I love the name Teric Darken. It grabs me and holds me and speaks to me of intrigue, desperate killers, and bumps in the night. So I’m thrilled to be interviewing Terric about his latest thriller U-TURN KiLLuR. Now on to the questions…
Nike: You started out in a rock ‘n roll band, writing lyrics and songs. How did you make the transition to writing full-length thrillers? What instrument did you play in the band?
Teric: In 1987, when I was in the tenth grade, my English teacher gave our class an assignment for everyone to script an original poem. I went home and worked hard on that poem, which was entitled Lamb or Lion. I was beaming when I finished, as I poured a lot of heart and soul into that piece. I took it to class the next day, turned it in, and expected to receive a good grade for my effort. A few days later, the paper returned to me with a fat, red “D” at the top; a note was also included, which stated: “The nature of this poem is quite good, but are these words, in fact, your own?” I was floored, to say the least. In essence, my teacher was stating that she liked the poem, but she thought that I had plagiarized it. I believed in my work so much, that I found the courage to approach her desk. “Mrs. Shepherd,” I said, “If you’ll only give me a chance, I can prove to you that this is mine; I can recite this to you verbatim.” My teacher agreed to that arrangement and was pleasantly surprised when I recited every line on that page. She changed my grade to an “A,” and since then, I have never looked back. That simple poem created a whole new realm for me, allowing a then-teen full of angst and wide-eyed-wonder a healthy outlet to express his thoughts and frustrations. I dedicated my first book, A Conversation with Isolation, to my teacher, for pointing me toward that wonderful path. When it was presented to her, she cried tears of joy. I am grateful for her to this day.
The poem, Lamb or Lion, is included at the back of my new thriller, U-TURN KiLLuR, as the story behind it actually plays a very small part within the storyline. Since scripting that first poem, I have gone on to fill twenty-one journals full of poems and short stories. In 1991, I taught myself how to play the guitar. I was very interested in creating my own, original compositions. So, I learned how to chord and create flowing melody, and I began putting poetry to the music, which transcribes into song lyrics within that medium. So from poetry and song lyrics, to short stories… the next natural step was crafting a novel.
The idea for my first thriller, K – I – L – L FM 100, came to me while working at the fire station. After reading a Dekker novel, I was lying in my bed and thinking, what would be a unique twist in a storyline? What has probably never been done before? An idea popped into my head of a subliminal message: word-clues given throughout the book that could be pieced together at the end to create a message that coincides with the storyline. That single, subliminal message came first and then the entire story was built around that. I’m not sure how many readers pick up on it, but I allude to it within the storyline of the thriller. It lurks within!
As far as the band went, I sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar. We released five albums and were privileged enough to perform in four surrounding states. I also allude to this aspect of my life in my newest offering, U-TURN KiLLuR.
Nike: U-TURN KiLLuR, which came out at the beginning of this year, seems to be the quintessential thriller. A relentless sociopath is out to kill everyone the hero loves, stripping everything and everybody away from your hero in the grisly manner. How did you come up with this plotline?
Teric: The plotline is a metaphor for what was happening to me while crafting my first thriller, K – I – L – L FM 100. It was my first go at developing a full-length novel, and I found out exactly how time consuming that process can be. I was allowing the work spent on crafting the storyline to steal me away from family time, and my thoughts began to be consumed with how to build upon the story. In essence, I became a bit obsessed with wanting to see the story fully bloom to fruition. I was walking around with the characters in the storyline of my first novel instead of reality with my loved ones. So I simply wrote about what was happening: a firefighter would-be-author attempting to craft a novel; his obsession with getting published; his allegiance to his personal desires over his family and work; and the resulting neglect that his family suffers. And then a KiLLuR enters the picture, rocking his world… and the picture the KiLLuR paints isn’t pretty. The primary color used is a crimson red. It is unfortunate how we often don’t see the value in life’s simplicities until tragedy strikes. And it strikes hard here. In all actuality, I suppose you could say this novel is as a coin: the “heads” side is the non-fiction half, and the “tails” side is the dark fiction portion… and what a tale it is!
The overview to the book reads gruesomely. Those who have perused the preview know that it also reeks with atrocity. But this is only a snapshot. The bigger picture makes perfect sense, and if one is willing to brave through the trees, they will come out on the other side and be afforded a panoramic view of the beautiful forest.
Nike: What attracts you to the thriller genre? And what authors do you read in the genre? Which ones have influenced you?
Teric: My initial attraction to thrillers is probably a result of my dad, who was always making up creepy stories and telling them to me as a child. One such story- one of my dad’s originals about a particular moth- is injected into U-TURN KiLLuR. My dad also used to read to me as I was growing up. At this very moment, I can still recall him reading two Hardy Boys’ mysteries to me: The Twisted Claw and While the Clock Ticked. My Pa also recited Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to me once, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve asked him to retell that wonderful story. He was always happy to oblige- and it was usually done over the fire in the hearth. So thrillers are probably embedding into my psyche from my upbringing. I realize that some of the stories I am recounting, and some of my influences that I will disclose, cross-pollinate a bit into other genres such as the supernatural, and/or a dash of horror, but my understanding of a thriller is that if a story thrills, and incites intrigue, adventure or suspense, it is, by definition, a thriller.
C.S. Lewis grabbed me early on, with his succinct novel, The Screwtape Letters; I later became a fan of Frank Peretti; and have enjoyed the works of Ted Dekker and Robert Liparulo in recent years. I am a late-comer to the works of G.K. Chesterton, but have acquired his Father Brown Detective Omnibus anthology in the not-too-distant past and have thoroughly enjoyed his stories.
Nike: Do you plan to write a series featuring either your K-I-L-L FM 100 hero Disc jockey Carter “The Cart-Man” Jackson or your U-TURN KiLLuR hero firefighter Lieutenant Gabe McLaughlin?
Teric: I think the reader will be delighted to run into an old friend or two from K – I – L – L FM 100 within the pages of U-TURN. My current work in progress is another supernatural thriller focusing on a couple of the characters from U-TURN KiLLuR, and also including an old friend from K – I – L – L FM. And there will be a connecting thread within the novel waiting in the wings after that. So to sum it up, The Almighty willing, the plan is to have four novels with a connective thread. They will be able to be read on their own merit, as individual stories, but returning readers of my work will smile upon hearing from, or brushing past an old friend.
Nike: Going off the fiction reservation…you hold a bachelors of science in religious education and serve as a youth pastor. Tell us a bit about that aspect of your life?
Teric: I received my degree in 1994. I served as a youth pastor, at two respective churches, from 1991 through 1996. Young people have always held a special place in my heart. They are bombarded with so much from this world, whether mentally, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually. I know; I’ve been there as we all have. I was very fortunate to have had a cool youth pastor growing up- cool, but he always kept it “real”- and I wanted to help young people just as he helped me through some pretty turbulent times.
I believe in everyone’s God-given ability to choose. Having that right, young people are bombarded with so much anti-God sentiment these days. I just want them to be able to hear the story of Love: of how God not only created them but also redeemed them and cares for them, even now. I want them to know God is real, and we have tangible proof of His existence and of the legitimacy of His Son as Messiah. And that message isn’t just for young people, but for all who have breath. When afforded the opportunity to speak about God, I enjoy being able to present the mound of evidence that supports Him. And after I’ve been allowed to speak, I honor every person’s right to choose.
There was a period when I had my doubts about God and about His Son, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). I wasn’t so sure that His Word was real at one interval. So I had to go back to the beginning: I had to look at natural, archaeological, scientific, and historical evidences for God and for His Son. The more I delved into things- trying to chip away at “God” until He was no more- the more I found that my instruments were blunting due to striking against impenetrable bedrock… all the evidence was overwhelmingly in His favor. I am not in the youth ministry proper anymore, but I am still asked to come and speak to young people on occasion from an author’s standpoint. When I do, I share with them why I believe what I believe, and I tell them it’s important to know why they believe what they believe and to be able to prove their beliefs with facts, not simply because somebody else told them that something was true.
Being in Narrow Road, the aforementioned band I was in, also enabled me to get the message out to young people. The music was rock, and the message was built upon the Rock.