t was a cold, windy day here in Chicago when I called Terry DeRon in warm, sunny Houston to talk about his debut novel “Game Recognize Game.” He was as warm and friendly as his city.
Terry DeRon is an 8th grade English and Reading teacher by day and an adult fiction author by night. When I said this, Terry laughed, saying that it wasn’t until recently that he considered himself an author. Since “Game Recognize Game” is his first novel, the title author has taken a while to set in. It’s going on interviews and hearing other people call him an author that makes that title seem real.
Terry never set out to be an author…or even to write. It was in the Army that Terry’s easy communication skills were first highlighted. As he describes it, here was this 17-year-old giving briefings to commanders and explanations to generals. While he realized that he had a gift for communication, that didn’t immediately translate to writing.
After the Army, Terry got a degree in television/film production from Southern University, where he learned the “concept of how to present a story.” And by teaching kids reading during the day, he sees what grabs their attention and what makes them push books aside. Pairing that with what turns him off as a reader, Terry says, he’s learned what not to do. No describing the weather or the trees; Terry gets down to business by jumping right into the action.
So how, exactly did “Game Recognize Game” come about? It was an accident brought about by boredom! Terry was in a training session, learning the ins and outs of becoming an insurance claims representative when the first few scenes just came to him. “I got bored and there was a paper and pencil in my hand.” The rest, as they say, is history.
NS: How would you describe your genre and style to someone who hasn’t read your work yet?
TD: Adult fiction; there are graphic situations … but the stories are more intriguing than just sexual situations.
NS: What was your favorite scene or character to write?
TD: I didn’t have a favorite character or scene. I just wanted to evoke certain emotions in each scene. And I wanted to write it so that the reader couldn’t predict what was going to happen. I hate when I read books and you know what’s going to happen. I wanted my readers to relate to the characters and what they were going through. Everyone has flaws and I wanted to bring that out in the characters.
NS: Did you plot “Game Recognize Game” carefully or just write to see where the story went?
TD: No, I was influenced by anything, a phone call I would get during the day. Just anything. When I decided to write the whole thing, I came up with an end, but the story could change throughout the day. A conversation could spark an idea that would influence the story.
NS: You wrote “Game Recognize Game” in first person. What was it like writing from the point of view of a woman?
TD: (laugh) I talked to women. I imagined what a woman would do in that situation. Some people think that there’s no way I wrote those parts. They swear someone wrote it for me, but no, I wrote it. Some people think the whole story isn’t fiction, that everything that happens in the book happened to me and my friends in college. That’s not true. I just used my imagination.
NS: People can sign up for your book club on your website (www.terryderonbooks.com) and “Game Recognize Game” was September’s Book of the Month for African-American Literature Book Club (AALBC). What role do book clubs or writing groups play in your writing life?
TD: None, really. Book clubs is you find most avid readers, so I want to make sure my book gets in front of them. I have been in contact with more book clubs to be there when they have discussions so they can ask the author questions. I haven’t done that yet but am excited about it.
NS: What are your main influences as an author?
TD: My film and TV background and movie directors. I learn what not to do from writers. I see what they do that I don’t like and I don’t do it. I think of “Game Recognize Game” as the first virtual novel because readers experience all of my novel. It’s more like reading a movie script. Because I teach reading, I know what turns off people and what catch their attention in the beginning. If you get them in the beginning, they will stick with it and finish what you’re exposing them to.
NS: As a writer, who do you like to read? Or, I guess, I should ask which directors you like to watch?
TD: Oh, I’m a reader. I like Michael Baizen and Eric Jerome Dickie. I’ve been compared to Zane. We have different styles, but I think we’re compared because of the sex in our books. I like being compared to her because of her fame (laughs). As far as directors: Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg. I like how they take abstract and make it believable by answering all the questions the viewers have. You’re in the middle of the story and you think “well, what if this…” and they answer it. I hate when books leave unanswered questions.
NS: What topics you like to deal with in your writing?
TD: I don’t start out writing a specific topic. My goal is to get people who hate to read to read… to become their favorite author.
NS: Best writing advice you have to give?
TD: You only have a couple seconds to catch attention, so hit the ground running. If someone is nice enough to pick up your book, you want to grab their attention. Also, you want thought provoking covers, not cliché.
NS: I’d love to get a glimpse of the writer at work.
TD: I write on a computer. When I started, I didn’t know about the writing software, so “Game Recognize Game” was written on Word, the hard way. I write late at night when my wife is asleep, when I can think. During the day, I get phone calls and those can be distracting, so I write at night. No phone call, just me and the computer.
Terry is working on a sequel to “Game Recognize Game” but that’s on hold until he finished an untitled project about a married woman in Houston who is involved with another man. Type fast Terry! Your fans are waiting.