To bring people up to date, Terris Grimes was singularly awarded the 1997 Chester Himes Award for writing her mystery novels. She has written two mystery books, BLOOD WILL TELL and SOMEBODY ELSE'S CHILD. She is currently working on her third novel of this series.
Sister Sleuth:Tell us about yourself. With the publication of SOMEBODY ELSE'S CHILD you've hit the mystery scene with quite a bang -- the book is selling well across the country. You've even made Blackboard's bestseller list. Who are you? What have you done before and where did you come from all of a sudden?
Terris McMahan Grimes:That's a good question. Who am I and what am I doing here? As you know SOMEBODY ELSE'S CHILD is my debut novel. I consider myself to be a writer who did a very long apprenticeship. My apprenticeship consisted of reading everything I could get my hands on for the past forty years from the classics to trash and of course plenty of mysteries.
Sister Sleuth:Why did you chose to write mysteries?
Terris McMahan Grimes:Somehow when I was young I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and got hooked on mysteries. I read Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dorothy L.Sayers. When I exhausted them I progressed to the more contemporary writers.Initially I read lots of hard-boiled stuff like Raymond Chandler, John D.MacDonald, James M. Cain, etc. Later I discovered the women. I couldn't get enough of Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, and Linda Barnes. That's when I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up--write mysteries. Besides, my favorite writers just weren't writing them fast enough for me!
Sister Sleuth:You mentioned Paretsky, Grafton and Barnes. Are they your favorite mystery writers?
Terris McMahan Grimes:They were the first to introduce me to tough, capable female protagonist. But there are others I like too. There's Walter Mosely , Eleanor Taylor Bland,Liza Cody, Carolyn Hart, and the venerable Tony Hillerman. I recently discovered Tamar Myers and I'm hooked on her too.
Sister Sleuth:You mentioned the tough, capable female protagonists. Is that how you would describe Theresa Galloway, the protagonist of SOMEBODY ELSE'S CHILD?
Terris McMahan Grimes:Theresa is definitely capable. She has to be to handle a demanding job, manage a household, and still manage to be attentive to her mother who as you know is widowed. Theresa is also tough although she doesn't start thinking of herself as such until after she gone through a whole lot of changes including a few murders.
Sister Sleuth:Theresa is married and has two children. You're married and have two children. Is she your alter ego?
Terris McMahan Grimes:I don't think so. We come from similar backgrounds. We have a few things in common, but Theresa has way more fun than I do. I only dream about of some of the things she does.
Sister Sleuth:Like what?
Terris McMahan Grimes:Oh, like driving a BMW for one. Getting in fights and winning for another.
Sister Sleuth:You mean you don't drive a BMW?
Terris McMahan Grimes:No, honey. I drive a six year old Toyota. And before you ask, I've never been in a fight either not even when I went to Tompkins Elementary School in Oakland, California.
Sister Sleuth:I thought you were from Sacramento.
Terris McMahan Grimes:I've lived in Sacramento for the past twenty years or so, but I grew up in Oakland and went to school there. If we really want to get specific, I was born in a rural community near Pinebluff, Arkansas.
Sister Sleuth:Where did you go to college?
Terris McMahan Grimes:I graduated from California State University at Chico with a degree in English. I also attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Sister Sleuth:What about your day job? Don't you and Theresa have occupations in common?
Terris McMahan Grimes:We both work for the state, but we're in different departments. Mine is real hers is fictional. I'm currently a Land Agent which has to with property acquisition and management although I have worked as a personnel officer which is what Theresa is.
Sister Sleuth:Brenda Delacore. I just loved her. The child is crazy. Is she modeled after anyone you've worked with?
Terris McMahan Grimes:You like Brenda, huh. She's one of my favorite characters too after Mother, of course. I've know people who were Brenda in spirit, others who were Brenda in style, but no one who has quite managed to put it all together the way Brenda has.
Sister Sleuth:You mentioned Mother. Our discussion wouldn't be complete without talking about Mother. As far as I'm concerned, this is her book.
Terris McMahan Grimes:You get no argument from me on that, and I'm sure Mother would agree.
Sister Sleuth:How did you happened to develop Mother's character? And the question that must be asked, is she based on your mother?
Terris McMahan Grimes:Finally the truth can be told. My mother actually was the basis for Mother's character. My mother is everything that Mother is and then some. She's Mother with an attitude.
Sister Sleuth:How did you happen to build a series around Theresa and Mother?
Terris McMahan Grimes:I was going through some therapy and I seemed compelled to talk about how my mother was driving me crazy. But as I recounted the things she did, I realized it was actually funny. I mean it was some good stuff. I kept saying to myself, "Hey, this is good. I've got to use this." So I quit therapy and started writing. The rest is history.
Sister Sleuth:What's next for you?
Terris McMahan Grimes:Well, I just finished the second book in the series and its called BLOOD WILL TELL. It is due on bookstore shelves in January 1997. I'm also plotting the third book which has no title but involves the California gold rush and the NBA.
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