Inside the Author’s Cranium: Terri Farley

Today it is my pleasure to feature the amazing Terri Farley, not only a fabulous author, but a devoted advocate for the West’s wild horses and works with young people learning to make their voices heard. She is the best-selling author of the Phantom Stallion series for young readers and Seven Tears into the Sea, a contemporary Celtic fantasy nominated as a YALSA best book. Her newest book Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them, is her first work of non-fiction.  Wild at Heart, published by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, is a Junior Library Guild selection, 2015 winner of the Sterling North Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature and has been honored by the National Science Teachers Association and commended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Nevada Writers Hall of Fame honored Farley for mid-career excellence in 2010. Her books have sold more than two million copies in 28 countries. And now here she is in her own words:

1.What’s your favorite word? Garb.  It’s such a sleek, lean, slash of a word, but it can conjure clothing from a riding habit to a nun’s habit.

2. What’s your least favorite word? Housewife:  no one should be married to a house (unless she wants to, I suppose) and the word reminds me of other downer words like drudge.

3. Describe your style of writing: Adventurous — I like writing many genres and I love to be swept away. I do my research, and everything I write is fact-based, but if I’m bored with my own work, the reader can’t possibly be touched by it.

4. Describe your work ethic: When I left teaching high school (I still miss the classroom a lot; that’s why I love school visits), I walked away from benefits and security, and promised my family I would work at writing like a real job. Once I’m into a project, I am dedicated and faithful. I ‘m usually up early to work out, walk the dogs and have fruit, nuts, and coffee  so that I can be at my keyboard by 8:30 a.m. Then, I spend as much time crafting the first three chapters of a novel as I do the entire rest of the book. The roots of the story tree are there, or the entire book tips over. I found it much more difficult to stick to my routine when I was writing WILD AT HEART: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them.  With non-fiction, I had to interview people and wait for them to get back to me. Surprisingly, my book was not always the most important part of their lives.  Add to that the fact that a vital source — the Bureau of Land Management — refused for 13 months, to speak on the record, and the speed at which science kept changing. All nine re-writes included fact updates.

5. What is your main writing fault/flaw? I fall in love with my research. I usually manage to weed out the “wow, but did you know —”  stuff so that it doesn’t slow the action, but wow, did you know that 25% of rattlesnake bites are non-venomous? That will absolutely find it’s way into one of my books.

6. Any tips on how to flesh out a character? Yes!  I teach a workshop called “Charting Your Characters’ Inner Landscape” and one of the most challenging exercises is letting other participants ask you random questions — which likely aren’t plot points —  about your protagonist. You created this person, so you should know everything. Example: What is s/he wearing on the last page of the book?  When was she so sick, she wanted to die?  When he was in high school, how did he treat kids who were obvious outcasts?

7. Who are your favorite prose authors? Four come to mind quickly: Sy Montgomery — author of amazing non-fiction about the natural world, like “The Soul of an Octopus” and “Good, Good Pig.”

Deanne Stillman — author of “Twentynine Palms,” “Mustang” and other gritty and insightful books that treat setting as a character and chronicles the impact of setting on all of the other characters

Mary Cronk Farrell – – I recently read her “Pure Grit,” which tells how WWII nurses survived combat and prison camps and she does a wonderful job of weaving quotes through little known history

Anne Morrow Lindbergh — for insight into everything important, it’s hard to beat her extended essay “Gifts from the Sea.”

8. Who are your favorite poets? I’m pretty omnivorous in my poetic tastes; I dive into Shel Silverstein and passages from the King James Bible with as much anticipation as Langston Hughes, Anne Sexton and  I love Dorothy Parker! I’ve stayed in the Algonquin Hotel in New York expressly to imagine her laughter around me.

9. Who are your favorite heroes/heroines in fiction? I’m endlessly fascinated by “Hamlet” and Patty Bergen in “Summer of My German Soldier” is a brave girl I admire in the same way I do Scout from “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

10. What intrigues you? Relationships between humans and other species; superstitions and fortune-telling; brain function; the factual basis of mythology intrigues me. As we learn more about the world via science, we are — or at least should be! — rethinking a lot of folk tales and legends.

11. What profession other than writing would you like to learn? I would like to learn the Celtic harp and revitalize my skills as a fencer (the kind with a sword, not a hammer).

12. What natural talents have you been gifted with? Listening, kindness, and imagination

13. Assuming there will be an afterlife, who would you like to meet and why? Of course I want to meet all of my beloved family members, especially my mother and grandmother, but I am just sappy enough to hope that all of the dogs I’ve loved and lost — Bootsy and Dinky, Eve, Rookie, Rosie and Cinnamon — will be there, too.  What a romp we’ll have!

14. What is your favorite writing motto/mantra? I have two —a  hand-painted card from my mother says: “Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established,” and a note from my husband says “Put your butt in the chair and write!”

15. What motivates you? Right now, hope and fear. Human greed is killing the Earth. Seventh generation sustainability might save it, if we hurry. It’s hard not to see the remaining beauty and grieve prematurely. In WILD AT HEART, I say that the last wild horse may already have been born. Some people think that’s silly. I wish it were, but given human disregard for the gene pool and habitat of mustangs and other wild life,  it’s not. I hope by speaking truth to power, we can help stop the American mustangs’ extinction and the industrialization of wilderness.

To learn more about Terri, visit http://www.TerriFarley.com 

Live vid of new book: WILD AT HEART  true science, history and eye-witness accounts of America’s wild horses  from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt


About Linda Boyden

Teacher. Author. Artist. Storyteller. Poet. I write a poem a day. A picture book each month. I write novels for kids. I color in and out of the lines. I help young children love words and stories. I believe laughter comes straight from the Creator who put us on this fine Earth so we can help one another do our best.

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One response to “Inside the Author’s Cranium: Terri Farley”

  1. Craig Lew says:

    Awesome interview. I had no idea that 25% of rattlesnake bites are non-venomous but that explains a pain in my ankle after I ran over a rattler on my bike but my leg didn’t swell up at all.

    Terri was my mentor during my adventure with the Nevada SCBWI mentorship and I must agree her super powers are indeed, “Listening, kindness, and imagination.”

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