Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Traci: Being an author was something I’ve dreamed about since I learned to read. I’ve always been an avid reader and have admired those who are able to create something from their imagination. Of course, I also had plans to become a veterinarian, a jockey, an Olympic swimmer, and any other number of things.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Traci: Believe it or not, I’ve never taken a creative writing class in school. I graduated from Brigham Young University with degrees in finance and international business.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Traci: Probably the same thing that makes me passionate about reading. I love being able to do anything, go anywhere when I’m reading or writing a novel. So many adventures are waiting for us simply by turning a page.
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Traci: The basic idea for my first novel, Undercurrents, had been rattling around in my head since my senior year in college. I didn’t really do anything with it for the next several years while I was working full time. Then when I resigned from the Central Intelligence Agency, I started writing and finally managed to complete a manuscript. I finished three novels, each one helping me to learn the craft of writing. My sister-in-law, Rebecca Cummings, helped tutor me along the path of improving my writing skills.
Around the time I finished writing Undercurrents I realized that there was quite a gap in the market for older young adults. Girls who had outgrown the young adult novels really didn’t have a lot of options, especially for books that didn’t contain material that they and their parents might find objectionable. That was when I decided to put the time and effort into editing Undercurrents so I could try to get it published.
I checked out various books at a local bookstore to research which publisher would be the best match for me and I was really impressed with Covenant Communications. They produced a lot of fiction and held to standards that were similar to my own. I submitted my manuscript to them and waited for what seemed like an eternity. When I finally spoke to the managing editor, Valerie Holladay, she told me that the plot line kept her interested but that the characterization needed work. Basically, she likened it to digging a ditch that was ten feet deep. I had only made it down the first two feet and I had more work to do.
I spent the next year polishing and revising, finally convinced that my manuscript was the best I was capable of. A month after I mailed the revised manuscript, I received a phone call from the new managing editor, Shauna Humphreys at Covenant to congratulate me on my book being accepted for publication.
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Traci: I think all authors get discouraged at some point, especially when dealing with trying to live up to the expectation of writing another book, one that will be as good or better than something you’ve done before. Usually my best course of action to get past that is to read one of my previous novels. I always wonder a bit that the book I’m holding in my hands is a reality, that it was born from my imagination and whatever inspiration the Lord provided me with.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Traci: In a perfect world, I get up at six and write for about an hour until I start getting my younger two children off to school. Then I try to write for several hours during the school day. In reality, once a novel is working through my brain, I try to steal any time I can at the computer, especially when I get into the last week or two of writing a novel. I also take a couple of breaks from writing during the year. I don’t try to create during the winter when I’m busy coaching my local high school swim team. I usually take summers off as well to spend with my children.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Traci: Ideas can come from everywhere, often just something I happen to see during the day that causes me to ask the question “What if?” I draw on my past life experiences, tidbits I hear throughout the day, news headlines and anything else that catches my attention. As for whether my ideas are good enough to write a book from them, I usually just start writing and see where it goes. If I get past fifty pages or so, I know I have a novel in the making. Otherwise, I go onto something new.
Deirdra: Can you tell us about your latest book Backlash.
Traci: Backlash is part of the Saint Squad series, a loosely connected series of novels about a squad of US Navy SEALs. In Backlash, the squad’s commander, Kel Bennett, is injured and has to face the possibility that his career could be over. He also struggles with the reality that his wife, Marilyn, wants nothing more than to have him home and out of harm’s way. When a threat emerges from one of Kel’s past missions, Marilyn discovers exactly what Kel really does on his secret missions but it takes her husband and all of his squad to stand up to the impending danger threatening them all.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Traci: Mostly I just want people to be able to escape from reality for a while and live an adventure in their imaginations.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Traci: I just sit down and write. As my husband says, I often sit and stare at my computer for an extended period of time and then all of a sudden my fingers start flying over the keyboard. When inspiration strikes I can barely keep up with the ideas pouring through my mind. Typically, I have a general idea of where the story is going to go, but my characters sometimes take me in a different direction and I am compelled to follow along.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Traci: Absolutely. I think that’s a challenge that all writers face. As for dealing with it, my methods vary. Sometimes I’ll walk away and try to read something else while my characters and I try to get back onto the same page. Other times I’ll skip ahead in the book I’m writing and then go back to fill in the gaps. Once I know where the story is going, I can usually smooth out those rough patches. And then, of course, there’s always the occasional game of solitaire on the computer that desperately needs to be played while I’m pretending to think about my work-in-progress.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Traci: I prefer to write when it’s quiet, but with my family that isn’t always possible. Usually the only music I listen to comes from the Disney channel playing in my family room when my kids are watching TV.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Traci: I will sometimes read a few pages of a book I’ve read before simply to get into the reading/writing mode, and I often read whatever I wrote the day before to help me get back into the minds of my characters. Other than that, I just sit down at my computer, ignore everything around me and write.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Traci: Definitely my sister-in-law, Rebecca Cummings. When I first started writing, I knew how to tell a story, but my writing skills needed some serious improvement. She gently guided me through more rewrites than I can count as I developed as a writer. Even to this day, she always reads through my manuscripts before I submit them to my publisher.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Traci: I think the biggest secret is discovering the characters’ hopes and dreams. If I can figure that out and somehow convey my characters’ innermost desires to the reader, then I know I’m on the right track.
Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Traci: I am definitely a fan of classics, but I think my favorite author is Jane Austen. She did an incredible job of developing both memorable characters and conflicts that are continually recreated by modern day writers. I also really admire Brandon Sanderson. I admit that I only read his shorter, comedy based works, but I love his wit and humor. I also appreciate how approachable he is for his fans, especially since my daughter is always anxiously awaiting his next publication.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Traci: Almonds and M&Ms. I try to pretend that the almonds are healthy enough to counteract any negative effects from the chocolate.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Traci: I will pass on the advice given to me by author Lynn Gardner: Edit, edit, edit! And I will add my own suggestion that all authors should find someone they trust to give them honest, useful feedback. The competition to publish with a traditional publisher is stiff and writers need to take the time to make sure that anything they submit is truly the best work they are capable of producing.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Traci: I recently finished writing Obsession, a novel about a famous singer who goes into hiding when a threat emerges only to find out that she may be the target of a serial killer. People who have read my previous novels will recognize the FBI agent assigned to protect her. Charlie Whitmore is the younger brother of Matt Whitmore from the Undercurrents trilogy and the older brother of Amy Whitmore from Freefall.
I am also anxiously awaiting the release of my next novel, Smokescreen, which comes out the first week of January 2011.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Traci: The following websites have a selection of my novels: www.deseretbook.com, www.seagullbook.com,www.amazon.com, and www.bn.com.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Traci: Thank you for having me. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!
In the five years she’s been married to Navy SEAL Kel Bennett, Marilyn has lived with fear as a near-constant companion. But the morning she sees two men in naval uniforms approaching her doorway with solemn faces, her fear turns to terror. This is what she signed up for when she exchanged wedding vows with that stunning man in military dress whites: a husband who leaves home whenever the phone rings and who might not ever come back. Turns out Marilyn is lucky this time: Kel is still alive, although gravely injured from the Saint Squad op that thwarted a terrorist attack in the southwestern US. While his wife is relieved to have him stationary in a hospital bed, Kel’s necessary lack of openness about his work puts a strain on their already troubled marriage. As the distance between the couple widens, Marilyn turns to the book she’s secretly writing to express her unspeakable emotions.
Meanwhile, the backlash from the foiled terrorist mission brings Halim Karel to the States in search of Seth, the undercover agent who’d infiltrated his organization and spearheaded the abduction of his boss’s niece. As danger mounts and the SEAL team springs into action, Marilyn is shocked by her first glance into the grisly realities of her husband’s profession: violence, deception, even killing. And when she becomes a central ploy in Halim’s revenge plan, she struggles to find needed trust and confidence in this military man she loves — not just to save their marriage but to save their lives.
Another great interview, Deirdra! I love learning from these wonderful authors. Thanks so much!ReplyDelete