|TRACEE LYDIA GARNER
Romance with a Hint of Danger...
ALL ABOUT TRACEE
What made you want to become a writer?
I say that writing somewhat happened to me. I wrote poetry first and had a poem published almost 20 years ago now in my college zine, but a difficult time in those same college years caused me to ask God to help me, and provide me another avenue to make money and pursue a different course (in case college didn't work out). I discovered writing really only after trying my hand at it and submitting to this online serial that asked everyone to write a part of the story. In the beginning stages, it was more of a need for an alternative than it was a calling. Only later did it become something I feel that I have a passionate pursuit of but that was never an instant thing.
Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
I won a contest hosted by then BET Publications. At that time, they were one of VERY few publishers of AA / Multicultural romance. The contest, subsequently winning and the commendations and praise I received over my work is what really helped build confidence to keep going and keep writing. I would submit two more books and got a contract for those as well.
To date, how many books have you written? If you had to choose a favorite which would it be?
I have seven published books to date. I think choosing your favorite book or character is like choosing your favorite child. I'm always completely loving what I'm working on right then so it's hard to have a favorite. I think the book that won the contest (Family Affairs) or my first full-length novel, Come What May, will always be my favorites because you never forget your first and what ultimately launched this whole writing thing.
How have you grown as a writer since that first book?
I have matured tremendously first and foremost. Family Affairs came out when I was 23. Now that I'm forty, I really look back with some pain about my books and some relationships I had that I no longer have. My writing for me was a hobby and in recent years, growing up and coming of age, I've adapted more of a business mindset and a seriousness that's really hard for me because I'm so laid back. I don't get ruffled about much but I think age, maturity and as you consider your life and your future, can motivate you and then you MUST become serious and think about what you're doing to sustain yourself and your future, and that's hard at times.
What do you like most about being a published author?
What I like most about being published is the writing. Nothing compares to the infant ideas and trying to mold them and birth them and cultivate/grow them to a full-length novel. It's so rewarding every day>to weeks> to months, a few more words, a few more words, new ideas and you look up and you're at 40 and 70 thousand words. It's amazing to me each time.
What has been the most difficult thing about being a published author who writes African-American Romance?
I don't find a lot of difficulty with African-American romance as a genre, I love it. It's who I am, it's what I write. I've read mostly White romances as a young adult prior to the infusion of AA romance and they were just characters to me. I really didn't consider color to be an issue and because I have readers on both sides, I'm not sure its mattered.
As I get older, what I do want in my reading selection is AA characters with disabilities. That has always been my diversity need in all of this. More characters depicted that have some sort of physical limitation and I will say culturally, we as AA may not feel comfortable doing those stories and I'm not sure when it is done- we ensure that we don't perpetuate a stigma or even some ignorance. We show more people with disabilities in children's literature than adult genres and never, ever, in Romance. Characters with disabilities (especially the heroine) is at a major deficit. I'm working on a story like that now and it's been challenging even for me, disabled most of my life and as an actual person with a disability to stick to the story and the romance and get over my need to educate as well. At the end of the day romance is fantasy and bringing disability can, for some, ruin it. I will also say that I've been feeling that if I write this, what will be the AA community's response? Will it be popular at all?
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
I would tell aspiring authors, to learn all you possibly can and to WAIT. Don't let excitement get you to rushing through the publication process and doing things what I call "willy nilly". Willy nilly = bad covers, zero editing, poor formatting, no beta readers, and on and on. Really take the time to learn, it can be fun!
Tell us a bit about the process you use when you write a novel.
I'm a pantser- that's another thing for aspiring writers, figure out whether or not you're a plotter or pantser. They say there is a hybrid of "Plantser" (= part plotter, part pantser), but I still think you lean more towards one or the other. As a pantser, I just write. ONLY about 3/4 of the way through the book -which is also when I can lose some steam, will I go through and just write a sentence or two to sum up each of the chapters to see where I'm at and what else needs to happen before I wrap up. After I finish the book, I print the entire thing and mark it up on paper, write more in the margins, cut etc., and then I implement those edits on the computer. I send it to the first freelance editor I have. When I get their edits back, I fix or revamp whatever I need. I accept and reject various changes they have made and then it goes to a second editor. I see what they have to say and then I'm really almost ready to publish. While it's being edited of course, I'm finalizing the cover with a freelance designer, working on the cover copy or blurb, working on marketing aspects, and updating social media. So everything is moving simultaneously.
I don't write every day in a literal sense, but it's my constant - daily thinking about the story that permits me to -when I do park it- write almost 5K words in a sitting. I may make notes in a notebook or I even write a paragraph or two at my day job - I usually email it to myself and paste into the doc when I get home. I also am always clipping articles or bookmarking websites for the current and future story because the future stories are in the back of my mind too, so I can refer to the clips later. I research as needed and in my stories I sometimes have holes, meaning I'll put in a weird color, bold font: "describe hotel more here, look on Pinterest" and I highlight it so it stands out but I'll keep writing past that and return to it later. I have Scrivener but I just write straight in Word, it's less fuss and just more organic than some of the other programs with lots of bells and whistles.
Tell us a bit about DEADLY AFFECTIONS.
DEADLY AFFECTIONS is the second story in a trilogy about five adopted brothers. I’m only exploring three of those five. The trilogy began with Cole and Allontis’s story in ANCHORED HEARTS. DEADLY AFFECTIONS visits Dexter Parker, a single father, and a doctor. Years prior in his initial foster care family, he was a part of a family that was everything except good, respectable people. Dexter was also in love with another young person there in the foster home, Leedra Henderson. Leedra is all grown up, returns to Virginia and rekindles her romance with Dexter. Leedra is searching for her missing sister and that is her singular goal, she realizes Dexter may be able to help her find the answers she seeks but they have to learn to trust each other and move past a very painful and tragic time in their lives.
You write contemporary romance as well as romantic suspense. How easy/difficult is it to change genres?
Truth be told, I don't notice much difference. I think that there is a bit more danger and an air of urgency in suspense which can be hard at times, coming up with little vignettes of mayhem to make it more heart pounding. I've read several of the Love Inspired: Suspense (whom I hope to write for one day) novels and I love them but one I read I was like wow I'm exhausted, what more can happen to this poor heroine? So while I do want to write like that, too much suspense can seem almost ridiculous. I think the industry comes up with all these labels and I think it's impossible for the lines not to blur. Every reader, I feel loves a little bit of everything and it's more of a buffet in books, just take a little of this and that. There's a version there for you whatever YOU like. The labels and the genre definitions are a discussion had every few months on the various loops and listserves I'm on, so I feel even people who have 20, 50 and 100 books still do what they want to do. Ultimately, I believe that when you're simply writing what you like from your heart, it all works out.
What’s next for Tracee Lydia Garner?
I really hope that I can break out into other genres including children's books and plays. It's something on my heart all the time. School visits would excite me so much that I can barely get the children's book done and get so caught up looking at the prep and planning for visits. So that would be exciting. I would like to do at least ONE play. I have a concept and some of it written but playwriting like scripts and screenplays are so hard for me because of how much I'm NOT permitted to do. E.g. it relies so heavily on dialogue that that is hard when I personally feel I'm so good at description; so it's in the works but it will be another year or so.
If there was one thing you could tell your readers what would it be?
If you read any author and like them, do leave a review. Reviews are so hard to come by and it only takes moments. I think there may be some issues for some readers that don't like to write about anything but I also think they don't know the impact it has. Even two sentences about the voice of the character or the author's overall story would be great. I feel like people may think they have to write paragraphs upon paragraphs to leave a "good" review but that's just not the case.
Tell us a bit about your writing courses and how an author or aspiring author can participate?
I've taught novel writing (which started out as Romance Novel Writing) for almost 14 years at the local community college. It's a live course that meets one night a week for eight weeks (and I teach it 3 x a year - Spring, Summer, and Fall). It has been awesome. I also teach a Self-Publishing Boot Camp that's 4.5 hours long usually on a Saturday and also at the college. When I have time, I want to take these online but that has been a process and I want to do it right so I am going to do it, but unfortunately only those that live in my area can take these two courses I have now.
What do you enjoy most about teaching writing?
They say if you teach something you master it yourself. So I consider teaching everything I know to be that much more helpful to my own writing. It's really a win-win for me and the students. There are so many things I do and learn just to keep up to date and to be able to impart to my own students that I think I'd be a little more lax about it if I weren't teaching. I feel like teaching (which I LOVE and didn't know I'd love so much) makes me and propels me to being a better writer. This industry changes so much that I don't want any student to find out something and be like, Tracee never told me that. No one would do that of course I think but still. If I'm hard on myself then I know I'll do better. Moreover, I have seven published students and I'm not so arrogant to think that they'd publish only by going through my class, I always tell them (certain ones I can tell) they'd make it anyway but still it remains that they happened to stop by my little classroom on their way to publication and that's so gratifying and fun. I keep in touch with many of my students and I often continue to coach them and offer information to them -for free- long after our class together is over. I think I also feed off the energy. People that take my course are adults, most of them have so much wisdom and are career professionals, lawyers and doctors and/or retirees. So they are at a stage in their lives where this is what they want, have always wanted to do: Write a Book. As such, they are almost more eager than say a regular course that some young persons are just trying to "get through" for a needed grade. My students at that particular stage WANT and are EAGER to learn what I have to impart and that makes a difference. We have SO MUCH fun together!
Do you have any upcoming book-related events?
I do a book event almost every Saturday when I have a new release out but I'm really excited about RWA Nationals this July, in Orlando, Florida. I will be on a panel about diverse characters, particularly those with disabilities and I'm happy that RWA is bringing this kind of subject and group of panelist to the conference. I'll have lots to share. Anyone who would like to meet me can view my full calendar at https://teegarner.com/events-calendar/
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