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At a recent book signing, I was asked if most writers suffer from depression. As I considered my response, images of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allen Poe and Ernest Hemingway flashed through my mind. I responded that one couldn’t really label a group of people based on their vocation; police officers have a higher suicide rate but we don’t automatically think that all police are depressed.
But the question remained with me long after I responded. I believe that writers see the world through a different lens than most. A good writer must be capable of feeling empathy; we must feel the anger, the hurt, the fear, the love and all the emotions in between in order to write convincingly about them. If I can’t feel it, I reason that I won’t be able to make my readers feel it, either. And without that connection, a book is empty.
Some writers can craft scenes of torture in great detail; I cannot. Years ago, I met an author whose suspense is based on real murder cases. As I read her novel, I recognized the case as one I’d read about in the paper, and the graphic detail horrified me. I can very easily place myself in any role in the book, and torture is where I draw the line. Kill me, yes; torture me, no. I’d give up anything to avoid the pain.
This carries forward to injury inflicted on a child, an animal or a helpless adult. I recently reread The Call of the Wild, and found it difficult to believe that grade school students study a book in which an animal suffers so acutely at the hands of evil people. Even though I know he will escape that life, it still troubles me.
I believe that authors will often place themselves in situations where they tell of unspeakable cruelty in order to change their world. Charles Dickens was a master at this, as was Harriet Beecher Stowe. Did the cruelty inflicted on their characters keep them awake at night? I’m certain it did. But they knew by telling the story effectively, withholding nothing, they could affect social change.
The opposite is true as well: when writing about romance, inspiration or the goodness of others, it can change the mood of the author to something lighter. If I can’t laugh out loud at an original joke, my audience won’t, either. If I am not drawn in to someone who is good, like Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind, how could anyone else connect?
Authors often must connect with multiple personalities; it’s the conflict—the good versus evil—that propels a story forward. That means in order to make the characters believable and multi-dimensional, we must be able to place ourselves in the minds and hearts of those who are charitable and loving as well as those who are wicked.
Which characters remained with you long after you finished reading a book, and why?
p.m.terrell will be awarding a Celtic Butterfly Suncatcher similar to the one mentioned in the book, symbolizing both the never-ending cycle of life and the metamorphosis of a butterfly to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
She had arranged to meet her husband in Northern Ireland for a second honeymoon, but when Charleigh arrives at the remote castle, she receives a message that he won’t be coming—and that he’s leaving her for another woman.
Stranded for the weekend by a snowstorm that has blocked all access to the castle, she finds herself three thousand miles from home in a country she knows nothing about.
She is soon joined by Sean Bracken, the great-grandson of Laird Bracken, the original owner of the castle, and she finds herself falling quickly and madly in love with him. There’s just one problem: he’s dead.
As the castle begins to come alive with secrets from centuries past, she finds herself trapped between parallel worlds. Caught up in a mass haunting, she can no longer recognize the line between the living and the dead. Now she’s discovering that her appearance there wasn’t by accident—and her life is about to change forever.
A movement caught her eye and Charleigh started, whirling around. No one was there. She laughed nervously; no doubt, it had been a bird outside the window, its reflection caught in the mirror. Still, she returned to the door. There was a simple doorknob lock which seemed woefully inept, but she quickly recognized a thick piece of wood standing against the wall as an old-fashioned bar, and slipped it into place. It was better than a deadbolt, she reasoned.
She kicked off her shoes and checked her cell phone again. Finding no reception, she returned to the window and held it aloft until a weak bar appeared.
The phone beeped, causing her to jump, as a text message appeared.
She stared at it, not realizing that she’d been holding her breath until it expelled in a whoosh that left her dizzy.
“Charleigh,” it read, “I can’t do this. I’m not in love with you. I’m in love with someone else.”
“The feckin’ arse.”
The sound of the man’s deep, rich voice startled her and she spun around. No one was there. The bar remained across the door. There were no blind spots in the room; it was circular and plainly, though tastefully, furnished. She strode purposefully to the bathroom. A set of candles blazed on the countertop and though the shadows danced in the corners of the room, she could clearly see that she was alone.
Yet she could not have imagined it. The tone had been resonant and almost gravelly, the timber of a man’s voice upon first arising. The brogue had been both commanding and melodious.
But as her heart stilled and her mind allowed the words in the message to sink in, she realized that Ethan was not coming. He perhaps had never intended to join her. And now she was stuck in Ireland as a snowstorm raged outside her windows, three thousand miles from home.
p.m.terrell is the pen name for Patricia McClelland Terrell, a multi-award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than twenty books in five genres: contemporary suspense, historical suspense, romance, computer how-to and non-fiction.
Prior to writing full-time, she founded two computer companies in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area. Among her clients were the Central Intelligence Agency, United States Secret Service, U.S. Information Agency, and Department of Defense. Her specialties were in white collar computer crimes and computer intelligence, themes that have carried forward to her suspense.
She is also the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation, an organization committed to raising public awareness of the correlation between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. She is the organizer and chairperson of Book ‘Em North Carolina, an annual event held in the real town of Lumberton, North Carolina, to raise funds to increase literacy and reduce crime. For more information on this event and the literacy campaigns funded by it, visit www.bookemnc.org.
Author’s website: www.pmterrell.com
Book Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7QYLfXSQeo
Paperback on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Thin-Slice-Heaven-p-m-terrell/dp/1935970348/
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-thin-slice-of-heaven-pm-terrell/1121480920