For the Artists Who Like to Remain Strictly Out of the Box
Tracy Lawson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read. In the first grade, she authored sixty-seven contact-paper bound books through her school’s Young Authors program. Though that pace proved impossible to maintain, she always intended to be a real author one day. While working toward her Bachelor’s degree in Communication at Ohio University, she studied creative writing with the late Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon. After short stints as a media buyer and an investigative analyst, she settled into a 20-year career in the performing arts, teaching tap dancing in Columbus, Ohio, and choreographing musicals. Though her creative energies were focused on dance, she never lost her desire to write, and has a non-fiction book to her credit. Tracy’s love for writing Young Adult fiction is sparked by all the wonderful teens in her life, including her daughter Keri, a college student. Counteract is Tracy’s first novel.
1.) When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a journalist that you love the most?
I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I could read. Now that I’ve published several books, I like that it’s a means to reach out to others, to entertain and inform them.
2.) Can you tell us a little about your books and where our readers can find out more about them and you? What projects are you currently working on?
I write Young Adult dystopian thrillers and also nonfiction history. You can find out more about my books at my website, http://tracylawsonbooks.com. I just sent Ignite, the third book in my YA series to the editor. It will be released this summer, but I don’t have a date set yet. I’m also working on a nonfiction book that’s a companion volume to my first nonfiction. Pride of the Valley is about the sawmill my family built in Ohio in the 1820s, how it evolved and changed to meet the needs of the growing community, and also the personal and national events that touched the lives of the families that owned it.
3.) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Two of my books have won state-level awards, and it’s a great feeling to know you’ve done a quality job. My first novel was rejected by about 80 agents and publishers before I found an interested publisher. I was so happy at first, but it turned out to be a bad fit. I got the rights back to my books and now I self-publish my fiction. I’m much more in control of my situation this way, and I like it.
4.) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I’m not as disciplined about having a schedule as I’d like to be. I also work as a freelance choreographer, doing musicals for middle and high schools, so when a show is in production, I don’t really have the time or the energy to write. I like to write in the middle of the night when nothing else is going on. I outline my novels, but my characters often divert and force me to follow! It usually takes me about a year and a half of writing and revision on a novel, but the ideas ruminate before I begin to write.
5.) Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I hope to have all four volumes in my YA series out, finish the current non-fiction project, write a stand alone YA historical fiction, and be hard at work on a new series. I’d love it if all those books were selling well, too!
6.) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
I published my first book at age 46, and I guess it depends on what you mean by successful. I hope to earn more money from my books as time goes on. Some people might think not hitting the #1 bestseller rank with a novel is failure. But living with regret, rather than trying, is true failure. Don’t be afraid to try.
7.) What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? What’s the first book you read that made you know that you could do this for a career? What book are you currently reading?
The Velveteen Rabbit affected me profoundly as a child. Years later when I read it aloud to my little girl, I broke down sobbing and I think I scared her! I still can’t read it without crying. About 20 years ago, I read an unpublished draft of Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first attempt at fiction. It later evolved into the Little House books, which are still some of my favorites. I realized that if she could start off like that and achieve what she did, there was certainly hope for me.
8.) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Do you ever just sit down and curl up with your own book?
I have a love/hate relationship—mostly because I want to keep revising. I always think my work could be better. But I have experienced falling in love with my books after they’re published. One evening my husband came home from work and said, “Hey, wanna go out for dinner?” I responded, “Sure—but hang on—I’m right in the middle of this really good book.” It was one of mine.
9.) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing? Are you more of an e-book person or a traditional book person?
As a hybrid author (meaning I self-publish my fiction and have a traditional publisher for my nonfiction) I’m glad the doors are open wider than ever before. I do believe indie authors need to hold themselves to a high standard, and that means hiring editors, getting professional cover design, etc. to make sure their books’ quality rivals those from traditional publishers. I love the feel of a book in my hand. I definitely prefer books, but I love taking several books with me on my Kindle when I travel.
10.) I feel like so many of us writers, us artists in general, are made to conform to other people’s idea of what we should be. I think we creative types should be unafraid to be whoever it is that we feel we have the right to be. So what is your write 2 be? What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity?
I have the write 2 be someone who shares stories that will touch, entertain, and inform readers. They’re not always the stories anyone else thinks I should share. As a matter of fact, the stories find me. When I write fiction, I just follow along where my characters lead. When I write nonfiction, I’m an investigative reporter presenting a slice of history in a way that the modern reader can understand context and fully enjoy the story.