Indie Interview: Teri Polen

Teri recently published her debut novel Sarah, a YA horror/ thriller, and kindly agreed to take part in my first Indie Interview of 2017.

Hi, Teri. Welcome to Read A Lot.

Thanks so much for having me today, Rebecca – I’m thrilled to be here!

Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

A:  No – I never thought I had it in me!  Back in middle school and high school, I wrote stories and a little poetry, but never thought about doing anything beyond that with writing.  I’ve always been a voracious reader – I think I was born with a book in my hand – but one day at my son’s soccer practice, an idea for a book just appeared fully formed in my mind, something that had never happened before.  I wrote the story – it was beyond horrible, but it got me started writing.

Q: What inspired you to write Sarah?

A:  My cat, believe it or not.  We’d just moved into a new house, no previous occupants.  Shadow would sit at the foot of the stairs leading to the bonus room, fur bristling, body tense, and growl and hiss at something at the top of the stairs we could never see.  Kind of freaky, but it got me thinking about houses being haunted when no one had ever lived in them.  Eby, the black cat in Sarah, is based on Shadow.

Q: What made you choose to write a horror novel?

A: I’ve always loved horror books and movies from an early age.  My dad let me watch Chiller Theatre with him when I was very young – maybe that’s where it started.  But that’s where my mind naturally goes – you may see a beautiful field of wild flowers – I see a place where bodies are buried.  A historical Victorian house?  I wonder how many murders or séances occurred there over the years.  Guess I’m just dark and twisty that way.

Q: What is the book about?

A: Sarah is YA horror/thriller featuring a teen who fights to protect himself and his family from a vengeful ghost after agreeing to help find her killers.  Parts are creepy and chilling, but there’s also some humour tossed in, mainly involving the MC, Cain, and his best friend, Finn.

Q: Did you find it easiest to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

A:  A few years ago while at a book fest, I was in a time management workshop and discovered I’m a Dory (from the movie Finding Nemo).  In that movie, Marlin, Nemo’s father, is very focused, never straying from the task of finding his son.  Dory flits around, generally having fun, swimming from place to place.  That’s me.  If I don’t have a to-do list every day, I accomplish little to nothing.  Schedules keep me productive.

Q: Can you choose a favourite character?

A: From Sarah, I’d have to say Finn.  He was such fun to write – he’s a fiercely loyal friend, and I never knew what would fall out of his mouth.  He says exactly what he’s thinking – he may get slapped for it, but you always know where you stand with Finn.

Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing your book when you wanted to give up?

A: Soooo many times.  I queried far too early – the book wasn’t ready, and deep down I knew that, but was impatient.  I took an online class that involved interviewing my characters, and that changed everything.  Once I understood them and what they wanted, the story seemed to come together.  I reworked, edited, got feedback, and then began the querying process all over again.  Never give up.

Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

A: The days when I can’t put together one paragraph, let alone a sentence.  Some days, the writing just flows – other days, I’m pounding my head against the wall and rethinking my purpose in life.

Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you find it easier to make them up as you go along?

A: I need at least a basic outline to include the inciting incident, pinch points, midpoint, crisis, and climax.  But I also give the characters a fair amount of wiggle room and sometimes they lead me in different directions – which is always fun.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

A: Just get the first draft down, don’t worry about editing until later.  Changed my whole approach to writing.

Q: Where can people learn more about your books?

A: My website

Facebook

Amazon author page

Goodreads

Q: What have you learned since you started writing?

A:  Enough to fill a book – a really big one that could easily be a doorstop.  Writing is a constant learning process – definitely a journey instead of a destination.  I learn from reading, workshops, other authors and their blogs, etc.  Always try to improve your craft.

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a YA sci-fi/fantasy involving twin brothers and dreams.  It was put on the backburner for a while after I was offered the contract for Sarah, so I just began getting reacquainted with the characters and working out some details.  I had a couple of epiphanies in yoga this week that will fill in a few blanks.  I’ve had some of my better ideas while working out – does that make me a multi-tasker?

Seventeen-year-old horror fan Cain Shannon thought helping a ghost find her killers would be the supernatural adventure of a lifetime. Now, he just hopes to survive long enough to protect his family and friends from her.

A bet between friends goes horribly wrong, resulting in Sarah’s death. When she returns to seek justice against those responsible, Cain agrees to help her. But when he discovers Sarah has been hijacking his body, he realizes she wants retribution instead of justice.

Terrified of what could have happened when he wasn’t in control, Cain commands Sarah to leave his house – but exorcising her isn’t that easy. She retaliates against her murderers in bloody, horrific ways, each death making her stronger, then sets her sights on Cain. With the help of friends, Cain fights to save himself and his loved ones and searches for a way to stop Sarah before she kills again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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