about yourself and the rest of the world, because you want to be entertained, and because every voice is worth listening to.
APKY/AMP: Great. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Every moment I’m awake, I meet people, correspond on facebook or twitter, interact with my employer and people I work with…it’s all marketing in one way or another. Even the cashier at my local grocery store is a potential book-buyer. But, if I look at scheduled time, it’s probably only about an hour a day. Luckily, Booktrope has assigned a marketing manager to me, Emily Duncan, who does a tremendous amount of work publicizing me and my books. That’s what a real publisher does.
APKY/AMP: Right, Emily Duncan was the lady who sent you to participate in our interview, bless her. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
I think contests and awards help with a writers ego, which may help them stay in the game, as it were. But, in a small way, contests and awards also help to sell books. I know I buy contest winners if the contest i[s] familiar with me. So, to answer your question, I’ve been a finalist in the Book of the Year contest twice, I’ve won and IPPY Award once, and The Star of Washington Award once. I’ve also won three POW! Best Book Awards, two for published novels and one as an Unpublished Novel Award (that book will be published in 2013). In poetry, I’ve won the Jeanne Voge Poetry Award, and two Chapbook Awards.
APKY/AMP: Wow. And is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
These days I typically write at my computer, which is a desktop model, so I’m in my office at home. It also has all my books and reference materials around, so it works out great. When I work on poetry, though, I typically write longhand first. I take a notebook with me at all times and tend to write a lot of poetry while hiking or while sitting late in the evening in my reading chair after the day is over.
APKY/AMP: Great habit, the notebook. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
I don’t write under a pseudonym. I’ve never thought it would make a difference. Ray Bradbury wrote in multiple genres and used his own name, why not me?
APKY/AMP: Okay. And do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Yes and no. I have an agent who has handled some of my books, but not all of them. And, it depends where you’re looking to get your books published whether you need an agent or not. Because many of my titles have been published by small presses, an agent hasn’t been necessary. But, if I were to want to publisher with a larger publisher, I’d need an agent.
APKY/AMP: They’re a rare catch these days. What are you working on at the moment / next?
At the moment, I’m working on book two in a series about Neil Altman, the main character in “Revision 7: DNA” which will be out in late September. The working title for the novel is “Backyard Aliens” and I’m really enjoying writing it. I’m also working on another collection of poetry, but that’s still a bit up in the air. I write poems and separate them into categories. When there are enough in one category, I might go through them several times, add poems or subtract poems, and then draw together a collection.
APKY/AMP: As I said, a man of many talents. Do you manage to write every day?
Yes. Every day.
APKY/AMP: Ah. Could you give us your opinion on writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
I simply don’t believe in writers block. It’s like saying speaking block. Do you ever find that you can’t talk? Of course not. Do you ever find that you don’t have an opinion? Nope. So why would one ever have writers’ block? You may write yourself into a corner and have to figure a way out, but that’s not the same as writer’s block. You can still write.
APKY/AMP: I need to talk with you about that privately, Terry. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and off you are with it?
A little of both. I usually have a lot of notes and spend a lot of time thinking about a book way before I start writing it. But, I don’t actually write out an outline. Once I get to the point where I know the characters really well and I know the general plot, I just sit down and start writing.
APKY/AMP: And do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Characters come to me as whole people, that’s what makes them believable. A whole person has likes and dislikes, good and bad habits, and generally wants the same things we all want – peace, happiness, and a fun life. Names of people tend to find their way into the storyline. The name has to fit the personality.
APKY/AMP: Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
After I’ve rewritten and edited through my novel once or twice (or poem, or short story, etc.), either my wife or my daughter (who is also a writer), goes through the manuscript to let me know if there are any places that slow down, are confusing, or if they find typos. After that, I go through it again and it’s off to a professional.
APKY/AMP: I think I’ll approach them with my works, LOL! Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
I think writing is like anything else you do. A baseball player who’s been at it a long time will have a feel for where the ball is going to go. Even grounders. Ever watch a fielder go down for a grounder and the ball makes a couple small bounces then leaps off to the side? The fielder still catches the ball, yet the brain can’t operate that fast. It’s instinct perhaps. Who knows? What I know is that the more I write (every damned day), the more often my instincts take care of those little things that used to get through and screw up my narrative or dialog. Yes. You get better. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone will like every story.
APKY/AMP: Er, erm, no idea about baseball, Terry. Somebody should make it popular in Europe. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Computer for novels. Paper for poems.
APKY/AMP: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
I’ve written in every point of view, but believe that third person is the most useful. I find the problem with many books that are written today are written in first person. Unless you have a very, very aware first person narrator, one who is terribly entertaining to listen too, the narration gets boring, or worse yet, becomes unbelievable. Let’s face it, most narrators aren’t going to notice all five senses (like they tell you to explore in most writing texts) at the same time. Once a first person narrator is in a particular predicament and they start noticing birds chirping or how someone’s dressed, I know it’s the author speaking and not the character. It takes me out of the book.
APKY/AMP: I think I know what you mean. What do you like to read?
Almost anything. I always keep several books going at once: a novel (or two), a nonfiction book, a book of poems, and a book about the writing craft. So, at the moment, here’s what I’m reading: “The Guestbook” by Andrea Hurst (she’s a friend of mine and her book is a romance), “Dreaming the Soul Back Home” by Robert Moss (He’s a great writer and this is his latest nonfiction title), “Prairie Prescription” poems by Kim Stafford (Love Kim’s poetry). I’m not at my reading chair, but I know that there are several science magazines and a copy of Poets & Writers magazine sitting there too.
APKY/AMP: Well, now that you’ve mentioned them here, how about you ask them to give us an interview too, each? :D Anyway, what do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
For a day job, I write technical and science articles. We also own six horses and a dozen chickens, so I help out with them. I like to hike, but don’t get as much time to do so as I’d like. I do some painting at times (mostly abstracts), and I will sometimes make a Native American Spirit Stick. I also enjoy meditating, and do drum journeys (conscious dreaming). I’m a level three conscious dreaming teacher, and have been awarded an Epona apprentice certificate, which means I work with horse and people in an experiential setting. My wife and I also started a school for our daughter to attend. There’s plenty more, but then isn’t everyone active in their own lives?
APKY/AMP: Right. And where can we find out about you and your work?
Besides the bio and information already given, you can go to my website, www.TerryPersun.com or my blog, www.TerryPersun.Blogspot.com or Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Google. You name it, you can probably find me.
APKY/AMP: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’d like to say thank you. It’s cool that people might want to know more about me, and I appreciate it. But, what’s most important, as you might guess, is that people buy and enjoy my novels and poetry. I would just urge anyone who picks up my novel or someone else’s to write a review (positive ones if you like the work, and no review if you don’t like the work). And if you enjoy the book, tell everyone you know, recommend it to others, that’s how books get known, through word-of-mouth. You are my best marketing person.
APKY/AMP: Thank you, Terry. I invite you to include an extract of your writing:
When you turn down the lane
and see the barn missing, you’ll know
it’s time to move out.
If it’s merely empty and falling in,
dust rising from recently fallen lumber,
perhaps a death, kept secret,
perhaps a divorce or separation.
But if the barn stands straight
with fresh paint and oiled hinges,
if flowers grow like happy geese
around it, and light lifts
one side into divine brilliance,
then all is well: a marriage,
a fiftieth wedding anniversary,
things can go on as always.
Excerpt from “Sweet Song” a historical novel about a mulatto who passes for white, right after the Civil War.
Leon sat with his skinny legs out straight and his back against the outside wall. Dim light penetrated the stained window, speckling Martha’s face, arms, and torso with light and dark, like pebbles at the bottom of a slow moving stream. The air brushed in chilly from the open door. Martha’s bare skin stood goose-pricked and tight. Martha had ordered the other children to gather wild mushrooms from just inside the woods.
Leon wiped a tear from his cheek. The verbal beating he had gotten from the other children now kept him inside. Martha wouldn’t let him go into the woods, “Lest you get a physical beating too,” she said. He rubbed his head where he had been knocked with a stick. He kept his mouth shut.
APKY/AMP: Intriguing. Thank you once again, Terry.