Dianna: You have had a string of novels published over the last several years. First, congratulations on your success! Did it take you long to find an agent or publisher? How did you find that person?
Tracy: Thanks! It was a long road getting here. It took me four years to complete my first novel and three years of rejection to secure an agent. BUT—it only took my agent two months to sell my first two-book deal.
Moral of the story: Keep going. Keep trying. You will never get accepted if you don’t risk rejection. And come on – the rejection’s not so bad. It makes you tougher and wiser and a well-seasoned writer.
As for finding the right agent, even though I know it’s expensive, I do recommend pitching at writers’ conferences. It’s the very best way to connect with an agent, and most of them will ask you to send your proposal package to them by way of courtesy. Make sure to write “requested material” on the envelope and to thank them for their time in person and also in your cover letter. Be polite, be professional, and submit only your very best work.
D: Brent Monahan was your mentor. Please talk about your experiences with him—how did he encourage and/or shape your fiction writing? Do you recommend mentoring in general?
T: Brent Monahan taught me how to write a book. I came to him knowing how to turn a phrase, how to tell a story, and how to write strong “scenes,” but Brent taught me how to make them hang together within the structure of a novel.
As for how he encouraged me – he put time into me. Brent is a busy man. He writes plays, novels, musical textbooks, screen plays, and musicals, as well as teaching writing on the university level, teaching music for specially chosen students, acting on stage, and singing professionally. This list doesn’t include his hobbies, his family, and his private time. Suffice it to be said that I didn’t want to make him feel as though the time that he put into me was wasted. I wanted to work to the potential that he saw in me, and the fact that he saw potential at all was encouragement in and of itself.
I do recommend mentoring in general, if you happen upon the right fit, as Brent and I did. I was, and am, extremely respectful of Brent’s incredible wealth of knowledge, as well as his talent, his creative mind, and his intelligence. That said, I still wrote MY book, and he let me do so. A great mentor, such as Brent, knows that the writer is ultimately in charge, and that while he is there to teach and guide, he isn’t there to take the reins or change the writer’s vision of the story.
D: What authors have been influential to your work? What books are on your nightstand right now?
T: I admire Kathleen E. Woodiwiss a great deal. I grew up on her books, and they made me fall in love with romance.
Right now I’m re-reading Siddhartha, a book that I turn to whenever I need reminding that it’s all about the journey. When I’m done I’m not sure where I’m going to start. My work office has a small library that they’re closing down and there are about 500 books that are all mine for the taking. I’ve been bringing a box filled with books home with me every day… and it’s awesome. ‘Free books’ – is there a better phrase known to the Nerd populace?
My bookcases at home are already full and I have no idea where I’ll keep this bounty, but I’m taking them home, anyway. My master plan is to have my husband line our bedroom in floor to ceiling built-in bookcases so I can sleep and wake in my own private library, but he’s not digging the idea. I guess (until I get my way) I’ll add them to the stacks in my office and be glad we don’t live on an unstable fault line.
D: Please talk a bit about your daily writing routine. You mentioned in your blog that you recently got a job – what is it? How have you modified your writing schedule to accommodate?
T: When I’m writing a book, I write every day, or at least make a valiant attempt. If the words are coming hard, I do edits and research. When I’m not into a book, as I’m not right now, I don’t write much at all but do an enormous amount of reading.
Yeah, I got a job. (sigh) I’m leasing apartments – which is interesting most days. There are certainly a lot of characters there, to say the least. As far as a regular job goes, it’s a pretty good gig. The money’s good, the people I work with are cool, and I get benefits. The only downside is the constant exhaustion.
As for writing while working full time… well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure. Right now I am trying to write a bit on the weekends, but that hasn’t been going well because my family and friends actually want to see me at some point. But I have a book I really, really want to write, so my new plan is to begin rolling out of bed at 5 or 5:30 so I can get a few pages in before it’s time to get ready for work.This plan, by the way, is highly experimental. Touch base with me in March at the conference, and I’ll let you know how it’s working out for me.