Terrence McCauley, an award-winning novelist before joining RIOC as public relations officer, made his break soon after a management switch in 2020. Just in time too as an athletic coach was given control over corporate communications without a hint of professional experience. That defining moment led to a fresh burst of creativity leading to McCauley’s newest book, Blood on the Trail, set for release next week. When I heard about it directly from Amazon, it was time to check in with the author.
by David Stone
A Q&A with Terrence McCauley
Few of us knew about McCauley’s success as a novelist during his time managing communications at RIOC. The state expect him to keep his light under a bushel basket, but that’s no longer necessary. Here is our conversation with minor edits.
When did you start writing, and was it always Westerns and detectives?
McCauley: :I started writing back in college and despite being a Political Science major, I realized my true passion was in story-telling. Being able to craft a narrative based on fact came in handy during my government career. My first book was something I called a Financial Thriller called TENETS OF POWER. It was about a mergers-and-acquisitions executive who is pulled down from the top of the pyramid and has to use all of his cunning and skill to climb back to the top. I’ll admit it wasn’t a very good book, but it taught me how to write a story. And although the book was never published, I harvested that story for many other books and short stories I’ve written in the following years.
My next book was PROHIBITION, a crime novel set in 1930s New York. It blended my love of politics and history with a good, old-fashioned gangster novel. I put my own spin on the genre and while I did not try to transcend it, I certainly wrote it in my own style. It was the first of five books I’ve written in the era and hope to be able to write more. I followed up that story with a modern day spy novel – SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL – that became the first in my ongoing University Series.
The westerns came later. I had written WHERE THE BULLETS FLY in between books and figured no one would be interested in publishing a western these days. Although I was born and raised in The Bronx, I knew a western, at its heart, was no different than any other compelling story. I was pleasantly surprised when my agent put me in touch with Kensington and the rest is history. I’ve had a great time writing them.
Why write Westerns?
Do you have a special passion like Zane Grey or an interest in the Old West?
McCauley: I had tried to read Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour, but always found them dated. They were restrained by the times in which they were written, not in which they were set. Those men were true pioneers and wrote some essential classics in the genre. Although they provided plenty of inspiration, especially early on in my career, I once again sought to put my own take on the genre.
I created a more diverse cast of characters that were more fitting with the way the old west actually looked. Our perception of that part of our history was unfortunately sanitized by 1950s and 1960s television. I saw it as a challenge for a city boy to try to tell a compelling story set in another era and part of the country that was unfamiliar to me. But, as I said earlier, storytelling is still storytelling, so I did my research, got my details write and wrote the best story I could. I’m five novels into my series and hope to have the opportunity to expand upon it for years to come. I’ve been flattered by the reception they have received.
How do you find time to write so prolifically, given the other demands on your time?
McCauley: When I had a day job, I wrote on nights and weekends. Now that I’m writing nearly full time, I make sure I balance myself between creativity and breaks. Exhaustion doesn’t help the creative process and neither do sore hands. I’m fortunate in that I never really have writer’s block. There’s never a shortage of stories I want to tell, but sometimes I feel a bit of burnout.
I’m at a stage in my career where I know my limits and my abilities and I’m able to schedule work accordingly. It’s all about keeping myself anchored in the chair and letting the work come to me. I don’t like to say how many words I can write in a day, but from what I’ve heard from other writers, it’s more than most. Some days are better than others.
Any chance you’ll write a mainstream novel some day?
I’d like to try my hand at every genre except for perhaps romance and cozies. There’s nothing wrong with romances or cozies, I just don’t know what I could contribute to them at this point. That might change in the future. I’d love to have the chance to write a horror novel and perhaps more science fiction. In my own style, of course.
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