# Who are you and what do you write?
I’m Terry Shepherd, a former corporate guy who turned to writing fiction full time last year. I write about awesome female detectives and also write for kids in a wide array of genres, from mysteries to protecting yourselves during a Pandemic. Chasing Vega is my debut Jessica Ramirez thriller. It stars a diverse cast with the goal of inspiring the rich rainbow of colors, preferences and abilities that make up our world to believe that they can be like the heroes I write about. Juliette and the Mystery Bug is my Covid-19 kids book, beautifully illustrated by Casey Ratchford and written in the poetic style of Dr. Seuss, to help teach masking, distancing and the science of vaccines. It stars my grand-daughter, a miracle girl who came to us with Down syndrome. The story has also been produced as an audio book and a cartoon.
# Do your characters mirror real life people?
Absolutely. Jessica is based on Traci Ruiz, a 25 year cop veteran, who broke down doors and raised the ceiling for women and minorities in her department. Her sidekick, Alexandra Clark, is a composite of all of my best LGBTQ friends. Joey Price seems to get the most mail. He’s the medical examiner in Chasing Vega and is on the Autism spectrum. He’s based on several close friends who helped me craft his character.
# How can a white guy write about people of different races and abilities?
Every author learns to inhabit the characters we create. I love researching my stories and immerse myself in my stars’ lives and experiences. I’ve spent hundreds of hours riding with law enforcement, experiencing their training and talking with their families. Some of my best friends identify as LGBTQ. We’ve celebrated birthdays, marriages and babies together and they have been generous in sharing their inner journeys with me. As the grandfather of a special needs kid, I became captivated by how resilient, gifted and powerful we all can be. The best storytellers can channel their protagonists so that the reader feels like they can connect with them, too.
# It’s said that writing is a team sport. Who is on your team?
Boy, that’s the truth! I surround myself with people who are a lot smarter than I. I pick editors that have a sense for the story I’m trying to tell and help make the mechanics better. I have a Story Consultant who works with me on tweaking plots and character definitions, and a cadre of beta readers catch my errors and check me on facts. My cover designers have a sixth sense for what catches the eye on a bookshelf. And my publicist, Mickey Mikkelson, is the guy who forces me to get out from in front of the computer screen and share my work with the audience. It feels like one big family and enriches not only my writing, but also my life.
# Where do your story ideas come from?
I’m a great listener who is fascinated by other people’s adventures. I’m also a voracious reader and a news junky. Story ideas are constantly jumping out at me from these interactions. The hard part is deciding which ones to tell.
# You title your Jessica Ramirez thrillers with the word “Chasing”. What makes a good title?
I think the best titles are short and easy to remember. Chasing Vega, and Chasing the Captain work great on Twitter, billboards and are super easy to recall. I also like titles that can have multiple meanings. In September, I’m releasing a kids time-travel history book that I’m calling Students In Time. It’s about kids who go back in time to study history first hand. That title describes the story, but it also alludes to, “just in time,” adding a sense of urgency. I love titles that are also puzzles. I think they subtly attract people to read the book.
# Are you bothered when people give your stories bad reviews?
Yup. Like most of us, I was raised to be a people pleaser. But I also know that everybody has their own tastes. I try to dig through every review to find a nugget that can help me improve. If you go into any feedback situation with that attitude, you can find the diamonds among the dirt.
# Do you write for yourself or try to target an audience?
The Craft is my true fascination. An author friend once told me that the best artists can create on any canvas. That said, my books, so far, seem to be targeted to a higher purpose. With Chasing Vega, my hope is to inspire women of color to think about law enforcement careers, to help specially abled folks imagine themselves as doctors and to put groups that may have been marginalized in leadership roles. The tale still has to be compelling and satisfying to any reader, but I love it when there’s a secondary impact beyond the story. When I hear from young Latinas that they want to grow up to be like Jessica, it’s the ultimate compliment.
# What mistakes have you made along the way?
A ton! Failure and setbacks are the ultimate teachers. It took awhile to find my personal writing style. I’ve spent too much time and money on some resources and not enough on others. It’s all part of the journey. Our lives are a ballistic missiles that constantly re-aim based on experience.
# Ever had writers’ block?
Yup. I got stuck in the second act of Chasing the Captain and ended up putting it aside for a month and working on another project. I got some great advice from Doug (D.P.) Lyle. He says, “Write around it and come back to where you’re stuck later.” Kerry Schafer also suggested that I fill in more detail in the earlier chapters. Those two tricks unblocked me.
# What are a few things most people don’t know about you?
I am also a book narrator, have toured as a rock drummer, parachuted with the Army Golden Knights, driven NSACAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway and have flown just about every kind of aircraft except jets. What I’m most proud of is my beautiful wife and creative collaborator of 40 plus years, Colleen, and our four amazing kids (and two grandkids).
# What’s next?
Chasing the Captain begins it’s preview at the end of June with the official international launch in print, digital and audio book in September. Students in Time is slated for a fall debut. The third story on the Jessica Ramirez Thriller series is nearly finished and should see daylight sometime in 2021.