Author Interview: T W Bristol

My favorite new author….
T.W. Bristol (Terri Wagener Bristol) is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter. She has written for television and film, and her plays have been produced across the country. She is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Playwriting Fellowship Grant and has been recognized for her contributions to the arts. 

DID YOU FIND EVERYTHING YOU WERE LOOKING FOR? is her debut novel.  It is a powerful and moving story that explores the complexities of love and finding yourself. The book is a must-read for anyone who has had a dream about making it big. Join T.W. Bristol on this journey of self-discovery and get your copy today.
 
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What’s her book about?

A-List-adjacent Hollywood screenwriter Tess Bristol isn’t happy—despite having what she thought would be an enviable life. Time to smash the reset button—and take a big breath. Tess grabs a summer job at a famous food market that is the second-happiest place on earth. It brings with it a creepy boss, mean girls, and a couple of sincere but wacky admirers. Add them to a lost dog, lots of exquisite lingerie, and that guy back in Texas, and Tess will obviously have to become braver to become happier. How brave can she be?

Thank you so much for being here today!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your debut novel Did You Find Every Thing You Were Looking For?

I’m a native Texan, gone from there for a long time, but I’ve started visiting again lately. It reminds me (fondly) of how far I’ve come. I currently live in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York – Trixie Belden country — with my life partner, two dogs, and a cat. I’m in my sixties, and I just published my first book!

If you care to share, is this novel based on your life or family members/friends?

I get this question a lot, which I love; it means the events and characters register as “true,” whether they really happened or not. I can say I’m substantially older than Tess, and I have collected and remember all the ages of my life, so even though I am in a season different from hers, some events still translate. I once had a dog named Jasper who got lost, but not on the Fourth of July, and I didn’t visit an animal psychic to find him. I never stole shoes from Goodwill or went to work drunk or contacted my boss’s boss. I worked at a Trader Joe’s for a while, but not in Hollywood. I’ve never had a picnic with a schizophrenic at the Hollywood Bowl. I have had some pretty bad dates, though. I still have a lot of the exquisite lingerie from the story.

I know you’ve been in the writing scene for a while, can you tell us a bit about that?

I started out writing plays and wrote my first published play at 16. I wrote plays till my thirties, when I moved to Hollywood and got hired to work on “Fried Green Tomatoes,” a great stroke of luck and an excellent match. This was also during the “Movie of the Week” phase in television when most stories came out of Florida or Utah and featured a scenario like “An ex-nun confronts her long ago abuser. In a ravine. With a shotgun.” I couldn’t write those movies, so I continued writing plays and the occasional movie when something came along that I could see myself living in.

What feelings did writing your light-hearted, very witty and charming novel evoke for you?

I read this question to my partner, and he gave a bark of a laugh. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t always a delightful endeavor. I struggled with writing and formatting software an inordinate amount. I think I used four different programs. I took long breaks (I moved four times, once across the country) and when I went back to the manuscript, I essentially had to start all over. I struggle with depression and sometimes an episode would come out of nowhere and make me put the work away for months at a time. Plus, I’m a terrible typist.  Also, I had a whole B story that I started with, but finally realized the A story had enough tentacles by itself. I’m glad and gratified that the humor is still the primary element in the book and it’s a “feel-good” story. My writing voice is the same as my speaking voice and doesn’t really change, much like my handwriting doesn’t change. It is recognizable and familiar.

It may be too difficult to choose, but what do you prefer to do: screenwriting, playwrighting or writing books? (And of course, why? Feel free to give us the good, the bad and the ugly for each)

Playwriting is my first love. I have always been fascinated by how different people express themselves and I can repeat long ago conversations verbatim and then analyze them for you. When I read as a child, I’d often just skip from quotation marks to quotation marks, basically making every book into a play. Screenwriting is a visual medium rather than a verbal one and does not come naturally to me. I have to first write the scene the way it actually happened and then go back and trim the dialogue to about 20% of what I imagine. For film, a writer has to think more in snapshots. This is my first book, and once I got over how small the margins were, I took off with glee. But you can tell in the book, I think, that I love dialogue. Some scenes are essentially all dialogue, some even written in script form.

Do you feel commercial fiction authors are facing particular challenges these days whether it be tied to politics, world issues, technology, or the environment?

I’m sure some are but, gosh, I’m not one of them. I deliberately don’t touch current issues in my book. My book is an escape from those issues.

Who would you cast if “Did You Find Every Thing You Were Looking For?” became a movie or series?

I’d rather it be a series. Television is more up close and personal than film.  You are invited into someone’s home repeatedly. I’m not up on the latest young actresses, so will say a younger… Anna Kendrick? Although she doesn’t have the truly fragile vulnerability we would need for Tess. Anna Kendrick with a touch of Helena Bonham Carter? I guess we’ll cast an unknown. Those auditions will be fun!

What line or passage in your novel stands out for you the most?

“To expect the world to be nice to you because you’re a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you’re a vegetarian.” I’d like to think there are some nice gems for readers to scoop up and highlight.

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer? And then when did it dawn on you that you wanted to try your hand in writing a book?

I’ve always been a writer. My second-grade report card talks about my “charming original stories.” I’ve always intended to write books. “Write that novel” has been on my New Year’s Resolution list since high school, right between “watch less television” and “floss more.” I’ve begun a half dozen novels. This one I finished. Primarily because of my age, I’m sure.

Besides getting lost in your writing, what else do you love to do?

Reading, of course. Gardening. Hiking with my dog. I am also a fiber artist, a feltmaker. I create wool and alpaca scarves and won Best in Show at the L.A. County Fair two years in a row. My fiber studio is still packed up from my last move, though. I am also renovating a 1905 Edwardian farmhouse near me to return it to its former glory. It was allowed to fall into disrepair and when I saw it, my rescuing “I can fix this!” character kicked in and now the house has another bathroom and beautiful wood floors and a heating system that looks like the Starship Enterprise. I don’t know what I’ll do with it when I’m done, except offer houseguests a house of their own. Right now, my writing group meets there.

Tell us what your typical writing routine looked like for you when writing your debut novel and how long did it take you from the idea to the time you finished your final edit?

 “Routine”? I laugh. I don’t do routine. We don’t even speak in the elevator.  (This is one big reason why it took me fifteen years to finish such an easy-to-read book.) I do write regularly, usually every day, certainly every week. Lately I’ve been taking my laptop to the 1905 farmhouse. There are so many stories contained in those walls already, it’s got a great vibe for writing.

Any advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers today?

 Practice writing. I won’t say “write” because that can sound too serious and onerous. But scribble, put your thoughts down, enjoy playing with words. It slows you down and changes your brain chemistry and organizes your mind. You don’t have to be published to be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. Write for the pleasure of writing, just as you sing in the shower for the pleasure of singing in the shower. That’s enough.  Also: read. Read some great books, especially if you hope to write one someday.  I often say “Garbage in, garbage out.” If you feed your mind junk, that’s all it will know how to produce. Feed it quality stuff and that will become its native language.

For your loyal fans, is there anything in the pipeline you can tell us about?

I’m already getting requests for the next installment of Tess’s life. I do know the next book is called “Everything and More” and I know what happens. I just have to write it. I’m quite sure it won’t take as long as this one did. (laughing) I don’t have that kind of time.

Do you think there’ll ever be a day when you’ll want to stop writing and why?

No. I get sick when I don’t write. I may have to stop one day because of infirmity or losing my mind. But I know I’ll never *want* to stop.

You can connect with T W Bristol here:

T W Bristol website

or

For media inquiries, please contact publicist David Carriere: david@davidcarriere.org | 413-243-6767

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