Today I am pleased / proud / potentially over-smiling at having author Terry Irving here for an interview. Won’t you sit down and join us?
Christy (C): Hi Terry, and welcome to Parfait land! I’ll be handing out chocolates shortly. First though, let’s get to the questions. You are an author whose work I find compelling, having read a few of them now! Today, let’s focus on you and your latest book Courier, which I find quite the page turner.
Terry (T): Why, thank you, and it’s great to be up here in the Great Canadian Wilderness.
C: Tell us a little about yourself and your writing background.
T: My writing background? Wow, that makes me sound like someone who actually planned to be a writer. That was the last thing I wanted to do when I graduated from college in the days before email, faxes, and paved roads (OK, we did have paved roads.) I wanted to wander the globe on a tramp steamer and have adventures. At the minimum, I wanted to make sure that I was far enough away from my family to see them no more than once a year—perhaps once a decade.
None of this came about, of course. I took jobs as a bartender, gas station attendant, ice cream salesman, kettleman in a dye factory, steel rod warehouseman, motorcycle courier, and hitchhiked to Alaska and back. Oh, and I was one of the very first paralegals which was interesting because no one had the slightest clue what we were supposed to do. I used to put on a ball cap and a utility jacket and serve subpoenas by pretending to be a messenger and add up the hours of time that Simba, the Baby Lion played on various TV stations that were threatened with seizure by the President. It had to do with Watergate, but what didn’t in those days?
I never wanted to write.
C: Okay, now I’m curious. Tell me how you got to where you are now, writing books!
T: The career that looked like it would be the most fun was television news so I spent 9 months convincing ABC News to hire me on the 3am shift. It helped that everyone else had refused to work those hours. A week later, I was rehearsing AM America ABC’s first morning program.
The first day on the air was fun—the entire studio was decorated with clocks like some deranged Salvador Dali painting (wait, is that redundant?) all the little suns, clouds and thunderbolts that were prepared for Stephanie Edwards’ first national weather report were insufficiently magnetic and fell off (she ended up flinging the things at the board and declaring that the weather was going to be exactly what she said it was, regardless of facts on the ground,) and a guest simply failed to show up causing Bill Beutel, the other host, to adlib for 16 minutes during which he read the contents of his wallet and sweated right through his pancake makeup.
All the producers were fired the next week and a new group brought in whose primary qualifications appeared to be a) that they were not in the first group and b) they had absolutely no experience in producing television. My job was to take the scripts from the Production Assistant, who would have corrected the mistakes of the Writer and drew little pictures of what the Graphics Designer would build, and then rip the ten copies of carbon paper away from the ten differently colored pieces of increasingly-fuzzy script copy.
This lead to much greater things in the decades to come—primarily because they finally invented the copier machine and stop using all that damn carbon paper—but it gave me very little urge to write. Writers needed extremely strong fingers—the manual typewriter had to strike hard enough to go through all ten copies, you see? The only job that was worse was the QTV typist who typed the version of the script that was placed in front of the camera lens for the anchor to read. Each letter was about an inch high and struck so hard that they often broke off completely and ended up in the walls and ceiling like shrapnel in some war between English Departments.
C: And it was around then you became a TV producer?
T: Yes. I became a producer. As a producer, my job was to fix all the things that went wrong—I often said that if everyone else would just do their jobs correctly, I’d have nothing to do. Sadly, between the cameraman, the soundman, the lighting tech, the radio tech, the reporter, the film editor, and various airplane pilots, politicians, desk editors, and the actively-hostile engineers, this never happened. But this job did allow me to work all over the world and prove that every city actually looked like an airport, a hotel room, and an edit suite. Yes indeed, Beirut and Berkeley, Colombia and Coalinga—all the same.
Eventually, I did begin to write but only out of rage. There were times (a lot of times) when the reporter would be so drunk, incompetent, or simply stupid that the script was completely unacceptable. I would take it off to a dark corner and return a bit later with another script. If asked, I would simply say “Read this damn thing” and, since I’m about the size of a rhinoceros and about as friendly, the reporters would usually obey. In this fashion, I wrote a fair amount of what we now refer to as the Tinfoil Age of Television News but no one ever knew about it.
Finally, an almost complete lack of sleep during the year of 1989 (Tiananmen Square, Berlin Wall, and South Africa) resulted in a two-week stay in a hospital ward where they locked the elevator so you couldn’t wander off and I eventually took a buyout from ABC, secure in the knowledge that I would soon become a billionaire in some corner of the Internet. When that silly dream resulted in complete pauperage, I took to freelancing. I didn’t quite hold up a sign that said, “Will Produce Television For Food” but it was close. Despite the fact that I proved capable of creating excellent programs in Spanish and Japanese without speaking either language, I eventually realized that there was one thing that most people would pay almost any amount to avoid having to do themselves.
Book Trailer for “Courier” by Terry Irving
C: Who do you think would enjoy reading “Courier”?
T: There are two parts to this answer.
Do I think anyone will enjoy reading “Courier”? Since I have the self-confidence of a stinkbug in winter, I have a very difficult time imagining that I write well and don’t believe anyone who tells me otherwise. A combination of the fact that these crazy Brits spent money to publish Courier and independent reviews from people who appear to have enjoyed it are beginning to help me get past this psychological barrier. It’s odd because I’ve been writing (television) for the past 25 years and the level of criticism there is a lot more medieval (“Do you call this a script?”) Somehow, I have managed to combine an insane arrogance about my own writing—which is why I’m currently unemployed—with a fairly solid belief that everyone else writes better—until I actually read what they’ve written, at which point I begin to edit them rather brutally.
If I thought anyone would enjoy “Courier,” who would that be? I’ve been surprised by the different sorts of people who have enjoyed the book: younger people who insist on referring to it as a “historical thriller,” older people who enjoy adventures in the days before Twitter, motorcycle freaks, government conspiracy freaks, and people who simply want a book that will engage them through a long airplane flight. When I began the book, I had no intention of writing the Great American (or North American as you please) Novel. I wanted to write a book that you would see in an airport bookstall and buy it before a long flight. I’ve received pictures of my book on a bestseller shelf in Heathrow Airport and that has made me very happy.
I think most people would like it. I mean, you do and your poetry is about as different from my work as a Matisse painting is to an Andy Warhol.
C: What is the genre of the book?
T: In the end, it’s a thriller. Yes, there are bits about a young man trying to come to grips with the trauma of war and there is a bit of a romance that blossoms (two romances, actually,) and there are some pertinent analyses of recent history (Yes, the Nixon Administration WAS corrupt,) and there is even a bit of broken children forming an alternative family for those who like shows by Joss Whedon or Aaron Sorkin. Mostly, however, it’s about a courier who picks up a roll of film and suddenly finds that people are trying to kill him. How does he manage to stay alive until he can work out Who is after him, Why are they so interested in ending his life, and What can he do to stop them? All of this proceeds in the usual thriller rhetorical paradigm of “Oh my God, he can’t possibly…” and “Wow, how did he do that?”
C: What tips would you give to someone who are interested in writing his or her first book?
T: Write it.
If it doesn’t work, write another. And another.
Write a lot and accept the fact that most of it won’t work. I’m right there with anyone who freezes up because they can’t write the Great Novel they know they have inside them or the Perfect Poetry that they can hear in their heads.
I know the feeling, I just was gifted with a situation where I wasn’t allowed to dwell on it. If you have 3 minutes to write a page for a TV show—even an important page or an emotional page—you still have to get it done in 3 minutes. Perhaps it’s not perfect. Very likely you would have chosen different words if you’d had the time. It doesn’t matter.
Just do it.
If you don’t enjoy the process, accept the fact that you might not be cut out to be a writer. In the end, it’s all about spending the majority of your time doing something you enjoy.
Well, that and earning enough to feed the dog, I suppose.
Okay so NOW do you see why I wanted to interview author Terry Irving? He is great to chat with, full of awesome stories and I learn so much from him! Hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did!
“Courier” is available at Amazon. Get your copy today!