Writer Interviews: Terry Ambrose

Posted by on September 12, 2012













One of the best parts of being a writer and the advent of social media is meeting writers “online” and Terry Ambrose is one such example. These writer interviews are so much fun for me. I love reading more words of wisdom from a fellow writer. Today you will meet Terry, a true gentleman. I love his bio at the end. He has obviously seen some fascinating things in life. Here is Terry, in his own words:

1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?

Before I start writing, I like to clear out all of the other detritus that interferes with my creativity.  I’ll create a defined break in my routine, something that forces a deliberate shift in my thinking. I recently realized that I’d become a slave to email and social media and now turn those off when it’s time to write. That simple change is helping me to regain my focus, so that I can stick to a train of thought.

2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?

I recently read your interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan in which she said, “Can you imagine—if I said to the producer of the six o’clock news:  ‘May I be on at ten after 6, instead of 6? I’m just not feeling the muse…’” I laughed a lot when I read that quote because it’s true. In addition to my columns for Examiner.com, I write a blog, a novel, and another blog for our web design business. With so many different projects going on, I’m not allowed to not have ideas. My biggest problem is not having enough time in a day to deal with those conflicting demands. When I lose my focus and start getting off track, it’s quotes like the one from Hank that remind me that I’m not the only one in this boat.

3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?

The best book I’ve read about the craft of writing is Jack M. Bickham’s “Scene and Structure.” For any writer, whether seasoned or newbie, this book diagnoses the building blocks of good fiction and offers a solid, defined methodology that can be used to build a great story.

4. Who do you read for fun?

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the time to read something for fun. However, I love Sue Grafton. I’m also a big fan of Deborah Coonts. Unfortunately, I’m behind on both of those authors, so if and when I get time to read for fun, that’s where I’m headed.

5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until after I’d finished my first novel. My first, really, really bad novel. Weak plot, cardboard characters, bad dialog, passive voice, lack of scene structure, and, did I mention bad dialog? You name the flaw, I’m sure it was there. But, the process of writing the book put me in touch with the joy I’d felt as a kid when I wrote my first short story. I was fortunate enough to get into an excellent critique group and began to learn what I’d been doing wrong. The more I learned, the more I enjoyed the process.

6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

I was recently asked this question when I was doing a presentation at a local service club. My response to the aspiring writer was, “Don’t.” The look of shock on her face got the desired reaction. We talked about the sheer volume of books being published, the tremendous commitment it takes to navigate the business, and the amount of rejection she might face. The only goal she’d ever set was to finish her book. She still wants to write, but now she’s starting to think beyond that goal.

7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?

The most important skill may well be perseverance. With perseverance, someone can learn to improve their craft, deal with the inevitable rejections that will come, and sit down in front of their keyboard every day and be creative.

8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?

I hate coffee. But, if you add enough chocolate and sugar to it, I’m good. In fact, I’m in heaven. My favorite drink is now a cafe mocha and my favorite food is coffee ice cream with chocolate chips in it. Yes, I admit it, I’m a chocoholic. The funny thing is that a long time ago I swore off caffeine and sugar and went without either for years. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, chocolate is one of the basic food groups.

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

I can’t really pinpoint a favorite in either category. I love mysteries that don’t have a lot of graphic violence, but do have complex characters and humor. In movies, I’m a sucker for old westerns. Of course, being your basic chicken, I’m not sure that I’d ever have wanted to be racing across the prairie on horseback while bad guys and indians chased me with guns blazing.

10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?

I’d like to thank Ed Stackler, an excellent editor, for helping me to learn the fundamentals of good fiction. He’s the one who made me realize I had potential, but still had a lot to learn. Readers now consistently compliment me on my dialog and the credit for that goes back to something Ed said to me many years ago, “Characters talk at each other, not to each other.” It’s such a subtlety, but it makes all the difference in how dialog comes across. If dialog sounds like real people talking, it’s boring. But, good dialog isn’t boring, it generates tension and conflict. That one little statement was such a profound lesson. My job is to keep learning those little things so I’m continually improving and producing a product that’s better than the one before.


Terry Ambrose started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark to “help” when negotiations failed.

A resident of Southern California, he loves spending time in Hawaii, especially on the Garden Island of Kauai, where he invents lies for others to read. His years of chasing deadbeats taught him many valuable life lessons such as—always keep your car in the garage


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