An Interview with Terry Sheils


Butterfly House
T.K. Sheils
ISBN 1-55316-018-5
LTD Books

Author Bio

Before he was able to begin fulfilling his lifetime ambition of writing on a full time basis, Terry Sheils devoted himself to thirty-five years of teaching drama and English at the high school level. He also found himself coordinating the Dramatic Arts and Theater Arts programs across the city of North York for 6 years, running workshops in drama and education for the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers’ Association across Canada, writing and performing in early educational television, writing plays for student production and becoming virtually the curriculum writer-in-residence for the North York Board of Education.

Terry was born in Toronto, Canada in 1935 and still resides there with his wife of 43 years. They have two mostly grown daughters. Finally, his outstanding physical attribute, he says, is his left ear, which is much admired in concentric circles.

He is also an interesting case of literary multiple personality, for he writes such varied genres as dark fantasy/horrot(Butterfly House and Knights Tiger as T.K. Sheils, zany murder mysteries – Poe the Musical, Par for the Corpse and Modem Operandi as Terry Sheils, paranormal romantic fantasy (Ghost Writer for Awe-Struck Books and Gift of the Seas for LtdBooks, also as Terry) and erotic historical novels (Dreams for the Wind) as T.S.Kingsley.

Moreover, he says he has 27 more manuscripts awaiting publication…some even mainstream.

1. Tell me something about your background. As you taught for 35 years or so and now are able to write full time I imagine this is very exciting to have the time at last. When did you start writing?

I have been writing constantly since I was eight or nine years of age, though not always for publication. My first “public” opus, a play, was a patriotic effort produced for my Grade Three Class, entitled “Johnny Buys Stamps” (referring to the Savings Stamps that were sold to support Canada’s effort in World War II. Two years later I wrote my first horror novel, UNDERGROUND PASSION which did take place underground but was hardly passionate. Throughout High School and University I wrote fiction and essays for “literary” publications and plays which were produced by the College Drama Club.

I also wrote book and lyrics for three complete musicals (which is how I met my wife, writer Dee Lloyd). Throughout my teaching career I continued to write plays for student production, curriculum guidelines, you name it. However, it wasn’t until I retired that I got back to my first passion since the “Underground” one and started to write novels again. They must have been seething inside me for 35 years, though, for thirty-two complete MSS and God knows how many partials have come spewing forth since 1992.

2. Having perused your website I see you write in several genres. Tell me a little something about each book, how you manage to switch from the darkest of horrors to something lighter, although I suspect it comes quite naturally and you enjoy it!

To begin with the second part of your question first: yes, it does come easily, but you have to be in the right mood. It’s no use starting a Hunter Knox zany mystery when the idea that’s screaming for expression is a blood-curdler. And you have to crave doing research before you embark on a history. Likewise, the idea itself has to intrigue you. In Poe-the Musical, for instance, the challenge was to make a believable – and funny – musical out of the life of Edgar Allen Poe, and at the same time weave an intriguing murder mystery around that. Par for the Corpse, however, started from a different “what if” – what if a golfer (with many enemies) were discovered dead on a tee, holding a card that proved she had parred a hole after she was dead. The Pendragon Mystery, MODEM OPERANDI, grows out of my fascination with virtual reality and an interactive Internet. Here the victim is murdered by his e-mail.

My horror novels grow, mainly, out of my fascination with ideas. Time, for instance, has always seemed to me the ineffable mystery. Thus, my Award Winning (the EPPIE and the IPPY for 2001) BUTTERFLY HOUSE, is based upon the idea of man trying to control time. Ancient Religions also fascinate me, particularly the Mayan beliefs of 9th Century Central America.

So out of this has come the sequel to Butterfly House, NOBODY TOLD THE WIND and last year’s Eppie Finalist KNIGHTS TIGER. Likewise Hawaiian Mythology spawned the modern sensual fantasy GIFT OF THE SEAS. My ongoing interest in History likewise has made me an eclectic writer in that genre as, it is so often tied in with the religion(s) of the time. Thus, Ancient Egypt, where myth and history are inextricably intertwined, intrigued me, as did the mysterious last years of the Pharaoh Akhenaten – whom his successors tried to efface from history. This produced the diary of a sexual madman that is DREAMS FOR THE WIND. Likewise the clash of cultures/religions during the Spanish Conquest of Peru was to me its focal point. Thus the story of SMOKE AROUND THE MOON is told from the P.O.V. of a Peruvian peasant who is co-opted to be a translator and who tries to remain objective – of course, finding it impossible.

Sometimes a story surprises you. When I wrote GHOST WRITER, for instance, (my only Awe-Struck Publication – I thought I was writing a simple, light, humorous ghost story. It was published, however, as a Paranormal Romance and has done well as such.) Have I left anything out? Don’t think so.

3. The Butterfly House won the 2001 EPPIE for Best Horror Novel. What was it like to receive that? (i.e. Do you get money and a trophy or just the glory – which is well worth it!) Nobody Told the Wind is the sequel. I obviously don’t know if the characters Jackson and Sabrina survive the sequel? If they do, will there be more adventures for them?

There is indeed a sequel, both to the EPPIE and the novel. On June 2, 2001, BH won the Independent Publishers’ Book Award (IPPY) for 2001 at the Chicago Book Fair. But in neither case is there direct money involved. There was a trophy for the EPPIE and there’s supposed to be a plaque for the IPPY (which I haven’t seem yet.) And, of course, the opportunity to make promotional hay is terrific! As well as hopefully helping to sell the sequel NOBODY TOLD THE WIND and my other stuff. I have written a sequel to NOBODY( no publication set as yet.) And I think other challenges will probably await them (and me).

4. Perhaps you could tell me what led you to epublishing and how do you find it? My guess is you are very happy as you have several publications. And would you recommend it to other writers?

I went into epublishing quite simply because my writing didn’t fit the mold of the Manhattan Publishing Houses who want to sell you as a mystery writer, (or horror, whatever) and nothing else. Likewise, I was tired of being told my work wouldn’t sell when I knew it would. My IPPY award, for instance, was won in competition with 770 mostly print publishers. So much for that argument!

Thus I would highly recommend it to authors with quality manuscripts. As we say at LTDBooks, ( what we are looking for doesn’t have to fit the mold; it just has to be a good story, well told. You won’t make a fortune as an e-published author, but how many print-published authors do? And their books have a shelf-life of two-three weeks; an e-book is on the virtual shelf forever.

5. What’s next for you? I see you have 27 manuscripts awaiting publication. What gems are in that 27? Another EPPIE winner hopefully? And are there more horrors inside Terry Shiels’s mind?!

More? My mind crawls with horrors.and laughs. NOBODY will be a 2002 Eppie Entrant I have a third Hunter Knox, FIFTY WAYS TO KILL YOUR LOVER, ready to go, and at least a half-dozen more being polished for publication. Also, I’d like to try my hand at a sensual-historical-future fantasy. (Now there’s something Manhattan wouldn’t touch!) I’ve already got a more traditional fantasy MSS – except for the explicit love scenes – on my desk (working title, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE DRAGONS). And I’m currently writing a horror novel about a town haunted by cannibal children (working title DON’T EAT THE TEACHER) that should be ready for the 2003 Eppies. Don’t rule out posthumous Eppies either! As long as ideas flow, I’ll find a way to get them on the ether!

Read an extract from Butterfly House:

Jackson Rutledge saw the ad for the house at nine o’clock the first morning it appeared in the paper. At about the same time, Sabrina Osterling also saw it. And both were immediately attracted to the phrase, “musty, dusty, and guaranteed haunted.” Accordingly, they appeared at the Real Estate Agent’s office within moments of each other.

A cold October wind had been blowing the light rain nearly horizontal, so Eadie Barnes, the Agent, hadn’t really expected to see anyone that morning, let alone two people interested in that white elephant they’d been trying to unload for the Hanleys for years. Nor was she quite prepared for their reaction to her natural assumption.

“You’re together then?” Eadie assumed.

“Not…really,” the man answered.

“Not on your life,” the woman said flatly.

Eadie sighed inwardly. These two didn’t look wealthy enough to start a bidding war, so she would have to play her cards carefully or she’d lose them both.

“Then perhaps we’d better introduce ourselves,” she said with a smile. “I’m Eadie Barnes.”

“Jackson Rutledge.” The man smiled back. It was really quite a charming smile, Eadie thought. It transformed his face from lean and intense almost forty to that of a ruggedly boyish twenty-five to thirty-year-old. And, now that you looked at him closely, he was probably closer to thirty than forty, she thought. His tall, lean frame was perhaps just beginning to show the signs of the inactivity that comes with a city job, but he was certainly not out of shape.

“Sabrina Osterling,” the woman introduced herself. She didn’t smile, so Eadie didn’t know what it would do to her face. Her gray-green eyes remained lusterless and her hair was hidden under a kerchief so that it was more difficult even to guess at her age. Somewhere between twenty-five and forty-five…some estimate!

“The ad was serious about the ghosts, wasn’t it?” the woman continued.

“Ah, so it was that line that interested you,” Eadie beamed.

“And me too,” Rutledge said.

“Then you’ve just won a bet for me,” Eadie chortled. “Promise me, whether you buy the place or not, you’ll tell my boss.”

“What’s this about a bet?” Sabrina asked suspiciously.

“Well…” Eadie paused, uncertain as to how much she could explain. “We’ve been trying to sell this place for…well, a long time now…”

“What’s wrong with it?” Rutledge asked.

“Well, actually nothing…except it has the reputation…no, it is haunted…they say. Anyway, we tried selling it as a ‘palatial country estate’, which it isn’t quite. Then, we went for ‘handyman’s opportunity,’ which it isn’t either. It’s really in quite good repair, considering it’s been deserted for several years. But neither of those worked. People got wind of its haunted reputation and backed off.”

“So you bet your boss you could sell it, if you played up the ghosts,” Rutledge guessed.

“You got it. And he took the bet. And here you are.”

“You haven’t sold it, yet,” Sabrina reminded the agent. “And you haven’t answered my original question. Are there ghosts?”

“You saw the asterisk after the word ‘haunted,’ of course.”

“I saw it, but I couldn’t find what it referred to.” Sabrina’s voice was testy.

“At the bottom of the column, there was a note that said ‘for compatible personalities.’”

“Compatible with whom? Each other?” Sabrina cast a brief and vaguely disparaging glance at the man.

“No, with the buyers. The ghosts apparently only appear to those who are prepared to see them.”

“Then that shouldn’t be a problem.” Sabrina allowed a trace of a smile to curl her lips.

“Not for you, maybe,” Rutledge said. “I don’t believe in ghosts myself.”

“Then why are you interested in the place?” Sabrina turned on Jackson Rutledge.

It was a rather rude question, he thought, from a complete stranger. However, with her non-descript gray dress and what was probably mousy brown hair under that plain gray kerchief, she looked like she wasn’t used to exercising many social graces. So he decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and answer her anyway.

“Because I’m interested in the kind of atmosphere that would give rise to rumors of ghosts. Why are you interested?”

“That’s none of your business.” Sabrina turned back to Eadie. “Can I see the place?”

“Well, I can’t take you out there right now,” Eadie apologized. “I’m waiting on a couple of important calls. But I can give you a key and directions.”

“That’ll do.” “We might as well go out together,” Jackson offered. “My car’s out front.”

“So’s mine,” Sabrina said coldly. “And I’m quite capable of driving and following directions, thank you.”

“I was only offering…”

“Don’t bother. You can follow me, if you like. I can hardly stop you, anyway.”

“Then I’d be pleased to follow you.” Jackson forced a smile.

“But just so we’re going with our eyes open,” Sabrina said. “What price range are we talking about? There wasn’t one mentioned in the paper.”

“It’s been coming down,” Eadie said optimistically. “The owners are anxious to sell; it’s part of an estate. But they’ve given me a bottom line.”

“Which is?”

“Two hundred thousand.”

Sabrina’s face remained impassive, but Eadie saw Rutldege swallow hard.

“Give me the key,” Sabrina said.

“I’ll follow you,” Jackson said, his voice a little hoarse.

Eadie gave them directions and watched them drive away, separately. The man had been more obvious, but, frankly, she didn’t feel either of them could afford the house.

Too bad, she thought. They were the first to want even to visit the place. And the woman certainly seemed compatible with the spooks that were supposed to haunt it. - Butterfly House has now won both the EPPIE (EPIC) and IPPY (Independent Publishers’ Book) Awards for 2001. Tomorrow the world!


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