Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Finding the Right Fit for your Writing: Author Interview withTerrie Farley Moran

Terrie’s short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and numerous anthologies. Her Read ’Em and Eat prequel, “A Killing at the Beausoleil” was an Agatha Award nominee for Best Short Story, while “Inquiry and Assistance” won the Derringer Award for Best Novelette.

Now let’s unravel the mystery of who Terrie is and how she writes. And maybe even inspire you to get cozy with mysteries, too.

Your first published novel won an Agatha award for “Best First Novel.” That’s quite an achievement. Tell me how that first book came about.
Well Read, Then Dead, is the first cozy in the Read ’Em and Eat mysteries set in Fort Myers Beach Florida. I wrote an earlier novel, my agent didn’t like it, so I wrote this one. I wanted to write a cafĂ© cozy in a Key West kind of town. Fort Myers Beach fit the bill. And I was amazed and all sorts of happy when it was nominated and then won the Agatha.

What inspired you to write cozies?
I read cozies more than any other type of book. My second reading interest is non-fiction—American history.  Since, when it comes to history, I am not Doris Kearns Godwin, writing cozies seems like a better path for me.

How long did it take you to write your first book?
I am trying to remember. My first novel (the unpublished one) took a couple of years. I know Well Read, Then Dead was finished way ahead of the deadline. I guess it took about eight months.  I took the advice of the late Jerry Healy who said you can take as long as you like in writing your first book but if it sells, your publisher is going to have a time frame of a year or less, so you may as well start out with your own deadline.  I also should mention that I am a very slow writer. It takes a 10 or 12 hour day for me to write a thousand words, so for me, the process is extremely grueling.

How many rewrites did you do on it?
Three drafts. That is pretty standard for me with both novels and short stories. After the first draft, the second draft usually has some idea changes and lots of polish. The third draft is polish, polish, polish and more polish until it shines.

Who helps you with the editing?
No one. I never let anyone read my work until I submit it.

Who encourages you along the way?
My agent, who is the sweetest, most savvy person in the business. And, of course, my family.

Are you active with any writing critique groups? 
No. Never have been. Again, I don’t like anyone else to read my work other than the editor who has the potential to buy it.

How did you go about finding an agent/publisher?
Long story here. I wrote my first (still unpublished) cozy mystery novel and did the paper query route with no success. I also attended conferences where I would sign up for interviews with agents and editors. I met my present agent at a conference.

I gave her the elevator pitch about my novel and she immediately pointed out a flaw but asked me to send her fifty pages, which I did. She called me a while later and told me that, in her opinion, the novel was unpublishable, but said she liked my voice and asked if I would consider writing another novel. I said yes. And that is how we became a team.

I’ve been a big fan of cozy mysteries for years because of their quirkiness. So many of them take place in a restaurant, bakery, or something else to do with food preparation. Why does a chef, cook or baker make a good heroine?
I think it is all about the food. No matter the actual setting for a cozy, the characters do spend a fair amount of time eating delicious food and drinking tea, or sometimes wine. It allows for the characters to talk about what is going on around them. Food and cozies! Terrific combination. So a food shop is the perfect setting.

What are the essentials that make for a good cozy mystery?
No blood and gore, no obvious sex, no bad language. An interesting murder. Definitely a nosy amateur sleuth and warm friendships with food and laughter thrown in for good measure. I wrote an article describing cozy mysteries for Criminal Element in 2012 and I believe it has stood the test of time.
(Do review that blog post. It is a great description!)

You recently attended Bouchercon, which is the premier annual event for mystery writers and readers. What was your favorite part of it?
My favorite part of Bouchercon is the same as my favorite part of every conference, seeing old friends, making new friends. The mystery community is a very happy and caring one. It is like a big old family reunion when we all get together.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I was honored a few years ago when Laura Childs, one of my favorite authors, asked me to join her in writing her New Orleans Scrapbooking series. We have just finished our fourth book together, MUMBO GUMBO. The released date on our third collaboration, GLITTER BOMB, was October 2, 2018.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past writing rejection?
Rejection comes with the territory. My first love is short stories. I love to read them, and I love to write them. In the beginning, if I sent out a short story and a market rejected it, I thought the story was poorly written or had some other problem. Now I realize that the story may be excellent but is not suited to that particular market. When/if a short story comes back, I send it right out to another market.

What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing?
The biggest surprise for me is that, although rumors and changes swirl around us, (think of the rumors when e-books came along) there is, and always will be, a market for good quality reading material.

What frustrates you the most about writing? 
As I mentioned, I am a very slow writer. I get frustrated by my own lack of speed.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
Because I am a slow writer, I had some fantasy that the more I wrote, the faster I would become. Uh, no. Not going to happen.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
Cozy author Gillian Roberts is quoted as having said, “Don’t write it right, write it down.”

William Faulkner had another nugget: “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.”

Follow those two and you can’t go wrong.

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
Writing is a job and publishing is a business.

Would you please give my readers a short synopsis of your new book, GLITTER BOMB, which you wrote with Laura Childs?
It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans and scrapbook shop owner Carmela Bertrand is excited to be attending the Pluvius Parade along with her best friend, Ava. Carmela's ex-husband, Shamus, rides by the duo on his float at the head of the parade, when suddenly the revelry turns to disaster. Shamus' float crashes and explodes, and although Shamus escapes unhurt, a member of his krewe is killed.

Carmela and Ava plunge into an investigation of the krewe-member's death, but as they dig deeper it starts to look less like an accident and more like a murder....and Shamus seems less like a victim, and more like a suspect.

Well, that’s got my attention – especially since it takes place in N’awlins, one of my favorite cities. If you’d like to buy this book or learn more about her other writing, here are some links to get you started.


  1. I am very excited to be here. Thanks so much for an incisive and entertaining interview. xoxo Terrie

  2. Terrie,

    I enjoyed reading the interview. It's so nice to learn more about you and your work. Best wishes for your continued success.

  3. Hi Jacquie, so kind of you to stop by. I agree. I love to learn about other writers and their process. xoxo T

  4. Excellent interview, Terrie. Like you, I don't set any speed records when I write, so we have that in common. Write on, my friend, and best wishes for more great books, no matter long how it takes.

  5. I too love short stories more than novels--I like the tight form and narrow focus, and the freedom to try different things. Alas, I too am a slow writer; when I try to write fast, I hate what I produce. Excellent interview, Terrie.

  6. Hi Earl and Susan, Thanks so much for stopping by. I am so pleased to learn I am not the only slow poke at the key board. Hugs, Terrie