Tracey Richardson


20 QUESTIONS IN THE HOT SEAT

1. First, the basic question. Why do you write, what is it that compels you?

The need to create; the need to tell the stories that percolate in my head. It’s really about expressing myself, but hopefully in a way that entertains others.

2. What’s the hardest thing for you about writing?

Sometimes the hardest thing is shutting it off. When I’m really into one of my stories, it’s hard sometimes to let go for a few hours or a few days. I feel sometimes like I walk around in a bit of a fog, like I’m distracted and distanced, because bits of the storyline are running through my mind. I try not to do this too much, because it’s not fair to my partner and to the other things I have going on in my life. I also find sometimes that ideas come to me at inconvenient times, so I always keep a scrap of paper in my pocket so I can scribble away when the urge strikes.

3. What genre do you feel most comfortable writing in?

Lesbian romances. I’m a bit of a closet romantic. I like the sappy movies, the sappy music. I like happy endings, I like drama, and I like fun too. Having said all that, I’m mostly a pragmatist, so writing romances (or watching a romantic movie) is a bit of an escape for me. I like the idea of providing a bit of escapism for others. Also, I feel that with this genre, there is a lot of latitude to allow me to really delve into the characters — really get into what makes them tick.

4. How do you like to approach your writing when starting a new project? Do you do outlines, and breakdown scenes, or leap straight into writing the narrative?

I like to do a story outline. I also do a summary or outline of the two main characters. If a particular scene occurs to me, I’ll scribble it down. Then I set to work on the narrative, which I do in chronological order for the most part. I’ll write a chapter or two, then go back to the beginning and spend a few hours tweaking and just getting back into the story and characters before I start on a new chapter. So it’s always one step forward, two steps back. Then of course once I’m completely done, I’ll go over the whole thing another two or three times, making adjustments etc. This is all before the editing process takes place.

5. Do you have certain writing rituals that you like to perform?

Not really, no. I either write in my office at home, or on my laptop on the dining room table when I don’t want to be cut off from everything. Mostly I write when I feel like it, as opposed to setting up a regimented time each day.

6. Do you talk to your characters at all?

No. I try to tell THEIR story.

7. Writers quite often work through issues in their narratives. Do you, and how do you handle that?

All characters in novels have “issues”, just as all of us humans do. There are many common issues among us, and I try to touch on some of these in my work because (a) it allows the reader to identify with the character; and (b) it gives the character depth and realism. For instance, common issues are: trouble committing to another person, coming out, juggling career and love life, the fear of being alone, fear of not being in control etc. It’s a real joy for me to explore how my characters work through some of these.

8. Do you have people read your work as you write, or do you wait till a project is complete? What would you say were the benefits to either approach?

I have a couple of main readers who will give it to me straight up. Often, about halfway through the process, I will give them a copy of what I have written up to that point. I want them to tell me if I’m on the right track, whether they can get “into” the characters, etc. This helps me stay in line because I’ll make the adjustments right away. Then when I’m done, they go through the whole thing again. They’re a great help.

9. How do you create your characters? Do you start with a basic outline of personality type, or work them up as you go along?

I have a good idea of my characters’ personality before I start, and then of course I flesh them out as I go along. I do a basic outline of them first…their background (age, physical attributes, what they do for a living etc), plus some general personality traits (how have their experiences shaped them, what are their weaknesses and strengths, and how do I want them to change or what do they need to overcome.)

It’s important for the characters to change and evolve throughout the story. I think readers really want to get into the characters, because otherwise, you have a simple predictable story of “girl-meets-girl, girl can’t have girl right away, girl and girl finally get together and live happily ever after.” It’s vital for me that my characters are strong women but who are also flawed. It just doesn’t have a ring of truth to it if the characters, or even one of them, are too perfect. So, really, you have a double story line going: the first, obviously, is the main plot of these two characters getting together; the second is the characters themselves, and how they will overcome the issues in their lives.

10. Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

Mostly they just come to me (and I get pretty nervous if they don’t, let me tell you!) Sometimes I get ideas from something I’ve read in the news and sometimes even in a dream. For instance, part of the storyline for my next book came to me in a vivid dream. I get inspiration from the people in my life too.

11. Do you like to write to music, and if so, what kind?

Not very often, but if I do, it has to be mellow, so it’s not too distracting. Sometimes if I’m writing a juicy romantic scene, I’ll put on a little Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Feist etc., just to help get me into the mood. I like all kinds of music though—everything from classic rock to jazz to opera to urban/hip hop, R & B, Latin (just not much country.)

12. If you didn’t write, what would you do?

Paint, play drums, go back to working with stained glass. Definitely creative things.

13. What’s your favorite story that you’ve written?

“The Candidate” for sure. It’s my most in-depth work and took the longest to write. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about since I was a teenager. I love American politics and history. Fashioning characters within this realm was fascinating to me. Also, I really wanted to toy with the idea of a woman running for president (I began writing the novel a couple of years before Hillary’s candidacy), and I wanted to see where that would take me if I created a young, vibrant, liberal, charismatic, smart, plucky woman candidate who eventually “allows” herself to fall in love (with another woman.) It was a lot of fun for me.

14. What are some of the things you do to improve on your craft? Do you attend conferences? Take workshops? What works best for you to improve how and what you write?

I don’t study the mechanics of writing much. I hope to do more of that one day when I have more time. Mostly, everything I’ve learned about writing has been through osmosis. I’ve always read a lot and still do, plus there is all my journalism training and experience (I’m a newspaper editor.) I guess I’m fortunate in that when I sit down in front of the keyboard, the words just come.

15. As a writer what do you look for in a prospective publisher?

One who is organized and fairly prompt in their dealings with you. You also want a publisher who is very committed to the business and who has a good distribution network. Do they ship their books out around the world? Do they have relationships with the little bookstores too? Are they widely recognized in the business? A small publisher, say, one who puts out only half-a-dozen books a year, might have more time to deal with you as an author, but your book won’t have the same market success.

16. What, from your perspective, are some of the most common mistakes authors starting out in the business make with regard to approaching a prospective publisher?

I’m not really sure about this. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had only good stories to tell. But I would tell a first time author to do their research first. Approach the publisher you would like to publish with first, and then go down your list to other choices if you were rejected.

17. What are some of the things you do to build up audiences for your work? What do you think are some of the most effective things an author can do to advertise him or herself?

You need a web presence for sure. Get your work out there through excerpts and reviews, and of course you should have an author website. Blog if you have time. Also, get in touch personally with bookstores to make sure they’re stocking your book and giving it “extra” attention. Contact as many G & L publications (and even mainstream ones) as you can (both printed and online) and try to get them interested in you and your book. It takes time and initiative but is worth it.

18. How do you feel about e-publishing and e-books? Would you go that route?

Sure, why not? I hope the traditional book never disappears, but if people find e-books more convenient, then they should have access to this.

19. What were your best and worst experiences with an editor?

Early in my book-writing career, the editing was almost non-existent. This was disappointing. More recently, however, the editing has been awesome! I’ve learned so much from having a really good editor and the process makes my work much better. It’s important to trust your editor. You really need to put your ego aside at this point, if you have one, and recognize that you are not the sole authority on what is best for your book. If you don’t have a good working relationship with an editor, I think your book will suffer.

20. And finally, what’s your favorite thing about being a writer? And what, for you, totally sucks about it?

All of it is great. Seeing your own words in print is pretty cool. Of course, there is some angst too…how could I have made it better, what should I have done differently with it, will anyone want to read it, will anyone like it? It’s a little disconcerting when friends read it because I care about what they think, much more so than strangers. The only part that sucks about writing is not having all of my time to devote to it.

Our thanks to Tracey for taking the time to answer our questions.


Author Profile:

The verbose Ms. Richardson, when not sitting out on her deck pondering plot points or playing with her chocolate-colored labrador, can be found working as a newspaper editor. Or, during the Winter months—when not working that is—thwacking a puck across the ice in one of her favourite pastimes, a game of women’s hockey.

To find out more about Tracey, you can visit her at her web site: TRACEY RICHARDSON

Tracey’s current novel, THE CANDIDATE, is available from:
Bella Books
Amazon.com

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