Hello! Welcome to a new feature on Holly Recommends! As an author, I love to hear how other writers work, think, and get inspired. I’ve chosen author Tracie Banister as my first interview subject because she’s been incredibly generous and inclusive to me and other authors, and I thought it would be nice to return the favor. It also didn’t hurt that, like me, she loves animals and reality TV.
Tracie is the author of Blame It on the Fame, In Need of Therapy , and Twin Piques.
Holly: Tracie, tell us about yourself!
Tracie: Like my favorite fictional heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, I am a Southern belle who lives on the outskirts of Atlanta. I’m addicted to television (I watch everything from Disney Channel shows to Top Chef and think the DVR is the best invention since the wheel.), crossword puzzles (I do 3-5 a day and like to time myself.), and Perrier with lemon. Animal rights (I have three Cocker Spaniels, two seniors with special needs who were rescues, and a crazy puppy.) and finding a cure for diabetes (I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for over 25 years.) are my two passions. I love theater and try to get to New York to see several Broadway shows every year. And, of course, I am a rabid reader who enjoys a wide variety of genres, everything from Historical Romance to Steampunk.
Prior to becoming a published author, I was personal assistant to a local entrepreneur. My first novel, Blame It on the Fame, was released in 2012, and that was followed by In Need of Therapy later that year. Twin Piques is my third Chick Lit release. The pet psychic character in this novel was inspired by my rascally dogs. I’d love to know what goes on in their heads!
H: What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
T: Oh, gosh, where to begin. I was a huge reader as a child and spent my summers at the library, devouring every book I could get my hands on! Some favorites from my childhood include: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, all the Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene, and believe it or not, I read Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell when I was just nine years old! That book remains my favorite to this day.
H: And as a an adult, who are your favorite authors?
T: I never get tired of reading Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, Janet Evanovich, and Sophie Kinsella.
H: Are there any new writers you’ve recently discovered that you’d like to recommend to other readers?
T: Some writers I’ve discovered more recently who’ve really wowed me are: Tracey Garvis-Graves, Lauren Willig, A.G. Howard, Darynda Jones, and Gail Carriger. I am purposely not naming authors from my own genre as I know too many of them personally, and it would be impossible for me to choose favorites among them!
H: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
T: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I always revered the written word. When I was a kid, I had a word-a-day calendar, enjoyed flipping through the big dictionary my grandmother had sitting on a stand in her living room, and couldn’t wait to enter every spelling bee at school! And I was always obsessed with books and reading, which led to me scribbling down my own stories. My work was first seen on the stage of my elementary school, where my fourth grade class performed an original holiday play penned by me. (Like all good divas-in-the-making, I also starred in and tried to direct the production.)
H: If you weren’t a writer, what would be your dream job?
T: My dream job, aside from writing, would be to open/operate a sanctuary for rescue dogs that might otherwise have trouble being placed in a home because they’re older or have special needs. One of my rescues is half-blind and another is deaf, so I have a special place in my heart for dogs with similar issues.
H: Do you have any writing habits or rules that keep you focused and productive?
T: I am a creature of habit, and things have to be just so in order for me to be able to concentrate and write. I always write at my desk in my office (I loathe laptops!). I must wear my special “writing sweater,” an Old Navy cardigan, even if it’s 100 degrees outside. And it’s essential that I have a glass of Perrier nearby (I’m convinced that the carbonation stimulates my imagination!). I burn eucalyptus oil in my office quite a bit as there’s something about the aroma I find soothing and now I associate that scent with “creative time.” Oh, and I always touch the head of my Shakespeare paperweight every day before I start writing. For inspiration, for good luck, I have no idea; it’s just part of my crazy routine!
I guess the only writing rule I have is that I always write in chronological order. I am a very linear thinker, so I have to journey with the characters from Point A to B to C. If I jumped around writing scenes out of order, I think I’d just confuse the heck out of myself!
H: Who or what inspires you?
T: I get ideas everywhere – from friends, family, the Internet, TV, magazines. I never know what will provide a springboard for my imagination. There is a little bit of me and my life experiences in every story I write – these can show up in character quirks, or places I’ve visited, or relationship dynamics.
H: Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
T: I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block per se, but I’ve definitely experienced writer’s burn-out. I’m a perfectionist, and I can get very frustrated with myself when my stories don’t turn out the way I want them to. At times like these, I have to step away from the computer and recharge my batteries by hopping on the treadmill, going to a movie, or chatting with a friend.
H: What have been turning points to your success as a writer or career highlights?
T: My first validation as a writer came when I had two New York agents offer to represent me on my first novel. That book was never published because publishers didn’t want anything to do with Chick Lit at the time, but still it was a great experience to have positive feedback from agents and editors. That gave me the confidence to go the indie route. And, of course, the day I released my first book is one I will never forget! I felt such a surge of elation and pride, also mixed with a lot of nausea. I felt similarly when releasing my second and third books, so the thrill of completing and sharing a novel does not diminish no matter how many times you do it.
As far as awards, Blame It on the Fame was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and In Need of Therapy made the top four in the 2013 Shirley You Jest! Book Awards. I would consider those career highlights.
H: Do you have any advice for other writers?
T: Make sure you’ve got a polished, professional-looking product before you query or publish. If you decide to go indie, invest money in a cover artist, have the book proofread by several people and do several rounds of edits until you’re sure your book is the best it can possibly be, write a snappy blurb, and build buzz for your book via social media and your blog in the months and weeks leading up to your release. Also, and this is really important, have realistic expectations about your book. Finding readers takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a marathon, not a race! So, don’t get discouraged if you don’t sell a zillion books and hit the bestsellers’ list right out of the gate. That rarely happens. Just hang in there, keep writing, and doing everything you can to spread the word about your books and you will eventually see results.
H: What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
T: Don’t compare yourself to other writers. That way lies madness, because there will always be someone doing better than you with sales, publicity, reviews, followers, etc. You have your own trajectory, so do your thing and don’t worry about anyone else.
H: Anything else you’d like to share?
T: I am head moderator of a Facebook group called “Chick Lit Chat” that I am incredibly proud of. We have over 750 members, including my 5 fantastic co-mods, and all the authors, bloggers, and readers there are so supportive of each other. Promoting and supporting the Chick Lit genre in a positive, pro-active way is very important to me, and this group has made that possible by bringing together lovers of the genre from all over the world.
H: Thank you Tracie! Here are details and links to Tracie’s books and social media profiles:
About Twin Piques: Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common.
How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. Although she’s been looking for “The One” for what feels like forever (A teenage marriage to a French mime and dating a guy named Spider seemed like good ideas at the time!), optimistic Willa refuses to give up on love. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head?
Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job, where she uses her gift for numbers to take down slimy embezzlers and asset-hiding spouses. When she’s assigned two high profile cases, Sloane feels confident the promotion she’s been angling for is within her grasp. But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore?
To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?
Connect with Tracie:
Facebook (Tracie): https://www.facebook.com/tracie.banister
Facebook (Chick Lit Chat): https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChickLitChatHQ/