Q and A Tuesday
Updated: Aug 1, 2018
(Meier Writers): In what genre(s) do you write?
(Terry Hill): I mostly write in science fiction or speculative fiction. However, I do have a historical fiction novel and a documentary book documenting my experience with Hurricane Harvey.
(MW): What’s the favorite book you’ve read? (TH): I think it’s pretty much impossible for me to pick just one book. I would have to say that the books which first turned me onto seriously reading in my childhood would have to rank up there pretty high (Guardians of the Flame, and the Xanth series), if for no other reason than nostalgia.
(MW): What’s the favorite book you’ve written? (TH): I would have to agree with Laney Smith, who you had on earlier in the month and not just because she and I grew up around the same area, but it’s impossible for me to pick just one. Each one meant something different to me and what I was going through at the time, and each one took me different places during the writing. Everyone unique upon itself.
(MW): Would you pinpoint the biggest challenge you faced as an author? (TH): Getting traction for sustained sales. The current market, while wide open for Indies, is brutally slow right now.
(MW): Who has been most instrumental in your publishing career? (TH): Oh wow. I don’t think I can pick just one person. My long-time editor Todd Barselow has always done me well with quality work and affordable prices. Fellow author, Peter Cawdron, for introducing me to Samuel Peralta, the father of the Future Chronicles juggernaut series of which I was given a few opportunities to be part of over the years. Fellow author, Daniel Arthur Smith, father of The Tales of the Canyons of the Damned (think Twilight Zone stories) of which I have been honored to have a reoccurring presence in the series of volumes. And of course to my other fellow authors and beta readers that have kept me honest and helped hone my skills over the years.
(MW): Tell me your views on the dreaded Writers’ Block. (TH): Actually I very rarely ever get writer’s block, and I’ll tell you why: I’m an outliner. Be it because of my engineering background, or all of my years of making PowerPoint presentations for work, but that is how I build the architecture of my stories. I will generally outline down to the scene level with a sentence or two, and before I’m done my outline is generally around 10% of the final word count. So, when I’m not feeling particularly inspired by a scene, I jump to one that I do feel motivated to write and start pounding it out. Very few of my works have I written from start to finish and not jumped around. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but it has served me well over the years.
(MW): What keeps you away from writing? (TH): Definitely the day job keeps me from writing to the volume I’d like. I’ve been an engineer at NASA since 1997 and have worked on several flight programs and projects ranging from Space Shuttle navigation instrument development, to Shuttle tile repair technology, to exploration space suit development, to deputy program manager of the astronaut health program, to lead of the information systems of NASA’s human clinical and research.
(MW): What are common traps new writers should avoid? (TH): I have beta read for a large number of new authors over the years and I would say the two most frequent traps are: too much detail, and not embracing natural dialogue. Unless you are a savant like Sherlock Holms, you do not notice every single detail of every object in a room when you enter it. Depending on the situation at hand, you will only notice a small subset of things and details. New writers tend to think their characters, and by extension the reader, all have the astute perception of Holms, and thus spend a lot of time and word count explaining things that really have nothing to do with the story or moves along the plot. The second trap: new authors resist embracing natural dialogue. They either go crazy crafting dialogue of which no one would ever say in conversation, or they write largely in narrative and avoid dialogue at all costs, which results in a story that is not terribly interesting to me. I generally try to have one third narrative and two thirds dialogue.
(MW): We'll learn more about Terry on his next time in the rotation.