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Let's see - straightforward here, I'm a special education teacher, brought up a little on the hard side, who taught myself to read by the age of 4. I finished "Gone With the Wind" in only two days when I was 8, and amazed my teachers with my speed-reading abilities all through Grade School. I grew up wearing my brother's hand-me downs, and the trailer park you'll read about in my book, "And Still, She Wept", is where I spent my 'formative years'. I graduated from high school with honors, despite bouts of seizures, two comas, and having a near-fatal arterial rupture in my brain in the tenth grade (I was given a 4% chance of survival). The brain surgeon who repaired the cluster of arteries that burst told me later that he could tell from all the 'old blood' in my brain that I had been bleeding in my occipital lobe since birth. Having such a hard beginning in life, my friends growing up meant everything to me; and they still do. I've actually been writing ever since I could hold a pencil, and I began winning awards in school early on for my short stories and especially, my poetry (T.S. Eliot is my absolute favorite poet, also, I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, and Tennessee Williams is my favorite playwright).
My love of prose is, I think, what helps me to be a better writer as I feel like every single sentence within a novel should have its own certain 'tempo' or rhythm. It sometimes takes a considerable amount of effort to make sure that the words add up the way I want them to, but the end product, I think, is novels that have a wonderful 'flow'. Most people who read my work don't even realize how I structure my words to create the most harmonious sentences I possibly can, and that is one of the best compliments I can receive. It shouldn't be something that people can pick up on, but more an ease of reading that draws you effortlessly through the work, and glides you gently, unerringly from page to page - becoming jarring ONLY when that element of shock will add to the impact of the descriptions that would otherwise merely be lying there innocuously, in black and white on the page.
I graduated Summa Cum Laude from UNC with a GPA of 3.92. Got a B in Chinese History. Go figure. I was first a Wildlife Biology major, but after struggling 35 hours to study for ONE simple Chemistry test, I ended up blindly switching to English as a major instead. Even going straight into Junior and Senior level English classes with no other prep beforehand, I still never made below an A+ in any English-based class I ever took. My favorite class overall was "The Writing of Essays" with Professor Bob Gingher, one of the best teachers on this planet. Dr. Gingher's class was my first glimpse into the world of truly writing for a designated 'audience', and not just for pleasure alone. As such, it was also extremely HARD. I had always hidden behind the vast distance that writing traditional English papers and critical analyses had long been able to provide. Essays were different. They were deeply personal, and it was therefore almost utterly incomprehensible to me - at least initially - how I could even pull one off. I spent many an hour in Dr. Gingher's office that first few weeks, trying to get a handle on how to write one. My first essay, "On Growing Up Poor", was also the very first time in my life that I had EVER written something down about ME in any piece of writing that I had ever done before. Even those poems and short stories I wrote at home were entirely devoid of being a true window into my own private 'self'. When I think back to college, even now, that is the one class that truly captured my heart and mind, and made me begin to realize that I was born to write.
My mother is a Chemist and my father is an Accountant, so I'm still not quite sure just where my writing abilities/proclivities even come from, but falling into the English program was like falling into a pair of warm, welcoming arms. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was truly "home".
I have a BA in English, Minor in Sociology, and am currently working on a Master's Degree in Special Education. Right now I am licensed as an Infant/Toddler Developmental Specialist, and I am also certified to work with children birth to three, and Pre-K through Grade 3, with both Severe Disabilities and Autism. I have teaching certificates in Florida and Colorado, and am certified in Special Ed K-12, General Preschool Ed Ages 0-8, and Early Childhood Special Ed, Ages 0-8. Before that, I worked in a Maximum Security Male Prison for 2 years - "teaching" inmates that were rapists, gang-bangers, and murderers. It was one of the best-worst jobs I've ever had. It taught me that some people just aren't redeemable - but then again, some are.
Since I was a little girl, I have always loved animals, and I hope to one day have the fortitude to go vegan again, both for health reasons and for ethical reasons (I did once before but fell off the wagon). I support PETA, and the ASPCA, and The Animal Rescue Site, and any other organization that concerns itself with the treatment of ALL animals, even those designated as food. I try to steer away from descriptions of animal abuse in my work, but in the few times that I have felt it was an unavoidable piece of the plot, I have always tried to convey horror over what was taking place. The same with child abuse. One of my books does deal with the death of an eight year old girl, but again, it was integral to the main story.
There's not a night that goes by that I don't have nightmares or at the very least, some pretty bizarre dreams, and I sometimes think that if I didn't write horrific murder mysteries, I'd probably go insane.
My first novel, "And Still, She Wept", is a serial killer genre book that also is a deep character study about humanity's ability to survive through sometimes debilitating defeats. It was honestly a very difficult and at times gut-wrenching novel to write. My second novel, however; "The Job", became a nice way for me to release all of those feelings that the first book 'wound-up' inside. "The Job" is an action-packed romantic thrill ride that allowed me to step outside of my normal, every-day routine in a really awesome and fun way. I put just as much hard work and effort into it as my first novel, but I found it healthy to take a short respite from delving into the deeper complexities involved when you are facing true 'evil'. For me, I wasn't just writing about a serial killer in "And Still, She Wept". I was placing myself in HIS SHOES. Days on end, I'd have to think about death, and trauma, and what it was like to not only kill someone, but to WANT to kill him/her. When I did the psychological profile, I spent so many weeks doing the background research, I think I ended up with a fictional profile capable of rivaling one done by an actual agent with the FBI. What made it all the more difficult was that I had to take all of those little snippets of information that I had gathered bit-by-bit from a wide variety of sources, and then put them all together in one place to make an honest-to-God, true-to-life profile of a killer that had only ever existed inside of MY OWN MIND. I know there are actors who say they "become their role" in order to better be able to act it out on screen. For me, with my writing, it is the same way. The only difference is, I had to place myself into the actual position/emotions/lives/skin of THREE roles; Claire Stiles, Frank Reilly, and Jackson Simms. It was a very wonderful, cathartic experience, but also extremely grueling and difficult as well.
"The Job" became for me then, a certain method of 'escapism' - where I could retreat into this fantasy world where there was action, and adventure, and romance, and wild, life-threatening plot twists. Writing it was certainly a joyful and exhilarating time. One thing I do, to help myself write better, is every night before I go to bed, I imagine my book - over and over from page 1, to the final chapter - in my head. Picturing the people, the places, the events, the sights, the smells, the sounds; EVERYTHING. I'm sure you can see how that would be mentally grueling to be watching a serial killer movie over and over, almost every night, for more than a year. Conversely, you should be able to understand how imagining a romantic rollercoaster each night was a little bit less arduous and less mentally exhausting overall. "The Job" is hopefully going to be as much fun for people to read as it was for me to write - and although it was a much less traumatic subject matter (a romance about an assassin gone 'good' versus a serial killer book), I was still very much involved in my characters' development, and in the evolution of the story as a whole; not to mention the extensive emotive impact that the ending had (as well as each scene throughout). I hope that you take the time to check it out. For a more in depth 'look' of this up-coming novel, please see the end of "And Still, She Wept", for a short preview. Also, please visit my Facebook page at 'TC Barnes' for a recently posted synopsis.
My third book, "Shadows of the Heart," is another departure from the serial-killer/murder mystery genre - in that it is a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old girl. Although the book will appeal to ALL age groups, it is my first novel that is actually appropriate for young adults. It has some pretty important and strong messages in it as well, as 'Kat', my main character, is dealing with the fact that she is more responsible for her younger sister (who has Down Syndrome) than her own mother is. Wrenched away from their home and driven unexpectedly from Florida to Iowa for a reason Kat cannot at first fathom, she must try to settle into her first ever exposure to "small-town living". Although I, myself, currently live in a small town and LOVE it, there are also a few small-town prejudices or mentalities that can sometimes hurt as well as heal. In particular, Kat is faced with her sister being picked on by the school bully. The primary crisis comes early on the story when Kat, who was told at 7 years old that her father died in a car accident, learns that he actually ended up in prison in Iowa for attempted murder, instead. The initial arrest was a result of a bar-brawl that was not his fault, but because the guy he beat up was the nephew of the town's Sheriff, and the son of the town's only Judge, regardless of the fact that he was justifiably defending himself, he is still charged and sentenced for a much more serious crime than simple "assault and battery". Her mother, who made a split-second decision to take him back once his parole date got near (and re-established communication with him out of the blue), made some unquestionably bad choices in her life by NOT explaining to her children what actually happened to their father. The whole of the novel deals with this particular conflict, and with Kat having to come to terms with her father's crime. It is about forgiveness - of yourself, and others, and about accepting who we are inside. It is a very tender-hearted novel that also cuts right to the heart of what it is like to be a fifteen year old girl, momentarily floundering, who is then suddenly having to deal with emotional heartbreak and confusion after learning the truth about her mother's eight-year long lie. I know that 15 was a particularly difficult age for me personally, as at that time in life you are faced with liking boys in a more grown-up way, dealing with peer-pressure, and often being picked on or betrayed by your best friends. You are also moving from an immature relationship with your parents, where you need them and want them to protect you, to wishing that they would respect you and see you as an 'adult'. Even though I now know that I wasn't even close to being an adult at fifteen, I can still remember feeling that I was; that rather painful dichotomy between thinking that I knew everything about the world and believing that I didn't need anybody, and the reality that I was still somewhat of a child - is what I explore in this book. It is why I chose this age, specifically: because of my own experiences during this time in my life.
After "Shadows of the Heart", I will be publishing "Death of a Princess", another serial-killer/murder-mystery genre book, hopefully between July and September (depending on how well the last part of my 'revisions and editing period' goes with it). "Death of a Princess" is another deep, deep plunge; into evil, into self-hatred, into really difficult emotional and physical trauma. It even touches on alcoholism and 'survivor's guilt'. This is a book that is extremely close to my heart - probably my favorite story that I have worked on so far. It keeps getting shoved to the back of my "to do" pile, specifically because of how much it wrenches my heart out to work on it. As unsettling as it is, this is probably the story where I, personally, most identify with my main character. It is not only a work that I am extremely proud of, but is also a story that I am very eager to publish. I am looking forward to sharing it with you. (If you are interested in learning more about this novel, the first chapter is included at the end of "And Still, She Wept", too.)
I hope that you enjoy my books; reading them, maybe discussing them, and perhaps hopefully even taking a piece of them with you once in a while. I am always available to my readers for any questions, or if you'd simply like to discuss my work. My author email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for reading my books, and for making my little 'worlds', even temporarily, a tiny part of yours. It is quite a gratifying thing.
You can also reach me anytime on Amazon through Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/books/26963319/And-Still-She-Wept?amatc=kdp-c,
or on Kindlegraph.com under " And Still, She Wept ".
Thanks for reading!
Teresa Covington Barnes