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Terry Edge Interview

Posted on 01 September 2004. © Copyright 2004-2021 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to new Site Expert, author and editor Terry Edge

When did you decide to be a writer?

Although I'd always written stories, it was when I was 10 and won a box of chocolates in a Cadbury's writing competition that I decided I was going to be a writer. It took me years to realise that fundamentally it was actually story-telling I loved to do, writing being one way of expressing it. Which is why I once took a break from fiction writing to work in theatre and training.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

The first writer who affected me emotionally in a powerful way was T H White, with 'The Once and Future King'. I picked it up at random when I was 16 and loved the passion, scope and humour of it. It's still my favourite book. About the same time, I was also heavily influenced by the work of sci-fi writers who wrote during the 60s and 70s – especially Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Philip Wylie and, a little later, Ursula Le Guin. I loved the fact they were driven by vision and ideas. I also think William Kotzwinkle has produced some novels of genius – The Fan Man by him is the funniest book I've ever read. The writers who have influenced me most in the way I write are Young Adult writers, mostly American, such as M E Kerr, Katherine Paterson and Barbara Wersba. A book like Tunes for a Small Harmonica by Wersba is an object lesson in how to create memorable characters and heart-breaking plots out of the minimum of words. For UK young adult writers working today, I don't think you can have better models than Philip Pullman and Jan Mark. Possibly the writers I admire most at present work in US TV, like Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, and the writers on Frasier. They have the fantastic gift of being able to write highly intelligent dialogue that audiences are happy to sometimes have to struggle to keep up with.

How did you get your first publisher?

I was very naive and very annoyed that my first novel was rejected 14 times (especially since I was then sending it out to one publisher at a time). Then Pam Royds, the editor at Andre Deutsch, turned it down but with a positive rejection letter. So I rang her up and argued that she should take me on. I didn't realise that you're not supposed to do that sort of thing, but she agreed to meet me and did take me on.

What's the worst thing about writing?

The fact that you can spend months or more producing a book that an editor will love but then can't get through her acquisitions meeting because some junior editor decides it's too 'old-fashioned'. This has happened to me three times now.

And the best?

The magical feeling when a piece of dialogue, or a key sentence in the narrative, suddenly clicks and the writing transforms from being adequate to gripping. It's a 'jump out of the chair' moment for the reader and is the real reward for the writer's years of working at good technique, structure and all the rest of the craft that no one else really sees.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

Well, I once had a letter from a woman who said her occult knowledge had enabled her to unlock the secret code in one of my novels, and that she could see I was a true Master. The correct response to which, of course, is to nod slowly and say 'Mmmm', but this is difficult to do in a letter. The response that meant the most to me was recently when I emailed a girl who'd mentioned on her website that she was reading one of my novels. She emailed back and said that her boyfriend had read the book dozens of times, that it was his favourite because it had really made him think about life differently. I suggested she get him to write to me but she said he was much too shy. In other words, you usually never know.

What inspires you to write?

This will sound a little pat, but it's true to say that it's the other way round: writing inspires me. It provides a form for whatever's going on in me at the moment, over the last few days, in my childhood, whatever.

Do you have a writing routine? A place that’s special?

The pub. I write at home in the evenings and weekends but do the most work, mainly editing, in the local pub. There are no distractions there, no phones, emails or TV. Possibly, it's remarkable that no one ever asks me what I'm doing; then again, I don't think I'd ask me either.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Nell at 15:42 on 01 September 2004  Report this post
Great interview Terry - lots of good advice, and I've made a mental note to get out more...


Silverelli at 16:04 on 01 September 2004  Report this post
Very helpful, Terry.
You da man.


anisoara at 17:30 on 01 September 2004  Report this post
Terry --

A very thoughtful interview. This is loaded with useful insights. Thanks!


Sue H at 19:46 on 01 September 2004  Report this post
Excellent Terry! Once & Future King - I love it too! Everything you say inspires me to get my pen at the ready but more than that - to make sure that what I write is really good - to me anyway! I think our group is going to be a very splendid thing!

Terry Edge at 09:53 on 02 September 2004  Report this post
Nell, Adam, Ani, Sue

Thanks for your support. I know I keep banging on about this, but I do believe times have changed quite a bit in the writing/publishing world. There was a time when writers called the tune a little more than they do today, which meant you could succeed as a talented, stubborn (artistically and otherwise) individual. But today, I think you stand a better chance if you're able to be less precious/defensive/protective about your work and instead get it out in front of lots of like-minded people where it can be ground at until it shines. That's the theory anyway ...


tinyclanger at 11:41 on 02 September 2004  Report this post
I enjoyed reading this Terry, lots of good, achievable advice. I know your books from being a children's librarian, and am often tempted to try writing for teenagers as there seems to be room in the market (?) As yet have not got my finger out, but you can be sure if I do, I'll be knocking on the door of your Group!

Account Closed at 17:44 on 02 September 2004  Report this post
This is cool Terry, and very encouraging. I'm so so glad you mentioned T H White and Ursala Le Guin. Those books lived for me when I was in school!

I'm sure I've stumbled across 'The Fluppets' in a mate's toddler's bedroom! (children's books make me feel nostalgic).

Thanks for a great interview :)


Zigeroon at 19:50 on 02 September 2004  Report this post


Thanks for the insight. These interviews are always facinating and inspirational. They kind of fill the vacuum that tends to fill the writing space.

As Nell says, must get out more!


Nik Perring at 17:01 on 03 September 2004  Report this post
Good interview, good advice and very encouraging. Thanks Terry.

twister at 16:07 on 08 September 2004  Report this post
Very insightful interview Terry and highly enjoyable. I'm glad you mentioned Aaron Sorkin because I think he is without doubt the most astute writer working in TV and film at the moment.

I have worked my way through the first three series of "The West Wing" and waiting patiently for the fourth series to come out on DVD this month so I can indulge in more razor-sharp dialogue.

I would go so far as to say that anyone who wants to hone their own writing style and see how humour and drama can be combined to great effect should either watch the show or get hold of some of the scripts. The structure and economy of words is second to none in my view.

This includes people who are writing for books as well as TV or film.



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