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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Author Interview with Tracey Alley

Tracey Alley has degrees in Ancient History and in Comparative Religion, however, she describes herself as  simply a seeker of the truth, a lover of Jesus and someone who tries to live a Christian life. She’s also an author of fantasy fiction, which she says some may see as a contradiction. However, she believes God blessed her with an active (perhaps over active – her words) imagination and that is one way she chooses to use it. She also writes moral tales for small children, although these have yet to be published. She didn’t start out life as a Christian, but believes God began calling her in her early twenties and, she believes, has never let go. She doesn’t promote any particular denomination or church and encourages all people to find their own personal faith.

Tell us about Erich’s Plea in a few sentences.

Erich’s Plea is high fantasy, set in the world of Kaynos.  The basic premise of the book is the introduction to Kaynos of a new and deadly form of magic.  The story begins with the kidnapping of High King Erich of Vestland and his son Slade’s efforts to find and free his father.  The underlying theme is the question of how far would you go for someone you love, whether it’s love of parent, country, friend, lover etc

What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

I think a certain amount of talent or imagination goes a long way but the true qualities of a successful writer today are hard work, perseverance and an ability to be able to sell yourself and your work in a way that’s engaging and not obnoxious.

What is your working method?

Usually for me the first step is the concept, I’ll get an idea that just starts nagging at me.  From there it’s a matter of filling in background, characters, reasons – it’s critical to me that my characters have reasons to behave the way they do even if it’s not immediately apparent it will have to make sense in the end.  Then comes the hard slog of putting words on paper, rewriting, editing, polishing – all the not so fun stuff.

What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?

Probably not starting.  I know of many people who say they’d love to write a book but they never even try, unless you give it a go you’ll never know if you can actually do it or not.  After that is probably assuming that you’re the greatest writer since Shakespeare or that you’ve written a masterpiece, both of which are highly unlikely for a first timer.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I’d been writing for many years, novels, short stories, poetry etc but this book came partly out of a role-playing game I’d been playing with some friends and partly out of watching an old Robin Hood movie – the two ideas just sort of jelled in my mind and The Witchcraft Wars was born.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

Most writers will tell you it’s hard to pick a favourite, obviously because we created them all but I’ll confess that I do have a favourite – Trunk.  He’s a Knight of Ilmater who’s been transformed into a grotesque half-ogre, half-troll and I love the amount of room I have to develop his story.  The temptation to write his whole story, as opposed to being a supporting player, is huge.

How can people buy your books?

I’m on Amazon, both US and UK as well as Smashwords and will very soon be available in print versions as well as e-books.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

During the first draft I don’t pay a lot of attention to the mechanics of writing as I’m totally into the story.  During the editing and polishing stage however, I believe it’s pretty critical.  They may only be small things but readers do notice and it creates a jarring effect while reading.  That’s not to say that all my work is perfect, I’m human and I’m certain I’ve missed some things.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

In all honesty possibly not as much as I should but I do give it several drafts and ask the opinions of beta readers and try to present the most professional work I possibly can.  Sending sloppy work is a recipe for disaster.

Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?

My novels are set in a medieval style fantasy world.  I wanted to write fantasy primarily due to the almost unlimited amount of choice it offers, however, it would also be fun to use a ‘real world’ setting with all the constraints that implies as well.

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

In the traditional world of publishing I think genre is probably the be all and end all of everything – I get the impression their first question is ‘does it fit so and so mould?’  Fortunately as an Indie author genre’s not quite as important and you have the freedom to tell the story you want to tell and the sales results – I’m speaking generally here – have proven there’s many readers who don’t mind reading something that’s not quite so formulaic. (SA _ Traditional publishers, please note)

What are your writing habits?

I usually tend to write at night, it’s quieter with less distractions but I’ll also write any time I find that inspiration strikes.  I’m not as disciplined as perhaps I should be but when I do sit down to write I usually achieve a great deal.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

Personally I like to begin a story with a problem or a conflict – that allows me to spend the rest of the work solving the problem or conflict.  I’d like to think that my books read as though the characters had a life before page one and will continue to have a life after The End.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

Not a lot if I’m feeling inspired but sickness or other personal stuff can get in the way.  Right now my biggest distraction is usually the fascinating conversations on Goodreads or KindleBoards.

Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?

I don’t have a writing group but I am a member of Queensland’s Writer’s Guild who are always happy to help and I’ve been extremely blessed with a highly intelligent and bluntly critical best friend.  My husband is also a help and will tell me honestly if what I’ve written is rubbish – that kind of honest feedback is critical for any writer.  My family are very supportive but they tend to think anything I’ve written is great, they’re a little biased J

Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?

From my personal experiences – absolutely.  An agent or publisher won’t even look at a poorly presented MS so if you don’t get it right, don’t bother.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

That totally depends on the novel.  Erich’s Plea took over a year to write, while the follow up Ursula’s Quest was ready to go within 4 months.  Writing the first draft is not the hard part, getting it ready for publication is the hard part.

What are your inspirations?

Absolutely everything around me.  I’m a huge people watcher and always find myself wondering about their back story or future story.  I warn all my friends and family to be careful what they say or they may find it twisted into one of my novels J

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

Writing I adore – no frustrations there.  Marketing on the other hand, not so much.  I tend to be, in real life, a little shy and that doesn’t make for a great sales person but I’m learning.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

I can only speak for myself but I could no more stop writing than stop breathing, however, writing well is a skill that you learn along the way.

What are you writing now?

I have three current WIP’s – one, obviously, is Slade’s Destiny, the final in the Witchcraft Wars trilogy.  I’m also working on a non-fiction piece about the history and development of religion as a whole and I’m loving both the researching and the writing of that project.  Lastly is a series of children’s books, aimed at the under 6-7 market which will hopefully be ready to go before Christmas.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

From getting the idea to putting the words on paper – I love all of that.  Once I get to editing and polishing it’s more work than love but still needs to be done.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

No website yet, still working on that but I have a Facebook page devoted to the Witchcraft Wars and other associated short stories - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tracey-Alley-The-World-of-Kaynos/127959000550782  I also have a blog that related to my non-fiction work - http://traceyalley-whitehorse.blogspot.com/  and I have a more generic blog on Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4076601.Tracey_Alley/blog

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

Actually I’m kind of spoilt because I think I already have the ideal environment – great study with all my bookcases for references around in easy reach.

Where do you actually write?

Always in my study, everything is set up exactly as I need it, it’s quiet and I have all my resources easily to hand.

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