I am very excited to post an author interview with Tracy Ewens. I recently reviewed Catalina Kiss and, soon after, Tracy graciously agreed to an interview with me. Tracy has a broad range of interests which influence her writing on many levels. We met through blogging and she uses her blog site, From the Laundry Room, (http://fromthelaundryroom.com/about/) as a platform for her creative thinking. Tracy has shared many of her writing and publishing experiences below. I hope you enjoy reading her responses as much as I did!
BCM: Since you and I met through our blogs, the subject of blogging seems like a great place to start. In visiting your blog, From the Laundry Room, I see that you have been on the blogging scene for a number of years. What’s the best thing you have experienced about blogging?
TE: Blogging is interesting. I blog in a vacuum, tell myself no one is reading. Somewhere I know people follow the blog and comment, but each time I post I play a game with myself that no one will be reading. That’s the only way it works for me, otherwise I start filtering and that is no fun.
The Laundry Room has been my space for a few years, but I have started blogging regularly and reading other blogs for about two years. I follow some great blogs, yours included.
The best thing I’ve experienced? Probably hearing from people all over the world. It is incredible when something I write reaches people with vastly different lives and cultures.
BCM: I like thinking about different genres of literature and how each answers to specific reader tastes. I enjoyed reading Catalina Kiss, a romance, because it allows the reader to relax and enjoy an intelligent story and have a little fun along the way. How did you come up with the idea to write this story?
TE: I’ve been to Catalina Island several times and the mermaid above the entrance to the casino has always intrigued me. She’s very sensual, but her face is pensive, smart. Something is going on in her eyes. I had never written anything before Catalina Kiss, but I wondered about her story. Catalina is brimming with history and interesting tales, but there wasn’t really a story for the mermaid, so I made one up. Then I wondered if my story could be a book. I started, got lost in a wonderful world and I kept going.
Gwen came first, I wanted to explore a struggle and see if I could show a character evolving. I’ve had several readers say she annoyed them; it’s a bit of a backdoor compliment because I was just happy I created anything real enough to be annoying. Gwen is frustrating, but I love that about her. She struggles and grows. She never really has all the answers.
Once Gwen was fully formed, I needed a man that would love her differences, her insanity. Michael was born and I fell in love with him too. These two people, their families and the backdrop of Catalina then guided the story. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of writing Catalina Kiss.
BCM: I’d love to learn about the process you went through in writing this book. Did you decide it would be a romance novel and structure it to fit into that genre?
TE: Catalina Kiss was originally titled Avalon, but when Avalon Books, from New York, purchased it (I know, so weird, right?), they felt it would be too confusing, so the title was changed to Catalina Kiss. I have never been crazy about the title; it always rang a little schmaltzy for me. It is a simple story and I hope it’s romantic, but it seems more about family, and a young woman finding her place than just a kiss. So, I suppose I always knew it would be a romance, but I didn’t follow a set formula or structure per se.
BCM: Tell me about your writing process. Do you write every day? How do you manage your regular work schedule and your writing schedule?
TE: I do write every day. It’s like exercise for me, not negotiable. It helps that I love it, but I also believe practice is essential. I have so many stories I want to share, but sometimes I trip over my skill level.
Writing is work and I want the very best instrument so I can do my characters justice. It’s such a privilege when someone opens your book and lets you to take them on a journey. Every book is my very best effort at the time I’m writing it. I wrote Catalina Kiss just over four years ago. If I were writing it today, I’d change just about everything, but it’s a reflection of where I was as a writer at that time, so I try to cut myself some slack.
As far as finding time to write, I don’t watch television. I have a couple of shows that I try to follow, but I watch on my computer so I can schedule my time. I’m a horrible cook, so my husband cooks for us and I’m fortunate that my work schedule is pretty flexible. That being said, I wrote even when my job was a nightmare. Everyone makes time for the things that are important.
BCM: Do you ask your family for feedback?
TE: I rambled for months about Michael and Gwen when I was writing my first book. My husband listened and shared his thoughts, he got into it for a couple of months, but he has not read any of my books. My children promise to read my books as soon as I write about vampires or aliens.
BCM: As a first-time author, what were some of the obstacles you faced in getting Catalina Kiss published?
TE: I paid an editor to review my manuscript. He was patient and brutally honest. I wrote and rewrote and then he said it was time to find a publisher. I sent out letters and a ridiculously long synopsis.
I received rejection after rejection. Yes, I saved them all. I think my favorite was, “this story didn’t really hold my interest past page two.” Ouch!
After a few months, right before Christmas, Avalon Books called and said they enjoyed my book and would like to publish it. I had no experience and I honestly couldn’t believe someone wanted to pay me. I enjoyed my brief relationship with Avalon Books. They were a small publishing house really interested in book making, so that was fun. A few months after I signed, Avalon was sold to Amazon and I was thrust into a pretty large machine. I waited about a year and then Catalina Kiss came out.
BCM: Can you tell me about the specific challenges of finding an agent?
TE: I have never looked for nor had an agent. I’m going to start that process next month, so I’m sure challenges will abound.
BCM: I’ve asked other writers this same question and gotten very different answers. It seems as if now more than ever, writers need to have a prominent and interactive internet presence. Readers choose their next book to read in a completely different way than they did years ago. People are spending less and less time in bookstores just browsing and more time actually researching what they’re going to read, through online book promotions and reader reviews. Do you enjoy the marketing aspect of being a writer?
TE: Sigh…I should say that I do, that I’m invigorated by the online community and promoting my work, but that would be a huge lie. I love writing, I’m honored when someone reads my work and it takes him or her somewhere, but I would rather have a root canal than promote/market myself. I don’t mind discussing my writing to a certain extent, but the “selling” of things is not my strong suit.
BCM: I would think that having an internet presence goes hand-in-hand to being tech-savvy, being able to manage a wide variety of social media platforms as well as having knowledge of the many different devices people use to get information about your books and other creative efforts. Do you enjoy this high-tech element of our modern world? What do you think is the most useful part of social media?
TE: I have a love/hate relationship with high tech anything. There is no question the ease and access to information is unprecedented and exciting, but there’s a distance that all this technology creates. It’s wonderful because we can share information and stay in touch, but I think it has to be tempered with occasional handshakes, eye contact. I would say the most useful part of social media for writers is being able to reach readers independently. There’s no longer a wall or barrier between authors and the readers that enjoy their work. That aspect opens up a lot of avenues for writers.
BCM: You have written a new book, Premiere, another love story. And in this book, the story centers around the stage premiere of one of your characters. I read on your website that you majored in Theater/Acting. Were you able to draw from these experiences to write this story?
TE: After Catalina Kiss, I wanted to write a contemporary story, so I decided to write about Michael and Gwen’s granddaughter. Premiere is her story. The books are not dependent upon each other, but there are some references to Catalina.
I’m honestly not sure why this one was set in a theatre. I knew I wanted to write a story about friends that become more and in this book Peter, the hero, developed first. I have always loved the theatre and my major gave me a familiarity that was so helpful. I liked the idea of making amends or working out issues through a play. Samantha, the heroine, studied to be an actress, so I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of a playwright that is never on the stage and an actress that puts everything out there. Theatres are so romantic, at least I think they are, so I enjoyed being in those spaces for the months I was writing and I suppose it did bring back memories.
BCM: Do you think this college major has helped you with story-telling?
TE: I think it may help. Theatre/Acting is about realizing a character, creating a world for that character to live, so that aspect is helpful. I’m starting to think there’s a bit of a downside because I often get trapped in my character’s head. That’s not always good for story telling, but kept under control, it brings a depth to my characters not always found in romance.
BCM: I noticed that you like listening to a wide range of music, from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga. I’m sure that helps with writing stories. Of all the music you listen to, is there any one artist that has influenced you the most?
TE: Oh, very tough question. I create playlists for each project. I have A LOT of music and I like to write to music. It’s interesting because in my non-writing life, I enjoy music that is lyric heavy (Dave Matthew’s Band, Sara McLaughlin), but I can’t listen to those songs when I write. Too many words swimming around. I usually pick songs that evoke a mood or put me somewhere when I’m writing. John Legend, Rascal Flatts, that one by A Great Big World… Say Something, is a current favorite.
BCM: Do you think your interest in movies has also influenced your writing? Any favorites?
TE: Hmm…I don’t think I’ve ever thought about movies and their influence on my writing. One of my favorite chapters in Premiere takes place in a movie theatre on Catalina Island. Peter and Samantha discuss movies. I love going to the movies and that moment when the lights dim and it’s story time. My fourth novel will move around a woman who inherits an old movie house, so I suppose like every thing else, my love of the movies bleeds into my writing.
Favorites? Oh boy, there’s not enough time. Room with a View will always sit in the top ten. After that…well I’ll just ramble what comes to mind. Out of Africa, The Godfather, The Young Victoria, Tommy Boy, An Affair to Remember, The Dark Knight, Ratatouille, Hangover, and Anonymous. Oh, also Amelie and the new one I recently reviewed…About Time. That was a lovely film.
BCM: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
TE: I like books about relationships. They can be between a man and a woman, friends, family, but I need some kind of human connection. I like to read anything where people are interacting. I love witty dialogue and seeing characters trip over themselves while they figure out their life.
I like some of the classics. I’m pretty silly for Dickens. He was a master. I love Shakespeare’s rhythm, but I stopped reading his work back in college. I like watching his plays interpreted on stage and in film.
I read a lot of romance, I’ll even read cheesy romance, as long as there are no handcuffs and the women aren’t stupid. Nora Roberts usually handles my romance fix. She writes happy, wonderfully warm, stories.
BCM: I really like the cover of your new book, Premiere. It’s very inviting. Tell me about the process of choosing a book cover design.
TE: When it came time to design the cover for Catalina Kiss, I was given a choice of three covers. Because it was my first book, there were some things I insisted on (no kissing couple on the cover), but for the most part I had very little say. I think I drove them nuts because they finally said, “Attached is the cover we will be using.” Ha.
The cover for Premiere was my own design because I needed something for my website. Let’s hope when it’s published they agree because I’m really found of it too. Thank you.
BCM: When will Premiere hit the shelves?
TE: Oh that’s a very long story. After about two years and several editors, Montlake/Amazon rejected Premiere a couple of weeks ago. So, I’m working with my editor on a one-page synopsis and a super catchy query letter. I will go one round of letter and rejections to see how it goes and if I can’t find a home for Premiere, I’ll probably self-publish and move on. I’ll keep you posted.
BCM: Anything else in the works?
TE: I’m currently writing Candidate, which is Grady from Premiere’s story. He was so much fun while I was writing Premiere that he needed his own story. Grady is a senator’s son and he falls in love with a very different woman. I’m a little over half way through the first draft, so it should be ready for editing by July.
BCM: Thank you so much, Tracy, for taking the time to do this interview. I’m looking forward to reading Premiere and Candidate!
TE: Thank you, Barb.
Here is Tracy’s bio from Amazon.com:
I would love to say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, that I have volumes of journals filled with enchanting stories, but that would be a lie. It’s sort of important to tell the truth on your own website, so we’ll stick with the truth.
My name is Tracy Ewens, I was born Tracy Leigh Wildberger. That’s right, when my children have the security question, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” they get to use that doozie.
I was born in San Francisco and even though my parents moved when I was a baby, I like the way “I’m from San Francisco” rolls off the tongue. In my mind it elevates me to cool, sophisticated, able to eat anything I want because I “just have one of those metabolisms”.
Tracy from San Francisco always rocks jeans and she drinks shots of espresso. Tracy from San Francisco navigates a big city with ease, she can name classical composers upon hearing a few notes, she’s a fabulous dancer and her closet is filled with things that miraculously fall together every morning into perfect outfits. Sigh…I really love San Francisco Tracy, but honesty must prevail.
Tracy Wildberger was born in San Francisco, she moved around a bit as a child, spent several youthful years in New York and her teen years in Phoenix, Arizona. She went to the University of Arizona, but transferred to ASU to earn a degree in Theatre/Acting. Tracy Wildberger married a really great guy and she became Tracy Ewens. Alright, enough with the third person…
I live with said great guy and my three brilliant, talented and ridiculously good looking children (I think that’s how they wanted it written) in New River, Arizona. We have a house on a big piece of beautiful desert and while I curse the commute, I love my home. We laugh, hike, cook, enjoy greek yogurt, bake, travel and occasionally fight in front of the children.
I started writing my blog (www.fromthelaundryroom.com) a few years ago. I talk a lot and I like writing things down. I enjoy words and my imagination knows no bounds, so I decided to write a book. I know, no dream, no vision on a cold night, but I’m sticking with the honesty schtick.
This “write a book” idea turned into Catalina Kiss which was published on November 13, 2012.
If you’ve made it this far through my bio, you’re a trooper. I will close by saying that I believe television is highly over rated and almost everything worth saying comes from either Anna Quindlen or Robert Fulghum.
Thank you for visiting. Thank you for reading my books. I truly hope they take you some place wonderful and you spend time with people you care about.
If romance isn’t your thing, please visit my blog and enjoy the pure insanity that often appears in the laundry room.
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!