Tracie Banister’s got it going on! Not only has she published TWO books this year, she’s also incredibly active in the online book world. She blogs regularly and even organizes events in which other authors can participate, like blog hops and Twitter chats.
I “met” Tracie when I joined one of her blog hops in May. I had no idea what a blog hop even was (in May, I barely even knew what a blog was…) but Tracie was so helpful and accommodating, answering every one of my awkward newbie questions without making me feel like an idiot. I learned so much from the experience and look forward to more authorial adventures with Tracie going forward!
Go on now and click here to CONNECT with her on Facebook and FOLLOW her on Twitter. You can also find her Books by Banister blog by clicking here. And be sure to check out her books, Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy!
And now… Meet Tracie!
1. I ask this of all writers, but I’m always so intrigued by the answer: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what were you doing before you did? And either way, can you remember your “Aha!” moment?
I never thought about becoming a writer because I always was a writer. It was just something that came naturally, and I enjoyed sharing my work with others. I wrote plays that my class performed in elementary school and continued on with essays, multi-part stories, and literary analyses all through my formative years. I had dreams of one day publishing my work, but I also had dreams of marrying a prince and starring on a soap opera. None of those dreams seemed very likely to happen, so I did what sensible people do when they grow up and got a real job (administrative work). I took a stab at writing a historical romance novel in my early twenties just to see if I could do it, but got distracted by real life and never finished it. For the next decade or so, I kept my creative juices flowing by penning a lot of genre fan fiction that was well-received online.
I guess that my “Aha!” moment came when I lost my job as a personal assistant after 12 years. My friends and family encouraged me to follow my bliss and devote myself full-time to writing a novel. The thought of chasing a dream was pretty scary, and I honestly didn’t know if I had what it took to not only complete a novel, but submit it to agents and editors. Rather than spend the rest of my life wondering, “What if?” I decided to commit myself 100% to getting my work published. I’m happy to say that despite a lot of ups and downs, it’s been a really rewarding experience and I’m proud of myself for going after what I wanted.
2. Lots of writers tend to rely on similar conventions from one book to the next, but your two novels, Blame It On The Fame and In Need Of Therapy, are so different. One is a high-glam diva-licious tale about five women vying for the same prize; the other a story about a woman finding herself in her “crazy” world. Can you share what inspired you to write each of them?
Writing books is a very time-consuming process, so I stick with settings, characters, and themes that will sustain my interest for the year or more I will have to spend with each of them. I’ve always been fascinated by Hollywood and the lives of celebrities, so writing a novel about the five (fictional) actresses nominated for the Oscar seemed like a no-brainer to me and I had a blast playing around with all of the Hollywood stereotypes (girl-next-door, snobby British thespian, hard-partying trainwreck, second-generation actress, middle-aged star trying to make a comeback) in Blame It on the Fame.
Back in the day, I toyed with the idea of becoming a therapist myself, so I took several Psych courses in school and read Psychology Today religiously for years. Even now, I’m a very analytical person who enjoys listening to people’s problems, dissecting them, and giving advice. So, when my mother off-handedly said, “You should write a funny book about a female psychologist,” a light bulb went off over my head. It just seemed like such a great idea that was rife with possibilities (What does a psychologist really think when she’s listening to her patients’ problems? How does her shrink persona translate to her personal life? Is there a downside to being caring and empathetic?)
3. I used to have all these rituals when it came to writing, but as most of mine is done within the chaos of working full time and raising two kids, I’ve sadly relaxed on nearly all of them. What about you? Do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing?
I am a creature of habit, and things have to be just so in order for me to be able to concentrate and write. So, yes, I have quite a few rituals. I always write at my desk in my office (I loathe laptops!). I must wear my special “writing sweater,” an Old Navy cardigan, even if it’s 100 degrees outside. And it’s essential that I have a glass of Lemon La Croix water nearby (I’m convinced that the carbonation stimulates my imagination!). I burn eucalyptus oil in my office a lot as there’s something about the aroma that I find soothing and now I associate that scent with “creative time.” Oh, and I always touch the head of my Shakespeare paperweight every day before I start writing. For inspiration, for good luck, I have no idea; it’s just part of my crazy routine!
4. Different writers have different methods for getting from the beginning of a story to the end. Some like to write in order, making sure each paragraph is perfect before moving on. Others also do a total run-through, not looking back until they get to the end. Some start with narrative and weave in dialog; others (like me) start with dialog and build a narrative around it. Can you explain how your story-making process unfolds for us here?
I am not a stream-of-consciousness writer. I carefully consider every word I put down on the page and edit as I go, so I am one of those writers who can’t move on until a paragraph is perfect. The upside of that is that I don’t end up with a rough draft that requires major editing or revising. I just have to do several rounds of proofreading and clean up minor continuity issues then I’m done.
My writing process differs depending on the book. For Blame, I had to write five stories that ran parallel to each other and intersected at various points throughout the book. So, although I wrote each heroine’s story in chronological order, I would jump back and forth between the heroines, working on whichever character arc was calling to me. I didn’t even number the chapters as I couldn’t put the pieces of my story puzzle together until I was done. That’s when I pulled out my dry-erase board and multi-colored post-its (each heroine was assigned her own color) to figure out how to arrange the chapters in keeping with the book’s timeline.
For Therapy, my process was much more linear. I started at the beginning and worked my way through to the end. I find outlines very stifling, so I don’t do detailed plotting before I begin work on a book. I always know where I want my stories to start and where I want them to end. How the characters get from Point A to Point B happens organically as I’m writing. I always say that the best bits in my books are the things I didn’t plan!
5. I could totally see either of your books becoming films (even In Need Of Therapy becoming a TV series). When you write, do you ever imagine actors in your mind playing your characters to move the story along, or is about telling the story first and then recognizing your characters in actors?
There are usually one or two characters in each book whose physical description will be based on an actor/actress. For instance, I envisioned Gerard Butler when I wrote for Scottish bad boy Miles McCrea in Blame It on the Fame. And Josh Holloway was my inspiration for Mitch in In Need of Therapy. Sometimes an actor or actress will spring to mind while I’m working on a book as Eva Mendes did for Pilar in INOT. I enjoy doing “casting” posts on my blog when I release a new book so that I can tell readers who I’d like to see play my characters if they ever make it to the big screen.
BONUS QUESTION: Imagine your books have become runaway bestsellers and a producer has decided to make a movie about your life! Who would play you and why?
I like this fantasy! Okay, if my life story were turned into a movie, I’d pick Reese Witherspoon to play me as she’s petite, blonde, Southern, and sassy and I am all of the above.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Francine!
Thank you for visiting with us in the Shed, Tracie!
And thanks, readers, for visiting! If you’re new here, please stick around and read through some of the other posts here. And if you like what you see, please sign up–and invite friends. The more the merrier here in the Shed!
And here’s more about her books!
In Need of Therapy
Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be: warm, compassionate, supportive. She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?
While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can’t stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.
When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she’s left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.
Purchase In Need of Therapy!
Blame It on the Fame
A power-trippin’ bitch, a has-been, a skanky ex-model, a press-shy indie queen, and a British stage actress no one knows – this is how the Best Actress hopefuls in this year’s too-close-to-call Oscar race cattily describe each other. Which of them will win the much-coveted gold statue and what price will they be forced to pay as they travel the red carpeted-path to Hollywood glory?
Amidst all the press-schmoozing and angsting over which designer gown to wear, these Oscar contenders feud, commiserate, and face a succession of personal crises – scandalous secrets come to light, marriages implode, accidents land two nominees in the hospital while another receives news that could derail her career, all culminating on Tinsel Town’s biggest night when anything can happen, and does.
Purchase Blame It on the Fame!