Today I am excited to share a success story interview with Sci-Fi author Teresa McLaughlin. I enjoy talking with authors about success because I find authors face challenges similar to bloggers, actors, podcasters, side hustlers and even small business owners. It takes a tremendous amount of work to build connections online and get your work noticed. Theresa has done an excellent job of building an online community and I am thrilled she joined me to geek out about success.
Teresa McLaughlin Discusses Writing, Success, and Her Book
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My questions are in bold, Teresa’s follow in plain text
About Teresa McLaughlin
Teresa McLaughlin grew up in a deeply rural area between Saltillo and Tupelo, Mississippi. First delving into the visual arts, she moved into music and studied voice for 15 years. She planned to pursue an undergraduate degree in Voice and become an opera singer. After high school, she moved to St. Louis and met a man who would become like a father to her. He pushed her into Mathematics and Computer Science. “You had better be able to do something that pays,” he said to her.
After college, she became a computer programmer, but eventually, the music got the best of her, and she moved to New York City to have a career as a singer of early music. She toured the U.S. and Europe several times, even going to China to perform. She moved to Amsterdam and studied the authentic performance practice of ancient music. But, after a time, she grew tired of not having consistent money or health insurance, so she moved to San Francisco and became a computer programmer again. After a few years as a programmer, she went into Cyber Security and pursued a masters degree in Information Assurance.
Just for fun, she created a 3D virtual environment based on Alexandria (Egypt) at 35 BCE and met her husband, or at least his avatar. They fell in love, married in RL (real life) and she moved to the Portland, OR area to live with him. After their marriage, she told him, “I think I’ll try writing after I retire.” And, he responded, “Why not start now?” So, she did. “The Love of the Tayamni” series is what sprang from her mind.
How did you get started writing Sci-Fi?
I have always loved science fiction. I remember, when living in New York City, I remarked to myself that I couldn’t believe Star Trek wasn’t real. I saw every science fiction/fantasy movie I could find and read Arthur C. Clark (primarily).
My husband is the biggest sci-fan fan I know.
I wanted to write something autobiographical, but not dramatic, not a sob story or anything, so I decided to write science-fiction and fictionalize things that I have experienced, my life story, but split up among different characters, and to explore other topics I am interested in. So, reading the series, you won’t know which of the characters (or aspects of characters) are based on me, which are based on people I love, and which are entirely made up.
Science fiction/fantasy is completely, wide-open, I can be as creative as I want.
Can you tell us a little about your series?
The Tayamni are a space-faring people who were on the brink of extinction when they were rescued by a group of explorers from another dimension/universe. Those rescuers, The Nine, saved them, in part by splicing their own DNA with the Tayamni. So, the Tayamni chose to do the same thing, find other intelligent species on the brink of extinction and save them, in part by splicing their DNA with the candidate species. One of those species was what became Homo Sapiens.
The Tayamni remain at Earth, in smaller numbers to watch, coach, and help their progeny to evolve properly. But of course, there are malicious aliens who try to thwart them. Wars in the Solar System and throughout the Orion Spur proliferate. Humans get involved in the mix… etc. etc.
What inspired you to write the series?
I want to explore the idea that ancient aliens did come to Earth and were participants in human evolution. I want to explore ideas of spirituality (non-Abrahamic) and of Moral Codes, of the kinds of compatibilities we may have with other intelligent species in our Universe. I want to explore, what my Tayamni call, the strongest power in the Universe, the Power of Love.
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Write what you want. Bring your ideas to your writing, be creative. Don’t be afraid, put yourself out there for everyone to see. Also, take editors’ suggestions with a pinch of salt. Editors can be aggressive and egocentric. They went to college to learn what is commonly accepted as “good writing.” It is important to know the rules of good writing, but only so that you know when, and how to break them!
Do you have any advice for people not in the industry, like bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers?
I would recommend that you have your purpose, your goals in mind, always. Follow your own motivations. Don’t get sidetracked or distracted into promoting someone else’s goals, or another person’s agenda, if they are not your own. Respect yourself. No one can do the job you have selected, your passion, better than you can. You are the BEST at being you.
How could they improve their writing?
(1) Jot down your ideas,
(2) write your narrative
(3) rewrite, rewrite, rewrite,
(4) even if you love something, throw it out if it distracts from your message (you can use it later in something else, smiles)
(5) Then, at some point, you must stop. You can’t continue rewriting forever.
What does a typical day look like?
I also write for a living. But I write cybersecurity policy, standards, and guidelines based on various frameworks. So, during the week, I usually work a normal workday, watch some TV or movies with my husband (we have several sci-fi series that we LOVE, especially, The Expanse. We’ve watched all 3 seasons 10 times (at least)). Then, after dinner, TV, maybe some snuggles, I work on my series.
What is one thing you have learned from being successful?
Don’t listen to editors, LOL
Is there a mistake you have made starting out that you wish you could change?
Listening to editors (LOL). Yes, The Love of the Tayamni was my first book. So, I assumed editors would know a lot more than me. Yes, sure, I learned from them. But all the editors I have worked with had VERY strong opinions and some gave me, what I know now, is bad advice. I would tell myself to trust my own instincts more.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Read your favorite writers. Not only the stories they write but the language. Listen to the language. When you find someone, whose language wraps itself around your heart, your brain, and your consciousness, listen, or read that person, again, and again, and again.
Professionally what are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the fact that Lionhawk productions are interested in a book to screen effort, not only for my first book but for the entire series. And, I am proud of the wonderful reviews from fans. Their praise makes me very, very happy.
Looking back on your career, is there something you learned from the industry that you found surprising?
Yes, I was surprised that some respected publishers that I was aware of early in my life, have descended to money grabbing, manipulative strategies. For example, when I first began looking for a publisher, I had many of them (well-known names) contact me, expressing a desire to work with me. But what they offered were scams.
I would warn every new writer to beware of publishers!! Don’t give any publisher money up front. They can take their cut from sales, but not from you. That strategy is a scam. Fortunately, having worked in the music industry, I was aware and didn’t fall prey to these manipulative attempts. Fortunately, there are still some respectable publishing houses out there.
Do you have any tips for people trying to write?
Respect yourself. Don’t fall for seedy offers. Be aware that there are MANY people out there who will take advantage of you. That is the most important message.
Secondly, put yourself in a mindset where you love what you do, and it is not important that you find traditional success. If you do, GREAT! But, the most important thing is to do what you love and keep your self-respect.
If you could recommend a book to help people be more successful what would it be, and why:
You know, I don’t subscribe (personally) to the idea that I could read a book about being successful and then implement those ideas to achieve success. Some may have done that, and I congratulate them. But every person is unique.
There is NO ONE else like you. Your path to self-realization or success with the external world will be your path, a unique path to success that works for you.
Has social media played a role in your success?
Tremendously! Yes! Twitter is AMAZING!
I have gained sooooooooo many fans through Twitter. I am at @TeresaMac2009. Follow me, please! 🙂
Can you tell us a little about your Facebook community and how you have been able to use the platform?
I send people from Twitter to my Facebook page. If you follow a lot of people on Twitter, you may not see my posts. So, I recommend that they come to my FB page to see any updates on what is happening. I am not as active on FB, but I do post new developments. I am here.
What does your social media strategy look like, any tips?
Yes, on Twitter, follow the people you want to follow you. Smiles… Publishers, literary agents, Film production companies, etc. Many of them will follow you back. Then, they will see what you are up to.
Any mistakes you see people routinely make with social media?
On Twitter, I think it is important if you are going to post excerpts, to post exciting, enticing, but well written, and easily understandable excerpts. I see some people post excerpts that are not so interesting or well written. Also, use good artwork. Something badly drawn will reflect badly on the project.
Where can people connect with you online?
Do have any apps, books or tips that you use to be more productive?
Word is the very BEST tool (in my opinion) for writing. It is very flexible and has many useful features.
How do you manage time?
In an unplanned manner, LOL, 🙂
What is the best advice you have received?
From my husband, to begin writing NOW, instead of waiting for the exact right time.
Do you have any advice for people that may feel discouraged about reaching their goals?
Take a little break, don’t be too hard on yourself, ask people you love and trust for their opinions. Be gentle and loving with yourself.
Do you have anything you would like to promote or tell us about?
Yes, I have finished the first editions of the first two books of the series, and they are available on Amazon:
You can find the other books (there will be 7 or 8 in all) in various stages of completion here.
Now, I am working on the 2nd edition of the 1st book, getting rid of some bad advice from an editor. And, have begun working on the 3rd book, “Shaare Emeth: The Gateway.” It is mostly finished, but I have to do a lot of reworking.
I also plan to continue working on audio versions of the 1st and 2nd books.
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?
I wish that everyone had more faith in humanity. In the United States, we are in a rather dark place, but I have confidence that we will come out of it, in some way, and possibly even stronger than we were before.
Humans (unless you are psychologically ill) are all fundamentally good. Cut-throat competition between humans is illogical when we have the resources to end hunger and to provide shelter for everyone. In order to survive, we must move past this strategy. We must share. I believe we are descended from the same apes and chimpanzees, but we are more like Bonobos. Sharing resources was instrumental in helping us evolve. It is in our nature.
And, spiritually, I believe we are all here to learn to give and receive love. The cultures that have arisen have evolved to be aggressive because of a shortage of resources. There is no longer such a shortage, so our cultures must change.
There must be more of a balance between feminine and masculine energies. I believe it is happening.
These are all themes in my books.
Anything I should ask that I have not?
I don’t think so… there is one very big secret I am withholding. But everyone will know at some point. There is no need to speculate… yet.
What are a few of your favorite books?
In some ways, I am ashamed to say that my very favorite books are from a series I have listened to more than 10 times. I fell in love with, not only the writing but the narration.
The series is “The Alexandria Quartet” by Lawrence Durrell, narrated by Jack Klaff. The series is not sci-fi but does contain some fantasy elements. I am addicted to it. I listen to the beautiful pronunciation of English, the most beautiful I have ever heard, over, and over, and over.
I am ashamed because it was written in 1957 about society and culture that existed in the 1930s and 40s in Alexandria Egypt, it contains some racist remarks that make me very uncomfortable. But I have decided to continue listening to learn and improve my writing… to improve the language! Language is what it is all about for me. Of course, the story, the writing, one cannot have a successful project without those…but the language is where the magic is. The language is where the djinn is hidden.
Thank You for joining us
Thank you, Teresa, for this great interview. I hope everyone takes a moment to check out your awesome books, and I look forward to hearing your big secret.