Terri Nolan is a Southern California gal born and raised. As a reading enthusiast, her love of words was so strong she wrote her autobiography at ten and titled it The Great Me. After that first book, she moved on to prose, sketches – acted out for her parents – and short stories. She attended the University of Texas at Arlington and earned a B.A. in Communication/Radio & Television. While still in college, she acquired her first corporate job at a Dallas radio station where she learned to write features and news copy. She later became a freelance crime reporter. Terri is the author of three thrillers and a short story featuring investigative journalist Birdie Keane. The critically acclaimed and award nominated novels include Burden of Truth, Glass Houses, and Blue Bird. Birdie made her literary debut in the short story Hobo Joe. Terri lives in Orange County, California.
- When did you start writing?
- What books shaped your youth?
- Why write mysteries?
- What writers inspire you now?
- Where do you get your ideas?
- Do you do much research?
- Do you let anybody read your drafts?
- What is your advice for an aspiring writer?
- What are your outside interests?
- What is your writing schedule?
I wrote my autobiography when I was ten. As an only child with limited TV access, I had to make my own fun. I wrote adventure stories on college ruled paper–grown-up paper–and put them in three ring binders. Poetry, articles, short stories. It wasn’t until my children were past puberty that I began to seriously consider writing as a profession.
In elementary school I couldn’t wait for the yearly book fair. I’d bring home the full color newsprint flyer and my mom and I would peruse the offerings and circle the ones I could buy. Book day was always the best day. I still have one: Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. My all-time childhood favorite was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I also enjoyed The Adventures of Mark Twain & Huckleberry Finn, and Nancy Drew. Even as a kid I was aware that my own experiences shaped the meaning of the words I read.
When I was nine I discovered some Playboy magazines at a relative’s house. I was embarrassed by the naked ladies, but I absolutely devoured the interviews. I didn’t know it then, but Playboy had extremely strict journalistic standards. At about the same time I also discovered the feature articles in Vogue. I wanted a subscription, but my mom thought the magazine was too sophisticated for me so I read them at the library. Between Playboy and Vogue I grew up reading the best.
My teenage years were filled with hardcover romance novels from my grandmother’s collection: Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, et al. And there was never a shortage of Reader’s Digest condensed books hanging around the house.
The first ones I read made an impression. I started with thrillers like The Andromeda Strain and The Day of the Jackal. Once Wambaugh started writing books, I was hooked. The New Centurions changed my life and I knew that one day I’d write police stories, too. My Uncle Larry was an LAPD officer at the same time as Wambaugh. Same rank, too. He used to tell me stories. Those tales and an active imagination sparked my interest.
Poets. To say in four words what takes me ten is a true gift. I have a tendency to be unnecessarily wordy. See? I should’ve said, “I tend to be wordy,” or “I’m wordy.” Poets are the great teachers of the English language. When I’m brain-dead I read Sam Shepard, Robert Service, Peter Taylor. Those guys reboot. I’m also a Rollins fan.
Everywhere! At the gym. On the freeway. Hiking. I read two newspapers every day because real life is full of interesting people and situations. I’m also a good sleeper with excellent dream recall. The first short story I ever published came from a dream.
Tons. The bulk of my research is acquired by meeting professionals in specific fields such as law enforcement, journalists, lawyers, medical personnel, etc… I’m lucky in that so many people are willing to let me hang out with them and answer my endless questions.
My mom and dad because they are my biggest fans and are so proud that I’m putting my imagination to work. Also my daughter. She is one of my editors and has a great eye.
First, be a reader and explore all types of fiction. Second, sit your butt in a chair and face a blank word document. Third, practice, practice, practice–words are instruments. Fourth, don’t ever give up.
Weeklong backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada’s with my family. Local hikes, spin class, Sudoku, a beach chair and a stack of magazines, a book that keeps me from writing.
My Monday thru Friday schedule:
- 4:30 – 9:00: coffee, e-mail, gym, shower, breakfast, newspapers, Sudoku.
- 9:00 – 12:00: writing. No e-mail, no phone.
- 12:00 – 1:00: e-mail, phone, lunch in front of the TV.
- 1:00 – 4:00: writing. No e-mail, no phone.
- 4:00 – 5:00: long correspondence and miscellany.
- 5:00 – 8:00: dinner, personal business, reading.
- 8:00 – 8:30: local news, bed.
Oh, who am I kidding? The above schedule is now a pipe dream since I started working again. Sigh.