Terry Trueman received his B.A. in creative writing at the University of Washington. He also has an M.S. in applied psychology and an M.F.A. in creative writing, both from Eastern Washington University. The father of two sons, Henry and Jesse, Terry Trueman makes his home in Spokane, Washington, where he has lived since 1974.
His novel, STUCK IN NEUTRAL was a Printz Honor recipient. INSIDE OUT, his second novel was released in August 2003. In October of 2004, his third novel CRUISE CONTROL was released — a companion to STUCK IN NEUTRAL that tells brother Paul McDaniel’s intimate side of the story. Hodder Books released SWALLOWING THE SUN, which follows a teen’s heroic efforts to save friends and family after his Honduran village is destroyed by a devastating mudslide, in October of 2003 (only in the UK). And NO RIGHT TURN, Trueman’s fourth US and fifth all-around novel. For more info, visit his website.
Let the conversation begin!
Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?
Bukowski put it best, ‘don’t try’. This two word philosophy of life is inscribed on his grave stone and seems the perfect advice. Write because you love it. Write because your life will be either insufferable, or at least less happy if you don’t write. Sit down and write. Do it, don’t try.
Describe your writing process. Do you work from an outline?
I don’t work from an outline. My stories are all based, in greater or lesser degrees on real life things I’ve lived through. They are also written in first person present tense, so once I have the protagonist’s voice in my head and a clear sense of what/why I’m writing, it all flows well so long as I write every day.
Did you attend writers’ conferences before you were published? If so, did you enjoy them?
I’ve been to some writer’s conferences, but usually as a speaker, rarely as an attendee. I don’t know if they help other people or not. Writing is pretty much a non-team sport, which is the way I like it.
Do you enjoy speaking engagements? Or would you rather stay locked in your office, writing?
This isn’t an either or question or at least not an either or answer. I enjoy speaking engagements a lot AND I’d rather stay home writing.
Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? What was it?
Reoccurring? Not that I can remember right now; besides other people’s dreams are usually pretty boring, so I have to assume my dreams would be equally boring to them.
What was your nickname growing up or now?
I was the smartass/verbal bully who gave out nicknames, not the guy who got labeled with one.
Who was your hero when you were a child?
I had no heroes, not as a child nor as an adult, although certain writers/authors/poets have played a big role in my development as a writer.
Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?
Charles Bukowski inspired me a bit; we both started earning a living as writers after age 50, we both had plenty of trouble with women over the course of our lives and he wrote with such passion and apparent honesty about everything, especially writing itself.
How did you learn to ride a bicycle?
I’m 64 years old. I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t ride a bike and I only barely remember back so far to having any enjoyment of it at all; I hate riding a bike.
Based on something you’ve already done, how might you make it into the Guinness Book of World Records?
I won’t and don’t want to. It’s a publication celebrating, for the most part, mediocrity by pointing out the most extraordinary achievements of mediocre people doing mediocre things. Who ate the most hot dogs? Who held their breath under water the longest? Who cares?
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
At 64 years old there is no such thing as ‘free’ time, it all feels like ‘borrowed’ time, precious and not to be taken for granted. Everything I do these days I try to do with purpose and understanding and the rest of the Buddhists’ eight fold path.
If you could do anything and get away with it, what would you do?
Hmmmm? Probably some crime of getting $$ without hurting anyone, enough money to never worry about having enough ever again . . . an odd choice since I have no real $$ worries.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you’d do?
I rarely buy a lottery ticket. I don’t think about this very much and I feel that my luck and life have been so blessed already that I don’t care much about winning the lottery; I know this sounds contradictory to my previous answer, but even stealing a great deal of $$ and getting away with it would require some grit and smarts and chutzpa (sp?) whereas winning the lottery requires being just plain old dumbass lucky.
What story does your family always tell about you?
My family is my sister, my sons, my wife and my dog; none of them tell any stories about me.
What age did you become an adult?
Hasn’t happened yet: I’m a 14 year old boy, trapped in the body of a little old man.
What was the last movie or book that made you angry?
Angry? Hmmm? Not sure anything has made me angry ever, at least not on account of the work itself. I get fired-up about politics, racism, sexism, all the is’ms—and whether I’m reading about these subjects or seeing them presented, like in the movie The Help, I get frustrated, probably a bit angry. But all my life I’ve struggled with a terrible, childish temper and only in recent years have I begun to feel a little bit of control over it; and I love that feeling.
What advice would you give to new writers?
If you’re doing it for fame and fortune, give it up. So few people ever make a living at it, much less achieve some sort of mini-immortality. Write for the sheer joy of writing, because you love it and because if you don’t do it, you’ll be less happy.
What mischief did you get into growing up?
All kinds, but nothing of any importance. I never wanted to hurt people or animals, even insects, like spiders I always tried to catch and release, trusting in my rehabilitation efforts.
If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
It’s too weird a question. No offense, but every age has had drawbacks and advantages; I can say that I’ve never felt spiritually and psychologically better than I do right now. I’d have the wisdom of my old age and the body of my mid-twenties.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Plant my butt in a chair and write an hour every single day. Everything in my life that came from writing started with that advice (given, btw, by Pat McManus at one of those writer’s conferences I said I hardly ever go to).
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
Again, I’m 64. I’d like to remember my name, not be wearing adult diapers, and still enjoy writing and life as much as I do today; that’d be plenty!
Most embarrassing moment?
I type with two fingers so I’m not going to tell about my most embarrassing moment as it takes too long to set-up. Let’s just say it involved a girl in Jr. High, come to think of it there were scores of almost equally embarrassing moments starting at that age and never letting up.
Can you share a recent traveling highlight?
As much as I like people, enjoy speaking and making $$, and love meeting my readers, the highlight for me of every travel experience these days is getting back home. I’ve traveled the world, or at least to most of it that I care about seeing; Europe multiple times. I lived in Australia for a couple years, and in Central America for a year. I’ve been to Mexico and Hawaii too many times to count, South Africa, which was quite a trip and an adventure, and to most of the 50 states. There’s no place that I’m ‘dying’ to see or experience. That cliché, ‘wherever you go, there you are’ really applies to me. I only travel now when I’m paid to do so.