The Craft of Writing — May 2022



I am thrilled to welcome romantic mystery author Terry Odell to the Craft of Writing blog today as we continue our year-long interviews of mystery, suspense, thriller, and fantasy authors. Terry is the author of over thirty novels that she calls “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her newest release is In the Crossfire which is a Triple-D Ranch book. Book 1 in the series, In Hot Water, is permafree in ebook everywhere.


 * * *

Meet Terry Odell

“I love getting into the minds of my characters, turning them loose in tight spots and seeing what they do. Too often, they surprise me.

My published works include the Pine Hills Police Series, the Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops series, the Triple-D Ranch series and the stand alone, What’s in a Name? — all Romantic Suspense, as well as the Mapleton Mystery series, which has been described as a blend of police procedural and cozy mysteries. Heather’s Chase is a stand alone International Mystery Romance, which I had a blast researching on a trip through the British Isles. I’m currently working on a book set in Croatia after my trip there last October. My mystery short story collection, Seeing Red, is a Silver Falchion award winner. I also have a collection of contemporary romance short stories.

When I’m not writing, or watching wildlife from my window, I’m probably reading.”


Terry Odell shares her writing journey on the Craft of Writing blog. Click To Tweet

* * *


Welcome Terry Odell, and thank you for joining us!

Thanks so much for having me, Kay.


Please give us some background – have you always wanted to be a writer?

Absolutely not. I made up stories in my head from time to time, but they were usually variations on a book I’d read or a movie or television show I’d seen and wanted to adjust to my liking. I was a card-carrying AARP member well before I tinkered with writing. Rather than go into the entire story of how I became a writer by mistake, you can find it here.


Why did you decide to write novels that you call “Romance with a Twist of Mystery?”

Another long story. I’d been toying around with writing a mystery (the genre I read) and sent chapters to my daughters who both said “Mom, it’s a romance!” And both referred to the same paragraphs. Now, I’d never read a romance, had no desire to read romance, so I wondered why they thought I was writing one. Like many others, I had the misconception that “romance” was the equivalent of Harlequin category romances. Then I discovered romantic suspense, and discovered a “romance” didn’t have to follow those “rules” about hero and heroine meeting on the first page, having to start out hating each other. I realized that the mysteries I preferred to read were series, and I enjoyed following the character arcs as much as I did the crime solving. Side note: a columnist for Orlando Magazine read books from 4 chapter members, and I was fortunate to be one of them. His comments about my book, Finding Sarah said that unlike the other 3, my characters didn’t start out hating each other, but it was clearly a romance, and he quoted the same passage my daughters had pointed out.


Tell us about the first novel you wrote and how you came up with the story.

It started as a writing exercise for an online group. “Write a hook in under 200 words.” I threw something together and everyone said, “What happens next?” I had no idea, so I started writing. The story grew more or less at random. I knew nothing about writing, so it was a learn as you write experience. Eventually, I had enough “story” to know it would be about a cop whose job was ruled by black and white rules. How much would it take to push him into the gray? And the heroine was determined to be independent. How much would it take for her to accept help? I think I spent a good year working on the book, applying what I was learning. It ended up being published by the now-defunct Cerridwen Press, and was a finalist in the Volusia County Laurel Wreath contest in the romantic suspense category, so I must have been doing something right.


You’ve written four different series.  Can you tell us a little about each one of those?

Pine Hills Police
This series grew out of my first attempt at a novel, Finding Sarah. I had no intention of it becoming a series, but the characters demanded more page time. The series (really connected books rather than a true series with a continuing protagonist) focuses around the small Oregon town of Pine Hills and its police department (obvious, right?) and its citizens.

Blackthorne, Inc.
This is my action-adventure, covert ops, romantic suspense series. I wrote the first book in the series, When Danger Calls, after I finished Finding Sarah. Again, I had no intention of writing a series (and these are also connected books), and since Finding Sarah was with Cerridwen Press, I knew no traditional publisher would want a book 2. I think the inspiration for the series came from Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series. I created my own high-end security company so I could give them all the toys they needed and send them wherever I wanted. When Danger Calls was published by another now-defunct press, Five Star/Cengage, but I did get three books in that series published before they stopped publishing romantic suspense. I’m working on book 11 now.

Mapleton Mystery
This is my only true series, where a single protagonist runs the show. It’s also my only straight mystery series. It’s set in a small Colorado mountain town and features (in the first book, Deadly Secrets,) a reluctant Chief of Police, although over the course of the series, the character has grown into his job. Deadly Secrets came out right as indie publishing was getting attention. When traditional publishers couldn’t figure out how to sell a book that was part police procedural, part cozy, I decided to take it to readers myself and I’ve never looked back.

Triple-D Ranch
Cattle ranching is big in Colorado, so I wanted to set a book on a ranch. In Hot Water is a spinoff from my Blackthorne series, and the overall series theme is “Rangers Turned Ranchers” where the cowboys on the ranch are all former Army Rangers. It’s another romantic suspense series, with each of the four cowboys having a turn at being the hero.  My newest release, In the Crosshairs, is the fourth book in the series. Once I started writing, I knew I needed to do some hands-on research, so I spent two weeks on a working cattle ranch. Great fun!


Of all your works, do you have a favorite?

That’s like asking me which of my kids is my favorite. They all have places in my heart and for different reasons. It’s usually whatever book I’m working on at the moment.


What’s your writing process? Do you start with plot or characters or some combination?

Short answer: Yes. It’s different for each book, but most of the time, it’s characters first, then the problem they have to solve, then their GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) for that book. But the order can vary. If it’s a Mapleton book, then I’m relatively “locked in” with my protagonist, a police chief in a small town, and I have to find a mystery/crime for him to solve without turning Mapleton into Cabot Cove. For my romantic suspense books, they’re not “series” in the true sense of the word, but rather connected books, so it’s a recurring cast of characters with a secondary character from a previous book taking center stage in a new one. My Blackthorne, Inc. series can be set almost anywhere, so there’s a little more flexibility with those stories. The others have their own limitations and challenges. The Triple-D Ranch series is set on a cattle ranch in Colorado. There’s some leeway, but I can’t ignore the ranching. Pine Hills is a small town in Oregon, so it has some of the restrictions of the Mapleton series, but since the Pine Hills books are romantic suspense, the central characters will vary. (Except for Hidden Fire, because nobody told me that the romance genre rarely continues with the same hero and heroine in a second book, because they’ve already had their happily ever after.) But definitely, plot is never first. That shows up as I write.


What are your plans for future novels? Do you have another series in mind?

Right now, I’m working on a book set on a cruise in Croatia. It was going to be a stand alone like Heather’s Chase, but the reality of setting a book in another country where the characters have no jurisdiction is a challenge, so it morphed into a Blackthorne novel, because Blackthorne, Inc., can go anywhere. It’s a bit of a departure at the moment, because the protagonist isn’t a covert ops agent; he’s from Security and Investigations. Not sure where it’s going yet, as I’m only about 40,000 words into it. (Can you tell I’m not a plotter?)


What advice would you give an aspiring author of romantic suspense / mystery?

Read. Join writing groups. Read. Go to conferences. Read. Attend workshops. And read some more. Learn the craft, but most of all, have fun. It’s not an easy business, so if you don’t enjoy the process (and it’s more than the writing—marketing is part of the game), you’ll burn out in a hurry. Don’t quit your day job.)


Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Best place is at my website. I also have a blog, Terry’s Place where I talk about writing and anything else that strikes my fancy. I’m a regular contributor at The Kill Zone Blog as well. You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a monthly (more or less) newsletter. Sign up and get a free read.


Thank you, Terry, for being with us today.

My pleasure, Kay.

Terry Odell shares her writing journey on the Craft of Writing blog. Click To Tweet


  • Thanks so much for having me, Kay. I enjoyed answering your questions.

  • Good morning, Kay and Terry. Great post! It has been very interesting learning about your series and process, Terry. I’m eager to explore more of your books. Beautiful website! Your books I’ve read thus far have been keep-you-up-late page turners. Highly recommended!

  • Good morning, Terry & Kay! Wonderful interview. I’m a mature writer too, Terry, so I’m eager to head over to your website and discover how your journey began. But first I have a question about your research for the police procedurals (such as Finding Sarah, which I just grabbed on sale). Do you have a trust source? Or several? Or your own experience, maybe? Lisa

    • Great questions, Lisa. Since I have ZERO background in law enforcement, yes I rely on sources. I’ve done ride alongs with local police, taken the Civilian Police Academy course offered by the local Sheriff’s Department when I lived in Orlando, gone to the fantastic Writers Police Academy numerous times, and I’ve cultivated some go-to folks who answer my questions. It’s important to know how things happen where your books are set (which is why, except for Nowhere to Hide, I make up my sites, but I still base procedures, etc., on the general area. I’ve found most people are happy to help you get it right.

      • Thank you, Terry! Sounds like you had some very cool experiences doing your research. I like your idea of using a fictional setting too, just to allow some creative leeway.

        I have one more question that came from reading your post about how you became a writer. Do you still do a lot of “plotting/imagining” in your mind for your novels? This is something I do myself quite a lot, I think because I had a rich imaginative life as a kid.

    • Morning, Lisa! Like you and Terry, I also came to writing after another career. That makes this interview very meaningful to me. And I am in awe of Terry’s 30+ published novels You and I have a way to go!

  • Fabulous interview, Kay and Terry! I enjoy Terry’s work, so it’s nice to get a little peek at her writing process.

    • Thanks, Priscilla. My process has evolved over the years and books, but I still can’t plot an entire book for the life of me.

    • Good morning, Priscilla! It’s great to see you here.

      It’s fascinating to me to learn about the writing process used by other authors. We’re all so unique in our approaches.

  • For Lisa since I can’t reply to your last question. Yes, everything in my books is based on questions like “what if” and once I get going, “why?” is important, too. It’s fiction. It’s ALL (almost) made up!

  • For being a writer who was “a card-carrying member of the AARP” before you began your writing career, you have quite a few titles to your credit. Congratulations on that. How long does it generally take you to complete a ms?

    These days self-marketing is a requirement, even with the large publishing houses. Do you do other self-promotion besides your blog and guest blog posts, social media posts, and author website? How do you juggle marketing time versus writing time?

    • I usually finish the first draft of a manuscript in about 4 months. My goal has been 2 books a year. Marketing is my least favorite part of the job. I’d say I spend about an hour or two a day on the broad scope of marketing. Frequently less. I do some advertising in newsletters like Fussy Librarian, BookBub (if I’m lucky to get a slot), Ereader News Today, etc., but I’ve never gotten in to Facebook or Amazon ads which require far too much effort and babysitting. Kobo has promotions I occasionally participate in. I’m not feeding my family with my earnings, so I don’t have that pressure.

  • Terry, your thought-provoking interview with Kay stimulated me to notice several areas of overlap with my own “pre-neonascent” fiction novel, Laser Trap (scheduled release: June 7, 2022). Both of us have had “learning-to-write-in-retirement” issues and both “genre” issues.

    A decade ago my writing style was solidly in the nineteenth century and my genre, romance. Now it’s fairly modern and suspense flavored with a “romance sauce.”

    My question is in discussions with other writers, do any of them tell you about commonalities in your path and theirs? And if so, could you mention what some of them are?

  • Thanks Frank. Congrats on the release. Nowadays, discussions about paths to writing and publication revolve around the choice to pursue a traditional publisher or go indie. Honestly, people in my age bracket don’t have the time to find an agent, have the agent find a publisher, get the book published. Heck, we don’t even buy green bananas. I did start out seeing the traditional route, but then Smashwords showed up along with Amazon, followed by Nook, Apple, Kobo and Google, so it was an easy decision for me to switch from small publishing houses (I put three of them out of business) and move to totally indie. I hope this answers your question.

  • I imagine y’all have finished for the day, but I just caught up on the afternoon’s comments. Terry, your sense of humor made this an especially fun interview, and your humor REALLY made me want to dive into your fiction. Thank you for responding to our comments and questions throughout the day. And thank you, Kay, for bringing us new authors month after month.

    • This really was fun! Thank you, Terry, for being here and thanks to Lisa who is a previous interviewee and always a delight to have onboard.

      As Terry mentioned in the interview, she’s a regular contributor on the Kill Zone blog, and her wit and wisdom are much on display there.

    • Thanks Lisa. And Kay. Thanks to my father, humor was always part of life growing up. As an example, he chose the following as his final words, displayed on his final resting place: “It was fun while it lasted.”

      • That’s it. I’m finding your dad first thing when I get “over there.” Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy you carryion the legacy.

  • Patricia Bradley

    This is absolutely the best blog I’ve read today! Well, this and The Kill Zone… Love getting a behind the scenes look at Terry’s writing journey and process. I, too, was late to the writing game, but now I’m living my dream and it sounds like you two are as well!

  • “…plot is never first. That shows up as I write.” This really resonates with me. People ask me what my books about while I’m writing and I have to say I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to them once I find out. I love hearing about your willingness to do the research in order to get it right. I’ve also learned that research takes courage (especially for us AARP writers). Doing a Ride Along with a police officer is not for sissies! Looking forward to reading your books. Thanks for sharing.

    • I will confess that I requested “quiet shifts” when I asked to do ride alongs because my goal was to pick the officer’s brain more than get involved in anything too ‘exciting.’ I think the most potentially dangerous call was when we went to an apartment complex, and the deputy told me to wait in the car until he got back. He opened the trunk, took something out, then when he came back, he replaced whatever it was. I asked him, and he said it was a shotgun because the report had said the suspect might be armed, and “If they have a gun, we go in with a bigger gun.” I think doing a ride along makes you appreciate the kind of people these officers are. They never know who’s behind the wheel on a traffic stop. But if you REALLY want to do research–I’d made contact with a homicide detective in the Civilian Police Academy and asked if I could buy him a cup of coffee. He said, “Is there and Ale House near you?” I said yes. He said, “Can I bring some friends?” I said yes. Best money I ever spent, and one of his friends is my current cop consultant.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.