Author Interview: Meet Terry Persun

My guest this week is Terry Persun, a novelist, poet, and marketing strategist. Among the six novels he has published is Sweet Song, which I read recently and give a five-star rating. I thoroughly enjoyed Terry’s writing style, use of language and the emotional impact of this story.

In Sweet Song, a post Civil War novel about Leon, a young mulatto man whose family worked on a Pennsylvania farm, we sense his fears as well as his pleasures when he leaves home and begins to pass as white. This is a story we all own, one that concerns our differences, how others see us, and how we know ourselves to be. Sometimes raw and sometimes tender, the story of Leon’s discovery of himself will stay with the reader for a very long time.

Terry, you are quite a versatile writer. You’ve written poetry, coming-of-age novels, sci-fi, and non-fiction. What genre do you prefer? Is one easier than another to write?

Heidi, that’s great question, and one that no one has asked before. It makes me think about what I do in a new way. Honestly, I try to write what feels the most urgent to get out at the moment. Having said that, a novel takes a lot more time than a poem or short story, but it still has to have that sense of urgency or I can’t write it. To answer the question outright, I’d have to say that I don’t prefer any particular genre. I believe that we all have multiple interests and that we should explore them. I mean, I read sci-fi and fantasy, literary, historical fiction, non-fiction of all types, etc., so why not write in those same genres? It’s fun to explore them all, and it keeps me interested as well.

Do you think writing in different genres keeps your writing fresh?

Absolutely. It’s been said about poets that their job is to make connections where there doesn’t appear to be any. If we transfer this same understanding to fiction, it actually supports that we express ourselves in multiple genres. Although some authors can put out novel after novel in the same genre and continue to be fresh, I feel that there are many more who merely repeat themselves. Writing in different genres, for me, keeps me fresh and interested. I hope my readers feel the same way.

When did you become a writer? Is this your background?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, but didn’t get serious about it until I was out of engineering school and working in the technology business. All through college I wrote poetry and short stories and began to publish in small magazines, but after college is when I began to work on my first novel. Not doing as well as I thought I would (you only notice how hard it is to write a novel when you read great works and yours can’t compare), I started taking classes in writing, reading books on how to write, and getting “reliable” critiques from professors and editors. Eventually, I got my MA in Creative Writing as well. From there, it’s just write, write, write.

Did your own writing experiences teach you marketing strategy?

I learned marketing from my day job. I worked as an engineer, then as a magazine editor in the engineering business, then moved into marketing and sales. Just like my writing situation, I didn’t know a lot and took classes and studied with other marketing people along the way. If you work hard, study hard, and never give up, you can learn anything.

What inspired you to write Sweet Song?

A dream. A past life experience. Interest in the subject matter. Something inside me that wouldn’t let go until I wrote it. It’s difficult to know what came first, but when I started, I knew it was the right book to write at the time.

Do you try to write “character-driven” or “plot-driven” novels and why?

Character driven novels—always. The reason is that I can’t even begin a novel until I know who it’s about. No matter what idea comes to mind, it doesn’t seem to mean much to me until I know how it affects someone’s life. I guess I’m always wondering how people get through life, and life’s problems, and this is why I focus on the character. I want to know how they think and feel and how they resolve issues. On one level, I believe writing has helped me cope with my own life’s ups and downs. For example, I’ve been through divorce, a child’s death, moving, cancer, job loss, you name it…

What inspires you to write?

Waking in the morning. Looking at a sunset. Wondering how people live. Watching people diving on the highway, sitting in a restaurant, waiting for their children. I’m always wondering how other people live and what their hopes and dreams are, what do they struggle against. I can drive past a house in the country and wonder what it’s like to live in that house, on that country road, for your whole life – no travel, no vacations. I can create a world from that idea…but I need to have a character to follow.

Who are some authors who have inspired you?

Robert Penn Warren (poetry and fiction), James Salter (fiction), William Stafford (poetry), WS Merwin (poetry), Steve Yarbrough (fiction). I could go on and on.

Marketing is difficult for many creatives. What do you advise today’s writers who have to “do it all”: to wear the creative hat and then put on the salesman’s hat?

That’s one of the most difficult things for any of us to do. It always helps when you have friends and family who are willing to “talk you up,” but that’s tough for others as well. So, look yourself in the mirror and say, “It’s okay to talk about myself as long as someone asks and I’m honest and brief.” That seems to help me. Marketing is something that’s necessary, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. Just do what you can. One way I get my material out is to write articles for other magazines, do interviews like this one, and blog when I get the opportunity.

Terry Persun has published six novels, Sweet Song, Cathedral of Dreams, Deception Creek, Giver of Gifts, Wolf’s Rite (Winner: Star of Washington Award and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist), and The Witness Tree. He has six poetry chapbooks and three book-length poetry collections: Glimpses: Poetry and Art, Every Leaf, and Barn Tarot.. He has also written a non-fiction book, Guidebook for Working With Small Independent Publishers.

Terry’s books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble or from his website.

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Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm  Comments (3)  
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God, Am I Nobody?

Thank you for guest-posting on my blog today, Sheryl.

by Sheryl Young

God, Am I Nobody? is subtitled: Yielding Our Desire for Success to God’s Will for Our Lives. It is a convenient, carry-anywhere 17-day devotional — or 17 chapters, reading at one’s own pace. It deals with how Christians might be conflicted between wanting “success” as the world defines it, or following God’s plan for their lives. It addresses two big questions:

  1. Why does God use some people in the spotlight, and others in the shadows?
  2. Why does it sometimes feel like we’re not being used at all, or we’re getting nowhere?!

Each chapter/day includes segments of 19th-century missionary Hudson Taylor’s sermonette, A Higher Calling, along with parallel Bible verses and thoughts for everyday application. It’s a great little book for Christians burning out on their ministries, stay-at-home moms wondering “is this all there is” or who are often confronted by their working friends on the issues of “success,” empty nesters wondering what to do next for God, and even teens and young adults who are planning their careers.

What led you to write God, Am I Nobody?

“I had such a hard time giving all the glory to God when first accepting Jesus as my Savior. Coming out of a theatre background where there were many accolades, I suffered from what I call “attention-itis” – the need for recognition. It took many years before I became conscious of giving all praise to God for my accomplishments…

After writing my first book, I stumbled across Hudson Taylor’s piece and considered it to be a divine appointment. It firmly put me in my place regarding pride, and became one of my inspirations for the book. I simply had to write about what God wants for us and from us. I’m astonished at the feedback I’ve received from other Christians who are struggling with wondering when their ‘15 minutes of fame’ might come, even while trying to do good works for the Lord.”

You can see details and purchase the paperback or e-book here at the publisher’s page; at Amazon.com in paperback or on Kindle; as an e-book at Smashwords.com, or on Barnes & Noble Nook.

More about Sheryl:

She’s known Jesus as her Lord and Savior since 1987, and has been freelance writing from a conservative and biblical perspective since 1997. Her commentaries and feature articles have reached readers through the Tampa Tribune (as a regular contributing editorialist), the St. Pete Times, Florida Baptist Witness Newspaper, Yahoo News online, Christian Post online, VISTA national Sunday School Curriculum and elsewhere. In connection with being a Jewish believer in Jesus, she wrote her previous book, What Every Christian Should Know about the Jewish People, subtitled: Improving the Church’s Relationship with God’s Original Chosen People (still available at publisher or Amazon.com). She was also a Florida Spokesperson for the traditional values organization Concerned Women for America from 2000 to 2005, representing them on local TV and radio. She and her wonderful husband live in Florida.

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 6:03 am  Comments (1)  
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FANBOYS: How to Use Commas With Conjunctions

My thanks to Cherie for allowing me to share this “trick of the trade” in punctuation.

by Cherie Tucker

We all still remember those little mnemonic devices like “i before e except after c” that helped us over some of the tricky spots in our language. One I was never taught in grade school that would have helped immensely I learned only recently from a fifth-grader: FANBOYS.  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.  This trick for remembering conjunctions, those words that join things, will help you when you ask yourself, do I need a comma here?

If you have written two clauses (groups of words with subjects and verbs) that could stand alone as sentences, but you want to combine them, you join them with one of the FANBOYS.  You have created a compound sentence like this one, and compound sentences need the comma.  The comma signals to readers that what they just read is finished but that the sentence isn’t.  It also prevents misreading if there is a line break or a page turn at an awkward spot.

We drove Bill and Sam took the bus.

In this example, the reader might think that we drove both of them, but if there were a comma after Bill, even a reader with no grammatical knowledge would look to see what Sam did.

We drove Bill, and Sam took the bus.

Should you start a sentence with one of the FANBOYS?  You may if it isn’t expected or overused or in a formal document.

What you must guard against, however, is starting with one of these conjunctions and then putting the comma after it.  Writers mistakenly feel inserting a comma there creates a pregnant pause:

Not OK:  The backstroke was new to him.  Yet, he came in first.

The commas go before the FANBOYS.  The only time you want a comma after the conjunction that begins a new sentence is when there is an interruption right after it.

OK: The backstroke was new to him. Yet, to our surprise, he came in first.

There will be times when you don’t want a comma with one of the FANBOYS, of course.  It’s English after all.  But when commas serve to join what could be two stand-alone, complete sentences, commas are mandatory.  Thanks, Gracie, and thanks to your fifth-grade teacher.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.  GrammarWorks@msn.com

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