Showcased Writer: Terry Madden

terry_madden_photoInterviewed by: Bre Hall

Three Wells of the Sea from Issue 12

Terry Madden Maulhardt is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, has wandered the lands of historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction.  With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school.

As a novelist and award-winning screenwriter, Terry Madden has written historical and mainstream fiction, returning recently to her first love, speculative fiction. With a degree in biology, Terry has worked in molecular biology and genetic research labs and currently teaches high school chemistry and astronomy at a California boarding school. She enjoys sharing the night sky with young people, encouraging them to look beyond what Carl Sagan called our pale blue dot. She is equally immersed in ancient history and mythology, as she is in terraforming and space exploration.

Terry’s science fiction appears in volume 30 of the Writers of the Future Anthology. She is currently at work on the second novel in her fantasy series, Three Wells of the Sea.

How and when did you come to writing?

I started writing in high school, mostly poetry, but set it aside when I went to college. I had a professor for a poetry class who urged me to take his creative writing class, but alas, as a pre-med major, I had no room in my schedule. I have often thought I would have come to writing fiction much earlier had I taken that class. As it was, I didn’t start writing until I quit my day job as a research lab technician to stay home with my first child. I started writing when she napped every day. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just wrote scenes. This started me on a ten year quest to learn how to put a story together. It led me to dabble in screenwriting where I had a small degree of success before I set writing aside to teach full time. Thirteen years went by before the muse came knocking again.

What was the inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea?

My inspiration for Three Wells of the Sea was a conversation with a student. At the time, I was teaching astronomy and we had been discussing parallel universes in class. Somehow we got on the topic of online games as being a kind of parallel universe. We posed the question, what if the people you interact with in a game are really the dead? After many iterations, the idea developed into its current form, a heroic/contemporary fantasy novel, but the gaming element has been dropped entirely. I am so grateful to my student for pestering me to start an outline of the story. I had sworn off writing years before, and if he hadn’t kept after me, kept the “what-if” present in my mind, I’m not sure I would have come back to the craft at all.

Since Silk Road has received Three Wells of the Sea as a first chapter submission, have you continued the story of Connor and Dish or do you have plans to? If so, can you share a glimpse of what those plans include?

Three Wells of the Sea is complete and I am in the process of finding a publishing home for it. I am hard at work on book two, The Crooked Path, continuing the adventures of Connor and Dish in the land they know as the Five Quarters, a land where a murdered king is raised from the dead to take back his throne and repair the mistakes of another lifetime. The story will culminate in book three, The Salamander’s Smile, still in the preliminary sketch phase.  I am currently uploading installments of a “historical” prequel to Three Wells of the Sea on the writers’ website, Wattpad. The Wood is an ongoing novella based on the early people of the Five Quarters and is something akin to tales found in the Irish epic known as the Book of Invasions.

In between, I write short stories, mostly science fiction, and have recently won the highly competitive speculative fiction contest known as the Writers of the Future Award.  My winning story appears in the Writers of the Future Anthology, Volume 30, which came out in May.

Do you think writing has helped you grow in other areas of your life? If so, how? In what areas?

Stephen King once said, “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” Writers are the archeologists of the soul, uncovering these stories and presenting them to readers who recognize them as part of the collective unconscious, clues to who we are as human beings. My writing has been exactly that for me, an exploration of my place in the universe, and by extension, our collective place in the universe. I am an introvert by nature and I’ve always felt that writing allows me to explore the ties that bind people on a level I don’t usually experience. It allows me to live dangerously in the safety of my own head.  Writing is, like all art, a mirror of the soul for writer and reader alike.

As a teacher, you work closely with youth. Do you have any advice to give young writers, or young people in general, who are trying to pursue their goals and passions?

I am currently the moderator of a feisty group of teen writers who have formed a creative writing club on my campus. The advice I give them is to listen to criticism, but don’t take every bit of it to heart. Use what rings true and discard the rest, but don’t close your mind to input, it’s the only way to grow as a writer, and I would venture to say, as a person. Also, write many stories, don’t slave away on one pet project believing it is your opus magnum. Writing is an ongoing exploration and getting stuck on one project will prevent the evolution of craft. But don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up, it’s too important to your soul.