PageOneLit.com: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing
a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
p.m. terrell: I am a native of
Washington, DC. My father was in the FBI and we were transferred
around a bit while I was growing up. In 1967, we found ourselves in
the Mississippi Delta during one of the most tumultuous times in the
South’s history. It was during that time that I began to read and
write in earnest. My earliest influence was In Cold Blood by Truman
Capote. Considered ground-breaking, it was a true story told with
the suspense of a novel. Because of my father’s influence in law
enforcement, I was drawn from an early age to crime and suspense
stories, and In Cold Blood reinforced my need to write about crime
and suspense. My first novel was completed when I was only nine
PageOneLit.com: Why do you write?
p.m. terrell: Asking why I
write is like asking why I breathe. Writing has always been a major
part of my life and I can’t imagine not writing.
PageoneLit.com: Briefly discuss your book River Passage.
p.m. terrell: River Passage is
the true story of the Donelson voyage, which left Fort Patrick Henry
for Fort Nashborough. The journey was supposed to take only four
weeks, but more than four months later, a ragtag group of survivors
arrived at Fort Nashborough with a harrowing tale. Their river
voyage had taken them through the heart of hostile Indian Territory
at the height of the Chickamauga Indian War. They were repeatedly
attacked along the way; some settlers were killed, others captured,
still others wounded. They also faced near starvation, frostbite,
small pox, and deadly whirlpools and rapids.
PageOneLit.com: Who is Mary Neely ?
p.m. terrell: Mary Neely was
only 18 years old when she joined the Donelson expedition with her
family. Though the Neely family owned 300 head of cattle in Virginia
and were considered prosperous, they journeyed to Fort Nashborough
(now Nashville, TN) in search of a better future for themselves and
the generations that followed. But only a few months after reaching
Fort Nashborough, Shawnee warriors attacked, killing Mary’s father,
William, and capturing Mary. She was taken deep into Indian
Territory, renamed “Songbird” for her beautiful voice, and kept as a
slave for three years before she managed to escape. She journeyed on
foot, alone, over hundreds of miles in order to be reunited with her
family. Both River Passage and Songbirds are Free are told through
the eyes of Mary. If Mary were alive today, she would be my cousin.
My maiden name is Neely, and my ancestors have been in the Nashville
area since 1780.
PageOneLit.com: What makes River Passage stand out from other
historical fiction books that are on the bookshelves?
p.m. terrell: River Passage is
a true story, considered so historically accurate that the Nashville
Metropolitan Government Archives admitted the original manuscript
into their Archives for future historians and researchers. But it is
told with the style of a novel, filled with adventure and suspense.
Due to the use of dialogue (it is told through the eyes of Mary
Neely) it transcends two genres: historical fiction and creative
non-fiction. Because I “cut my teeth” on writing suspense/thrillers
that style continues through this historical work, making the reader
feel as if they, too, are on that river voyage. It won the 2010 Best
Fiction & Drama Award as well (Bengal Book Reviews.)
PageOneLit.com: What is it about the historical fiction genre you
p.m. terrell: Truth is stranger
than fiction, and if I had been writing a fictional account of a
river voyage and a capture by Indians, I would not have continued
throwing so many challenges and obstacles in the characters’ paths.
But just when you think these folks badly needed a break, more was
thrown in their way. I find their strength, their courage, their
faith and their determination fascinating. Because they are also my
ancestors, writing these books have also shed a great deal of light
on my own family: where we came from, why we ended up in Middle
Tennessee, and what they had hoped for future generations. It is
also the story of the founding of our country, the hardships the
earliest Americans went through to be free, things that are hard to
imagine just two hundred years later.
PageOneLit.com: Briefly discuss your book Exit 22.
p.m. terrell: Exit 22 is a
contemporary suspense. It’s the story of Christopher Sandige, a
political strategist who is travelling south on Interstate 95 when
he is involved in a car accident at Exit 22 in North Carolina.
Stranded for the weekend in Lumberton, he meets a beautiful but
mysterious woman and quickly becomes involved in a double homicide.
Now he is on the run, trying to escape law enforcement that are
closing in on him, as well as a psychopathic hit man who is
determined to kill him. And he must also discover whether he can
truly trust the woman he is falling in love with—or whether she is
also a killer.
PageOneLit.com: If Hollywood called today and asked you to cast the
film version of Exit 22, who would you cast and why?
p.m. terrell: The psychopathic
hit man who knits baby booties when he isn’t killing would
definitely be Johnny Depp, because he is such a master at playing
quirky characters. Christopher Sandige, the political strategist who
must find it in himself to become a hero, would be played by Keanu
Reeves because he can bring a depth to a complex man who finds
himself out of his element. Brenda Carnegie would be played by
Sandra Bullock, because she is both feminine and capable; at one
point, Brenda takes Chris through an alligator-infested swamp trying
to escape and I can see Sandra doing that—and being totally sexy
when they arrive at an isolated cabin.
PageOneLit.com: What do you hope to achieve with your books?
p.m. terrell: I am passionate about telling Mary Neely’s story
through River Passage and Songbirds are Free because women in our
early history have not received the attention that men like Daniel
Boone, Davy Crockett and others have. And her true story is
remarkable. With my contemporary suspense, I want people to see
things actually occurring in our world—election fraud, kickbacks,
illegal immigration, bank fraud, offshore corporations, identity
theft—and see those events through the eyes of people affected by
them. Instead of showing statistics or preaching a particular
viewpoint, I want people to form their own opinions based on what
could really happen—or that which is happening, right under our
PageOneLit.com: What was the last book you read?
p.m. terrell: Three Cups of
Tea, the true story of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who stumbled
into a Pakistani village after getting lost on K2 and returned to
build a school there. It is the story of the people affected by
decades of war, their history, and the power of what one man can do
to change our world.
PageOneLit.com: What's next?
p.m. terrell: My next book, The
Banker’s Greed, is a collaboration with T. Randy Stevens, a bank
CEO, about a banker’s daughter who is kidnapped and he is framed for
the crime. It will be released in the spring of 2011. I have also
begun a series about a CIA seer; the CIA once used psychic seers in
order to infiltrate areas that were too remote for a person to
physically break into. They officially disbanded the practice—but
what if they didn’t, and we were using seers today to reach the most
remote regions of the world, such as the mountains between Pakistan
PageOneLit.com: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they
enhance your writing?
p.m. terrell: I am passionate
about animal welfare. I have four rescue dogs that each began their
life in the saddest of circumstances. I have a Jack Russell who was
shot, his leg shattered; a collie who lived in a crate for breeding
purposes in a back yard puppy mill; a foxhound who was paralyzed
from the neck down but who was taught how to stand and walk again;
and another foxhound (his sister) who suffers from a heart
condition. When I am not writing, I am working toward bettering Life
for these four, as well as other animals that come across my path.
In The Banker’s Greed, I have a golden retriever as a prominent
character; that role was auctioned this past year, the money going
to the Robeson County Humane Society in North Carolina to provide
funds for homeless animals. I often have pets in my books because
animals have been members of our families for centuries. I am also a
novice fish-keeper, and would love to have more aquariums than my
house could hold.