My guest today is Tracey Scott-Townsend. I’ve had the pleasure of reading two of Tracey’s novels so far, and can only describe them as beautiful and haunting. Or, perhaps, beautifully haunting. I was completely mesmerised by her writing, and am really looking forward to reading her other books, pesky writing deadlines permitting! For now, over to Tracey, who has kindly answered some questions for us today.
What inspires your story ideas or characters?
My life, the people I meet and the things I see around me. World situations as perceived through my experience as a mother, as a daughter, sister, wife (twice over!). Sense of place is very important to me as well. Smells, sounds, emotions and ‘the feel’ of a place.
How do you go about starting a new writing project?
The urge to write about something in particular arrives by itself. I have always attempted to write novels, from the age of ten, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I completed my first full draft of one particular novel. Prior to that my flighty brain would flit from one project to another, finding it impossible to stay the course. I was always torn between visual art and writing as well. But in my twenties I finally found the right story for a character called Marianne that I had invented when I was seventeen. Still, it wasn’t until another 20 years had passed that I dug out that manuscript and dedicated myself to rewriting The Last Time We Saw Marion, which was published by Inspired Quill in 2014, after several more rewrites and lots of feedback from critique groups and editors. Now I try to be methodical with the process. I make a story arc and put in all the main things that I want to happen in the book and the key issues and how they will be resolved, etc. I also jot down important dates so that I don’t have to keep reworking things out as I go along. I ask myself what the important themes of the book are so that I can stay on-point. Then I simply begin writing until I’ve completed a ‘dirty draft’, which I will go on to edit up to five times myself before sending it on to my editor.
Have you a favourite inspirational quote?
I guess it’s that old one about having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference. My mum had a (religious) plaque with it on when I was a child. Another, more recent one that I adapted from the live-action film of Cinderella is ‘Have courage and be compassionate’. I try to remind myself of that one regularly.
What was your favourite book as a child and how do you view it now as an adult?
I loved Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. It was in particular the poignancy of the baby Peter having flown away from his mother for too long and when he tried to go back, he found bars on the window and he saw her inside with another baby in her arms. He thought she had forgotten all about him. That moved me even as a child and many decades later I feel the same way, but I know now, as the mother of a lost baby, that Peter’s mother would never have stopped thinking about him. I often wonder if it is possible to feel things decades in advance of an event that proves the feeling right, if you know what I mean? I felt that book strongly as a child and years later I had cause to empathise with the lost baby theme.
What has surprised you most about being a published writer?
The fact that my life didn’t change overnight! (Laughs) To become a published writer was an ambition I’d had from the age of ten and once my first book was published I thought my life would feel different, but my ambition and my desire to improve only became stronger. Now I have four novels published and I’m trying to get an agent for my fifth and sixth.
What are your writing goals long term and/or short term?
To get better. For my books to be widely-read and for them to make a difference to people’s lives. Not sure how I’m going to be able to make that happen but that is my goal!
What’s your favourite book?
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller. Captivating and immersive, beautifully written.
Your book is going to be filmed! Name your dream cast.
The Last Time We Saw Marion. James Anderson (Oliver in Holby City) would play Callum Wilde. Rosie Marcel, also of Holby City, would play the grown up Marianne Fairchild in the sequel, Of His Bones but I’m open to casting for the rest of the characters.
Your book is going to be filmed! Which song would you choose for the theme?
U2’s Drowning Man. It was one of the inspirations for the book.
What thing or things are guaranteed to cheer you up?
A good, well-made contemporary drama series, which I now watch on i-player or Netflix on my iPad mini, at my own leisure since I no longer have a TV.
Name one thing you would change about your life.
Genuinely? I wouldn’t, apart from what I can achieve by myself. It would just feel like cheating otherwise.
What’s your favourite social media outlet and why?
I suppose I use Facebook more than any other. It feels like the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and up-to-date with networking.
What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
The amazing-ness of being able to create a brand-new world of characters, settings and events and truly believing in them once you’ve got them right. The sheer grind of squeezing the first draft out of one’s own brain! Plus how the fictional characters take over your life and you keep saying things like: Ellie would never do that, or, that’s where Sarah and Cal’s parents live in The Last Time We Saw Marion – when they don’t actually exist!
What’s your favourite first or last line from a book?
It’s not a first or last line but I think I would choose: ‘My baby had a mob-cap’ from Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido. The character’s baby had died and the whole event was more-or-less summed up by that one line. It taught me a lot about writing.
What one piece of advice would you give to other writers?
Just do it. Sit down and write how it feels to sit down and write, if that’s what it takes to get you going. Sit down and write. Or stand up and write. You do have time, the time you spend thinking about how you don’t have time. Switch off the television (it worked for me).
Where do you write?
I write in my shed, which used to be an actual shed but now that I’ve moved to Hull, is actually a divide-off space that I’ve created in our spare room. It still feels like my shed so I’m happy.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Tracey.
Tracey is the author of four published novels and numerous poems and short stories. Her subject matter is both deeply personal and at the same time comments on the universal human lived experience. Mothering, sexual love and a strong sense of place is at the heart of her writing. These themes have followed on from the inspirations behind her paintings during her 20-year career as a fine artist.
For years Tracey has written her works in a shed and since her recent house-move back to Kingston-Upon-Hull she has recreated this intimate space in a sectioned-off area of the spare room.
She has recently ventured into the local Spoken Word arena by taking her poems off the page and into her mouth to deliver to a live audience. Having spent most of her life behind the pen and the paintbrush she is surprised how much she enjoys the performance aspect.
Tracey is the mother of four grown children. She’s married to Phil and they enjoy travelling in their bus-with-a-woodstove with their two rescue dogs, Luna and Pixie.
The Eliza Doll is available to buy here.
Of His Bones is available to buy here.