Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Terry Tyler about her prolific writing career, what inspires her, and the advice she has for others. She tells me about her new hit book, Megacity, and what went into creating it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Hello JJ, and thank you so much for inviting me to The Table Read!
A bit about me… I’ve been self-publishing for nearly ten years and have twenty-three books on Amazon, which means I’ve spent the past decade sitting at a desk. I live in north east England with my husband. I love country walks, the sea, peace and quiet, history, reading, telly binges and The Walking Dead! I am on Rosie Amber’s Book Review team, which is great because I get to discover new writers all the time – and some of the other team members have now become real life friends.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I think it was always a possibility. I wrote stories as a child, continued doing so on and off in adulthood, so it was a natural progression.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As far as the first full-length novel goes, I remember it well! It was in 1993; I wasn’t working at the time, and kept thinking, I wonder if I could write a novel? I had a story that I used to work on in my head when I took the dog for long walks over a country park I lived near, at the time.
One day, I just sat down at the kitchen table, picked up a pen and started. Later, I acquired an old typewriter, and started typing up the second draft.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I think it took me about nine months, but it was never ‘released’ – this was long before Kindle, and I knew it wasn’t good enough for publication. I didn’t submit to an agent until a few novels later. Eventually, I found one who really liked the way I wrote, but she wanted me to make certain changes to the book … my life was very busy at the time and I never got round to doing so, and didn’t follow it up. After that, I didn’t write for about ten years, because I had too much going on.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My latest book is Megacity, which is the final book in a trilogy, so I was planning it while working on other books. It takes approximately eight months for me to complete all the processes – three months for the first draft, two for the subsequent drafts ( I do about six), then it goes for proofreading and test reading, after which I do the final editing and read through, then all the finishing touches are completed before release day.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Megacity?
The first book in the series is Hope, which was meant to be a stand alone, originally. Then I felt the urge to write a follow-up, Wasteland, and soon realised that it needed a third book to complete the story; although Hope and Wasteland both stand alone, I felt the world I’d created needed some definite, all round resolution.
Each of the books reflect an area of my fictional future world. The homeless/unemployed live in group housing called Hope Villages, the majority live in the Megacities, and those who don’t wish to adhere to ‘the system’ escape into the Wasteland.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Megacity?
Same as with any book – I find the first draft incredibly hard, and love it when the whole ‘raw material’ is down, so I have something to work on, to shape into a publishable novel. The reason I find the first draft so difficult is that it takes me a while to ‘know’ the new characters, so I’m not quite sure exactly where I’m going with them. It’s not until I begin to get used to them in my head that I see which direction they need to go in.
Who or what inspired you when creating your protagonist?
There are three protagonists but I don’t think anything ‘inspired’ me to create them, as such; they just develop in my head!
Who or what inspired you when creating your antagonist?
Again, there is not just one antagonist. In this case, the stories of the main two were inspired in part by that of Jeffrey Epstein. I’ll just leave that one there with you…
What is the inciting incident of Megacity?
There are several, throughout the book, as it takes place over twenty or so years. Though maybe it all starts when ten year old Tara is taken out of the Hope Village she lives in, to be adopted by Megacity royalty. To a certain extent, that has great effect on all the characters.
What is the main conflict of Megacity?
The control of the population in the new UK megacities (it is set a few decades into the future), versus the desire for freedom. In the megacities there is total surveillance, even down to mandatory biometric sensors that allow your employer to know how much you drink, if you’ve not had enough sleep, etc. There is a social credit system, which governs the people’s behaviour. As time goes on, my three main characters become increasingly aware of how rotten the new regime is, underneath the shiny exterior.
Did you plot Megacity in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I always plot first, and know more or less how the book will end, though I change my mind a lot as I go along! I’m currently writing a dark psychological drama that’s turning out to be quite a different book from the one I started.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Megacity need?
I do my own editing, but I have a VERY critical test reader, who picks up on any sentence or situation that he thinks needs more work. Test read week is always a hard one! So he’s my second editor, if you like. Obviously I have a proofreader, because it’s impossible to proofread your own work. As for ‘how much’ editing Megacity needed – I can’t really say. I always do six drafts, and sometimes a seventh, then another one after it’s been test read.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Make sure it IS a story, i.e., that it has a beginning, a middle and an end. That it follows the basic lines of existing circumatances-conflict-resolution. I once received a 10 page long MS from a man who wanted to know if I would write his story for him (it was a friend of my cousin). I had to explain to him that it wasn’t a story, it was a situation. So a related piece of advice is this: make sure it has a great ending – feasible, unexpected, etc.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
The dark psychological drama I’m currently writing is about an internet (dating) conman – These days I write mostly post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction, but I wanted a break from it. When it’s done, I think I might write a zombie book. I’ve always wanted to! I don’t know if it will be a series or not – I’ve only got a vague idea at the moment.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
To be honest, I don’t think about whether I’m proud of my books, or not; it’s just ‘what I do’. As for worth the effort – all I can say is that, like anything else, if it’s something you feel compelled to do, it’s not that much of an effort. And if you’re going to be a writer, you have to really, really want to do it, because it’s not about swapping tips on Twitter, or doing Writers’ Lifts, or sitting in a café with your laptop feeling all writer-ish. It’s about being alone, for hours and days and weeks and months, motivated only by your desire to do it.
Thank you again for inviting me to The Table Read, JJ!
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