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  • Writer's pictureBrandie June

Interview With Author Terry Friedman

Jewelry and ghost stories are two of my favorite things. Add to that a gripping mystery and a reluctant clairvoyant, and you have author Terry Friedman’s upcoming novel, Bone Pendant Girls. I chatted with Terry about her new book, scary stories, the secret sauce to writing compelling mysteries, and more.

headshot of author Terry Friedman
Author Terry Friedman

Can you tell us a bit about Bone Pendant Girls?

BPG is a paranormal with layers. It's about family, guilt, loss, and forgiveness. Andi, who is a reluctant clairvoyant buys two pendants, and the faces on the pendants talk to her. They're missing runaways trapped between the worlds, and their killer who preys on runaways is hunting. When Andi begins to look for their murderer, a man they call Fisherman targets her. Andi's journey is parallel to the girls. Fortunately, she gets help from a Southern sheriff and a retired FBI agent turned private investigator, but in the end, she must face the killer alone on a stormy South Carolina lake.


Your website mentions that the catalyst for paranormal thriller, Bone Pendant Girls was a late-night, close encounter in Columbia, S.C. A. Can you share what happened?

Sometimes a scary experience stays with me until I write away the fear. I was followed late one night in an area where there had been assaults. Like ghost girl Mariah, I stopped at a corner, turned around, and confronted the man. I have a crazy theory: if you take the fear out of the victim, the crime's no fun for the perpetrator. I’ll never know if he was a mugger or just a nice guy who walked me home, but he became the catalyst for this book. The real scene took place in Columbia, South Carolina near my favorite cemetery. To me cemeteries are like puzzles or connect the dots mysteries. You can follow the history of an entire family by looking at dates and names. The Columbia cemetery even has stories on some of the older headstones. It provides a backdrop for several scenes in the novel. 


I know that you also make jewelry. Did that passion influence the bone pendants in the story?

I've been a rockhound since I was old enough to crack rocks in my driveway, and I love jewelry. For many years there was a great gem show at a private boys' boarding school in West Chester, PA, a fundraiser. I bought a moonface piece one year and wondered what if the moonface (common in the jewelry world) was actually made of human bone. When I bought another piece with a woman's face, my pendants catapulted me into the BPG novel. Ghost girl Mariah’s name came from an old folk song I sang as a camp counselor. While writing this, she taught me about families and loss and about mother and daughter relationships. I didn’t realize I had captured some of my own family’s loss until the book was completed. She also reminded me about friendships and loyalty. If I didn’t mention the invisibility factor, the magic in this book, I would be keeping secrets. When I wrote the climax, for a week I was invisible. I didn’t get waited on in restaurants. I’d be the last person in line, and the clerk would go to dinner. 


What’s the most important element in writing a mystery?

To me, an inciting incident at the beginning must hook readers. Of course, you also need characters readers will like. I've been told my characters jump off the page and invite you over for a glass of wine. You need a good believable protagonist and a sympathetic really bad guy. A narrative arc must build from the hook into a climax. The last one-hundred pages should keep the reader awake late into the night. This novel was a challenge because I rotate three POV's. Then there was the ghost-speak. The editors and I decided to italicize ghost speech, so no thoughts are italicized in BPG.


What was your path for publishing Bone Pendant Girls?

BPG had roots in an MFA Capstone, fourteen years ago. My favorite chapter is the Mariah chapter based on an assignment designed to incorporate music into a scene. After twice having the book loved by an editor and rejected by the editorial board of two houses, the editor suggested I hire a developmental editor. That stung, especially since two MFA mentors had already given their feedback. A tarot reader told me it would take a long time to get published, and a man would be my "chariot driver," but when it did get published, it would be successful "beyond my wildest imagination." I'm waiting. My chariot drivers were Killer Nashville's Clay Stafford and a developmental editor named Peter. I credit Helga, my CamCat editor, with being BPG's midwife. Along the way, BPG won awards. It was a finalist for Killer Nashville's Claymore Award, and placed second in Southeastern Writers Association's contest.   


What is a piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?

My number one piece of advice is outlining the plot: index cards, Excel, post-it notes on a board, whatever works for you. I also believe that the best critiques don't come from family and friends. Writers need to immerse themselves in critique groups, writing conferences, and writing organizations. Everything I learned about writing didn't come from books. It came from Pennwriters and Sisters in Crime meetings. Many new writers have friends who pressure them into publishing before the piece is ready. Take your time. Make it perfect. Research it, especially when writing about crime. I had to rewrite BPG after talking with an FBI friend. Turns out the police and the FBI don't search for runaways unless they're high profile. In my unpubbed book, I had an FBI agent working with a foreign cousin. That wouldn't happen due to protocol. If you can afford it and the timing is right, get involved in the Police Academy for Writers or the FBI Citizens Academy.


Where can people preorder Bone Pendant Girls?

BPG can be pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through any other organization that sells books--from Bookbubs to Walmart.


Where’s the best place to follow you?

On Facebook at Terry S. Friedman Author or Terry S. Friedman, Amazon Author Central. My website doesn't have a follow button yet. Coming soon, I hope.

Cover of Bone Pendant Girls by Terry Friedman

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