Several years ago, I met a lady with a kind smile who offered helpful words of wisdom during a Joplin Writers’ Guild meeting. After knowing her and growing to respect her for a while, I signed up for a class she was teaching at our local technology center. It was called Writing for Publication, and it changed the way I thought about my writing.
If you are looking for good clean love stories, I highly recommend Terry’s Durant series of romance novels. They’re sweet, well written, and are sure to touch your heart. Here are the links to that series of books: Lessons of the Heart, Matters of the Heart, Treasures of the Heart.
To say Terry is a novelist who has taught me a great deal is an understatement. She has become a good friend and inspiration to me. That’s why I’m thrilled and honored to present Ozarks Maven’s Author Spotlight on Terry Zahniser McDermid. You can check out her website here: https://tessamcdermid.com/.
Please enjoy this interview with Terry Zahniser McDermid.
Question: What kinds of writing do you enjoy? What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
Answer: Fiction and story writing are my favorites, creating a world with characters and their lives. But I also like writing nonfiction: articles of something that’s interested me on a travel and lessons that are used in church classes and school classrooms. Currently, I’ve been putting together a workbook based on a writing course I offer.
I like that initial phase of putting words on a blank piece of paper or screen. Coming up with the possibilities that can become a story or article. Then, after that phase is over (which often includes the ‘muddle,’ when I’m stuck for a while and have to slog on), I like editing. When I can finally hone the ideas into something that works for the readers. My first draft used to be pretty bare-boned and I like going in and adding details and feelings that weren’t in the original draft. The more I’ve written, the more I flesh out scenes as I write but I still like that process of tightening a scene by taking out a few words or sentences or adding in a detail that brings it to life. I also like watching for ideas that could work in a story or an article.
Question: When did you start writing?
Answer: My mom always said that I was telling stories as soon as I could talk and she wondered if even before but she didn’t understand my babble. I remember telling my little sister stories at bedtime and we had a running series that I would add to each night. I often wrote stories for school projects and would send my grandma stories in letters. A play I wrote in eighth grade was performed for our classmates, and I wrote several others in high school that were used for church and classes. (Wish I had copies. They disappeared in the moves.)
Question: To what or whom do you attribute your love of reading and writing stories?
Answer: We always had books and magazines around our house and books were common gifts from all of my relatives. My aunt gave me a book of mythology when I was in 4th grade that was a favorite and I still have it. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Woods, told me one day that I could be a writer, which is the first time I thought of that as something I could do. Until then, I believed books and magazines came down from Mount Olympus, written by the gods – remember I was into mythology at that time! From that moment on, I was writing ideas and stories all the time.
Question: What are some jobs that you have held? How have your past experiences impacted your writing?
Answer: We traveled a lot while I was growing up and moved to several US locations because of my dad’s job as a minister. I don’t know if I was born to it or grew into it, but I’ve been more an observer each time we’d end up somewhere new. Books and my stories were a way to adjust to finding a new place. Plus my dad was really big on us learning about our new location. He also made sure we saw the US and before I graduated high school, we’d been to all 48 contiguous states, a tiny bit of Canada and the Cayman Islands (part of his territory).
Most of my jobs involve people and I collected stories of them, writing about them in my journals or storing them up in my head. I was a babysitter from early on and did that through college and early marriage – my husband and I were sought after as a couple to watch kids (people would let us do our laundry there and feed us!). I worked in our college bookstore (where I discovered authors through pulling the books for English classes), grocery cashier, and a check printing shop, just to name a few. Due to my writing needs, I taught myself to type on my mom’s college typewriter, and that led that to secretarial jobs and freelance typing jobs as I was going to college and later helping during my husband’s graduate degrees. Teaching is my love and joy, and I taught elementary school for years, both upper grades and later kindergarten. They gave me access to books by children’s authors I might not have read otherwise, and I also found other ideas through our activities. Most of my books and short stories include teachers or schools in some fashion. My first published book was centered around a college student finishing her last class before her teaching job – and the professor who makes things a little difficult.
Question: What inspires you?
Answer: People. As I said, I love collecting stories. The way people live their lives, the things that they’ve done, the way they’ve survived sometimes insurmountable things. I also believe that my writing is a gift, and I don’t want to squander it. I’m also fascinated by how things work, the wonder of the world around us, and the adventure of life.
Question: What made you decide to write about the subjects or themes of your books?
Answer: I didn’t realize I had a theme until I’d written a few books. I’m not sure it’s always a conscious decision (I or other authors make – I did not like that English class question about an author’s theme. I didn’t always get the correct theme and still feel there can be many, depending on what the reader brings to the story. But I digress . . . a common situation for me. Thank goodness for editing time!!). Often, I bring in a desire to belong, finding a place to call home. I think that comes from my moving around so much. Unlike Dorothy, I didn’t have one particular location. Instead, I found that my roots traveled with me, and I was home with those I love. Which is probably why I write stories of love and romance – I believe in happy endings that are usually beginnings . . . with a lot of work to get there and the promise of more to come!
Answer: Too many to write about before my life time is over! I tend to find interesting people or locations and then want to write about them. Some end up in stories, some lead to lessons I write for school or church materials. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and I have notebooks filled with thoughts and possibilities. As I tell people who offer me new ideas, I could live to be 150 and not use all of my ideas . . . and new ones keep appearing every day. Currently, I’m teaching “Writing Your Life Story” classes and I’m fascinated by the seniors I meet and the lives they’ve lived. History is coming alive, both the big mainstage events we learned about in school and the day-to-day lives of these women and men.
Question: What is the most difficult part of writing?
Answer: For me, it’s getting that first draft written. I have all these ideas tumbling around in my head, and I can’t get them down on paper fast enough – or the way they sound in my brain!
Question: Who are some of your favorite authors and why do you enjoy their work?
Answer: Again, so many! Early on, I read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. The way they used words and the ideas of writing in the first two still connect with me and I used aspects of them in my teaching days. A favorite book that I share in writing classes is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – the belief that all of us are co-creators and need to hone our talents. For pleasure reading, I go to Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, Julia Quinn, and other romance writers that I’ve met (both in person and through their books). I love to see how they put words together to draw us into their stories and their characters.
Question: What writing advice did you find most useful when you were honing your craft?
Answer: WRITE! Put your fanny in the seat and write. Nobody can ever read a story that’s in your head – even though that lends itself to a futuristic plot line! Nobody needs to read anything until you’re ready so get the words on paper. And then . . . send it out!! Take a chance and see what happens. Nobody can read a manuscript that’s in your drawer (or in your computer files).
Question: Do you have any new work just released or coming out soon?
Answer: I’m working on a new series idea. I started book 1 and realized I needed a prequel, something to fill in how my character got to this place without including a lot of backstory in the book. I’m also writing some short articles and stories and plan to complete a companion workbook to my “Writing Your Life Story” classes.
BIO: Terry McDermid writes stories that are heartwarming and forever, believing in love for generations. Her romance books have been published by Harlequin Enterprises and Avalon Books. Other publications include an educational resource, Tapestry of Reading: Introducing Literary Genres (Good Year Books), along with fiction and nonfiction for children, adults, and educational markets. She loves teaching as much as writing and taught elementary school children for a number of years. She shared her love of writing with them through an after-school Young Writers’ Club. While she now concentrates on her writing, she still enjoys presenting workshops to help others with their writing skills.
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