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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Author Showcase: Terry Lee

    Partly Sunny by Terry Lee is the poignant story of Darcy, a thirty-year-old woman living in Houston at the Fountain Oaks Apartments. With much of the story centering on this location, we are introduced to various characters that come into her life. It's through these characters that she finds her life changing in unexpected, though not unwelcome ways. Thinking herself to be on the right path to achieve what she believes to be the life she wants, it's these characters, along with her best friend Miranda's unexpected pregnancy, that slowly reveal to her what's really important in life. The elderly and ever brusque apartment manager, Ms. Viola, also proves to be a big influence as well. Sometimes the road to our 'fairytale life' is paved with potholes, and the castle at the end of the road turns out to be an apartment, but as long as it's filled with people we love, isn't that what really matters?
    Partly Sunny is an incredibly heartwarming story. Author Terry Lee has created such wonderful and diverse characters and situations that you can't help but really like them all. Great character building gave Darcy, and all the characters involved in her life, such depth and reality. Even Ms. Viola, with her brusque and sometimes harsh attitude, is shown to be a diamond in the rough, hiding behind her own walls to keep the hurts out. From the mundane to the shocking, all the events in Darcy's life lead her to the discovery I wish all young women could make: sometimes happiness isn't really out there somewhere, it's quite often right beneath your very nose. I highly recommend Partly Sunny, and most especially to anyone still looking for their fairytale. Maybe it's not as far away as you think. - Reviewed by Chameleon (B.G.) for Reader's Favorite
Q. Terry, thanks for joining me. What set you on the road to writing your first novel?

Thanks for having me!

A. There are several components to this question. As a volunteer for Houston Hospice I have had the privilege of sitting with people toward the very end of their life who talk to those on “the other side.” Through my Hospice training I learned about this phenomenon, “nearing death awareness” and is explained by the authors of Final Gifts like the soul’s journey leaving this physical foot still here and the other having stepped across to those waiting on the other side. I believe we are spirits in physical bodies vs physical bodies with spirits, which makes this easy for me to conceptualize.
    The next factor…my mom’s death in 1987. I was 35. Though it’s been over 25 yrs. since her death, at times I feel her so near. With that being said, my thoughts started spinning…if she is near, what is her world like? Is there a Starbucks? Does she get to choose what clothes she wears? Is an umbrella necessary? Hence the creation of Saving Gracie, a story about love transcending beyond death. I’ve also been fascinated in movies where there is a death, but for the person dying, life picks back up most times without missing a step. (Examples: Always, Defending Your Life, Ghost, Heaven Can Wait, Kiss Me Goodbye, Heart and Souls, and a really old one…The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

The possibilities of life after death are fascinating, for sure.

Q. Partly Sunny really kind of sneaked up on me. I expected it to be a quiet, heartwarming story, but it was so much more than that, and I wasn't prepared at how involved I got in it. What inspired this story?

A. I’m an observer by nature and believe everyone has a story to tell. The setting, Fountain Oaks (not the real name), is an actual small, fairly rundown apartment complex that looks like it was dropped from an alien space-craft right in the middle of Houston’s Galleria area. I know this because my daughter lived there for several years after graduating from college. And yes, a host of the most unusual characters lived there. The standing joke between me and my daughter was she could say she lived in the Galleria area of Houston. Of course, her mindset could have cared less about the pretentious part, only it provided her affordable rent until she could get her feet on the ground with her new marketing job.
     But then…the story began. What if a young woman, hung up on designer labels and unrealistic white-horse fairy tales purposely chose Fountain Oaks for the very reason of being able to tout her prestigious zip code? Hence, Darcy Daniels and Partly Sunny.

Q. You give readers such rich details of your characters, not just physically, but their emotional states as well. I have a feeling that perhaps your training as a dependency counselor really helped you in clearly detailing those emotional states?

A. My training as a chemical dependency counselor greatly enhanced my listening/observing skills. To be an effect counselor I learned to be fully present when listening. If I was concentrating on what my next question would be, I’m was not being a good listener and would most likely miss a piece of information that may provide valuable insight into why this person was sitting across from me in a treatment center. My goal as a counselor was to establish rapport/trust which cannot be learned if I’m cleaning out my purse during an individual session or, heaven forbid, sending a text.
    I use these same techniques when studying characters for my stories. They often evolve into actors on the big screen, although it’s more the personality portrayed more than the actual actor. Example: I clearly saw Darcy in my mind’s eye as Emma Stone. However, it was the personality of Skeeter in The Help that was my Darcy, not any other role Emma Stone had played. My OCD (just kidding…sorta) kicks in and I study, study, study these personalities. Then developing physical details or emotional states becomes less complicated. Writing dialogue becomes a breeze because I have a clear picture of how they will respond to certain situations.

Q. I would imagine that a lot of readers can identify with at least one of your characters, or know someone that could. Are any of your characters based on people you actually know?

A. This question actually makes me smile. The first time my daughter read Partly Sunny she drilled me on “did I really think she was Darcy?” which, of course, the answer was “no way.” I often get responses from Saving Gracie like: “I’m Gracie!” (a grown woman trying to find her own way in the world) or “Kathryn is exactly like my mother” (a helicopter mom). I love these kinds of responses. Each one tells me I’ve accomplished my task…making my characters seem real to the reader.

Q. Living in Houston you certainly had a lot of great architecture to work with, did you use real locations for other areas in your book?

A. The other locations in Houston are all real: Christie’s Seafood, Texadelphia, Memorial Oaks Cemetery, the Galleria, Captain Benny’s, Cheesecake Factory, but most of all Roznovsky’s Hamburgers, a place near and dear to my heart. Owned by two of the nicest people on the planet (and who are my high school friends), Roznovsky’s is located smack-dab in my old neighborhood, which we fondly refer to as “the hood.” Launch parties for both Saving Gracie and Partly Sunny have been held there and on February 25, we’re gathering again to hear a fellow high school friend, Gregg Watts, play his acoustic guitar and sing the songs we grew up with. Roznovsky’s can be found on Facebook and in my mind is my “Cheers” - Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…
Q. That's great! I will be looking for those places next time my husband and I go to Houston, just so I can say I saw them! What projects do you have planned for the future? With the exceptional writing of Partly Sunny, I'm sure you have at least a few more stories you could weave for us.

A. Several projects are in the works. My current Hospice volunteer assignment is a 22 yr. old woman with terminal ovarian cancer. She’s got a beautiful smile and shiny brown eyes and an outlook on life that brings tears to my eyes. What a joy to be able to spend time with her. She not only wants to tell her story, but to help other Hospice patients. Because of writing, my time with Hospice has been limited over the past couple of years to contributing no-sew blankets as I can get them made to be handed out at the Houston Hospice Patient Care Center. However, my wonderful volunteer coordinators pulled me back into active status to help this woman tell her story. I am honored.
     I will be teaching a one-day creative writing workshop this May with the Duke TIP Academic Adventures Program in the Houston Museum District. I’ve also applied for the WITS (Writers In The Schools) program, which would allow me to work with kids one day a week in Houston ISD on creative writing skills.
    And last, my third book, Time Trials, which I am more than anxious to dive back into.

Q. Care to give us a taste of what we can expect next?

A. Time Trials is a story of a group of eight young women, all away from home for the first time, who bond during their first semester at college. I’ve used Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Man to briefly describe the developmental stages of people during certain periods of their lives. Time Trials will span over 40 years and how life and perceptions are either engrained or change greatly. My beta reader (I’ve knick-named her ‘Beta-Gram’) keeps referring to Time Trials as 20-40-60, which are the ages of the women in the story. Always takes me a minute to realize she’s talking about Time Trials. And yes, I’ve got my “characters” identified and on my storyboard when they are in their twenties, forties, and sixties…

Q. Any parting comments like to leave the readers with?

A. I’m not one of those who can say they’ve been writing their entire life. Although writers have been in my family, I did not seriously begin my first story until 2006 at the age of 54. My first novel was published in 2012, the year I turned 60. Book two, Partly Sunny, was released in September, 2013, which proves it’s never too late to re-invent yourself or have a dream come true. I’m having the time of my life and am so far out of my comfort zone, but hey…what a ride!

Thanks for your time, Terry, I wish you much success, and look forward to reading your next book!
Partly Sunny   Click Here to Purchase From Amazon

Chameleon Author

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