Dr. Terry Rich Hartley is a former research psychologist, psychology professor, and journalist who has recently returned to his first love of fiction writing.
In the early 1980s he sold seven science fiction stories and worked as a writer and copy editor for the Twin Falls, Idaho, Times-News. He then went to The Glens Falls, New York, Post-Star, where he earned two first-place awards for his satirical column and a third one for business/finance editing by the New York State Associated Press Association.
Among Hartley’s academic achievements are a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Skidmore College, a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a postdoctoral fellowship in biological psychology from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.
In the 1990s Hartley was a research psychologist at the Behavioral Sciences Labs in Oklahoma City and, from 2000-2005, an adjunct assistant professor in the Boise State University Dept. of Psychology.
He’s an avid outdoorsman who currently lives in Idaho’s Hagerman Valley along the Snake River with his wife and their Labrador retriever.
Was there any particular inspiration for Paranoia on River Road? Yes, the story came about as a convergence of my own experiences in Idaho’s Snake River Canyon, my interest in psychology, and my tendency toward free association, where I’m always asking, “what if,” and then letting my mind fill in the blanks. I also was inspired by Stephen King’s novella, “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” in which he masterfully created a character suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. What emerged in “Paranoia on River Road” was a story revolving around a schizophrenic man who was failing miserably to hide from his past.
You say you've been away from writing for quite some time. Was it difficult for you to get back on track with writing fiction?It was brutal. Years of writing grants and research papers had locked me into a stiff, formal style of communication. Additionally, I’d grown accustomed to justifying every written statement with supporting evidence. Somewhere in the midst of starts and stumbles on “Paranoia,” I had to stop and ask myself what I like in fiction. To be entertained, that’s what! And to be entertained honestly. Events in the story have to seem like they could actually happen within the universe of the tale being told. In other words, they have to stimulate my willingness to suspend disbelief. That self Q&A broke the ice and allowed me to actually enjoy the creative process of fiction writing again, something I hadn’t done since the 1980s.
What is the most challenging part of the writing process for you?
Creating realistic characters. Readers don’t want stick figures wandering across the pages, they want to feel what the characters feel. Or, at the very least, cheer them or jeer them for their qualities and imperfections. The process of characterization tends to start rather laboriously for me, and then the fictional people gain lives of their own. The most gratifying part of the process is when they actually help write the story. If I could just teach them to use the keyboard . . .
When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?At the tender age of nineteen when I was reading Robert Ruark novels. Many years passed before I made some honest attempts to learn the craft. I was in my early thirties when I sold some science fiction stories, then began working for newspapers so I could continue writing and eating at the same time.
What is your preferred genre of writing?Psychological mystery. From my view, that provides considerable leeway in which I can exploit anything from mental pathology to the mildly paranormal, or even horror.
What do you think makes a good story?Fear. Fear creates tension. What writer doesn’t strive to create tension? What reader isn’t captivated by it? I’m not talking strictly about horror or something earth shaking. This can be fear of anything that can be lost: love, power, honor, youth, wealth, esteem, and so on. Of course, fear of death is the biggy that every human being with a developed cerebral cortex possesses. Ergo, death—or the threat of it—is good in fiction.
What does audio production bring to your story?In a way it brings the entire concept of storytelling full circle. Homo Sapiens, the storyteller, spun out verbal yarns long before written (chiseled?) ones enthralled people. Radio dramas were popular before Howdy Doodie ever put his mug in front of a camera, and today busy people can enjoy audio versions of stories even while driving. As with print, I like the fact that people can form their personalized visions of my characters. Unlike print, they can do that even if they’re visually impaired or maybe just too busy to sit down and read. Thank goodness someone had the foresight to create a market for the combined efforts of writers and voice experts.
Are you working on any stories or other literary works at the present?Indeed. I have written a second audio, “The Ditchrider’s Daughter,” and have a shorter story, “Whisper,” in the submission process to print media. I have another short story or novelette—not sure of the length—formed mentally and will start on it very soon. A full-length novel is also running around “up there,” but I want it more completely gelled before putting a word to paper.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?I’m a voracious reader, and I like to do just about anything outdoors: landscaping, hiking, fly fishing, and doing comically amateurish nature photography. I also spend an inordinate amount of time spoiling my Labrador retriever, Sampson.
See special interview on Whisper's rise in popularity.
"Armageddon Yellowstone: Hell Unleashed," novel, published 1/26/2012
“Last Old Man in Casanaland,” short story, quarter-finalist, Writers of the Future Contest, 1985
“Ten Points Toward Blastoff,” short story published in Pandora, 1985
“Shark Destiny,” short story published in Far Frontiers, 1985
“A Christmas Hazing,” short story published in Christmas Magic, 1984
“Alternative Realities,” short story published in Christmas Magic, 1984
“An Orchid for Lisa,” short story published in Orion’s Child, 1984; eBook available online
“Brain Twisters,” short story published in Pandora, 1983
Published: 4-2013, Mind Wings Audio
Published: 2-2012, Mind Wings Audio
Published: 11-2010, Mind Wings Audio
Published: 5-2010, Mind Wings Audio
Published: 2-2010, Mind Wings Audio
Non-fiction Publications and Honors:
Dozens of scientific journal articles and free-lanced pieces too numerous to list.
"Tyrants of Self-Concept: Ruling the Rullers," published: 2/16/2012
1987: First Place, Columns, NY State Associated Press Association
1987: First Place, Business/Finance Editing, NY State Associated Press Association
1988: First Place, Columns, NY State Associated Press Association