Terry Brooks Interview

This month I welcome NY Times Bestselling author Terry Brooks for an interview and some advice for fledgling writers.

Terry, welcome to my blog.
You’ve just finished writing 3 books in one year, which again made the bestseller lists, does that mean you get to take a break now?
No, now my publisher wants me to do it again!
I offered to write more than one book in a year for the 35th anniversary of the Shannara series since many fans clamored for it. The publisher said they would publish them in 6-month increments, March 2013, July at the San Diego Comicon 2013, and March 2014.  I may be old school, but I believe writers should be read, not seen.

I don’t write the really thick books anymore.  I lack the staying power required.  My new mantra is ‘Less is More’.

What do you think is the enduring appeal of the fantasy genre?
Fantasy storytelling creates a world that’s imaginary, but still relates to the human condition. It allows the reader to be taken out of their daily life, yet they can still connect with the characters and what they’re going through. My younger fans especially like stories where there’s a lot at stake.
Fantasy is the oldest form of story in all cultures. Just look at the mythical tales surrounding the ancient gods.

Is there something in your books that you’d like to see in real life? Or is there a place in your stories you wish you could visit other than in your imagination?
My worlds belong to me and I share them through my writing. Although I would like to see more positive aspects of my stories in real life, not more negativity.

eBooks vs traditional publishing?
I’m doing ebooks now in the form of short stories as an acknowledgement that ebooks are here to stay. And of course many of my books are available in ebook format as well as paper.
It’s a venue and form foreign to me in my advancing years and I don’t like it much. But I can see their place in our world.
Personally, I prefer paper.  I like collecting signed copies of books and having my library.
My wife and my kids all have e-readers, but I don’t.

Pen & paper or a computer?
I have terrible handwriting, sometimes I can’t even read my own notes.
In either my junior or my senior year of high school my mother made me take a typing class. That proved to be a stroke of genius. I took to it and type at 120 words per minute, much faster than I could hand write.
I tend to think in rapid bursts, so writing by hand would be too slow.

My old editor at Del Ray believed that the computer ruined careers for many writers because they could put down a story so fast they didn’t take time to think about it. And writing requires you to think about it and go back over what you’ve written to make sure you’re not writing drivel. 

On a side note: The biggest change I’ve seen in publishing is the pressure to produce quickly and produce more. It used to be you were offered at least a year or more to write your next book. And an editor used to have time to train up a writer.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always had good editors who have taught me a lot.

What do you think is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from write well, to increase their odds of a successful career?
Have passion for your work. If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it.
As my wife, Judine, likes to say: “You’re either born to do it, or you’re not.”
Writing, if it is your true passion, gives you an outlet necessary to be a complete person. You’d write even if you didn’t get paid for it. I know, that’s easy to say from where I’m sitting, but it’s true.

I recall in the early days of my writing career I attended a conference and my publisher invited me to a lunch with several other authors and editors and he asked another newly published writer and myself this question: “What’s your goal for your writing?”
I said I’d like to keep writing for the rest of my life and if I could make a living off it, that would be great. The other author started listing all the awards he wanted to win. Now, 35 years down the line, the other author is no longer publishing. He wrote maybe seven books and that was it.

And of course, self-promotion. As you know, you have to be out there and actively connect with your audience.

What secret talent do you have, which everyone reading this blog will promise to keep secret, and does it help you in your writing?
I’m a very good editor. I have learned to be a good editor over the years. The manuscripts I send in now are very clean.

A few last words:
You are your own last line of defense. Don’t expect anyone else to do something you should have done yourself. Check everything, especially the galley proofs.

I recall one book in particular, the protagonist lost an arm early on and I was involved with the cover design. Then the book came out and I looked at the cover, thinking, “that’s a really beautiful cover”. And it hit me .... The wrong arm was missing!  By then, of course, it was too late to fix it.

Micro manage your professional life, get to have input on all aspects, from the cover to the book tours. Don’t be pushy about it, but do speak up for yourself.

Make sure you feel like you’re being listened to. After all, it is your name on the cover of the book.

Terry, thank you for taking time away from writing to talk with me today.
My pleasure, Lynn.

In stores March 12, 2013