Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Turning to Books

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of twelve books. A versatile writer, her computer books launched two computer companies in the Washington, DC area which still operate nearly 30 years later. She is best known for her historical creative non-fiction, River Passage and Songbirds are Free, about the early days of Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, TN) and her five contemporary suspense/thrillers: Exit 22, Ricochet, The China Conspiracy, Kickback and The Banker's Greed. She is also the author of Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book. A co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, terrell's passions are literacy and animal welfare. You can read more about her at

I remember my mother reading to me long before I started attending school. She loved books and she loved watching children use their imaginations. Our kitchen table and chairs and a well-placed blanket became a fort. My bed was a Broadway stage. A grove of pine trees became The Secret Garden and our swingset became the location where Rapunzel let down her hair or Snow White lived with the seven dwarfs or the house that was transported to Oz. And when my younger brother joined in, it was a castle fending off invaders or a fort fighting off the Indians.

But it wasn't until I moved to Mississippi in 1967 that I turned my love for reading into a lifelong love of writing.

My father was an FBI Agent who was sent to Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a time marred by assassinations - John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi... And the Ku Klux Klan was terrorizing minorities throughout the Deep South.

We arrived there from New Jersey, and I, with my New Jersey accent, immediately discovered I wasn't wanted there. My first teacher told everyone in class that anyone who played with me would get a "whuppin" and I quickly discovered I had little in common with my classmates, anyway. It would be decades later that I'd discover many of the parents of children I knew were under investigation for ties to the KKK.

The principal of our school took note of my lonely existence and encouraged me to write a story. The first one was perhaps four pages long. Under her encouragement and later, with the encouragement of several school teachers, I began to write longer pieces until, in 1971, I completed my first manuscript.

For more than forty years now, writing has been an integral part of my life. For a time, I turned to writing how-to computer books. I left Mississippi in 1977 for Washington, DC. My first computer book was published in 1984, followed quickly by three more.

But perhaps because of my father's work with the FBI, my real passion was in writing crime and suspense. It would take until 2002 for my first suspense/thriller to be published. It did well enough for me to begin the transition away from computers and into writing full-time.

William Tapply brought me light-years ahead of where I'd otherwise be, by mentoring me through the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Course. A year later, Robert Doherty brought me even further by telling me what I needed to know through the Writer's Digest Criticism Service.

I can't imagine not writing. It has opened worlds I would never have otherwise known, places I would never have otherwise visited.

Where has writing taken you?