AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Terence J. Quinn
I met Terence (Terry) J. Quinn at a literary event on the Sunshine Coast earlier in the year, and was lucky enough to win a copy of his fabulous debut book, The Scoop, the first in a high-octane thriller trilogy. Not only a fab writer, Terry is a great bloke, too, and I’m delighted he found some time in his flat-out writing schedule to chat about his books, writer’s life, inspirations and more.
Welcome, Terry! Can you tell us a bit about your book, and the themes/issues it explore?
The Scoop is the first in a series of thrillers featuring Aussie journalist Jonno Bligh. The action rollercoasters between Sydney, London, LA and SE Asia and involves three main characters whose lives collide on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Sumatra.
Jonno saves British woman Annie Greenwood from modern-day pirate BangBang Budiman and his crew who have killed her husband and friends. Together, they flee the island in Jonno’s yacht ‘The Scoop’, pursued by the pirates.
As the killers hunt them down in the treacherous waters of South East Asia, Jonno and Annie are forced to come to terms with their own destructive demons. The Scoop is about revenge, redemption and romance ... how love can flourish even in the midst of evil. Think Treasure Island meets Captain Phillips.
What was the inspiration behind writing this particular story? Did it change much as you were writing it?
Book 2 was supposed to be Book 1- it’s set in a tabloid newsroom (write what you know and all that!). But somehow the storyline for The Scoop kept getting in the way and I just persevered with it. It didn’t change that much while I was writing it – but it certainly changed considerably once the editors got a hold of it!
Biggest challenges in writing this story, or in getting it published?
I was a newspaper journalist for 37 years so the actual writing (believe it or not!) was the easy part … as someone told me: you tabloid guys are good at writing fiction! The hard part was the research and later the restructuring, rewriting and revision (see below).
But, as a virgin author, I found the whole process fascinating and highly rewarding. Re publisher: I hate to say it, but I cheated … a friend of a friend was an ex-publisher and he helped me get a three-book deal with S&S. A case of who you know and all that! Sincere apologies to all who have to query hundreds of agents and publishers.
Are there any tidbits from the publishing process of this book that you could share with regards to working with the publisher?
One of the first things I learnt as a would-be novelist is that book publishing is a glacial process. Contrast that to daily newspapers – 100 pages from scratch. Every day. And then we’d rip it up and do it all over again!
My publishers (Simon & Schuster Australia) were very methodical, organised and professional. But I underestimated the thoroughness they would apply to my book. I worked with two ‘forensic’ (but flexible) editors and, over the course of several revisions, we scrutinized every page, every paragraph, every line and every word.
Another surprise: listening to the auditions for the narrator for the audiobook version was a weird experience. For two years from Page One through to the last draft of The Scoop, the words were constantly in my head. But then to hear them spoken out loud in dramatic form was surreal.
What's something you wish you had known earlier in your career?
I guess, in my case, simply that I could have, should have started writing novels when I was younger. I waited until I had retired from newspapers and had the means, motive and opportunity to start on a novel. Who knows what might have been possible if I had begun ten years or more ago? And I wish I’d known how much fun it is writing a 90,000-word book rather than a mere 500-word page lead!
Best investment you've made during your career?
Marrying a woman who would put with my moods and foibles and support me every inch of the way as we travelled from country to country, newspaper to newspaper. That’s what I call a great investment. She was so involved in my first novel, reading and re-reading several draft that I named a violent storm in The Scoop after her – Cyclone Patricia!
Where do you do your work, and do you have any particular rituals in your creative process?
On the days that I write or research, I try to keep business hours – roughly nine to four. My study overlooks a long stretch of water with Mt Cooroy looming at the other end and this provides endless inspiration. I also listen to a streaming radio station that has chillout music flowing quietly in the background. Now, as soon as I switch that on, I am ready to write!
Any tips for other creatives?
I think Stephen King said something like: Don’t talk about, just do it. I agree … start putting words down and see where it takes you.
A favourite word or quote?
Woody Allen is out of favour right now but he’s a brilliant humorist. I particularly like this: If you want to make God laugh – just tell him about your plans.
Any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects that you'd like to mention?
I received the structural notes for the second book in the Jonno Bligh series - The Editor, due out next year - back from my editors a little while ago. So, have put aside Book 3 to work on the new draft. Busy!