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Saturday, 16 February 2013
Author interview no.595 with fantasy and thriller writer Tracey Alley (revisited)
Back in December 2012, I interviewed author Tracey Alley for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the five hundred and ninety-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with fantasy and thriller writer Tracey Alley. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Tracey. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Tracey: Hi, I’m Tracey Alley, working out of south Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, where I live with my husband, two dogs and our cat. I believe I was almost destined to be a writer because for as long as I can remember I’ve been making up stories and writing them down, some I would just tell but most I would actually put to paper. It took a long time for me to find my ‘voice’ as a writer and feel, not only comfortable with what I write, but also that what I’m writing is of high quality and publishable. The Witchcraft Wars series was the first piece of work I felt truly proud of, even though I had received positive feedback for other pieces of work I am certain that only now can I truly call myself a writer.
Morgen: Novelist Bob Frey wrote an interesting piece for me on being an author vs a writer (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/guest-post-when-is-a-writer-an-author-by-bob-frey). I think that anyone who writes is a writer. I felt like an author when I’d first published something. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Tracey: My main genre is fantasy and I’ve also dabbled in thrillers but I haven’t yet been able to achieve the necessary level of tension and proper pacing in my thrillers. With fantasy I think I’ve got the pacing nailed down and I write fantasy very well. I’ve been told, by readers and reviewers, that I write a good fantasy tale so I think I’ll stick with that genre but I’ll always be experimenting with other genres at the same time. It took me a long time to write a really good fantasy tale maybe it will take me equally as long to learn how to write a really good, publishable and polished thriller.
Morgen: I think it’s all practice. I don’t write fantasy because I don’t read it (ditto sci-fi / historical) and although I write crime, I’m not sure it has the pace needed for thrillers either. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Tracey: To-date I’ve had my fantasy trilogy The Witchcraft Wars published, along with three short stories that relate to characters from the novels and I also have an anthology of poetry published called ‘Reflections: A Modern Anthology’. I don’t write under a pseudonym but I did change the spelling of my surname from Ali to Alley – Ali is Italian but many people associate it with Middle Eastern countries and there’s a lot of negative feeling about the Arabic world so I felt it would be best to spell it the way it’s pronounced.
Morgen: I didn’t realise it was Italian, although many names do end in ‘i’ so it makes sense. You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Tracey: I had actually signed a contract with a large publishing house before I went Indie but I decided in the end that I would have more creative control and larger profit margins by going Indie.
Morgen: I felt the same; I was offered two publishing contracts for my chick lit novel but took legal advice and ended up with the same conclusion as yourself. I’m still on good terms with both publishers. :) Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Tracey: All my material is available in ebook format and the novels are also available in paperback. I read both ebooks and paperbacks, I’ll read practically anything, even the back of the cornflakes packet I’m so obsessed with reading. Lol.
Morgen: :) Me too. I have to have something to read and have done the cereal packets while waiting for the kettle. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Tracey: I don’t have a favourite book but I’m rather partial to the character of Trunk in The Witchcraft Wars series – he’s half ogre, half troll, but actually a Knight of Ilmater under a spell and watching him try to communicate with his companions and lead them in the righteous direction is fascinating to me.
Morgen: He sounds fun. Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Tracey: As for the title that was actually a suggestion from my nephew but I think the cover and title are critical, especially when you’re starting out because that’s what draws people in to an unknown author.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Tracey: I’m working on a compilation of short stories and a new fantasy series called ‘The Raiders Saga’, which is set in the same fantasy world I created in The Witchcraft Wars and references some of the characters from that series. The Raiders Saga is a more gritty and a little darker series than The Witchcraft Wars and has more action but just as much intrigue and suspense so I’m really excited about how it’s shaping up.
Morgen: More action… so thrillers next perhaps? :) Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Tracey: I try to write at least six days a week, even if I only write a small amount but writing is like anything else. It’s work and you have to be disciplined about working every day, with a break obviously, but you have to put in the hours to get the novels written. I do occasionally suffer from writer’s block but I’ve found the best way to deal with that is to just write through it – you may have to go back and rewrite what you’ve written but at least you’re still moving forward.
Morgen: 300 words a day is a 100,000-word novel in a year. It’s easily done if we set our minds to it. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Tracey: Usually I get the idea or concept first but I do make the effort to sit down and diagram the outline of the novel so that I know roughly how and when things are going to happen but I’m also led by the momentum of the story itself and can often find myself surprised by twists or turns I wasn’t expecting.
Morgen: I love it when my characters take over. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Tracey: I tend to use characteristics of people I know when I’m creating my characters which I think makes them more believable and three-dimensional. Some characters however seem to march into my mind fully formed and fleshed out with a backstory and everything I need to make a character seem like a real person, living a real life.
Morgen: You mentioned sometimes rewriting what you’ve written, do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully formed?
Tracey: As time has gone by my writing is more fully formed but editing is always crucial to presenting a good, polished product. I don’t do that part of it myself but have an editor who goes through it for me.
Morgen: You’re lucky. I do have an editor (and several first readers) but I like to polish it (to within an inch of its life) first. Do you have to do much research?
Tracey: Most of my research is already done when I did my University degrees in the Classics. I specialized in Egyptology but studied all the ancient cultures and use a lot what I learned there I use in the books.
Morgen: Wow. Perhaps historical next then. :) You’ve published a collection of short stories, do you write any poetry or non-fiction?
Tracey: I write poetry and I am working on a non-fiction piece that is a large project based on the early centuries of Christianity.
Morgen: Ah, there’s the historical. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Tracey: There’s one book I wrote that, while it was actually pretty good, will be unlikely ever to see publication simply because it’s based on a true story of an experience that I went through when I was in my early twenties.
Morgen: I have one of those (in my early thirties) that I thought I’d never publish, so only wrote as ‘therapy’ but I really like the end result so will have to go through it changing names, nicknames (which is a real shame) and some of the detail. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Tracey: I could just about wallpaper my house with the rejection slips I’ve received but I don’t worry about it because each rejection teaches you something about yourself and your writing. I’ve learned from them and become a better writer because of it.
Morgen: It does. I do think when you look back at them they show you how far you’ve come. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Tracey: I do a lot of internet marketing of myself as a ‘brand’. I use Twitter, Facebook, have my own website and do guest blogs, interviews like this one and participate in forums where it’s appropriate. I also interact a lot with other Indie authors and get suggestions from them as to how to market myself and my work.
Morgen: You’d be very welcome to do a guest piece for me. :) I’ve just created a topic sub-page (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/guest-blogs/topics) because I’ve had c.200 pieces written for me and whenever writers enquired they had a job knowing what had been covered and what hadn't been. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Tracey: My favourite is the actual writing – I love watching my world come alive. My least favourite by far is the marketing and publicizing that you have to do in order to sell your work – I wish I had someone who could do that for me ha ha.
Morgen: There are marketeers out there but of course they cost money. Up to now I’ve done everything on my blog for free but with over 700 authors interviewed or scheduled (up to July 2013) and another 900+ in receipt of the questionnaire but yet to send it back, I’ve had to start charging (just for any new interviews – I spent the whole of Sunday emailing those 900+ to let them know). Because it takes me at least an hour a day to prepare each interview (and everything else I post on the blog) it’s impacted my writing. Since giving up my day job in March (2012) I’d hoped to get four novels and five collections of short stories out but have managed one novel (and that was in November). From July I’m cutting the interviews from daily to weekend mornings only – I suspect that by charging, everyone will go for the (still free) author spotlight which is much less work for me, and less overwhelming in content for the readers. We should be writers first and marketeers second but for some it’s become the other way round and I can see why they (you) say it’s their least favourite aspect. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Tracey: Keep writing, if you feel you have a story to tell, keep writing. Write anything, a blog, a diary, but just keep putting words on paper until you’ve reached a publishable stage of your craft and even then you’ll keep learning all the time.
Morgen: You will, we do. :) If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Tracey: Akhenaten, Muhammad Ali, and the Dalai Lama – they’re all men I admire for their convictions and their willingness to stick to their beliefs in spite of obstacles or opposition.
Morgen: Indeed they do. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Tracey: “It’s only life, it passes” – it reminds me not to take things too seriously.
Morgen: Unfortunately it passes too quickly but we have to make the most of time, don’t we, and of course enjoy what we do. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Tracey: Love to catch up with friends and family, practice boxing and yoga and when I can I like to go horse riding, although I don’t get much opportunity any more. I also plan to learn how to scuba dive as I would like to do a cage dive with the Great White sharks off South Australia.
Morgen: I think my brother’s done that (he’s the traveller of the two of us). He’s certainly swum with dolphins. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Tracey: You can find out about my on my website – http://traceyalley.weebly.com
Morgen: Thank you, Tracey.
I then invited Tracey to include an extract of her writing and this is from ‘Ambushed’, one of Tracey’s new short stories from the compilation…
This was their second to last day of their trip and although they had caught nothing of any significance the two boys were not disappointed. They had enjoyed their time together in the woods, swimming in the cool springs they’d found and living off the land, eating small rabbits and the single baby boar they had caught. Now they were headed roughly south east to return to the Palace in the time that had been allotted to them. They were both feeling so comfortable that neither one of them was really paying any attention to their surroundings. That’s how they got caught in the trap.
If they’d been paying attention to their surroundings either one of them would’ve easily spotted the clumsy net trap. Instead they were too busy laughing and joking amongst themselves and now they were caught, high up in a tree, a tangled mess of boys and horses, stuck in a net like fish caught in the Eastern Sea. Slade swore in a stream of profanity as he tried to reach for his skinning knife. Neither he nor Wulfstan was well armed for this trip; carrying only light hunting bows and long skinning knives if they had bagged a deer or something similar.
And a synopsis of her latest book…
Someone is attacking the outlying villages of Vestland, destroying the towns, stealing all the food and people and killing the elderly and the very young. Who is behind these raids and why? Blane and his friends are determined to find out who is behind it and put a stop to it but will they be able to succeed? If not who knows how many people might die or vanish.
Tracey Alley was born and raised in Queensland, Australia but caught the travel bug quite early and lived in Melbourne and Christchurch, New Zealand for a while. She considers herself a Christian, albeit a slightly esoteric, left of center one who also has a great amount of respect for Buddhist tradition and philosophy.
She’s infinitely curious about the world and her friends describe her as an intellectual butterfly as she flits from one topic to the next. She’s a pacifist, a little bit left of center and can, like most people, be very complex. She’s passionate about the things she believes in and believes firmly that you have to keep learning as you grow. So far she has two degrees and will likely do more study.
She believes she was born to be a writer and feels blessed that circumstances allow her to write full-time and still survive [although not on royalties yet :) ] She fell in love with words at a very young age and is a voracious reader, often with two or three books on the go at the same time.
One little known but rather interesting fact about Tracey is that on the paternal side her great-grandfather owned a circus. He was a lion tamer and worked with all the big cats and her great-grandmother was a trapeze artist and of Romany Gypsy blood. On her mother's side of the family she was born into Scottish aristocracy.
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