Wednesday, October 31, 2007
FEATURED AUTHOR: Tracee L. Garner
Tracee Lydia Garner is a national best-selling author. Family Affairs was not the first story she wrote but it was the first successfully completed and the one she says started it all. FAMILY AFFAIRS appears in the All That & Then Some anthology with BET/Sepia Books. Family Affairs won the grand-prize award, receiving an advance, a book contract, a trip to New York to accept her award and most importantly having her work published by BET Books.
Her fourth release, Love Unchosen, is three books in one about the Watt women: three, entrepreneurial sisters on the brink of love.
Tracee maintains that she is a creative writer as well as a journalist that enjoys writing "how to" articles, and articles of personal experience, both tragic and inspirational on the disability, African-American and woman experience, not necessarily in that order.
Tracee maintains that as her writing career takes center stage, she will always be disabled, and thus she must and always will be committed to the advancement and removal of barriers for persons with disabilities.
Visit her website at http://www.teegarner.com/
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
The same things I hope all my projects deliver, a simple sense of hope about love, life and the future. Preliminary reviews have said that the book moves fast and I did this because I also wanted an underlying tone of that when it’s your time, it’s your time. I try to hold on to this for myself. That if it’s supposed to happen, it’s a whirlwind. God doesn’t waste time, though yes, to us it seems like it takes forever.
Writing this book, what did you learn about yourself and God?
If I just keep praying the words will come. I really had such a hard time with this book. I admit to resisting and I’m cool with saying it because no one ever talks about it and I’m like why not. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the decision to omit love scenes and do what God said do? I wonder what other ways could I show people consummate a relationship and not show love scenes? The bottom line, tell a good story, a love scene is one sometimes two and three pages and that’s just exhausting. LOL J Anywho, I got rid of them and I did have them in at one point, but I just felt convicted and took them out again. I still worry that people won’t like it because it doesn’t have love scenes and I still have had a few church people telling me oh it’s all right, girl, that’s what people like and that’s not a big deal but people fornicating in one of my books, yes I said it, is a big deal to me! I’m not judging anyone. What people do is their business, I do miss my love scenes, I miss the love scenes in books I read, but I’ll get over it. I did what was right for me. I read back over Love Unchosen and think this is still good even without the love scene, in some ways I’m amazed, in other ways it’s like God says, “My child, please! You exhaust Me, I told you!”
What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
That I was so good at telling a story... And I’m not bragging. I didn’t know what I was. I still struggle with knowing what my direction and purpose is supposed to be doing/going; but I would have just felt better about whatever it was I meant to do here on this earth had I had an earlier validation. And not just so much validation cause I think becoming a good writer comes from my disability and experiencing things which then takes age and growth (AND TIME) and painful times of isolation but just the something, whether it was writer or what. I’m glad, at 24 I won the BET First Time Writer’s contest, and I’m still writing and everything is for an appointed time, but along with my writing came increased steam, and better self esteem and a coping mechanism and okay, being eternally hard on myself, yes, I get mad at myself sometimes for being so slow to get it. Yes, I know it happens when it happens, but still, my mind tells me, erroneously so, that I’m late once again that perhaps I should have been here already (if only I’d pay attention and stop goofing off).
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That books aren’t perfect all the time. I still get upset when reviewers, the critics, say things, like “as an avid reader of so and so’s work this wasn’t her best.” I’m not mad, that’s what they do, but just frustrated. It’s like film, there are a couple of flops for some actors, oh well, you keep moving on. What’s more, no one has said this about me yet and I’m sure they will at some point, but why say it at all? If you don’t like, you just don’t like it, more often then not, you’ll pick up book two and three to keep giving a person a chance. Why write a really, really bad review just for the sake of writing it?
Tell us why you jumped from romance to Christian fiction?
Even I as a human being have a set place to be. I use a wheelchair and I have, according to doctor’s (limited) knowledge, a “neuromuscular disease”. For other people, in layman’s terms, I’m a Jerry’s Kid and I have Muscular Dystrophy (MD), labels get on my nerves, but I had to pick some place to be simply so I can be placed on a shelf next to similar genres. I chose to write, what I feel is still a sensual story without depicting the consummation of the relationship. I still feel because I showed two people in bed together “naked” rethinking being in bed together (they feel a conviction come over them, too J ) that I still may be tossed out of the Christian fiction realm. I’m sure there are specific guidelines for each of these categories because I have read them, and I don’t know that I’ve adhered to ALL of them well enough.
In self publishing there’s no editor telling me to do a, b, and c, to make it fit. And yes, that was a looooonnngggg way of answering this question, the short answer is that it’s simply closest to where the general public, the booksellers will place me and it’s what I’ve been convicted to do.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
I love to shop, though I’ve been trying to curtail that. I am into cultural things and just this summer I saw The Color Purple in New York (with Fantasia) and it was awesome. I almost felt as if the spirit of playwriting came over me but we shall see. It’s coming to Baltimore, MD too, which is closer to where I live, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ll be front and center to see it again in 2008.
Let’s see, I try to write a list of the things I’m going to do every year. Sometimes it gets tossed out the window. I do manage a few things on it that includes museums, eateries, plays, movies, a new task or hobby and etc; things that I would like to see, learn and do. I also have a life list which has received a lot of talk about in the past; there are about 101 things to do on it and I hope to do each and every one of them. I’ve done quite a few things on the list and forgot about the list, so I really believe in the power of writing it down and even the subconscious knows, hey, you wrote to do this and you’re going to do it, whether you remember us or not!
I love making lists; it gets it out of my brain and just allows me to chill. I have tons and tons and just making time to write them, to write about my experience after doing something is “me time” to me.
Other than that, reading, writing, and chilling out. Oh my new thing, I’m addicted to watching old school on You Tube. What a great invention. Rene and Angela, Luther Vandross, and New Edition, I could spend hours on that site alone.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
One of the most surprising things I have discovered is that I enjoy marketing, proposal writing and teaching about writing more than I do novel writing (it's second, I just like the first three the absolute most). By the time (usually before) a book is finished, I have a zillion plans for its promotional debut. Most of the time, I'm so busy planning marketing aspects I forget, "girl you can't do none of this if you don't have an actual book." So I LOVE event planning, having a book party and I love teaching at my alma mater, an eight week course entitled How to Write the Romance Novel. This course, to some people's surprise, has done well. I've been teaching that since 2004. I also taught Promotion and Marketing for the Small Business, hint, hint, and had fun with that too.
What aspect of God do you most hope readers will take away after reading your book?
That He is on time. I want to give up sometimes too. We get tired, but if you just hold on, it's coming. I try to tell myself this too and at times I'm like yeah right, I've been waiting forever. I think as I grow, as my writing grows, I can begin to tackle more and more issues, delving deeper to our place in life, God's will and answering those questions that plague us, or at least plague me, "What about if it never comes?" And "it" could be love, but "it" is really anything that people are waiting for, waiting to do, waiting to change, and etc. No matter what "it" is, it is difficult and we have to trust the Master and I'd be the first to admit I have days I question everything and get angry, but eventually I come back to Him (usually after crying and drinking tons of coffee) and say okay, lets (me and Him) go ahead and wait some more, and by the way, could You make a sale at Marshalls, I'm about to run over there.
What one thing about writing do you wish other writers would understand?
I don’t know that there is anything I wish other writers would understand. What’s right for them is what’s right for them. We are our own selves, meaning we understand what the issues are for us. So that’s either a tough question or it’s just what I said that my understanding is different from another’s understanding and to each his own way of doing things.
What is a favorite book from your childhood?
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge – pretty much anything by Judy Blume
Do you ever have a hard time letting go of a character after the novel is finished?
I mourn the end of ALL my books – it’s like the character died, but I tell myself that they have moved on with their lives and sometimes they get reincarnated in new characters I create, so some have never left me completely. I visit with them through thoughts, and think about what they would be doing now, which usually simply means having a family, moving up in their careers, whatever they do often echoes or symbolizes what I’m doing or what I want to do with myself and my own life.
What should a new writer know about the publishing business?
Keep your emotional ties in check. I have grown up so much since winning BET’s first time writer’s contest. It was so awesome and in 2001 when I won, I put on, learned my business attire well. I took a chance, yes, by using AuthorHouse with this project but it’s great. It’s tougher self publishing, there are still some obstacles out there, but nothing compares to the rewards.
Honestly, can I also just say that life is so short and all I really wanted was a cartoon cover. Sounds silly but I’d have to wait forever to reach this status so I worked with a designer and created my own. Total creative control! And I get to write what I want my way. No one telling me oh that’s too garish, or too bold and for heaven’s sake I get to let people kiss and grope just a little in MY versions. Some Christian fiction is just too stringent, I mean really, don’t these people get worked up or have issues with their own desire? Sure they do, well at least they do in real life and I want my book to seem like real life; where people get a little ahead of themselves but still have values and reel it in, not go around acting like they are nuns and clergy in a convent.
I think Tyler Perry has mastered that, giving us the sensuality without the raunchiness and that’s ultimately what I want to do.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
The best part of writing is that initial spark of an idea. It comes just like water when you flip the faucet switch, then something happens and the water stops. I like it to that movie, one of my favorites “The Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. The beauty is on the outside, the book cover, the thoughts about where this story is going, those beautiful characters, the possibility of love cause of the genre in which I write. As keep going, however, as you keep writing, there are kinks, things don’t quite flow and as writer/detective you have to find a way to fix it. Fixing it can be costly (in time), exciting in your thoughts about finishing, getting to the final renovation but trying on your love for the craft overall. The wonderful part the beginning, the not- so-much hated, but more so dreaded, is the editing, the combing of your prose to find within it a good story where you’ve done everything you need to bring it all home.
Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?
I pretty much did quit for about three years, I wrote on and off, but really just did not focus on it. I yearned to get back to it and follow through but it was just frustrating when I needed to complete my academic aspirations, get a steady-paying job to pay my bills, and really fund a writing project if I was going to self publish. Those things hindered me and some might say you can do both if your really want to, but for me and my stamina, I could not. It just didn’t happen and I could actually feel myself become grumpy by not having a book out, so I graduate on Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 9 a.m., a job is on it’s way right around graduation and I hope to publish book five. Sometimes you can quit, but for a time, and you can come back to it. When you quit and it’s not right, it will call you back and say uh, huh, you mean to do this, go finish that other stuff and we’ll be here when you make up your mind and come on back. That’s what writing said.
What was the last conference you attended and what did you like about it?
I can’t remember the last conference I went to that was writing related. I’ve been to a work conference and I always learn something new there. I’m looking forward to Romance Slam Jam (RSJ) April, 2008 www.romanceslamjamconference.com just to connect and see so many people I haven’t seen in years. RSJ was one of the first conferences I attended as a published author. It was in North Carolina and friend/mentor Jacquelin Thomas was the host. It was just so neat, so welcoming, it was like “Welcome. . . you author, you”. I know that sounds silly, however, I think overall, it was the respect and the surprise too that I had written a book! I’m also looking forward to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention also in the month of April next year.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I think writers are a little weird so I think that they really and truly NEED to maintain hold of that in order to produce good writing. I just try to keep myself together through my church which I love, writing my personal thoughts (journaling), talking with the Lord, praying and shopping and book hoarding. J Other ways to keep sanity is to just be all right with creating other worlds (no, not to the point of schizophrenia) but as a healthy means of controlling your own world and exacting whatever you want (happy things, I hope) in it. I escape in my mind often particularly when I feel limited, at times, by this body and it helps ME tremendously.
If you could have a conversation with one of your characters who would it be and why?
I’m not sure, that is a really great question! I love all my characters and I wish I were the heroine for ALL my men characters EXCEPT Jojo because that’s my brother and yuck, oohey, the only time we converse is if he has orders for me (he’s military). I know everyone is in love with him (Jojo), oh well, like gag me with a spoon. . . but um, let’s see, probably my latest male character, Romayo Payton. He is the middle story in Love Unchosen. He’s now raising his nephew after his sister-in-law dies of cancer. I think this was the best story in Love Unchosen, though I love Ellie and Geena’s story too. But what is it like for a man to raise a child he knows nothing about, be stuck with him so to speak, living willy-nilly, without a care and then change, be with this young man, still be successful though his world is turned upside down? I think he’d be very interesting. Okay, okay so his name is Romayo, he’s gotta be good looking. I probably wouldn’t converse at all, I’d just sit there and stare at his bedroom eyes, then pass out or something.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
One of the greatest roadblocks to my writing was probably myself. I let the fact that I had a disability limit my mind (or try to) from being able to tour. It didn’t stop me in the end, but at the time, I send this long drawn out e-mail to my publisher and mentioned that I was disabled and that touring might be such an issue. I really believe that little comment shot me in the foot. From then on I promoted, and promoted, arranged my own signings and then my mother drove me to every one of them. I made the promotion tasks much more complicated then they had to be and I think my comment to my publisher limited their mind as well in that I didn’t get any real backing whatsoever. I set my own self up only to find out I could do just as much if not more than the first person. What I also discovered is that people do not need any help whatsoever placing limits on you. Keep your mouth shut about your situation and do whatever you CAN do.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The Watts sisters have spent most of the lives focused on their careers-until big sister Geena launches her own design company, Watts Your Style. Not only does she find success, but she finds true love with her client Dr. Justin Webster, a recovering alcoholic. After getting married and giving birth to her son, Geena looks to her sisters to help run her company and hopes in the process they, too, will find true love.
At her older sibling's request, middle sister Vashton returns to Virginia from North Carolina where she has run to escape the demons of her past and finds herself falling head over heels for Romeyo Payton, her ex-best friend's brother-in-law who is raising his nephew.
At her sisters' urging, baby girl, Ellie, relocates her virtual job as a professional organizer to help out as well. When rude client Husten Montgomery comes in with his bratty daughter, Ellie is determined to ignore her attraction and stay as far away as possible from the handsome man to avoid reminders of the loss of her own daughter.
Despite their close bond and their drive, each sister comes to realize true love is the greatest gift of all.
Love Unchosen: A Novel by Tracee Garner
Release Date: September 2, 2007
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
$17.99 from Amazon.com
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