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Terry has had several jobs through the years with writing being his latest. After he moved to Florida to be by family, he took up writing more seriously, and has five books published.
His latest books are cop thrillers with a Latina detective. We discuss writing characters of different backgrounds and why he chose the character he did.
We also talk about other items – like a cookbook and game – that he is working on based on his own books. Besides all of this, he wrote a kids book for his grandson.
Website and Podcast
Promo of the week
Stephen: Hey discovered word Smithers. Welcome to another episode. This is a great fun one. Uh, Terry Shepherd and I talked for a while. Chatted just had a good old time, probably, uh, got off topic a few times. We probably could’ve talked longer, uh, but we decided, Hey, maybe we really should record. And, uh, do some book talk.
Uh, Terry also has a podcast called authors on the air. Uh, he. Uh, has done a whole lot of great interviews with some great folks. So I’ll put a link in for everybody to go check that podcast out. See what you think is Terry and the guests. But speaking of podcasts, I have a couple other friends that do a podcast, uh, and I’d like you to hear from them, uh, and go check their podcast out.
So Christine and JP take it away.
[00:01:48] Terry: hello? We’re JP and Christine co-host of the serial fiction show. Do you like to read or write serial fiction and want to learn more? We have two podcasts, the reader serial fiction show and the writer serial fiction show on the reader podcast. We escape into a new cereal each week. Then interview the author to tell us more.
On the writer serial fiction show, we break the serial episode down with the author and talk craft, upping our serial fiction game together. Come get lost in serial fiction and meet some amazing authors along the way to get you reading and writing serial fiction. So hop on over to serial fiction, show.com and check it out.
We hope to see you there.
[00:02:39] Stephen: All right, so go check their podcast out. It is great fun. They’re good people. And now here’s Terry. It sounds good. All right, Lynn, we’ll get started and we’ll just roll today. Discovered wordsmith podcast. I’ve got Terry Shepherd with me, Terry, how you doing today,
[00:02:55] Terry: Stephen? It’s great to see you. I love your show.
Thanks for having
[00:02:59] Stephen: me on cool long time listener. First time being honored. I listen all the time, myself. Uh,
[00:03:09] Terry: so that’s how you learn really podcasting. I love the fact that being a podcast host, we get to talk to the people we always want to do, and they’ll actually take her.
[00:03:17] Stephen: So before we go into, uh, a book part of it, the writing, let’s talk about your background.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Cause off-air haha. We were just talking and you used to have a different job that you moved and you just mentioned podcasting. So it sounds like there’s a whole lot that you do. So tell us a little bit about.
[00:03:37] Terry: This is actually my sixth reinvention, Steve and I started out thinking I wanted to be a broadcaster or a own radio station.
So that’s what I went to college to do paid my way through, by being a disc jockey, learned all the chops about how an introvert like me could be an extrovert realized very quickly that radio wasn’t, where it was at, got into telecommunications management, did that for much of my career with a five-year entrepreneurial stint in the middle.
One of my companies was sold. So I got.com rich for a while. And opened up five different companies, a record company and overseas radio broadcast, or network a, um, aircraft leasing company, a web design company, and a.com. So I did that for five years, got back in the corporate world as a turnaround guy. I decided that the thing that was really my joy was helping people who had lost their mojo.
Find it again. So I did that for a number of years. I did a lot of alumni relations work for about eight years and then came back to. In the spring of 2018, really not knowing what I wanted to do next. And I have a wonderful psychiatrist who says, you’ve always been worried about making money and taking care of your family.
You don’t have to worry about that anymore. What would bring you joy? And I always love writing. I have five non-fiction books out some self-help books that I wrote under my birth name. And he said, why don’t you try fiction? So that’s what happened. And I wanted to do the same thing, Steven, that I had done in my work world, which was, um, I was always a big proponent of opportunity for the disaffected.
So I loved it when I could give women and minorities a chance to become leaders and grow in their careers and have opportunities that prejudice and other things might not make possible. So when I was thinking about what I want to do. That’s how I came up with Jess, Jessica Ramirez. I’m a white guy writing a Latino woman.
[00:05:29] Stephen: Wow. Okay. Now, okay. That was a, that’s a bold thing to say a bold choice right there, because if someone’s reading that going, wait a minute, I’m reading a white guy. I can see people being offended by that. Why choose that? That we’re not, who’s read the script. Let’s just go with this.
[00:05:48] Terry: Very thoughtfully and totally on purpose Stephen, because you hear a lot of people say that they don’t like it when somebody expropriated another culture. Right. I looked at it a completely different way. What I wanted to do was I wanted to celebrate differences and I wanted to celebrate different cultures, different lifestyle choices, and the best way for me to do it as an author is to reach research at the same way.
I researched cops and that’s to immerse myself. In the culture in the lifestyle to understand the people. There’s no way that any of us can be anybody, but who we are. I can’t you and I have the same, um, racial background, but I don’t know you as, as the individual you are, unless I walk your path with you and ask you the questions and try and understand your story.
And that’s what I did for each of the main characters they’re based on real people, just as based on a very good friend of mine, who is a Latina today. And she experienced a ton of prejudice and really tough times during her 25 year career. Because back then when she started, it was still very much a misogynistic male dominated culture.
Unfortunately, it still is. And a lot of that still happens today. But what I wanted to show was I wanted to show a Tracy, who’s the real life counterpart for Jess. I wanted to show her resiliency and how she never, ever lost her compassion for humanity and her desire to serve. So that’s just a strength and it’s a flaw just as sidekick is LGBT.
I have a whole world of friends in that space. Married couples that my wife and I just love who are fantastic parents. I wanted to celebrate that too. And then my best friend, he, his son is on the autism spectrum. So I made my medical examiner on the spectrum to explore what those people think act, look like and talk to a number of them.
I asked a lot of complicated questions. I was able to decipher. That break, that there is sometimes on the social side of being able to communicate. And it turns out the joy price and book number one of the Jessica Ramirez series gets the most mail. Everybody loves him. Everybody wants to be him. And the greatest feeling that I’ve ever had is when I get an email from somebody who’s on the spectrum and said, until I’d read that book, I didn’t believe that I could be a doctor that I might be able to be a medical examiner, that I could be a hero.
And that’s my goal. So I’m a white guy. That really wants to understand differences better, to be a better person, to be more inclusive and to celebrate those things. So hopefully people will read the Vega book and Jason, the captain will want to grow up to be like the people that star on those books, realizing that they can be.
[00:08:39] Stephen: Yeah, that’s super awesome. And you have some built in people to read it and give you the feedback and help you in and models to model your characters after. So you’re not just doing this off the top of your head that, oh, I can fool people.
[00:08:55] Terry: Yeah. No authenticity and accuracy is I think really important in every author’s journey, whatever it is.
You spend a lot of time in that space. And I was very lucky starting from a young age to be able to ride along with cops on their jobs and watch them do their thing for a number of years. So I have a ton of friends that are in law enforcement at every level from street cops, to police chiefs, to members of the secret service CIA FBI.
So I had all these great technical consultants that would say. Your FBI guy wouldn’t do that. Or this person wouldn’t do that. This is a Glock does not have a safety on it. That kind of, I want to get that level of accuracy. So when I write the books, what I do is I actually call the people that are in the location.
So the first book takes place largely in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the grand canyon. So I got to know the sheriff out there because there is a character who plays the sheriff of Coconino county. I got to know. I got to know the Rangers that take care of the grand canyon. Cause I wanted to understand how they did their jobs.
So the procedural part would be right. But the interesting things to even that happens, and maybe you’ve felt this too in your world is that you get to understand their motivation for why they want to do the job. And everybody has, it’s all a little different. There’s some cops that get stuck because the money starts to get good and they can’t easily switch.
And those are the ones that kind of get burned out more quickly. But most of the police officers that I’ve met, I really have a heart for making the community a better place. And they would much rather not arrest you. They would rather not give you the ticket, but they do want you to understand what the meaning is of whatever it is that you might’ve done that could either be unsafe or put you in harm’s way or hurt somebody else.
And that’s the kind of police officer. I try to celebrate it. My.
[00:10:44] Stephen: Okay. Wow. There we go. That tells us everything we need. It’s been great talking to you. So this is a book series that you’ve done. How many books are in the series?
[00:10:52] Terry: And this is number two, chasing the captain, which just came out is the second book in this series.
Just three point. Oh, if everything goes as planned, we’ll come out on January 1st. I have two more books fleshed out after that. I don’t know if I’ll write them at all. Depends on what I want to do. The thing that’s been interesting about this is that the characters leads you down. Different pathways. For example, in chasing the captain, I gave a cameo to one of my friends who has muscular dystrophy and lives life in a wheelchair.
I made him the deputy director of . He was only going to have one scene, but it turned out that his character was so powerful that he became a star. So there’s all kinds of opportunities for spin-offs. It’s just the question of where I want to go right in my life, Stephen, where I want to do it on. And if I ever get bored with Jess, I’ll go somewhere.
[00:11:41] Stephen: Yeah, change, change, personas. Again. The
[00:11:44] Terry: thing is it’s, that’s so fascinating about this, is it really? Isn’t the stories that people fall in love with it’s the characters. I agree. Yeah. People ask me about, like, I have one scene in chasing Vega where there’s a dinner scene and people were saying, what else would Jess’s family want it?
So one of the things that we’re working on is a Jessica Ramirez cookbook with authentic Mexican cuisine from my, the people that were part of my research team for this who actually lived that. I don’t know if we’re going to get that done. The goal is to try and have it ready for Christmas. I don’t know if we’ll make that deadline, but that’s one thing.
Another thing that I want to do is I want to create a police procedural game. I don’t know whether it’s going to be a video game or a board game or a car game, but I want to teach kids how they can use, but at least procedures to solve mysteries, to solve crimes and understand actually how it happens, because one of the goals of the book.
Is to try and inspire more women and minorities to want to become police officers, to want to join law enforcement. I think if we can do that, some of the problems that we’re experiencing right now with the minority of people that are bad, cops will
[00:12:53] Stephen: get, I agree, unfortunately, a lot of this stuff and social commentary, but a lot of this stuff take some time, but you still have to be working on it.
Uh, not an overnight change, uh, but there is change. We’ve seen it in our life a lot. I just, maybe it’s just my age talking more than when, as an idealistic 20 year old.
[00:13:17] Terry: Yeah. That with seasoning comes wisdom and it’s not always happy stuff. There’s some sad, but the sad stuff is often the things that become the learning opportunities for you.
[00:13:28] Stephen: the point we can take away from this is. Our writing even fiction writing has that power to help make that change. And are your books going to suddenly change the world overnight in every way we want? No, but it’s part of that puzzle, part of that piece and the more people that get out there and write about the women and the Latin American community, the LGBT community, or any of these other demographics.
Uh, whatever color your skin is, if you feel like you’re downtrodden, this is what you can do. This is how you let your voice be heard. I’m totally a hundred percent back, but behind this and love that. And I hope more people get that
[00:14:13] Terry: message. And the really cool thing is that. Whatever, whoever you are, you can write a great story.
It doesn’t have to be about downtown and it can be just a fantastical story. If you look at some of the great voices today of color, Sean Cosby, his stuff is fantastic. I think he’s going to become a literary giant of our generation. Rachel Howes, L hall, Ray, James. There’s. This there’s so many men and women of color out there that are writing.
Really great fiction. Great thrillers, great detective stories that you would, if you closed your eyes and didn’t know who they were, you’d want to read them. And I think that’s the ultimate goal for all of us. Authors is for people to be able to separate out. From our work and maybe our brand name is associated with one thing and that’s excellence.
[00:14:58] Stephen: I absolutely agree. I’m not a hundred percent correct. And I know this and I know this isn’t the ultimate answer, but the longer we focus on the problem and look at the problem, the longer the problem’s going to be there, when we start forgetting and ignoring the problem and it’s just life and people and the story.
Then it’s more accepted. We’ve got this new star Trek series discovery, which has a black female captain, and it didn’t even phase me. I didn’t even think about it because. Saifai and fantasy people, man, we we’ve had women and minorities and every race because we’re all from earth. That’s star Trek, it’s all from her.
It doesn’t matter. And that’s just been my thought. And it honestly, when I came to the realization on my car, not everybody thinks that way. It was an eye opener for me, because it just never occurred to me that. People didn’t think that way, but star Trek didn’t focus on the fact that a Sulu was Asian American or just Asian.
There was no real American. It was just the backend Meritage. They didn’t focus on it. He just was the best.
[00:16:11] Terry: Yeah. And that’s when you look at the star Trek is a great metaphor because they had a lot of firsts. When you think about Michelle Nichols, first African-American woman in a lead role. First black, white kiss was on, on that show.
But go back before that and remember the company that actually put the money behind star Trek was led by Lucille ball. Absolutely. The groundbreaking in humor. The first really. Uh, superstar on television. That was a woman who built a business empire around it. Desi Lu as it were Playhouse, star Trek, untouchables I’m think was another one that they did.
They didn’t hesitate from, from taking chances and as. That evolution started. So the question is how can we, as authors contribute to that model, that before good
[00:17:01] Stephen: books write great stories, that’s that during the pandemic I had, somebody asked me, how can you be focused and concentrating on writing fiction stories when we’re in this.
And for a minute, I was like, oh yeah, that’s not helping solve a problem. And I’m like, wait a second. It is, people need that escape. They need something different. They it’s the power of the pen. It’s all cliche here today. So it really is something that can make a difference in the world.
[00:17:31] Terry: Absolutely well, and you’ve, you really hit on an important point, Steven, and that is that we are all right now.
Looking for things to give us hope, looking for things to feel good about and a great popcorn adventure, which I hope my stories are, is an escape. You can spend six, seven hours reading that thing cover to cover, and the good guys are going to win. It’s just the, how they do it. And I think it’s, that’s the reason that Ted lasso has done so well on TV.
That story is the feel good thing. Right. We’re three or four years ago. It might not have had the impact that it has right now, because it was the right thing in the right place at the right time. And that’s, I think what our dream is as any kind of creators of art is that our art resonates with a significant enough audience to make it.
[00:18:22] Stephen: agree. Of course. Now I’ve got this problem with this podcast because I is this my book discussion episode or the author talk episode. So let me ask though, you mentioned you also did some kids books. Tell us about those.
[00:18:38] Terry: This is, this is how life happens when you don’t expect it. I was focused on, on Jess and on her story and how, and learning how to write in that job.
And one of the things that I do that we down here now, as I go pick up my grandson from school, and one day he says, you can always pick me up from school, grandpa, do you have a job? And I said, yeah, I’m an author. I write books, you know that. And he says, would you write one and make Juliet? And me the stars.
And then the pandemic came and the questions from them. What do we do? I’m scared. I don’t know what to do to protect myself from this thing. I know people that are dying. What do I do? I decided that I was going to channel the best learning voice that I knew from my childhood, which was Dr. Seuss. And that I would connect with the centers for disease control and ask them what are the messages that children should know?
And of course it was a masking. Hand-washing how to blow your nose, social distancing, and to understand, to be able to explain the science of vaccines in a way that kids could understand. And that’s how Juliet and the mystery bug came about the mystery bug series. It started out as one book, which was all about that.
Hudson gets sick and Juliet wants to understand why, and they learn about cleanliness. How about how to wash your hands. And that was at the time something we were teaching. Juliette came to us with down syndrome. She’s enjoying life on the scenic route. She’s doing things that are on pace and we were trying to teach her how to wash your hands.
And so that was part of the first mystery bug book. I wrote one copy for them. It was illustrated by my son-in-law’s a fantastic graphic designer and illustrator. And as happens, sometimes the neighbors wanted one, so I made another, and then the teacher wanted one. So. And then before I knew it, I had a BookBaby print and hardcovers and Amazon print and soft covers.
And now there’s, they’re all put together and what we call the mystery bug, the complete collection, which has all three of the major stories in one volume. And that is being shopped around Washington DC. Right now I’m trying to get it in front of Pfizer and Madonna it’s in doctor’s offices everywhere, and I never planned it.
Steven, it was never. But it was my attempt to try and make knowledge accessible to my grandkids. So they wouldn’t be afraid because knowledge is power. And to understand how science works, right? People are always asking in one, wait a minute. They were saying before, we shouldn’t be doing this, but now they’re saying we can, and things are changing.
Why is that? Let’s because we learn from science things change. You get more knowledge. What we thought we might back in the old days. You wouldn’t believe in your cough, sir, is the goal to try to create something that would actually make it easier for kids. And, and the interesting, the only complaint I get from parents is that like Dr.
Seuss, the kids fall in love with the poetry and they want to hear it again. And so the parents will say to me, I love the book. My kids understand everything we’ve made our homemade masks. But can you please write something else? So I don’t have to read that one to that much.
[00:21:53] Stephen: Well, that’s a really rough problem for you there.
Could you write something else for us to get from you? Yeah.
[00:22:00] Terry: That’s that, that is a cursive success. Is it? That’s wonderful that I hear from authors is that they only have the capacity to write so much. And like Don Winslow, for example, writes one a year. And I was at a conference in London and I was sitting the front row to watch him speak.
And there were a bunch of ladies sitting with me and I’m thinking, wow, okay, female authors I’m Brighton a female protagonist. So I asked them what they wrote and they said, oh, we don’t know. We’re here because we want to see Don Winslow and he doesn’t give us enough. So what do you write? Do you write niche genre,
[00:22:33] Stephen: but their hand on your leg or something?
You need to get a shirt, something. Author and grandpa, or when I’m not creating worlds, I’m with my grandchildren, something, you need a really good shirt.
[00:22:48] Terry: You know, what happens to the whole world becomes your record. Everything. My wife can’t stand going to the restaurant with me cause I’ll get locked into some dialogue.
That’s going next in the table. And she says you’re taking notes for Jess aren’t so that all the time.
[00:23:04] Stephen: Oh yeah. Yeah. In fact that my wife gave me a character idea the other day and I’m like, okay, I got to find somewhere. I write fantasy. So most my characters that get changed, they’re not real-world type people.
[00:23:16] Terry: That’s what I love about fantasy. It’s Trent, it’s transformational. You get to go beyond what you think your limitations are and literally transform into. A different world, a different place, different culture, a different character. I think that’s the popular popularity of avatar, right? Same thing. And we like that.
It’s just, it’s a fascinating John rhe and I’m so glad you’re writing it. There’s not enough good stuff coming out in that space right
[00:23:39] Stephen: now. And I write middle grade. So I’m targeting the middle school kids because I think kids love. When they get good stuff. This is an argument. Not every kid may like Harper Lee, if that’s crazy enough, not every kid may like Jane Austin or, but they’re like, this is what you’re reading too bad.
And then they’re like, why I hate reading. Why do you hate reading? Because you’re not reading anything you enjoy.
[00:24:07] Terry: That’s the secret of Twilight zone, right? When you think about what rod Serling was doing back in the sixties, Yeah, he was talking about really heavy duty cultural issues that we did not want to talk about, but you’re wrapping around fantasy and science fiction, the Harper Lee stuff, put that in a graphic.
[00:24:25] Stephen: Yeah, the Odyssey, the Iliad. I know several kids that read that whole thing and graphic novel. And I’m like, have you ever checked out the real book? They’re like, no, this is, I love this.
[00:24:34] Terry: When the time’s right there, we’ll put them in. That was the advice that I’m sure you’re getting this advice to. If you’re right in two genres, like I do, you have to be very careful about what you’re saying in your older kids, or go look for them and you want to make sure that your audience can grow into what you wrote next.
I remember reading CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid. And then when I got older, I picked up Screwtape letters and bland REIA and some of that other stuff that he wrote inside. And I didn’t get, it gave me Azlan I felt betrayed, but when I got older, I understood it and I really
[00:25:10] Stephen: liked it, which is a argument of why use different pseudonyms author names.
I was at this conference over the weekend. And I know everybody says, oh, readers want the same thing. They sh you know, so don’t write different. And that never clicked with me because I’m like, I read so much and it’s all over the place. And I feel like writing this, I feel like writing that, but the way it was like change to explain to me was it’s a brand and a product.
So when people feel like, uh, Popcorn drama. They’re going to think Jess and pick that up. So when they, the new book comes out, that’s what they want. It’s not that they don’t want to read horror or Spotify, but that when they pick up that bag of popcorn, that says, Jess wrote the. They want the certain brand in there and I’m like, oh my gosh, that makes so much more sense to me now.
And so I get it a lot better now. Yeah.
[00:26:10] Terry: I can tell you a lot of authors that I know, and some that you would see on the New York times bestseller list do have secondary pseudonyms. I, one of the things I do I also do is I narrate books of my broadcast background. And a lot of my colleagues will have. Two different or three different narrator pen names, depending upon the genre.
If they’re reading thrillers, they’re reading as one person. If they’re reading, you know, love stories, it’s another, and their fans who like both will say, wait a minute, Andy, aren’t you a, the same one I heard on this thing. And she goes, they’re not, they don’t hide it. A good, a great example. I don’t know if you read Carrie Shaffer or Kerrianne Clark, but they are the same person.
They just write in two different genres. Very good. In both spaces. What happens is the audience knows. Okay. This Carrie is writing about this. But if they want to take it, you get it because she’s so open about it. She’s getting some spillover and that’s the ultimate cool thing. When you can introduce somebody to a genre that they didn’t know about before,
[00:27:08] Stephen: that’s exactly what this other author said is you don’t have to hide these different other names.
You can put them all on the same website. In fact, they recommended you do that. Tell the people, look, if you like, Saifai read this author. Fantasy read this author. You like crop prime, dramas, read this other author. It’s all me, but this is the product you’re buying off the shelf this time. And then they might go.
But if they think they’re getting fantasy, but they get the cop drama, then they get a sour taste. That’s not what I bought and it turns them off. So I’m like, okay, now it makes sense to me. I get
[00:27:42] Terry: it. And here’s the thing that I learned about writing. Genres wrap around the mechanics, right? And every good story has some of the same things in common.
Your other guests have said, Todd said this much better than I will, but there was always, there always has to be something in every chapter where you learn something about the character, where there is some hand grenade that’s thrown at their comfortable unreality or wherever they happen to be where things get worse.
And there needs to be either character growth. Or a cliffhanger at the end that makes you want to turn to the next page. So whatever the genre is now that I’m into this. And I do this as a journeyman, I can read any genre, but I’m always looking for, okay. Yep. There, we’ve learned something about the character that there’s the growth.
Okay. They reveal the there’s the flaw red herring. I see the red Erik. Oh. And here comes the hand grenade and that’s what is really cool. I think as a reader, you don’t know that stuff, but you do. You love the creativity of how the box people into the corner and how they have to figure their way back.
That’s what you feel
[00:28:45] Stephen: about it. Yeah, absolutely. Hey, I don’t think we mentioned where do you reside because you have that wonderful background from the fifth floor.
[00:28:56] Terry: We live in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s not the place I would have necessarily chosen. I was born and raised in Michigan. And so I’m, I love the forest.
I love, I love being outside. I ideal place to live would be we lived in a lot of places because I was as a corporate guy, we moved everywhere. And our favorite place we lived was Albuquerque perky, New Mexico, Colorado, probably Denver would be where I would want to land. But we got, we are where the kids are and our kids are 10 minutes from us.
We’re able to help them. We’re in the golden years with our grandchildren and we wouldn’t be anywhere else. So Jacksonville, Florida.
[00:29:31] Stephen: Nice. Yeah, I agree. Albuquerque is gorgeous. Beautiful. I even with the weather, I would maybe live in Maine. Just, it’s a beautiful state.
[00:29:40] Terry: Maine’s beautiful. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s the other thing is, you know, when I, when I get the hankering for some place, I’ll put it in a story so I can go up there and do research.
[00:29:50] Stephen: Yes, absolutely. I totally agree. Maybe I need to write a story. Maybe I need to do like piers Anthony did and do a fantasy set in like Florida, but zap in Florida,
[00:30:03] Terry: you could do that. And that’s the, this is, and this is the other thing is that you always got to have an ear to your. And I dunno how this happened.
And one of the things that Seth Goden told me was if you start promoting a year before you actually do something, I didn’t have that much time. But one of the first things I did when I created Jessica was I gave her a Twitter handle. So she is on Twitter as a DET, Jess Ramirez, and she’s got thousands of fans.
People that love her. She posts, um, her personality is set, so she’s always posting the today in bad judgment. So she’ll show those men, many videos of people slipping and falling because they’re doing something stupid or there’s the, one of her, one of her series is the, do it yourself, vasectomy clinic or men that are trying to be macho all over the fence or something like that, some reason.
And I still can’t figure this out. They love her in great Britain. And that’s why. Two thirds of the story is in London because her cop friends over there keep asking her, we want to see you. We don’t want to see shepherd. We want to see you. And why don’t you put us in your story? We want to work besides you in London or in the UK.
So we did that with the second book she has, she picks up a temporary partner with the met in London, who is of a mixed race, south African Zulu, and Scottish fathers is a loud. Yeah, that’s
[00:31:25] Terry: interesting combo. I like, oh my gosh, he has a Scottish accent, but she’s grew up in Johannesburg. So when one of the worst cities, I did not go to Johannesburg to research, I have a very good friend.
Who’s an author who told me everything I wanted to know about South Africa, but then. No totally audience driven. So the balance of really trying to listen to what your readers want it to be able to give it to them in a way that’s fun and exciting. There actually is a Jessica Ramirez tour in London, all the places that she goes to, there are real places.
The London eye, that big Ferris wheel seeing their Bellmarsh prison. She visits somebody in Belmarsh. There are two pubs that she goes to one of the strand and one. Brought their height, I think is where the other one is, but they’re real places you can go in there and order what she ordered off the menu.
And there’s actually a guy who I know who will take you there if you want to see all these places. So that’s part of it too, as you’re thinking about the character, if you want, when I used to go to Oxford in the summertime, I always went to the place which doubled for the Harry Potter, where they did all of the meetings.
Uh, because I wanted to understand how that’s, how J K got that idea in her mind. And that’s part of, I think what really is important if you’re going to write is you gotta be able to immerse yourself in the research. You have to have experienced some of these things on your own, or know somebody who has had the visceral experiences to be able to tell the tale
[00:32:53] Stephen: a couple like little lessons just in everything you were just saying that first of all, We do live in a much smaller world.
So it’s not just the, the country you live in. There’s so many countries and so many people want some of these books. You probably, would’ve never, if you hadn’t paid attention, you might’ve missed that. You have a whole contingent of people in great Britain that love your stories. And that’s not what you might think.
Plus. You listened to them. So you want to talk about writing the market. There you go. You get feedback and this is what I’m doing now. So there you go. Oh,
[00:33:30] Terry: well, yeah, I do hear from people in the states and say, when are you going to write a story where Jess actually works in her home jurisdiction? Cause she’ll be there briefly.
We get just a taste of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. So one of the books that I am working on is an, is a biography, an autobiography that just tells in her own voice of her actual experience, becoming a. And that’s totally based on Tracy. So everything Tracy has told me about her entire path from being a probee to becoming a detective and ultimately detective Lieutenant, I’m going to tell those stories there primarily because a lot of those did not have happy if you were a minority or a female.
Yeah. And part of what, the thing that initially pointed me in the direction of writing this is that I could take some of those stories and there is one in Vega. That’s a, that’s an actual thing that happened at. That I took all the way up to the point where the bad ending happened. And then I had her become victorious and that turned out to be that’s.
I get a lot of email about that scenario because they love the way it ended. They loved the way that her boss, the copper was her boss who was not a really good cop, got his comeuppance. They think. And that’s part of what we’re looking for. I think it’s part of the formula. If you’re baking the cake, you’ve got to bake some of that in there.
[00:34:50] Stephen: That’s pretty awesome. Now what’s your friend. Think of being the inspiration for this character.
[00:34:55] Terry: She thinks that Jessica has too much emotion and Jessica, when you read the story, Jessica is a very compartmentalized cop. She’s very much like Tracy and that she is purpose and value driven. And some of the decisions that Jessica makes that are bad decisions because she allows her heart to overtake her.
And that’s one thing Tracy would never do. Tracy is very good at compartmentalization. She assesses everything, ice cold. And I sometimes wonder, I tell her, I said, you need to cry sometimes. And she says, you don’t cry when you’re a cop. You don’t do that. They do, because I’ve been with them when they have, I
[00:35:30] Stephen: could not do
[00:35:31] Terry: that’s what keeps them alive.
They gotta be able to express those emotions someplace, but Tracy’s found this way. To be able to do it compartmentalize in a healthy way. So she thinks Jess is too soft, but I told her no one is going to like Jess, if she’s a hard ass, like you are all the time. So she’s got to have a heart
[00:35:48] Stephen: to how tall is your friend?
[00:35:51] Terry: Same size five, seven
[00:35:55] Stephen: over tall, but not super short.
[00:35:59] Terry: And she’s very, she’s very feminine. She’s she can dress up. Like she, isn’t a cop. She can make herself whatever. I think that’s probably from our years of being undercover, as you can do all that, but I’ve seen her giving speeches and stuff to the minority community and in public as an advocate for seniors.
Cause she that’s one of the things he feels very powerful, powerfully about is senior citizen. And she can look like she would never, you’d never think she was a cop, but inside that brand, It’s interesting when you drive with her. Cause she’ll even when we’re not, when she’s not, when she wasn’t on duty, we’d be driving around.
And she said that there’s drugs in that car. She would, you know, she’d say that’s exactly where they are. See that hubcap there, they’re in there. And I would sometimes say, okay, let’s stop them and see.
[00:36:49] Stephen: I want to see, I need to write this down. Tell me, excuse me. Wait, so guy leaning up against the hood right now.
What are you thinking? You know what, how’s this affecting you.
[00:37:04] Terry: Police are trained to smell that stuff. And
[00:37:08] Stephen: it’s a habit then
[00:37:10] Terry: it’s part of the art, right? It’s when you think about the best musicians that can really just build these, they have this sixth sense for how music and lyrics. The construction of symphonic type pieces.
When I think about my favorite Beatles album, Abbey road, you can let that thing track from one side to the other earth, wind and fire. I am another one you can do that dark side of the moon, right? Those guys that’s part of who they are and in the cop world, some of the greatest cause they sniff that out, but they also have the gift of being a psychologist and a social worker.
They don’t want to arrest you. And even if they don’t forget your humanity and what we see on TV, Is the 1% that are not, it shouldn’t be in uniform. And sadly, just like the many minority communities, their pictures are painted across a broader spectrum by the activities of a few. So part of what I try and do in Jessica stories is to portray cops as they really are their humanity, their professionalism, and their dedication, their, the true dedication, the heart, they bring it to their craft and that’s.
The most rewarding thing for me is to, when I hear from my fellow people, that the friends that are in law enforcement, that I got it right. Or even when they tell me I got it wrong, they’re there, they’re gentle about it. I know that they’re paying attention. And I know that they ultimately feel that what I’m doing is going to shine a better light on them, a light on their profession.
[00:38:38] Stephen: And I love that. So I usually ask, would you rather have this as a movie or a TV show, but I’m going to guess this would make a better TV show, right? What you just said, but focusing on her as a person and the cop is almost secondary. What we were saying earlier about don’t focus on the problems, focus on just the character and stuff and get past the problems.
This would be the perfect vehicle for that. A cop TV. That’s more focused on this Latino woman. That’s a mother, a friend, that’s the living her life. She just happens to put on a uniform every now and then and bust a bad guy. And
[00:39:16] Terry: that’s the interesting thing is that, that we, there are so many commonalities we share.
If you spend any time in a typical, and that’s what, what I’m doing is I’m reducing it to a stereotype, but a typical Latino home, very likely to be Catholic. Very spiritual, very family oriented traditions are important. Deals are a family. That’s where a lot of this stuff gets discussed in some traditional Hispanic households.
The man is still, it’s like watching my big fat Greek wedding. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck and the head. That’s a great line because that film, but that’s what I try and do is I try and plug in enough of those commonalities that people would remember from their own experiences. So they’d say, yeah.
I, I have, I might not be my family, but I had an uncle and his family was exactly like, but there, but we all have those. We all have, we all express our traditions and the things that are important to us about life in the same way. And that’s why you see a lot of these reboots, you can overlay the same storylines, a great Stanley Kubrick thing.
Every shot has been shot. Every story has been told. Judy Collins said every song has been written. Our responsibility is. Is to rewrite those in our own voice for a new audience. So it resonates with them and maybe Harper Lee doesn’t. But that story should, so some, at some point, somebody on a write that maybe you Stephen write it as a fantasy.
How would that Harper he’s a
[00:40:43] Stephen: fantasy. Wow. Put me on the spot on that one,
[00:40:47] Terry: but think about it. It’s the star Trek pilot, right? There is some Harper Lee in that
[00:40:51] Stephen: story. Yeah, and you’re right. They, what they say, there’s 36, depending on where you get the info. There’s 36 plots and just reusing it
[00:41:02] Terry: for your own fun, with his
[00:41:03] Stephen: great writing these books, who are some of your favorite authors in books?
[00:41:09] Terry: Wow. See, this is the thing. When I started out, I had a set, but now that I’m in. I have it. My, my faves have expanded. I came in when I started this, I made a list of my top four favorite authors and I wrote to each of them, I wrote him a fan letter. I said, I’m going to be turning 65. I think I want to write for a living.
I’m not a fan. I’m not a stalker, but would you tell me one thing, piece of advice that you would give somebody starting off writing and to a person. And there’s people like Dan brown, James Patterson, Megan Abbott, Alison Liotta. They all responded with long, helpful emails. Patterson gave me an outline. One of his books.
He says, I’m not a pantser, I’m an outliner. Here’s one on the, here’s an outline. They were all incredibly helpful. And then what, the other thing that I found that I really love, and maybe this is the secret thing too, is that our community is so unclear. We share the love for the genre. And we shared the love for the craft.
And there is so much demand out there and never enough content. It’s like a bag of potato chips, one bag of potato chips in a football stadium. There’s no way you can satisfy everybody with one person. So there’s not really competition between us. So we all help each other. And that’s where guys like Lee Goldberg came in and legal Berg is a guy who has written television script, Spencer for hire monk.
He’s been involved with those two hits. He writes a mate, this style of plotting and storytelling is what I try to copy. It’s fast, it’s popcorn and it’s cinematic. You can see the shots and the scenes and stuff happened that way. But I also, I’m also really fascinated by the depth that a Megan Abbott brings when her show, I think it was Jeremy, it was made into a series.
She was at, she got to be a showrunner for that. And she was telling me what that was like, talk about jumping outside your comfort zone. And then the guys that are in other meetings. I’m a big Jeff Johns fan. Jeff Johns people that don’t know is the king of comic books. We became buddies because, you know, I went to the same university and he is the nicest guy you would ever meet.
And so he brought Aqua man back. He became friends with Richard Donner and basically drove the DC universe for a long time. And it’s amazing things with, I look to him and I look at the way that he tells stories visually. And I try and imagine, especially when I get stuck, I try and imagine what would happen if I was writing this as a screenplay or as a graphic novel and Jeff John’s kind of stuff.
And that’s where the BR the blockage opens up and things start to happen.
[00:43:42] Stephen: Wow. Okay.