Say Aloha with Terry Ambrose
Terry Ambrose started his business career as a skip tracer and bill collector. He’s been writing mysteries and suspense novels for more than 25 years, but only recently became serious about publishing. His debut mystery, “Photo Finish,” was a 2013 San Diego Book Awards Finalist. In addition to writing fiction, Terry also writes about real-life scams and cons, profiles authors, and does book reviews as part of the featured content at terryambrose.com.
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I began my business career as a skip tracer and bill collector. During twenty years in customer service and business management with financial institutions, local governments, and public utilities, I wrote documentation, training materials and articles for newsletters and trade publications. I’ve also studied Neuro-Linguistic Programming to learn more about human communications. The trouble is, that's boring. It's a lot more fun to say I started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. I never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed.
Please tell us your latest news!
My latest news is about “Kauai Temptations.” This is my second McKenna Mystery and it's a book that I almost lost. I mean, as in gone-forever lost. Fortunately I found one backup copy on my old laptop in the trash. I think I have 10 backup copies now. Anyway, it’s about what happens when the search for an identity thief takes a wrong turn. Wilson McKenna’s bank tells him he’s written $4,000 in bad checks on an island he’s never been to. That makes him one unhappy haole. Things get worse when he’s nearly arrested for impersonating himself and the woman who trashed his credit turns up dead. Before he knows it, McKenna’s up to his ‘umi’umi in hot lava.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
I know who every character is before I start writing, but not in detail. I'll have the basics, but as they go through the story I get to know them better. In my current WIP, I have a 12-year-old girl named Lily who is supposed to be in one scene. Her story fascinated me so much that before I knew it, she'd become an integral part of the overall plot.
What main genre do you write in?
I write in the mystery genre, but in different sub-genres. The McKenna Mystery books are classified as cozies. They're funny and set in Hawaii. The “License to Lie” series books are thrillers set in Carlsbad, CA. It's a completely different writing experience when I switch.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I've always enjoyed writing. Most of my career, however, that meant writing training and marketing materials. I started writing fiction in my late 30s when I was under a huge amount of pressure at work. Partway through my very first “novel,” I realized the process of writing was a release and decided to get serious about it. I joined a critique group, learned just how many beginner mistakes I was making, and began writing in earnest. Twenty-five years later, I decided it was time to get serious about publishing.
Do you have a specific writing style?
In “Scene and Structure,” Jack M. Bickham described stimulus and response as the driving force behind good conflict. I strive to put that conflict on every page. In a review of “License to Lie,” The San Francisco Book Review said, “The author writes a thriller that instead of gore, utilizes intellect and emotion, in an action packed story line to propel readers to an unexpected, but very satisfying, conclusion.”
I also like to have realistic-sounding dialogue, characters that are three dimensional, and twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the end. No POV “head hopping”, no “plot cheating.” That's not my style.
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
McKenna is my alter ego. I think it would be fun to be him because he gets to say all the things I might be thinking, but am too chicken to say. He also gets to live in Hawaii—who could ask for more?
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
“Con Game” is the sequel to “License to Lie.” The complicated relationship between Skip Cosgrove and Roxy Tanner continues in “Con Game.” Their relationship is complicated because they're in love, but neither trusts the other. With a man Skip once helped send to prison for armed robbery coming back to kill him and the mark in Roxy's latest con dead, their options are limited. Their only good choice is to split up to find a killer and a would-be murderer—and help a homeless girl from falling into a life that could get her killed.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
I write more than fiction. I also do author interviews in which I look for the story behind the story, book reviews, and tips on how to avoid scams and cons. Everything is published to my website at terryambrose.com, where there's also information about my books. And, for those who like newsletters, I have a monthly newsletter called “The Snitch.” It includes a recipe—typically gluten free, a tip to avoid a current scam, and contest information—including links to some of the best giveaways on Goodreads.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
I've belonged to critique groups off and on since I began writing fiction. The only times I haven't been in a group have been when we moved and I hadn't yet found a group. I've been in a few groups that just didn't work for me, but a good group is invaluable. I find that a critique group keeps me grounded. As authors, we get ideas that we think are fantastic, but the group is a great sounding board. For instance, I recently had a joke in an upcoming McKenna Mystery that I thought was hilarious. When I read for the group and nobody reacted, I realized it wasn't that funny after all. There's no doubt about it, writing is hard enough without doing it in a complete vacuum.
Wilson McKenna has never written a bad check in his life. So how did he end up with $4,000 in returned checks from an island he’s never been to? Now, the bank wants their money and he’s determined to track down the crook who’s ruining his life. Before you can say “aloha,” he’s nearly arrested for impersonating himself, the woman who trashed his credit is dead, and he feels like he’s up to his ‘umi’umi in hot lava. McKenna had better watch out—some temptations can get you killed.