August 2012 Interview for The Insider, the Catholic Writers Guild newsletter
Conducted by Maria Rivera
The Insider – Editor in Chief
Maria: Hi Therese! Your bio says that you have been writing stories “since before she could spell” do you remember what your first stories were about?
Therese: Yes, I remember two in particular, mainly because I went to all the trouble (but it was loads of fun) making them look like “real” books, with cardboard covers and marker illustrations. The Surprise Bunnies was about a family of bunnies celebrating a bunny’s birthday, and My Pet Butterfly was about a girl who kept a butterfly for a pet. Unfortunately, no one could read the stories but me, because the spelling was that bad.
Maria: Now you are a published writer. How would you summarize your journey as a writer, from your childhood stories to published writer?
Therese: The journey has been full of ups and downs, with thrilling moments when a piece won a contest or was accepted for publication, and other—much more frequent—times of frustration and feeling as if very few people would ever read what I’d spent so much time writing. But even then, I didn’t want to give up writing; I enjoyed the creative process way too much. My mind continued to imagine stories, and I felt compelled to write them down.
I attempted my first novel at age eleven (uncompleted) and another novel at fifteen (also uncompleted). Besides stories, I wrote poems, essays, and novellas. Bolstered by winning some writing contests in my teen years, I attempted my third novel, Past Suspicion, at eighteen, and it was published when I was twenty-two. Magazine articles and stories followed. Now, almost ten years after Past Suspicion, my second novel is set to be released by Tumblar House at the end of this year or early next.
The path to publication felt like a long journey, but I suppose I’ve been very blessed that it didn’t take much, much longer. I think the two key ingredients for me were (and will continue to be) perseverance and prayers—many, many prayers!
Maria: Are both your books Past Suspicion and Frozen Footprints mysteries?
Therese: They both contain elements of mystery, with shady characters, dangerous situations, and perplexing questions, but I don’t classify them as true mysteries because they are not so much about solving a crime or a puzzle as characters dealing with challenging and frightening situations. I prefer to call them suspense novels, although Past Suspicion has been labeled a mystery by some.
Maria: How do you interject your Catholic beliefs in your writing?
Therese: I do this by weaving in Catholic elements and references, but I keep in mind that these things can be overdone, and I don’t want to toss them in just because I’m Catholic. They have to have a point and fit into the story. Above all, I strive to write an entertaining read that anyone, Catholic or not, can enjoy, so I let the religious elements come naturally and try to avoid being awkward and preachy. Also, by making some of my characters Catholic—even if they are not always very good Catholics—the potential for some great situations and conflict arises. How much Catholicism I include depends on the book. Past Suspicion contains minimal religious content, whereas Frozen Footprints has very strong Catholic themes and elements.
Maria: What advice would you give new writers?
Therese: Persevere and don’t get discouraged! Focus your energy on writing and marketing. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike before you get to work. This will set you apart from less serious writers and go a long way in helping you reach your goals. Also, read piles of great books and soak up the writing; without even trying, you will learn so much about your craft.
Maria: Do you have any new projects you are working on?
Therese: Yes. Since I’m so excited about Frozen Footprint‘s upcoming release, I recently outlined and began writing a sequel. I also have a completed rough draft of another suspense novel that I wrote almost four years ago, and I need to return to that and revise, revise. I have a middle-grade novel that needs fine-tuning as well. I have so many projects I want to work on, but while raising a young family (and with my sole writing time being nap-time and nighttime), it’s a tricky balancing act.
Maria: How do you get your inspiration and what do you do for fun?
Therese: Inspiration can come from anywhere: an interesting situation, location, a dream, a news story . . . anything that sparks an idea that I find fascinating enough to pursue—that’s my inspiration. The transformation that takes place as a story moves from imagination to paper is inspiring, too. I write because, like a reader, I want to know how it all turns out. Even when I have a precise idea in my head, the end result is always somewhat different.
For fun, I love spending time with my family and doing simple things like taking long walks, laughing with my kids, and reading them stories. Every once in awhile I also enjoy a kid-free outing with my sisters or my husband. An evening at the old-fashioned drive-in movie theater is something I look forward to every summer. At home, I like watching Classic movies, reading, and eating junk food. I love traveling (we don’t do that nearly as much as I’d like) and visiting interesting locales and historical places. It’s all fodder for more writing!
Maria: Thank you so much for your time.