This week we are having an extra guest on the Bookish Banter. Usually I do my Author Spotlights on a Saturday but as Tracey’s début novel The Last Time we Saw Marion is out today, I thought we would give her a Special Spotlight on the day of her Launch. So without further ado, The Bookish Banter is proud to present…
LAURA: Please introduce yourself…
TRACEY: I’m Tracey Scott-Townsend, author. For many years I practiced as a visual artist but writing has always been important to me. Lyrics and poetry were often the inspiration for my artwork. I’m also a mother, wife and a part-time traveller in a bus-with-a-woodstove.
LAURA: Where do you consider home?
TRACEY: Ah, well. The question of home is not as straightforward as it seems. I have three beds: one in the house I live in with my family in Lincoln, one in the house in Hull my husband and I own, and one in our beloved LDV Convoy van in which we travel the UK, time allowing, and plan to go to France in this summer.
Although I was born in Lincoln and currently ‘live’ there, I suppose I consider my home to be East Yorkshire as that’s where Phil and I plan to move to when the last two children have left home.
LAURA: What genre do you write in or do you write different genres?
TRACEY: My writing genre is loosely termed Literary Fiction. I guess this means the writing style and the meaning behind the story bear an equal importance to that of conveying the story.
LAURA: Can you tell us a little about your latest work?
TRACEY: The Last Time We Saw Marion is my first novel. It’s been in the pipeline for a very long time. I wrote the first draft of it – at the time titled The Drowning Man – in 1989 when I was in the final year of my BA (Hons) course in Visual Studies.
It’s the story of two families. Marion Wilde died from anorexia at the age of 17, about the time 17-year-old Marianne Fairchild was born. Marianne has never felt at home in her own body or in her own life. Callum Wilde is still grieving his dead twin.
When Marianne reads author Cal’s first novel, any sense of identity she has managed to establish for herself is turned upside down. When Cal encounters Marianne, he’s convinced he can do things better the second time around. The passionate relationship they forge in a brief amount of time leads to devastating consequences for the troubled girl.
LAURA: Where did the idea come from?
TRACEY: I’d used the character of Marianne in previous attempts at writing a novel. Cal was inspired by U2’s song Drowning Man (Take my hand, you know I’ll be there, if you can I’ll cross the sky for your love. Hold on, hold on tightly, hold on, this love lasts forever) ©U2. The character had to have somebody he had lost, and a possible way of regaining her, or an assimilation of her. The two of them form the heart of the story. Sarah, Cal’s older sister; is the main narrator, the odd one out. Her story runs concurrently to theirs. I used more of my own thoughts and feelings in her.
LAURA: Did the book need a lot of research?
TRACEY: Yes. The story involves anorexia, catatonia and reincarnation, so, lots of research. Also it’s set in 1989 and in the ‘70s so I had to check things out, but it’s easy with the internet. The most fun research was going back to Kilnsea (Pottersea in the book) and visiting the old Broadcasting House building in Leeds (where Marianne first meets Cal and Sarah) and Strawbs Café bar in Leeds (where she goes for a drink with them.) Strawbs – on Woodhouse Lane – is still owned by the same couple as had it in 1989 so they were able to give me details of how it was decorated then and the kind of people who used to go in. Another important area of experience I brought into the story was being a mother. I have 4 children, like Jane Wilde, Cal and Sarah’s mother, which I hadn’t when I first started writing it.
LAURA: What is it that draws you to writing in general?
TRACEY: Necessity and impulse are what draw me to writing. It’s my ‘hit’. I need to have created something which then becomes separate from me. Making visual art used to assuage this craving, but I think I am far more satisfied by writing. The other thing is posterity, I suppose, books well outlive their authors.
LAURA: Do you have a detailed strategy when planning a book?
TRACEY: Not really. I tried to strategize when doing NanoWriMo last year (I wrote 55,000 words in the month) but it doesn’t really work for me. I do try to plan the story arc ahead of beginning the book, and as I start writing each chapter, establish what I want to get said in it, but the boundaries are always fluid. The characters take over.
LAURA: How do you tackle the editing process?
TRACEY: I’ve learnt that I need to go rigorously through the whole book several times, taking a break between each full edit. Mistakes, stumbling sentences, things that don’t make sense, are easier to spot from a distance. I’ve also learnt that just because I’m fond of a particular sentence or chapter it doesn’t mean the reader will like it and so I have to be prepared to let it go. I have several large ‘out-takes’ from TLTWSM. By the time I’ve done at least 3 full edits, the book is ready for a professional editor. In its rough stages, TLTWSM was thoroughly critiqued on the writers’ forum http://www.authonomy.com which was an enormous help to me.
LAURA: What is your experience of the publishing industry – was it tough to break into?
TRACEY: Breaking into the publishing industry involved 3 years of determination, sprinklings of hopelessness and low self-esteem, more determination, a willingness to take on board any amount of critique and work out ways of improving the manuscript, complete dedication to the task of producing a well-written novel, and then believing in it. This was followed by more willingness to take yet further criticism and suggestions for improvement and putting them into practice. Not to mention exhaustion, irritability and moments of sheer joy and excitement. Yes, it was tough but all the more worth it for that.
LAURA: Is your book part of a series?
TRACEY: There may be a sequel in the future and it will probably be my 4th novel.
LAURA: Who are your heroes and did any of them inspire you to write?
TRACEY: Reading books has always inspired me to write. When I was a child I read voraciously. The Dream in The House, a novel about an identical set of twins that occurred in every generation and who were always separated by water, inspired me greatly. When I was reading any particular book I would put the book aside and attempt to write something in the same vein. I liked historical novels and ones about travelling back in time, and also stories of individuality emerging from uniformity.
Leaders of peaceful struggles against oppression were my heroes: people like Martin Luther King Jr, for example, and Mahatma Gandhi.
LAURA: When you have a chance to unwind and peel yourself from your laptop – what do you do with your time?
TRACEY: I sew, I’ve made a few clothes lately but I also make dolls and clothes for them, as well as throws and cushions from scraps of pre-used fabric.
I read, an essential part of any day, usually before sleep.
I love going on journeys in our bus with my husband and dog, escaping to the fresh air and especially to the sea.
Spending time with my sons usually involves phone conversations since they all live away from home now. My daughter consents to spend some time with me still – it usually involves shopping. Ah yes and I’ve recently learned to drive, so going out in my car is exciting.
LAURA: Do you have any writers groups that encourage you and do you get positive feedback from your readers?
TRACEY: I received extremely beneficial feedback from a writers group I participated in on Authonomy.
LAURA: Have you got any tips for any budding authors out there?
TRACEY: Get your first draft read and be prepared to accept criticism even if it hurts at first. Whatever the feedback is, you should always consider it carefully. Your work is never as perfect as your biased mind thinks and it takes someone else’s objective perspective to point out the problems. It’s called ‘polishing’ for a reason, you take your rough-hewn creation and spend a lot of time smoothing out the splinters. Apart from that, be disciplined with yourself. For each writing session, set a word-count or an amount of time you’re going to work for, and do it. You’ll feel satisfied if you meet your own goals, however modest.
LAURA: Link party – anything and everything that exists on the www to help us find you and your work…
http://www.instantstreetview.com/2porr6z3f18cbz16bzr5z2u – See the village in which The Last Time We Saw Marion is set.
<3 Thank you for joining in the fun Tracey <3
Thanks Laura, I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.