Saturday, May 18, 2013

Interview with author Teralyn Pilgrim

Teralyn Pilgrim is a historical novelist seeking representation for SACRED FIRE, a novel about a vestal virgin in ancient Rome who had to perform a miracle to escape execution. She is hard at work on a second novel, VOODOO QUEEN, about the infamous voodoo leader Marie Laveau, who ruled and terrified New Orleans throughout the nineteenth century. Teralyn blogs about the joys and challenges of writing fiction at A Writer's Journey. She will be participating on the panel "Depicting Religion in Historical Fiction" at the 2013 Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, this June.

1. How do you find the people and topics of your books?

I don't go out looking for my topics; they find me. My ideas have come from college courses, vacation trips, word-of-mouth stories, and non-fiction books. If a writer is ever out of ideas, I recommend exploring as much of life as she can. Eventually, an aspect of life will jump out and ask to be made into a story.

2. Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process?

I'm still learning the best way to research, and of course the process is different for each book. I've only learned one hard and fast rule that everyone should follow: save EVERYTHING. I put every website I visit in Evernote, I have a folder on my Desktop for every image I see, and I own all my research books. I also include footnotes in my rough draft so I can remember where I get the information I used and easily find it again.

3. For you, what is the line between fiction and fact?

How much fact and how much fiction belongs in a novel depends on the type of book you're writing and what you want it to accomplish. If you're trying to write an accurate, true-to-life book that includes a works cited list, you darn well better get your facts right. If you want to write a romance or a mystery about people who never really lived, the story comes first. For me personally, history is more important than artistic license, but artistic license is necessary to make the history palatable.

4. What are your favorite reads? Favorite movies? Dominating influences?

My favorite modern books are POPE JOAN, MOTHER OF THE BELIEVERS, and PEONY IN LOVE. My favorite classics are JANE EYRE, LORD OF THE RINGS, and LES MISERABLES.

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