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Jaden Terrell signing Racing The Devil at local bookstores

Jaden Terrell’s mesmerizing mystery Racing The Devil is full of gorgeous prose, a dazzling protagonist, and enough plot twists to have readers white-knuckling the pages. Terrell will be at Barnes & Noble Cool Springs at 1 p.m. today reading from and signing copies of her must-read. She will also be at Parnassus Books in Green Hills on Saturday, February 11 at 1 p.m.

Q--You put a lot on your lead character including being framed for murder, trouble shaking an ex-wife, a son with Down Syndrome and a nephew on the dangerous edge of the Goth subculture. Can Jared McKean deal with all this?

A—Jared is a strong man, both physically and emotionally. I see him as the guy who would walk through fire for the people he loves, and while it pushes him to his limits, it only makes him stronger in the end. It also tempers him. Having a son with Down syndrome, a best friend with AIDS, and an ex-wife he still loves bring out his tender side and keep him from being your everyday tough guy. I call him a hardboiled hero with a soft-boiled heart; it’s the challenges that make him, not just a strong man, but a good one.

Q--You say you know fictitious McKean better than you know anyone else. How is that?

A—The facile answer is that I can see into his head, which is impossible with other people. The more complete answer is that I also know all the events, small and large, that have made him what he is, things he would never confide to anyone, or even think to. I know things about him that he doesn’t know about himself yet—for example, that he has half-siblings he’s never met. In the flesh-and-blood world, you can never get a complete picture of anyone, no matter how well or for how long you’ve known them, but in the world of fiction, you can know everything that matters.

Q--You live in Nashville and set the story in Nashville. What makes Nashville a good backdrop?

A—Nashville is a city of contradictions. At the center of the Music Row roundabout, there’s a bronze statue called Musica, composed of classically sculpted nude figures, while just a few blocks away is a giant fiberglass catfish wearing a cowboy hat. We have the Swan Ball, a “white-tie gala” and one of the top charity events in the county, followed by the famously tacky Swine Ball and the Music City Barbecue Festival. Sometimes called the buckle of the Bible Belt, we have more churches per square mile than any other city in the U.S.—and also more strip clubs. There’s country music glitz, suburban ordinariness, gang violence, human trafficking, and down-home hospitality. Nashville has big-city issues, but there’s still a rural feel to it. Whatever you want to write about, you can probably find it here.

Q--You got some really good hands-on experience with local detectives and by attending the Citizens Police Academy. How did all this help you write the book?

A—Jared is a former police officer, so talking with law enforcement professionals gave me insights into his psychology and experiences. I also learned about investigative techniques and what is and isn’t possible—especially about timelines and how long it takes to get back test results. Most important, it’s given me some valuable contacts—people I can call or email if I have specific questions. I hope it’s helped make the books more authentic and believable.

Q--How long did it take to write the manuscript?

A—That’s a hard question! The first draft took six weeks. Editing it took close to a year. Then I rewrote it several times. This first book in the series has been through several incarnations—self-published to independent micro-press to my current publisher, The Permanent Press, which is a larger independent publisher. Each time, it’s had significant revisions. I’ve grown as a writer, and I think that’s reflected in each new version of the book. So the answer, depending on how you look at it, is either six weeks or about a decade.

Visit Jaden Terrell at: http://www.elizabethterrell.com/

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