Interview with Terry Durbin

Our next author interview is with Terry Durbin, aka Terry D. Terry has already published two novels, and novel number three is due for publication later this year.

Terry, please tell us a little about yourself including your hobbies and interests.

I’m an opinionated geezer old enough to remember when Bic pens were new, the beach at the local lake was segregated, and you had to listen for a moment before dialing the phone (a real dial with little holes for your finger tip and everything) to be sure you didn’t interrupt a neighbor’s call on the party line. Being able to remember those simpler times (not better, not easier, just less complex) doesn’t mean I’m wise, it only means I’m old.

When I’m not working as a manager at a local factory, or writing, I like to dabble in photography, read, and, when the weather cooperates, do some backyard stargazing through my 18-inch, Newtonian reflector telescope. Sometimes I teach classes in manufacturing at a local community college. I have three children, one grandchild, and two dogs who my wife and I spoil relentlessly.

My education was in biology, and in my younger days I was an avid spelunker which explains why caves play a large part in some of my stories.

Your latest novel, Chase has been described as “a gripping suspense/thriller”. What is the novel about?

It’s about thrills and suspense, of course!

Seriously, though, Chase is about a thirteen year-old boy who is kidnapped by a desperate man and handed over to a serial killer who runs a dog-fighting operation deep in the Ozark Mountains. There, the boy (Gabriel Ryder) meets another victim—Chase—a golden retriever stolen from his home by the killer and used as a bait-dog to train his fighting animals. Together Gabriel and Chase escape into the three million acres of the Mark Twain National Forest with their captor in pursuit.

The book also follows the frantic search for Gabriel by FBI agent Noah Kreider and his Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team. Chase has a large cast of characters, and moves from small town Iowa, to the gang turf of East St. Louis, and into the Ozark wilderness. It may be the darkest ‘boy-and-his-dog’ story you will ever read.

What inspired you to write Chase?

There is a note in one of my notebooks which reads simply, ‘A boy and a dog’. That thought just popped out one day while I was making notes for another book. What intrigued me about the Grombit (I call my little bits of inspiration Grombits) was that I didn’t write ‘a boy and his dog’. What was my subconscious trying to tell me? I didn’t do anything with it for a long time, but every once in a while I would think about it and visualize this skinny kid and a big golden retriever (no mystery there, we’ve had four goldens over the years including my dear friend Jessie right now). The story never evolved beyond that initial concept until the day I was looking at that Grombit and, on an impulse, added, ‘and a serial killer’. Now I had a story. Things fell into place quickly after that.

The notes I had been making when the idea for Chase came to me were for a thriller about an FBI agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit searching for a killer. Since I already had a good grasp on that character, I decided to change his affiliation from the BAU to the CARD unit. After that all I had to do was to figure out how to bring my cast together. The rest, as they say, is history.

How did you come up with the title?

That was easy. Remember those four golden retrievers I mentioned above? Number two was the only male of the bunch, a big (130 lb.), gentle, loving guy named Chase. He was my inspiration—along with Jessie—for the title character’s physical appearance and personality. ‘Chase’ also works when you consider the FBI’s pursuit of Dalton Thorn, the killer, and Thorn’s hunt for Gabriel and Chase in the forest.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) you experienced in writing Chase?

That’s a very good question. The toughest thing about writing Chase was the decision I made to make it a realistic depiction of the world of dog fighting. While there are only a couple of fight scenes in the book they were very difficult, emotionally, to write. As I said before, I spoil my dogs and can’t imagine hurting them. Jessie was a big help at those times. During each writing session she comes down to my den and snuggles up against me for some petting. During the writing of Chase I was the one who needed the comfort.

Doing the research into dog-fighting was also unsettling. There are some very disturbing websites out there.

Did you follow a more traditional publishing route or self-publish?

I self-published Chase. I wasn’t going to. I was going to go the agent—publisher route, but the book ran too long (206,000 words after editing). It would have been useless to try and pitch it to an agent. I really tried to cut in down. I managed to remove 20,000 words, but there was no way I was going to be happy with the product if I carved out another 50,000 or 60,000.

What were the biggest challenges faced by self-publishing and how did you overcome them?

Marketing. I have a Chase page on Facebook and I have a small presence on Twitter @DurbinTerry, but it is really tough to get the word out there about a good book amid all the dross in the self-publishing world.

What social media platforms do you use to promote Chase and why?

Just Facebook and Twitter. I’m not very skilled in social media, but I have had some success with Facebook.

Authors sometimes use ‘giveaways’ or promotional offers to help promote their books, do you feel this is an effective form of marketing, and if so why?

With my first book, The Legacy of Aaron Geist, I have tried Kindle giveaways, and have had several hundred copies downloaded, but haven’t seen a corresponding up-tick in paid copies, or an increased interest in Chase as a result. I did just lower the Kindle price of Chase to $2.99 after running a one week promotion for it at $1.99. I was happy with the results of the promotion, but was also a bit puzzled. During the promo, sales of Chase in the UK out-paced US sales almost 3 to 1. I have no idea why it would be more popular in Britain; maybe there is something to the notion that Europeans have better taste than us Yanks?

Do you read reviews of your novel? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

I most certainly read the reviews, and I always pay attention to what my readers tell me. I don’t know how much influence they have over my writing, however. Stylistically perhaps. If something I did just doesn’t work for a majority of my readers I’ll work on it. But if it’s a comment about content (some folks had a hard time with the violence to dogs in Chase) I tend to ignore it. Many of my stories push the edge with content—more so in my short fiction than in novels for some reason.

Where can people buy “Chase”?

Both Chase and Legacy are available at Amazon both in print and Kindle versions. Searching for my name (Terry Durbin) will take you to both.

Both are also for sale directly from CreateSpace and in the WF Book Store.

Autographed copies are also available directly from the author (just send a PM). These also include a customized sample of my terrible handwriting!

I understand you are writing a collection of short stories, when are they due to be released?

I’m hoping to have it ready to go early this summer. I’m pulling together stories I’ve written over the past 30-plus years and refreshing them. The plan is to tie the tales together with a loose narrative similar to collections like Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. The stories will be mostly horror, but there will be other, less classifiable, pieces also. The working title is Artifacts.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’m about halfway through a sequel to Chase entitled Rose Hunter. For those who have read Chase, this book takes place a few months later and goes into Noah Kreider’s backstory in greater detail. This one has been fermenting in my head for at least a decade. So far the writing has introduced me to a character who will probably get his own book at some point. Chase did the same thing, I have an idea for a novel about an ancillary character from that book who moved into my subconscious like a lazy brother-in-law and refuses to be kicked out.

How do you decide which point-of-view to tell your stories from, and the tense?

It is seldom a conscious decision for my novels, but sometimes is for my shorter works. I place great importance on the first sentence of every story, and the way that sentence comes out usually determines the POV. Most often I write in third person limited (I love to head-hop among characters in my novels), but occasionally will work in first person. The tense is always past with the lone exception of the story I’m currently updating for Artifacts. It’s called Deena, Boogers, and Me and is told in first person present by a very disturbed ten-year-old boy.

How do you develop your characters?

I get to know my characters just like I get to know people in real life, by interacting with them as I write. I do very superficial character sketches of my main characters for my books, but most of their personality is uncovered as I write. It doesn’t take long. Sometimes I am surprised by a facet which pops up later in the book, but usually I get to know them very quickly.

If there was one piece of advice you could offer aspiring writers what would it be?

Work. At. It. Writing well doesn’t come from talking about it. It doesn’t come from studying it. It doesn’t even come from reading a lot. All those things can help to varying degrees based on each writer’s learning style, but none of them is as important as sitting at the keyboard and doing it. Try every damned technique, or method that appeals to you, but, for heaven-sake use them in a story. Don’t just play with them. Writing well is work, hard work. Respect the craft.

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I’m a little bit older than rock-n-roll. I was a sports writer for a while, and have written advertising copy as well as non-fiction articles for magazines, but my true passion is fiction.

I’ve been telling stories since my teeth were new, and have been reading them almost as long. My greatest dream as a writer is to give my readers an experience they will remember long after they close the book. If you have just one moment when you say, “Oh wow!” or “Holy crap!” or even have a good “Oh yuch!”, then I’ve done my job.

I want my books to be like an old time county fair, loud, colorful, comfortable, and fun. So buy a ticket and climb on for the ride. You may get dizzy, and the seats may be sticky, but I think you’ll want to come back for more. I promise I won’t let you down.

If you have any questions for Terry, about his books or writing in general, please do not hesitate to ask.

 

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