Featured Author – Tracy Lawson

2013_12_17_Tracy_Portrait_69(1)Tracy Lawson is my guest today and she will tell us all sorts about everything and anything. 🙂 This is one author who isn’t at a loss for words!

Hi Tracy, welcome. Make yourself comfortable because I’ve got some questions for you. I’ve heard you’ve always wanted to be a writer. A statement most writers can claim as theirs, but why? Why do you want to write, or rather why did you want to write?

Lucy, this first question was by far the hardest to answer. Why did I want to write? When I was very young, grandmother was my sitter while my parents both worked. During the day, my grandparents and my uncle were around to read to me, and in the evenings, my parents read to me, too. I memorized all my picture books long before I was old enough to actually read them. Suffice to say, I was very focused on books and stories. I managed to completely ignore numbers until I started kindergarten.

Fast forward through my school years, during which I read voraciously and garnered praise for my writing. I was sure that I would someday be an author. I had notebooks full of childish stories, but somewhere in my adolescence the flow of ideas slowed to a trickle. In college, I took several creative writing classes in which I did not excel, but instead struggled to find my voice. I didn’t have anything to say, and I feared my dream of being a writer was slipping away.

Why did I want the insecurity, the angst, the highs and the lows of writing that sometimes occur within an hour of each other? I have no idea. All I know is that flow opened back up when I was in my mid-forties, I jumped on the opportunity, and worked harder than I’ve ever worked to attain a goal. Seeing my first book on the shelf in a brick-and-mortar store was…well, let’s just say the security camera probably caught me doing the happy dance in the aisle. Now, as I await the release of my first novel, I realize I had no choice. I had to write, and I can’t seem to stop.

If you weren’t an author now, what else would you be

If I weren’t writing, I’d probably teach tap dancing. Seriously. I’ve been a dance instructor and a choreographer for twenty years, and although I no longer teach in a studio setting, I still choreograph the musicals at Bexley High School, my daughter’s alma mater. I’ve done sixteen shows at Bexley, and love that I can stay in touch with that creative side of myself. If I had to choose something completely new and different, I’d want to restore old houses.

What do you feel are the qualities that earn a book an award?

The books that earn awards entertain and enchant us. They have compelling, well-crafted plots and action that keeps us turning the pages. Award-winning books have characters worthy of our concern, whether we love them or hate them, and writing that draws us so completely into the experience that we cease to be aware of the writing itself.

Can you explain what a contact-paper bound book is?

When I was in elementary school, we were encouraged to write and illustrate little books. contactpaper bound booksLegions of stay-at-home mothers volunteered to type the stories and bind them by machine-stitching them onto cardboard that had been covered with patterned contact paper or scraps of wallpaper. The finished books were meant to be keepsakes. I still have a few around here somewhere!

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or in your life?

I’ve never been a coffee drinker, so none of the writer memes about coffee apply—though I do drink tea when it’s cold outside. My go-to snack when I’m writing or revising is roasted sunflower seeds and diet Dr Pepper. The floor under my desk is always littered with shells!

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

I’m not much of a chef. My husband does most of the cooking because I worked evenings for many years, but I do make a mean chicken enchilada quiche. Here’s the recipe:

2 refrigerated pie shells

4 eggs

½ cup milk or half and half

1 ½ cups crushed tortilla chips

12.5 oz. can chunck chicken breast in water, drained

8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

4.5 oz can diced green chiles

1 cup medium picante sauce

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350

Beat eggs and milk together, then stir in other ingredients, divide mixture and pour into two pie shells. Sprinkle tops with pepper

Cover edges of pie crust with aluminum foil and bake for 55-65 minutes or until crust is golden brown and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Let stand ten minutes before serving

Garnish with salsa and sour cream. Best with margaritas!!

Nom! Sounds like one to try myself.

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

Counteract is my first novel. It’s a coming of age thriller about a girl, a guy, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country. It’s scheduled for release August 2014.

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The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, created in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks on the US in the late 2010s, has implemented Restrictions to protect the people—no gatherings in places like stadiums or shopping malls. No public grocery stores, where food might have been tampered with. No personal vehicles which could be used as weapons. The OCSD bullies the executive and legislative branches of the government into agreeing to whatever new Restrictions they deem necessary, because, after all, “it’s a small price to pay for your safety.”At the opening of the story, the OCSD announces that a deadly poison has been released into the atmosphere, where it literally hangs over everyone’s heads until the terrorists responsible choose to activate and detonate it. Mass casualties are expected—unless everyone immediately begins to take the Counteractive System of Defense drug (CSD). Three drops of the antidote, ingested daily, will neutralize the poison. Tommy and Careen, the eighteen year-old protagonists, are too young to remember life before the Restrictions, and of course they queue up to receive their bottles of the antidote. But that’s when their troubles begin.

Careen’s worked hard to win a scholarship to college. Why is it that, when she takes CSD, she has strange hallucinations, forgets to attend class, and wakes up in unfamiliar places? Tommy’s recuperating from serious injuries sustained in the accident that claimed his parents’ lives months before. But when he takes CSD, he neglects his physical therapy, spirals into despair, and believes he’ll never get well.

Both teens flounder in their confusion until they meet—on the day of the feared attack. Careen’s run out of her antidote, and Tommy shares his last dose with her, even though doing so could potentially hasten his own death.

Did you have any difficulty coming up with the title?

The book had several other titles before I hit upon Counteract. I like the title because it’s a verb that suggests the many twists and turns in the story. Early on, CSD is touted as a way to counteract the effects of the toxins in the air. Later, Tommy and Careen have to figure out a way to counteract the conspiracy that threatens everyone in the country.

Is there anything you don’t like about being an author?

I love being an author, and I love talking with students about books and writing. Sometimes I’d like to be able to ask for help when I’m wrestling with a plot issue, but ultimately, the answer has to come from me.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I love to talk to people about writing and books. If I could sell each copy individually, I would, but that’s pretty impractical, so I worked with a great web designer to create a website dedicated to the book Counteract long before I found a publisher. Visitors to the site can download the first chapter of Counteract and also get a look behind the scenes. There’s a playlist of music that reminds me of the book, photos from the day we shot the cover art featuring the glowing vial of CSD, and my blog, where I tell about my experiences writing Counteract, and also write articles about YA and dystopian books. When I post to the blog it goes out on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and there’s a noticeable spike in hits to the website.

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written for a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Why didn’t I write today? I was answering all these interview questions! Just kidding. That’s not my real answer. How about this scenario, which actually happened earlier this month:

(Wake up at 8:00 am) Woohoo! I can write for a few hours until lunch rehearsal at school.

(Check email) Snow day? Nooooooo….

(Look outside) Five inches of new snow.

(9:30 am Call theatre teacher, who was at school until 2:00 am the night before painting scenery) “I’m only here for the week! I had a lunch rehearsal with Rachel and William to learn their featured tap dance before we set the big chorus number in rehearsal after school…We can’t rehearse in the building until the snow stops and the superintendent clears us? OMG. Let me call my old studio and see if we can book space in the tap studio there.”
Text students: Can u meet me at BalletMet if I can get studio space? That way we can learn Mr. Cladwell feature before this afternoon.

William: Yes

Rachel: Can I get a ride?

William: I’ll come get u

(10:00 am Telephone dance studio and speak to new receptionist) “Hey! It’s Tracy. I used to teach tap there, and I was wondering if Studio E is available for an hour, oh, about 1 pm?”

“Miss Pat does the scheduling and she’s snowed in at home. I can call her and see if that’s ok.”

(Get dressed and wait for phone call that never comes. Go out to shovel front walk. See condo association fees are actually good for something as front walk has already been shoveled.)

(12:00 noon Get call from theatre teacher) Superintendent says we can practice at school! Hooray! And dress rehearsal for the middle school show that opens tomorrow night is also a go!

(Text kids and tell them to meet me at school)

(Leave at 12:15. Well, almost) Get to garage only to find condo association snowplow guy has dumped eight foot mountain of snow partially blocking my garage door. Thank my stars my next door neighbor’s car is gone. Make 20-point turn in 1997 Chevy Blazer to angle out of garage. Slip and slide down secondary roads to school. What should be a ten minute drive, tops, takes twenty. Park as close to curb as possible and break path through virgin snow to high school’s front door. Swipe ID card through reader. Access denied. Stand alone in snow and curse the polar vortex and cards with fauty magnetic strips. Students arrive. All stand in snow and curse the polar vortex and cards with faulty magnetic strips, then slog through the virgin snow until we find a way into the building. Kids lead me on circuitous route through upstairs hallways to avoid security gates. Arrive at rehearsal room in school 1:15 pm. Learn tap dance.

(2:15 pm) Oh man. It’s only an hour til the chorus shows up to learn the rest of this number. Did I really forget to eat? Decide to go to deli short distance away. Deli is closed because of snow. Continue down sloppy road to Subway, amid heavy traffic. Travel approximately two miles in 35 minutes. What was I thinking?

(3:00 pm) Order sandwich to go. No time to sit and relax while I eat. Arrive back at school late for my own rehearsal.

(3:30-5:30 pm) Conduct choreography rehearsal for 40 students amid bites of turkey sub. Epic dance number involves rolling office chairs, tap dancing on a desk, money bags, scientists with goggles and beakers, and big kick line finish. Thank everyone for coming. Truly surprised and grateful that, despite the adverse weather conditions, only three kids were missing from this important rehearsal.

(5:45 pm) Is it really that late? Dress rehearsal for the other show starts in 30 minutes? Find emergency Power Bar in bottom of dance bag. Consume with diet Dr Pepper.

(6:15 pm) Settle in to seat in theatre to watch fifty fabulous sixth, seventh, and eighth graders dancing and singing in All Shook Up. Dancing looks almost exactly like I hoped it would.

(10 pm) Scrape new snow off car.

Drive home. Find parking space, as there’s no way I can get past that pile of snow into my garage.

Collapse in bed.

Wow, that sounds like one heck of a reason I totally believe! 

Okay, now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want to blab about. Make me laugh, cry, or even envious. Tell me something no on ehas ever heard from you. Hehehe, love those dirty little secrets, real or make believe!

Given the choice, I’d rather make you laugh! Wow, it’s hard to come up with something no one has ever heard from me before. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m rarely at a loss for words. I think romantic scenes are the most excruciatingly difficult part of writing for teens. I obsess over them and try to get everything just exactly right. But my husband loves when I’m working on one…says he can always tell.

Thank you Tracy, that was it for today. I do hope you’ll want to come back in future if you have any news to share. For now I’ll leave the readers with where they can find you and  that first chapter to download. It’s not that hard to find, it’s Tracy’s website TracyLawsonBooks.com.

 

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