The daughter of a Methodist minister, Teresa spent most of her life in Texas and New Mexico. She graduated from West Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in 2000. Among her many titles, are daughter, sister, granddaughter, mother, wife, freelance editor and writer. She currently lives in North Texas with her husband and son.
MF: When we initially spoke about doing this interview, you shared the story of how your first book was born. Would you mind sharing that story with our readers?
TW: I wrote the first one, to be honest, just to give myself something to do. People in an FB group I belong to were complaining how boring it was, so I decided to write a little mystery. I put it on my blog, posted the links for each new chapter, and shared them on Twitter with friends. Someone jokingly said I should publish it, so some friends helped me edit it, another friend created a cover and formatted it for me, and viola! A book was born! The second one came out in June, and the third one came out in September. I’m working on the fourth one, and I plan for the fifth one to be a full-length novel. Major death coming in that one!
MF: You mentioned to me that you’re building your “author platform”. Tell us what that includes.
TW: This is a new thing for me, so I’m not sure I can adequately explain it. Every writer needs to get the word out about their book, and in this day and age of technology, the best place to do that is online. I know that if I have read a book that I have thoroughly enjoyed, I go online to find out more about the author, and to see if they have written more books. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are a few of the places you can use to help build your platform. Post often, so that your name stays out there. You have to be persistent and patient, because it takes a while. If someone is doing this because they think they are going to be instantly popular, they are setting themselves up for disappointment. I am always pleasantly surprised when I see how well my books are selling, and I love the emails and messages on Facebook I get from people who have read my books. For me personally, I answer every email, because I want my readers to know that I appreciate them.
MF: How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
TW: I am disappointed, just like any other writer would be. But I also try to look at it as a learning experience. What was it about the previous book did they not like? What can I do to fix the problem? The one thing I have always told people is this: I am open to all ideas and suggestions. If you have a story idea, or if you think something should happen in the next book, let me know! You just never know when I am going to use your ideas in one of my books. For the first three books, I have used little ideas that friends have given me in my stories. For example, in the last book, Death Stalks the Law, one of my Facebook friends suggested I have an old boyfriend of my main character show up in town to stir things up. The main character had a boyfriend, but I loved the idea of throwing in an old beau, so I did! Boy, what havoc he has created!
MF: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
TW: I don’t think I can choose just one. There have been two writers who have been so overwhelmingly supportive over the last year; I don’t think I would have come this far if it hadn’t been for the two of them. The first one is Bente Gallagher, who writes the NYT bestselling DIY series under the name Jennie Bentley. I have been reading this series for years, and I sent her an email telling her how much I enjoyed her books. Nothing much happened after that, until I decided to take up the writing challenge for National Novel Writing Month in November 2010. I hooked up with a budding writer, Jamie Livingston-Dierks, who writes the Gotcha Detective Agency series under the pen name Jamie Lee Scott. It turns out that Jamie was a good friend of Bente, as well as her critique partner! Since then, the three of us have become friends, and they both offer me valuable advice and help. Jamie creates the covers for my books and formats them for me, and Bente lets me vent and ask questions. I owe them a lot, and right now offer them my humble thanks.
MF: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
TW: I am my own worst critic. I never think my stories are very good, but thankfully I have several people willing to smack me upside the head and tell me to get over it! I did have one of my proofreaders tell me that my third book wasn’t as witty and lighthearted as the first one. I am working to rectify that one on the fourth book. Honestly, that has been the harshest criticism I have gotten, beyond what I tell myself! The best compliment I got came from a review that was left for the first book, Death of a Cantankerous Old Coot. A woman had been sitting in a hospital with her family, going through a rough time with a loved one who had been admitted. She came across my book, downloaded, and read it out loud to the people in the waiting room. They all took turns guessing who did and laughing at the funny parts. For just a little while, it gave them something to take their minds off their worries. I cried when I read it; it meant a great deal to me.
MF: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
TW: Sitting down to do it. There are days when I just don’t feel like writing. I am the great procrastinator.
MF: What do you read? What do you re-read?
TW: I love mysteries. I have my favorite authors – Janet Evanovich, Robert B. Parker, Jennie Bentley, Denise Swanson, Maggie Sefton, to name a few. Trust me, the list of authors I read is terribly long. There are authors who publish only paperbacks, and those that publish in hardback. I focus more on those who publish in paperback. I think they work harder than those who publish in hardback. I do hope that makes sense. As for what I re-read, everything. I always find something I missed the first time.
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
TW: Oh gosh, I’m not sure that I have a favorite quote. As for a writing tip, index cards. I use them to keep track of my characters. Write down their attributes, who their family members are, what they do for a living, what they look like. It is better to have this information in one place than to have to constantly go back through your stories.
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
TW: Never be afraid to ask questions. If there is an author you admire, ask for their advice. Other writers usually don’t mind helping a fellow writer, especially one that is just starting out. They remember what it was like to struggle. Be true to yourself. Don’t try to write like someone else. When I started my first story, I thought about the things like I enjoyed about a story. I love the character interaction; they are the ones that tell the story. Description is important, yes, but what your characters say and their reactions to those around them are what convey the story to your readers. The one thing I consistently hear from my readers is that they feel like they are sitting in the room with the characters, listening to the conversations. Please keep in mind this is just my humble opinion and how I write my stories.
MF: If you could jump into a book, and live in that world…which would it be?
TW: Oh wow, that is a tough one! If I had to choose one, I would pick the Spenser novels from Robert B. Parker. To see Boston through his eyes, and to interact with Spenser, Hawk, Susan, Quirk and Belson for a couple of days would be great!