Cathy Lamb: So, shall I call you T.E.? What is your real name?
Teri Woods: I know…sounds pompous, doesn’t it? Like who do I think I am, Batman? People call me Teri. I couldn’t publish under that name because there’s already a well-established writer…of mystery novels and others…publishing as Teri Woods. Teresa (my given name) sounds like a telemarketer is calling me, so my publisher and I decided to go with my initials. But, please, call me Teri.
Teri, I love this line from your new book, “The Unforgivable Fix,” The killer won’t come for you, you fool. He’ll come for me.”
That just gives me the shivers, in a good way. Tell us what the story is about.
“The Unforgiveable Fix” is the third book in the Justice Series and continues the stories of Mort Grant, Chief of Detectives for the Seattle Police Department, and Lydia Corriger, a clinical psychologist in Olympia. Mort and Lydia’s paths crossed in my first book, “The Fixer.” I’d tell you all about that, but it would spoil the fun for readers new to the series. Suffice it to say Mort and Lydia share a secret that keeps them bound tighter than any blood line or romantic involvement could.
In this installment, Lydia tentatively resumes her private practice after healing from some serious scrapes in books one and two. She tries to start slowly, easing in with a few patients and some teaching as a favor to a friend. Soon she’s embroiled in a nasty bit of business that may cost her everything, including her life.
At the same time, Mort’s thrill seeking daughter, Allie, who’s been lost to the family for the past three years as she jets around the world playing consort to a global drug king pin, finds herself on the run from some very, very bad apples who are out to destroy her boyfriend by destroying her.
Allie runs back home and while Mort tries to save his daughter from both the Russian mob and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he stashes her the one place he hopes she’ll be safe: with Lydia. Much tension, double-dealing, and mayhem ensues. And, as is typical in my books, nothing is as it seems.
Sheesh. I feel like I’ve been on a literary roller coaster ride already, holding my hat on my head and screaming. What a story.
You seem so nice. Gentle. Kind. And then – scary evil. What draws you to crime, thrillers, killers?
I’m a clinical psychologist and I specialize in profound behavioral and emotional dysregulation. Every day I get to work with people who do the most outlandish, destructive (and often self-destructive) things as they stumble toward some twisted idea of what would make them happy. I’m intrigued by that.
I like the way my patients take me by the hand and lead me to the edge of any manner of cruelties people are able to perpetrate against themselves or others. Very often the behaviors include crimes. Sometimes violent crimes. I think my writing is just a natural extension of what I see in my work-a-day world.
I’m sitting here in my kitchen nook, trying to drink my coffee, my mouth now hanging open, as I imagine your work day. I try to perfect my love scenes and you’re dealing, often, with criminals and they’re twisted, cruel thinking. And then you go home and make dinner…
Did you ever imagine, as a child, or a teenager, that you would be writing this type of book? Did you even want to be a writer when you were a kid? What triggered this genre?
I can remember a yellow notebook I had when I was young. Maybe seven or eight years old. I’d write little stories in it and anyone who wanted to play with me would have to listen to my story first. It wasn’t long before kids were bringing other kids by, asking me to read them my stories, too.
Of course I was happy to oblige. I recall thinking I’d keep that notebook my entire life and it would be the first of hundreds of notebooks I would fill.
You see where this is going, right? That little yellow notebook is nowhere to be found…I didn’t give it companions on the shelf…and I doubt I ever even filled it. I grew up poor and the notion of learning how to write just wasn’t an option. I was expected to study something that was sure to give me a chance to make an independent living.
So, I studied hard, went to college, and took a Bachelor of Science degree. Very practical. Then I went on to a master’s and Ph.D. in psychology. That path worked. I earn a comfortable living. But about six years ago, after I learned another scientific article I’d written had been accepted for publication, I wondered, quite out of the blue, if I could write anything creative. Maybe the little girl with the yellow notebook was tugging at my subconscious.
In the shower that morning a murder came to me. By noon I had my cast of characters. I came home after work, went to my office, and started writing. I remember my husband came home and poked his nose in, asking what I was working on. “I’m writing a murder mystery”, I said. Now, those words had never come out of my mouth before. Nor had I expressed any desire as an adult to write creatively. But there I was. And the writing opened a joy in me that spills over to all parts of my life.
My novels may be twisted and dark, but the writing of them has brought me tremendous pleasure and light.
One of your characters, Allie Grant, has been the lover of, and I quote from your book, “One of the world’s most powerful and deadly men.” How did you do the research for this part? (Can you hear me chuckling when I ask this question?) And what research did you do to write the Russian mob realistically?
Oh, my! That was great fun! I read newspaper and magazine articles about the explosion of Russian gangsters following the fall of communism. I took particular interest in the sheer hedonism of their consumption. Those guys know how to indulge themselves.
Of course, they also know how to be brutal. They don’t rule with an iron fist…that would be far too delicate for their ideas of enforcing order. I’m also fortunate to have met several people who immigrated from Russia and learned how filled with hope people were following the collapse of the Soviet Union, only to have those hopes dashed when the authoritarian regime of the government was seemingly immediately replaced by the authoritarianism of the criminal oligarchies that emerged.
So, I took what I learned from my research, blended it in with the twisty cruelties I’ve come across in my practice, and spiced it up with my own sick imagination.
So you had a three fold force: The Russian mob, chatty criminals, and your imagination gone wild.
I love that The Fixer is a woman. She’s a hired gun in a home built like a fortress. Tell me what inspired this character? Any of you in her? Is she your alter ego?
The Fixer knows what it’s like to be unfairly treated and presumptively judged. I think all women can recall experiences like that in their own lives. The Fixer is interesting to me because she’s actually quite fearful. But when she’s championing the cause of someone else she’s blindingly fearless. She’s confident and strong when defending others, yet so wrapped in her own vulnerabilities she’s stunting her own life and limiting her own happiness.
But, man, I love how kick-ass she is.
I don’t know if she’s my alter ego…but I’ll cop to wishing there was more justice in the world. I’m confident in my non-violence, and The Fixer is unapologetic in raining violence down on those who clearly deserve it. So, I’m hoping there’s no overlap there. However, I do try to be an agent for fairness wherever I can.
What The Fixer and I do share is her address. While I live in Madison, Wisconsin now, when I was first married I lived in the house where The Fixer lives now. High upon a cliff overlooking Dana Passage. The islands and the mountains in the distance. Eagles and sea gulls. Cedar and Fir trees. It was heaven. Now, when I lived there it wasn’t an armed fortress and it didn’t have the supercomputer or NSA-worthy communication center that The Fixer has in her basement, but it was lovely.
When you’re not writing you are…
I’m living a life better than that little girl with the yellow notebook growing up in that rusted-out steel town ever could have imagined. I’m healthy and strong. I’m married 33 years to the finest man I know, and we’re still crazy for one another.
I’m playing with my dogs…well, actually serving my dogs, it is they who run the house. I’m enjoying “Wednesdays are Friends Days.” Every Wednesday afternoon I meet with a group of women to eat and laugh and support one another. Then I meet with another, smaller group of women to drink and laugh and support one another.
I hike, I kayak, I bike. I binge watch HBO series and read whatever I can get my hands on. I experiment in the kitchen. I sit in the breakfast nook and watch the birds in the feeder.
And I try to stay grateful. I’ve worked hard to build my life. And I know there’s a Universe that has shown me I’m not in this alone. For that I am eternally grateful.
For everyone who wants to write out there, but who also have day jobs, give them some advice on how to do both. How to manage the time, energy, and efforts while still finding time for family and friends and sanity.
You’ve answered the question in the asking. I’m asked a lot…I mean a WHOLE lot…some version of “How do you do all the things you do?” It’s all about managing time.
Here’s my advice to writers: WRITE. Write like you mean it. Write like it’s your job and you’re bucking for employee of the month. Don’t FIND the time to write. MAKE it. Schedule time to write every day. I don’t care if it’s an outline of a scene or ten pages in your novel. WRITE! Don’t buy into that goofy notion that you have to wait for the muse to strike. That’s just an excuse for not writing. Write and the muse will come. The ideas will flow at varying levels. The words will wax poetic one moment and fall flat the next. That’s okay. KEEP WRITING!
MAKE time for yourself. MAKE time for friends. MAKE time for your relationship. Take care of yourself with good nutrition, sleep, and exercise. MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Here’s what we’ve got: we’ve got time, we’ve got talent, and we’ve got treasury. Spend each where it counts.
Very often, when people ask how I get so much done, I’ll ask them what they’d like to have time to do. Folks seldom have trouble answering that. “If I had time I’d write.” Or they tell me they’d travel or exercise more or spend more time with their kids or learn to speak Swahili. Whatever! Folks seem to know what they’d do if they had more time.
Well guess what…WE DON’T HAVE MORE TIME. We have THIS time. I’ll ask those same folks…after they’ve told me what they’d do if they had more time, what they did last evening. This is what I hear the majority of the time: “Nothing” “Watched television” “Played video games” “Hung out on Facebook”…yadda, yadda, yadda.
See what I mean? Pick anyone who’s successful at what they do. Ask THEM what they did last evening. They have the same amount of time we all do. They’ve simply made the decision to MAKE the time work for them by doing what brings them joy.
And don’t fall into that trap of expectations. Too many people…women especially, give their time, talent, and treasury to others. They give away their most valuable resources then wonder what happened.
Make it happen. This is your one and only life. Find what you value. Hang a goal off that value. Then point your nose in the direction of that goal and start marching toward it.
Okay…enough with the preaching. I’m kicking over that soap box.
That was quite a soap box, though. Excellent advice.
Three favorite places to be on the planet Earth?
What a great question! First and foremost I’m going to say “Anyplace my hubby is”. Now, with that out of the way…
1) Camden, Maine
2) Bayfield, Wisconsin
3) France…don’t care where. Normandy? Check. Provence? Sure. Lyon? You bet. Just France. Yummy, lovely, expensive France.
Thank you for your time, Teri!
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