What is your degree in? Since you do have a day job, how did you first begin writing screenplays and then move into writing a novel? Do you find the two to jobs to work together to help you build new skills that cross over?
I received my Bachelor’s in Radio-TV-Film with an emphasis on Film Production and Media Theory. My day job started as a necessary evil. In the beginning, it paid the rent, and then funded independent film projects. My professional career in media sales grew, as did a commitment to perform in the media sales industry, so I matured (somewhat) and became knowledgeable of the corporate work environment, which I tapped into when writing The Silent Partner. This seasoned knowledge simply fed a creative expression hunger. When I wrote a couple low-budget screenplays—one which I produced into an 80-minute experimental comedy horror movie—I had to rely on an awful lot of collaboration to complete the project at all. I funded it, and that was brutal. I didn’t want to make low-budget movies forever and I needed to start truly mastering a craft. The Silent Partner, yes, started as a screenplay. It was rough and dusty. But after my Uncle Gil was murdered, I had to cope with escalating issues of loss and faith for a lot of reasons, going back to my childhood. The Silent Partner’s story stuck with me, and fleshing out the characters came to mind and I decided to engage in my “therapeutic art.” There’d be no actors, no locations, no film production. I could just work on the book, and with no “movie” made, it would be a complete piece of work. I’d heard stories of Hollywood buying up scripts so they don’t get made, and that wouldn’t be work that anyone would see, so I decided to try a new form of writing to ensure it was available for those who sought it out, and the work could stand on its own. It would be completed, no matter what. Looking back, I was arrogant as hell thinking I could write a novel. Fortunately, though, this is how I’ve accomplished much in my life. I decide I’m going to do something, and I just do it. This book took five years, but I did my absolute best on it.
At your first book signing, you spoke about how writing The Silent Partner was therapeutic for you in dealing with your uncle’s murder and the loss of your father and grandmother. Loss is definitely a major theme in The Silent Partner, as is free will. How would you describe the way you portray God in the book?
We’re affected by life and death in so many ways, and everyone thinks of God differently. Some religious leaders may say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what is.” In fiction, writers can create characters into any manifestation they please. I made the deliberate choice for God to be wiser than all, amused by humankind’s antics, and committed to purpose, at all costs. ALL costs. Quite possibly God is really like this, so different from humanity. Our opinions can be swayed, and our weaknesses can be exploited. I created a God—which is funny for me to even say—that is ahead of humanity’s next step. And ahead of an angel’s next step.
When we spoke, you said that The Silent Partner began as a screenplay fifteen years ago, and you do have previous screenplay experience. Additionally, you’ve written that it took five years and at least three drafts for you to write. What were some of the challenges you faced adapting the screenplay into a novel?
The novel was much harder to write. The time commitment was extraordinary in comparison to writing the initial script, as I had to hone new skills and learn the craft of storytelling through this treasured medium. It was a lot harder to do than I thought it’d be, and I realized quickly that I didn’t know what I was doing when I started the book . . . this was a humbling revelation. Through the process, though, characters were fleshed out, scenes were more powerfully developed, and the fabric of the story was enriched.
You’re very candid about your entire writing process for The Silent Partner. You mention that you had a great amount of gusto when writing the novel initially but found it to be much more difficult through the process. What inspired you to keep going with The Silent Partner through the trying times? Did you ever feel that you should abandon the project at any point?
I had some doubts about the project a couple years in when I realized I had to start over. My personal life and tremendous challenges at work distracted me at times, and my free time was being swallowed up night after night with rewrites, restructuring, and learning how to truly write a compelling story. Since everyone close to me knew of my obsession with the book, I couldn’t stop at that point. Throughout the rewrites, every underdog story inspired me, like when Vince Young did that running play with the Longhorns to win the Rose Bowl, and when Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Picture. When I went a day without touching the manuscript, I felt guilty and lazy, and I couldn’t let a self-propelled depression emerge. So I finished it. Abandoning the novel was out of the question.
You decided to initially self-publish, sharing some of your experiences and insights with other authors on your blog. Is there anything that you wish you would have known earlier in the process or that you are glad you know for next time?
I became a much better writer and editor by writing The Silent Partner. For me, the process was important to learning . . . discovering strengths and uncovering weaknesses, and enjoying the construction of a whole society of characters. A world of conflict and self-examination. It would have been much easier if I would have known the best and efficient processes prior to writing this book, but even if I had fully paid attention during all of my writing classes and college courses, I would have missed out on the true joy of the new awareness of what distinguishes a productive process from a time-wasting process. And great writing from good writing. It’s great to study storytelling, it’s another thing to produce it. I had to produce it to have a chance to succeed in producing it well.
Other writers, too, can provide a wealth of information to assist new authors striving to complete their first published work, especially that of the magnitude of a novel. I should have sought out other writers’ success stories and horror warnings earlier. There are so many writers that have been through the publishing process that have firsthand knowledge of the best tools and practices that—when used correctly—can up your game and improve your results, and many incredible writers and bloggers are on Twitter. My best advice: seek them out, hear what they have to say. You will learn a lot from the accomplishments of those who are better than you and who have finished multiple works. I admire authors for their accomplishments, not for merely their pursuit of those accomplishments, but the fact that they’ve followed through with multiple pieces of work. That makes them, well, awesome.
Though readers get glimpses of Homer’s past in The Silent Partner, there is definitely more room for future exploration. Would you like to write about her again?
Great question! I absolutely would, but the audience would have to demand it. She was my favorite character ever and was an absolute thrill to write. You know, I first developed Homer as a male character. In fact, she lived in the screenplay that way. In the novel, though, she became female because, putting it bluntly, she became more interesting.
Can you talk more about how Homer becomes more interesting as a female? In fact, can you tell us a little more about Homer? “She was at once bruised and lovely, with a chubby face that was dark and round and smooth and full of suspicion”, The Silent Partner begins. This is the majority of the physical description we get of Homer, which is perhaps fitting for an angel, but her personality really shines through. In the circumstances God has placed her, are her physical appearance and apparent race supposed to be other ways of teaching her compassion?
That’s up to the reader. Readers usually bring their own experiences, opinions, stereotypes, and even emotional baggage with them. They can read into things on their own that were never intended by the author. To me, if a story affects you, the reader, the author did his or her job. You were impacted. I don’t want to spoon feed the reader to think a certain way, but allow them to go to a certain place. As far as being female, Homer was more interesting as a female because of her emotional depth and awareness. Her sensibilities changed, and in a powerful way. She saw men, conflict, and violence differently. This contributes to the development of the themes, providing more insight into the reader than Homer. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the book. It’s not religious, and it’s not preachy. I didn’t want to do a poor take on William Paul Young’s The Shack.
On your blog, you write about needing to let The Silent Partner go and move on to the next project. Can you talk about the next project you are working on?
Ha! A bit more science fiction, with relatable issues that carry the main character into new depths. The story’s in development right now. I can’t wait to start writing it, but I know once I start, I’ll have to finish it. I have no choice.
If you haven’t read The Silent Partner yet, you can get a copy at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Mysterious Galaxy. If you want to ask Terry to write more about Homer, you can contact him through his blog or Twitter account, or through The Silent Partner‘s Facebook page.