An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play that she penned (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she, also, starred in and tried to direct the production.) Her dreams of authorial success were put on the backburner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills. Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for 12 years. When it ended, Tracie decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time. Her debut novel, the Hollywood-themed Blame It on the Fame, was released in January, 2012. And she's following that up with the fun summer read, In Need of Therapy.
Where are you from?
I live in the suburbs of Atlanta and have done so for the last 27 years, so I'm a Georgia peach!
Tell us your latest news?
On July 23rd, I released my second Chick Lit novel, In Need of Therapy. It's a fun, romantic story about a Latina psychologist in Miami who's trying to juggle the demands of her patients, her high-maintenance family, and her often disastrous love life.
When and why did you begin writing?
As far back as I can remember, I was always writing something - plays in elementary school, short stories in junior high, essays/literary analyses in high school. However, it wasn't until I reached adulthood that I finally tried to write a novel (at the urging of my friends and family.) I never finished that first attempt at novel-writing (I was still very young and got distracted by my social life), but it served its purpose in showing me that I was capable of writing a novel if I put my mind to it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I've always referred to myself as a writer, but I suppose I felt like I had really "made it" when I got a literary agent for my first completed novel. Unfortunately, that novel was never published, but I felt validated by the experience and it encouraged me to keep moving forward with my writing.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My very first novel was a pre-Civil War Historical Romance called "Rapture and Deception." I know, I know, the title was laughably bad! I was reading a lot of Kathleen Woodiwiss novels at the time, so she inspired me to try my hand at that type of fiction. I'm sure that my lifelong love of Gone With the Wind probably had a lot to do with me making the hero of that novel dark and roguish!
Do you have a specific writing style?
I think so. There's humor in everything I write, no matter what the genre, and I'm known for my snappy dialogue and strong character voices. I'm a very character-oriented writer. When I'm in the planning stages of a new novel, I handwrite pages and pages of info about each of my characters - personality traits, likes, dislikes, career, education, friends, family, romantic history, what his/her journey will be in the book.
How did you come up with the title?
I am terrible at coming up with titles (see the aforementioned Rapture and Deception), so I depend on family and friends to help me with naming my books and short stories. My very clever mother was the one who came up with In Need of Therapy.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A lot of women, like my heroine Pilar, are givers and they end up being surrounded by takers. So, if there's any message I'd like readers to take away from In Need of Therapy, it would be,"Don't stop being nice and nurturing, but don't let other people take advantage of you."
How much of the book is realistic?
I'd like to think that all of my books are grounded in reality as I make a point of doing quite a bit of research into everything I write about, including the heroine's career and the location of the story. In the case of In Need of Therapy, Pilar's therapeutic techniques and the issues her patients come to her with are all reality-based. I just amped up the comedic aspect of all of it to make the book entertaining for readers.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I wouldn't say that anyone in the book is based on a particular person, but we all know someone like Lori (Pilar's needy patient who can't survive one day without a man in her life) or Izzy (Pilar's bratty sister who can't seem to stay out of trouble.) As far as events in the book mirroring my real-life experiences, I'm happy to say that I've never had a date as bad as any of those I put Pilar through in the book! :)
What books have most influenced your life most?
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights were the novels that greatly influenced me. Witty dialogue, great characterizations, wonderful descriptive prose, and strong emotional beats - these were the things that attracted me as a reader and made me want to be a writer who could captivate others with my words.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
It would really be impossible for me to choose just one. There have been so many wonderful, generous authors who've held my hand and offered me advice and words of wisdom throughout this whole publishing process. Love to you all! I never would have made it this far without you.
What book are you reading now?
I'm sorry to say that I've been so busy with my own books lately that I've had no time to tackle my own TBR pile. The last book I read was The Selection by Keira Cass, which is a dystopian Young Adult novel about a girl who gets involved in a televised competition to win the heart of a prince. Such a great concept and I adored the male lead in the book (Prince Maxon . . . SWOON) I look forward to reading Book 2 of that series when it's released next Spring!
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Darynda Jones - I love her smart, sexy, funny Grave series. And Heather Dixon, who wrote the poignant, romantic, beautiful YA novel Entwined.
What are your current projects?
I have several projects in the works at the moment. The book I'm currently focusing on is a Regency novel in the vein of Jane Austen about the eldest daughter of a viscount who's making her debut into society and having to deal with all manner of surprises and obstacles. I'm hoping that this will be the first in a series about the different members of this aristocratic family. I've, also, got three Chick Lit novels simmering on the backburner. I'm just trying to decide which of those I want to delve into next.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Other Chick Lit authors whom I've had the great good fortune to meet online. It's an incredibly friendly and supportive community that I feel blessed to be a part of.
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. And writing is the hardest job I've ever had! It's, also, the most rewarding.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I'm very happy with the way In Need of Therapy turned out. I wouldn't publish a book unless I was 100% satisfied that it was the best book I could have written.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I just always loved books and reading. So, from there it was a natural progression to wanting to be a writer myself.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
"I'm always pro-eating." That's one of Pilar's lines from In Need of Therapy. Being a curvy Latina who lives for black beans and rice, she can't quite grasp society's current aversion to carbs.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes getting the story from my head to the paper can be challenging. It's not always easy to translate thoughts, images, and ideas to words.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Favorite author of all time? Jane Austen. I love the observational humor in her stories, as well as her well-drawn supporting characters and the way she handled romance. She set a very high standard for all female authors.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I haven't been out on any international book tours just yet, but who knows what the future holds?
Who designed the covers?
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I found writing in first-person difficult and I don't think I'd do it again, although it was a good writing challenge for me.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I don't know if I learned anything new, but writing this book did reinforce for me how important it is to have a sense of humor about things in life. We should never take ourselves too seriously!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be committed and don't ever stop believing in yourself. Hard work, determination, and self-confidence will take you far as a writer.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I had a blast writing In Need of Therapy, so I hope everyone has just as much fun reading it! I think it's the perfect summer read to take with you to the pool or beach (and it pairs nicely with a Mojito given that the heroine is part-Cuban! :)
Thank you to Tracie Banister for giving us an interview...
and thank you for agreeing to a eBook Giveaway...
ENTER to WIN... Simple leave a comment... add your email address if you do not have a blog/website... Bonne Chance.... Deadline to Enter August 9, 2012 @ noon California time
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