My Discussion With Author And Radio Personality, Terry Shepherd

My Interview with Terry Shepherd!

I love interviewing literary figures.  Not only do I learn about our industry, but I discover amazing things about fascinating people, who I truly like.  Terry, I have to say, the more I talk to you and know you, the more I adore you!  I am so pleased to have a chance to introduce you to my readers. 😊

  1. I always kick off my interviews with the same telling request.  Therefore, please describe yourself for us.

I’m a lifelong dreamer, on my 6th reinvention. I’ve been a radio guy, a rock drummer, a corporate exec, an entrepreneur, an academic and now a writer. I’m a purpose-driven guy who wants to leave the world in a little bit better place than I found it. Aligning purpose with the triumvirate of skills, passion and profession has been a constant. My happiest moments are connected to helping people look beyond self-imposed limitations and chase potential.

  • I remember the first time I heard you speak, I thought, “this man has the perfect voice for radio.”  At the time, I hadn’t known you were in radio, television, and film.  I only knew you as an author.  So, what came first, the reader, writer, or talk show host?

I got my first on-air radio job at age 14 and worked my way through college as a rock and roll DJ. It was the perfect gig for a student and during that adventure, I met a ton of famous and near-famous people. I learned that “stars” are really a lot like us. They have the same insecurities and like talking off-line about family and life’s challenges. Wolfman Jack and I spent a half hour just talking about where to find comfortable shoes!

  • I absolutely love that!  And I am a huge Wolfman Jack fan – I used to listen to him when I was kid, and I just adored his style.  Speaking of styles… how much preparation goes into a radio show?  Is it similar to writing, where you need to plot it out or can you sort of shoot from the seat of your pants?
    • I was a “plotter” and not a “pantser” on the radio. I carefully researched what I wanted to say on the shows and wrote everything down. In time, I could do a lot of that inside my head, but I still wanted to give my audience the most professional and fun performance I could. That spilled over into the interviews I did. I do a ton of preparation and make sure I’m focusing on what my guests want to talk about.
    • When I’m the one being interviewed, I do the same prep with regard to my host, so I can understand what we have in common. I write out my interview questions and keep the keyboard handy during podcasts to write key words to remind me of things I want to ask on the fly. When I began writing fiction, I used the same method.
  • What do I want to promote about my characters?
  • What about their stories makes them interesting?
  • What are their fears and flaws, and how are they working to overcome them?
    • When you know that stuff, the story seems to flow through you. Since CHASING THE CAPTAIN is Jessica’s third outing, I know her pretty well. She’s come a long way in understanding herself and the decisions she’s made. But, like all of us, she’s still struggling and growing. I think that’s part of her appeal.
    • What led you to the world of literature – were you always a reader?
      • I read the Hardy Boys and C.S. Lewis as a kid and loved adventure stories. Being a film nut, I was drawn to stories that flowed like movies, imagining myself as the star on the big screen.
        • How did this translate into writing, or did your love of storytelling encourage your interest in books?
          • Our family had many storytellers. I loved listening to my grandfather’s tales of his youth as the youngest of seven. In elementary school, we had a librarian who was a storyteller, and I was mesmerized by her. We also told stories around beach fires in the summertime. Each of us got a topic at lunch and we had to come up with a plot by the evening. It was a great training ground.
        • From an author’s standpoint, which writer(s) or book(s) impact you, and why?
          • Nothing beats reading great writing. But I also have been influenced by authors who specifically teach The Craft. James Scott Bell and Hallie Epheron are two who have had a huge influence on my work.
    • When did you first start writing – was it always creative writing or did you engage in other mediums, such as playwriting or scripts since you worked in radio and film?
      • I wrote my first short story in elementary school. It was about snowmobiles and a snowstorm, and I typed it on my dad’s manual typewriter. We had a tape recorder, and I would record TV shows I liked and translate them into written teleplays.
      • I wrote a play that our 6th grade performed. I’ve forgotten what it was about, but I remember the audience laughed in all the right places. I also did a lot of interviews with the tape recorder, personal histories, descriptions of events. I wish I had saved them, but we didn’t have much tape and I recorded over everything.
        • How did you journey into becoming a published author?
          • When my corporate career was winding down, we moved back to Florida to be close to our kids. I felt like my contributions to the world were over and struggled with some pretty bad depression. My shrink suggested that I stop worrying about making money and consider what might be fun. My wife and I agreed that I would try writing fiction full time for a year and see what that felt like. That was two years ago, and I haven’t looked back.
        • Did you opt for traditional publishing, small press, or self-pub?  Why did you decide this was the best route for you?
          • Both traditional and indie publishing have pluses and minuses. I’ve always wanted control over my art, so I decided to start my own publishing company to own and promote my stuff. I hired the best team I could afford; great editors, cover designers, story consultants, narrators and public relations folks, drafted a wonderful group of beta readers and learned how to navigate Amazon, Ingram Spark and BookBaby to turn my stories into books. I also have engaged really gifted people to introduce Jessica to new audiences.
          • I hired the University of Michigan School of Education to create lesson plans so my books can be used in the classroom and have a really cool team working on the start of a Graphic Novel that stars Jessica. My characters also have a merchandise line that I sell on my website. The goal is to get my ensemble cast on as many platforms as possible.
        • Is there anything you wish you could’ve done differently?  If so, what, and why?
          • I realize in the rear-view mirror that I spent a lot more money than I needed to. But I’ve looked at it as if I was studying for a “Masters of Fine Arts,” and it’s a ton cheaper.
    • How did you get involved with Authors on the Air? 
      • My partner, Pam Stack, reached out to me when she was having a medical procedure that sidelined her from hosting for a month. I’ve done zillions of interviews and still produce radio programming, so I knew how to put the content together. I realized that it gave me an entrée to spend quality time with authors of every stripe, so when she asked if I would take over the show on a permanent basis, I was thrilled to do it.
        • What had you done in radio hosting previously?
          • I began as a DJ, learned both sales and engineering so I would have three things to offer an employer. Eventually I got into management, learned programming, and leveraged that to transition into corporate telecommunications. I still have a private radio station at our home that I designed and built from the ground up 20 years ago.
          • I love well executed broadcast content and creating it keeps my skills sharp and gives me something I love listening to. I also record a syndicated 60 second today-in-history bit for That keeps me up on the show-biz stuff.
        • What are the parallels between radio and podcasts?  Was it an easy transition from radio to podcasts?
          • It was a super easy transition. Radio is essentially a connection between the host and the listener, where there is a value exchange. Many DJs have podcasts these days where they aggregate what they say between the records and share their interview segments. Just like writing, it’s all about learning what your audience wants and finding a way to effectively give it to them.
    • What things make a podcast effective?
  • It’s important to understand what your goal is with the show and build your format around it. My goal is to help my guests sell their books. The show isn’t about me and after the introduction, my questions are focused on the guest. I reset the message every 5-7 minutes, reminding the audience who the guest is and how they can buy their books. I very rarely inject my own experience into the proceedings. That’s not why people listen. I try to create a relaxed atmosphere, as if two colleagues are talking shop at Starbucks. When the show is over, I hope that the guest feels I’ve helped amplify their products and their personal brand.
  • As a podcast guest, I take an opposite approach. I try to understand the goal of the show and the personality of the host and play along on their stage. Sometimes, we’ll drift far from my books and my writing and talk about other things we share in common that are of interest to their listeners. Being a good podcast guest is an art form. You play a little different character on each show, depending on the vibe, while maintaining the central motivation that drives your own life and work. It’s a challenge, but it’s so much fun when you two are in the zone and can feel the show flowing in the right direction.
  • Do you offer narrator services?

I began narrating my own stuff as the final edit. After everything comes back from the story consultant, editor and beta readers, I record each chapter to make sure the story flows the way I want it to. I inevitably find more things to fix.

  • How can authors interested in your services get in contact with you?
    • I work directly with authors via my website,
      • Do you have any samples of your work available for preview?
        • There are examples on the website. Great memories of recording really fun stories!
    • How’d you get into narrating?
      • I really stumbled into it through the podcast. Part of my schtick at Authors on the Air is to read a bit of each guest’s book as part of the introduction. I had a guest stop the show and ask me if I would consider narrating her book and things took off from there. My goal is to release ten audiobooks before the end of the year and I’m on track to achieve that objective.
        • I feel like this is a natural step since you’re in radio, television, and film.  Was this something you did before or after publishing?
        • Do you narrator your own audiobooks?  Why, or why not?
          • I hired the brilliant Cynthia Farrell to narrate Chasing Vega. In between, I did two narration jobs that featured primarily female protagonists, so I decided to read CHASING THE CAPTAIN. It’s sounding good, so I may read my own stuff going forward, unless it’s first-person female. I’ve met many amazing narrators and now have a stable of friends I can call on.
  • I would love to talk about your writing.  You have a wide range of books available for readers.  You write everything from thrillers to kids’ books.  Incredible!
    • You have a strong Latina protagonist in Jessica Ramirez (whom readers can get to know more about through her Jessica’s Journal).  In addition, your children’s book series, The Mystery Bug Collection, is also written from a female’s point-of-view.  What drew to these characters, and how did you connect with them?
      • Jessica is based on a real-life Latina cop who is a close friend. She endured a rough go at a time when male chauvinism was still the rule in law enforcement. Jess isn’t totally like her, but she keeps me honest from the procedural side.
      • As Chasing Vega took shape, I was drawn to other diverse characters. Alexandra Clark, Jess’ partner is LGBTQ and a fascinating woman. She has many fans who have told me they thought I was writing about them.
      • VEGA’S most popular character is Joey Price, the Medical Examiner. He’s on the autism spectrum and I worked hard to make him authentic. One of the best gifts I’ve received is email from others who share his situation who see Joey as a role model for their own potential.
        • We’re seeing a negative response from literary agents and publishers regarding authors writing characters who don’t represent themselves.  Did you experience any challenges penning either a female or Latina character?
          • I look at this totally differently. A huge gift that Jessica and crew have given me is the opportunity to immerse myself in their life experiences. In my research, I spent hundreds of hours riding with police officers, joining Latin families to better understand the nuances of their culture, and speaking frankly with the real-life counterparts of my characters. This has given me a better understanding of the challenges others face and much more empathy as a human being. I’m not expropriating culture. I’m celebrating it. And, quite frankly, I could care less about negative attitudes and feel bad that agents don’t have the skill to sell a great story if the author doesn’t fit someone else’s definition of authenticity.
          • We can’t ever fully know anyone’s experience. We’re all unique individuals with distinctive stories. But if we all walked a few miles beside people who differ from us, the world would be a better place.
        • Do you feel you’ve learned anything from these characters or through the stories they’ve told?
          • Wow! I’ve learned a ton. The most powerful message is that we’ve all experienced prejudice at some point, whether it’s being bullied in the school yard as a kid or being picked on because we were different. And we all share the “unworthiness gene,” that makes us second guess everything we do.
          • I also learned that the things we share in common far outnumber the issues that divide us. Finding common ground and working together toward a common goal is at the center of the stories I try to tell.
        • What made Jessica Ramirez and her stories important to you?
          • Jessica’s real-life inspiration is a huge role model for me. Despite the many challenges she’s faced over the years, she’s never lost her empathy for other people and is always seeking positive solutions. Many cops become cynical after seeing so much of the dark side of the world. Somehow, she’s stayed centered, despite some truly hellish experiences. That’s helped me personally as I’ve navigated my own life adventures.
        • Is there something you’re specifically hoping the reader will connect with?
          • A common trait that Jess, Ali and Joey share is the ability to push through the bad stuff and keep their eyes on the prize. They all do it differently. Jess has what my friend, author Danielle Girard calls, “a laser beam moral compass.” It gets her in trouble at times, but she never gives up. Ali’s computer skills are world-class. They give her the inner strength to be fearless in the face of harassment. Joey is this amazing buddha who just sits there and listens to everyone rant around him. When they finally stop, he raises a hand and dispenses wisdom in his own unique way that hits the nail on the head.
          • We have a beautiful granddaughter who has Down syndrome. I’ve discovered that her brain works differently from mine, and she speaks a language of her own. But, for a five-year-old, she’s scary smart and has taught me a huge lesson about tenacity. When she wants to learn something or have something, she doesn’t give up until she gets it. I hope that’s a take-away in my writing.
    • You’ve said a “composite of traits and adventures in the lives of some amazing policewomen” have, also, been interwoven into the character, Jessica Ramirez.  Are these real people or individuals discovered through research?
      • A goal of the book is to inspire more young women to consider a law enforcement career. I’ve sought out women at every level to give me their take on living the life. Since much of CHASING THE CAPTAIN takes place in London, I engaged a female Detective Inspector to talk with me about her experiences as a cop in the UK. They are markedly different than what happens here, and I was fascinated to hear her story.
    • What about the cases or adventures – are they based on real events?
      • There are scenes in the stories that are based on real events. The undercover incident that Ali describes in Chasing Vega actually happened. The prison interview in CHASING THE CAPTAIN is based on an actual event. Both books have whispers of actual incidents throughout, but they are, in total, the product of my own imagination.
  • What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?

I have a third book in the Jessica Ramirez Thriller series coming out in 2022. I’m trying to decide which of three plot lines to follow. All are fascinating to me, and I’ve worked on all three manuscripts. It will be fun to see which one emerges as the winner.

I have a kid’s time travel book that should be ready later this fall. It parallels the 4th grade history curriculum and stars my grandson and a female classmate, who travel back in time to witness what they are learning in class first-hand.

My children’s book, JULIETTE AND THE MYSTERY BUG, has been an unexpected success. It teaches youngsters handwashing, masking, distancing and the science behind vaccines to help them learn hygiene habits to protect themselves from COVID-19. There are core curriculum lesson plans for the book, and Juliette and I do zoom readings and Q&A with elementary school classes who are studying it. I’m working on an animated version of the book and hope to release it before the end of the year.

  • What is the best way for readers to connect with you?
    • Follow Jess on Twitter. She’s @DetJessRamirez and interacts with her fans regularly.

Thank you again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me.  I truly adore you.  I wish you all the best and appreciate you, my friend!

Thanks so much for this opportunity to visit via the printed page! It feels like we are old time pen-pals. Let me know if there are other questions or anything you want to dive more deeply into.



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