Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the award-winning novel In Leah’s Wake. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and a writing teacher at Boston College. She was grateful and thrilled beyond words when In Leah’s Wake hit the Barnes & Noble and Amazon bestseller lists in August. She owes a lot of wonderful people – big time! – for any success she’s enjoyed! You can follow Terri on Twitter @tglong.
Do you remember when you first started writing?
Until high school, I planned to be a visual artist – a graphic artist or painter. At heart, though, I’ve always been a writer.
As a child, I entertained myself by making up stories and acting in my own improvisational plays. In high school, I took an advanced writing course; I loved the class and began writing for the school paper.
One day, brazenly, I walked into office at the town paper and asked the editor for a job. At first, I covered sports and other high school news; soon, I was given my own column. I was sixteen. That column was my first paid writing job. I earned about a dollar a week – and I knew then that the only job I’d ever want would be was a writer.
How much time do you spend writing daily?
Ideally, I write all day, blogging in the morning and either writing or editing my work-in-progress from early afternoon until dinnertime. This schedule doesn’t always work. Things come up – I have business issues to deal with or email that needs to be answered.
During crunch time at school, when I’m busy editing and grading students’ papers, my own work falls by the wayside. For six months, marketing In Leah’s Wake, I’ve neglected Nowhere to Run, my novel-in-progress, and I’m eager to dig in again.
What’s helped most, in improving your craft of writing?
Reading, hands down.
Studies have shown that grammar can’t be effectively taught; the best way to learn is through osmosis – that is, by reading. By reading widely, we internalize various aspects of style and voice. We learn to use language effectively and we get new ideas for integrating techniques into our own work.
Reading also helps me to solve problems in my own writing.
Say, for example, I’m not sure how to tie a past and present story together; I’ll read to see how other writers have done it, consider their technique, and either incorporate it or, more often, adjust it to suit my own purposes.
What inspires you?
Watching and listening to people, hearing their stories – this inspires me.
As a young newspaper reporter, I had written a series of feature articles about families with drug and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children, their heartbreaking struggles. Those stories stayed with me.
Our daughters were teenagers when I wrote In Leah’s Wake. Like most families, we had our challenges, though, thank goodness, they were not remotely akin to the problems the Tylers face in the book. As a parent, I knew how it felt to be scared, concerned for your children’s welfare and future. Those feelings, coupled with stories I remembered from the families I’d written about, became In Leah’s Wake.
Why is it difficult for people to tap their full potential?
By and large, I think we’re afraid.
The birdy on our shoulder tells us we’re no good, the internal editor laughs at every mistake, the world rejects us, tells us we’re unworthy. For writers it’s especially hard, because we invest so much of ourselves into our work, to keep our head up, persevere. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but nobody cares about a lone writer, struggling to bring his or her work into the world.
We have to believe in ourselves, be our own cheerleading team.
Thankfully, it’s getting easier. Authors have begun to support one another in meaningful ways. A network of supportive writer friends can pick up you when you’re down, support you and your work, give you honest critique or help you solve problems, and help you get the word out. Success for one does not preclude success for another.
Together, helping and supporting one another, we can all reach our full potential and succeed.
What are some of your passions?
My family is by far the most important thing – are the most important people! – in my life. Without them, nothing else matters.
My greatest passion is spending time with them.
I’m also a passionate traveller and foodie. My husband, Dave, and I have had the great fortune of visiting many beautiful, interesting places. I love ethnic foods and I’m fairly gutsy when it comes to trying new dishes. In Beijing, a few years ago, we went to a tiny restaurant with two students we met. The restaurant was a local spot, as opposed to a tourist trap, the menu written in Chinese, so they ordered for us. When the steaming bowl arrived, I dipped my chopsticks into the stew – and pulled out a frog. The head had been removed, thank goodness, but the body fully intact. I realize that a lot of people eat frog; this was actually green. I thought Dave would gag when I ate it. To his credit, he didn’t.
In an alternate life, if I were not a fiction writer and teacher, I’d be an international food writer.
An excerpt from In Leah’s Wake.
2011 BOOK BUNDLZ BOOK CLUB PICK
Recipient of the Coffee Time Reviewers Recommend (CTRR) Award
You can check out the book on Amazon, here.
The Tyler family had the perfect life – until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn’t want to be perfect anymore.
While her parents fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah’s younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake.
Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn’t enough?
Jodi Picoult fans will love this beautifully written and absorbing novel.