Friday, February 1, 2013

Talking with Tracy Tucker

I'm happy to have Tracy Tucker here as part of her book tour with CLP Blog Tours. Tracy's novel is a hilarious look at divorce, health, and life. 

About I Kill Me: Tales of A Jilted Hypochondriac:

Christine Bacon has a fatal attraction. To all things fatal. A veteran hypochondriac, her near-death experiences are exacerbated when her husband proposes they have a menage a trois with Eleanor, his busty British massage therapist, to "shake things up." Christine reluctantly agrees (although she is more wholesome than threesome), never expecting just how much she'd be rattled. As her marriage to Richard, a/k/a "Dick," falls apart, so, too, does Christine, whose fear of her own demise causes her to research every freckle, blemish, cough, bump, lump, tingle and hiccup. She isn't a doctor, but she plays one on the Internet.

There is solace for Christine: in raising daughters Lily and Carli, leaning on her friends, and wearing out the shower massager. In order to heal, she struggles to become her own person and to view her symptoms (and ex-husband) as less malignant, while searching for that special someone who will love her--despite her grave condition.

*I KILL ME is intended for an adult audience*

Tracy, I love your writing style. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

Like many writers, I was first a reader. And an avid one. I'd carry stacks of books with me wherever I'd go. I wrote a story (loosely based on My Friend Flicka - sshhh) which my mother typed up and my father, a Dean at the University of Maine, "published" on the College of Education bulletin board. One of the art professors even illustrated it! I still have the prints. This was my first "taste" of fame, but honestly, the private side of writing was just as rewarding. I used to love curling up on my yellow beanbag chair in my bedroom with my spiral notebook, filling it up with stories of angst and horses. I remember one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Kleine, staying in at recess and helping me edit my stories. She even submitted them to children's magazines. I wrote through high school for Inside, our school newspaper, and Enclave, our literary magazine, and had my first of three poems accepted by Seventeen magazine (15 bucks a poem - I was thrilled). I continued to write through college and wrote my first book, a middle grade novel entitled Joe Nobody, soon after I graduated. Motherhood of three daughters took up just a bit of my time, so my writing was mainly put on hold until my children were older and I went through a divorce. My marriage may have been over, but my writing career wasn't!

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I originally had an agent for this book, and at that time the original title was “Shaken and Stirred.” My agent decided I should come up with something more original, but at the time I really liked the title, so we both decided on “Stirred, But Not Shaken.” I wasn’t completely satisfied with this, because the main character was most definitely shaken, but as a newbie with an agent, I thought I’d go with what she said :). I came up with my new title just before self-publishing the book, and I like this one much has a double meaning, just like the chapter headings.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I've been a teacher for seventeen years, currently teaching grade 5-7 Reading/Language Arts. It's been a wonderful career, but I am hoping to write full-time in the not-too-distant future, if my audience deems it so. :)

So many parts of this book were laugh out loud funny. Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I have several favorite scenes:), so I will pick a humorous one and a poignant one. The funny scene is in the chapter called “Rabid” where Christine is trying to keep the family holiday traditions alive by going to a Christmas tree farm with her kids, and her teenage daughter Lily is being difficult and negative. One poignant scene that stands out to me is when Christine, newly divorced, is looking at Lily during the night of Lily’s party, and she says, "It was hard standing here, alone in my love for her, and trying to be enough. I so wanted to be enough for my daughter." I remember feeling that way as a single parent.

What song would you pick to go along with your book?

Somebody to Love” by Queen. I originally had lines from the song in the chapter where Christine is talking to the radio D.J., but I would have had to get permission to use the lyrics. That song is one of my personal favorites - so stirring and moving - it usually brings tears to my eyes, and I love Freddie Mercury’s voice. I think that song captures what Christine is feeling throughout the book...what many people feel after enduring the break-up of a significant relationship.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I really find I can write most anywhere, but I recently have written a lot at my new writing desk in my den. I can look out over our field, which right now is covered in snow. I will often start the gas fireplace and am usually accompanied by a glass of water with lemon and ice, a burning candle, and sometimes a writing buddy, my white cat Moby. I will try to sneak in writing whenever I can, but most of it is done after I get my horses in for the night and the pets (and ourselves) fed. One of my favorite times to write is on Saturday morning.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“Be the person your dog thinks you are.” I love this. One of my former student teachers gave me a bumper sticker with this quote on it, and I keep it on my desk in my classroom.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to spend time with my children, both human and furry. I've loved having my daughters home on college break because the empty nest stage has been hard for me. I've always been passionate about animals, ever since I was very young. I love walking my dogs or snowshoeing with them in the winter, riding and grooming my horses, cleaning stalls, preparing their hay, grain and water...I love the whole farm lifestyle. It's purposeful work, and very grounding. I also enjoy reading on my Kindle before I go to bed, and going to Sunday breakfast with my husband at our favorite local restaurant. I also really love just being at my home and working in and around the house.

I'm anxious to read more of your work. What are you working on now?

I'm about 30,000 words into my next book (contemporary women’s fiction). It has some humor and, in my humble opinion, a likable cast of characters, with sex, drama and a major twist planned for the end. The main character is a 36-year-old veterinarian who was widowed two years ago and is raising her teen daughter. She's rather addicted to sex but prefers to keep emotions out of it...until an intriguing new man enters her life. He’s cool toward her, and she can’t figure out why. Oh, and she sees the image of her husband as she orgasms. I'm planning on an early spring release.

I can't wait to read it, Tracy! Please come back to talk about your new book when it's released.

Excerpt from I Kill Me

This year would be Dick's and my first Christmas as separated husband and wife. Did Hallmark make a tree ornament for that? I could think of a few designs. Maybe a wedding ring split in two with a busty British massage therapist holding the pieces. There could be a big bruise under the massage therapist's eye from where the wife slugged her. The word separated always conjured up the image of a dismembered torso, with limbs scattered nearby. It felt pretty much like that.

But separated or not, Christmas was coming, and I was determined to make it a good one for the kids. This was what I kept in mind as the girls and I tromped through mucky brown fields of the tree farm to find a tannenbaum worth fighting over.

“Where’s all the snow?” Carli wanted to know. “Christmas is supposed to be white.”

Christmas is supposed to be a lot of things. “We still have two weeks. I’m sure we’ll get some,” I said, lacing my voice with optimism.

“We might not, though,” Lily responded. I threw her a don’t start look, but her head was turned toward a family cutting down a tree. A father, mother, son and daughter. The father was tall and handsome and smiled a lot. He’d probably gotten laid last night. The mother was petite and adorable in her fuzzy red hat and matching mittens. Even the tree was perfect: gargantuan, majestic. They undoubtedly had cathedral ceilings and a huge window in which to display the tree. They’d load the tree with expensive ornaments but would also proudly display the popsicle-stick-and-glitter stars the kids made in preschool. You could just tell.

Carli ran ahead to a tall evergreen. She undoubtedly had tree envy after seeing that family’s selection. “How about this one, Mumma?”

I shook my head. “Too big.” I glanced over at Lily, who was standing with her hands jammed in her pockets. “Come on, us find one.”

She dipped her chin into the collar of her coat. “I’m cold.”

“Well, then, let’s find a tree and we can go.”

“Why didn’t we just get a fake tree?”
I could feel my jaw begin to tighten. Why was she making this so difficult? We always came to this tree farm. Couldn’t she understand I was just trying to keep things the same?  I forced myself to sound pleasant. “Because live ones are better.”

“But once you cut them down, they aren’t alive anymore. They’re dead. So we’re really bringing home something we killed.” She looked immensely pleased with herself.

I stared at her. I could hear the son of the Perfect Family asking politely if they could go get some hot chocolate. “Of course!” his perfect mother replied. “That’s the best part!”

“Come on, Carli,” I said. “I feel like killing something.”

I trudged to the next row of trees. “Do you girls see anything you like?”

Lily rolled her eyes and shrugged. Carli ran to a rather sparse-looking tree. “How about this one?”

“That one’s not full enough, honey.” I turned to see a couple in the next row standing by their selection. They looked like newlyweds. The wife stood back as her husband cut into the tree with the bow saw. Her eyes were glowing. There was something sexy about a man cutting down a tree: even a stocky guy with glasses like this one. He was probably going to get laid tonight. We stood watching him work the bow saw with quick, even strokes. The tree began to tip.

“Timberrrr...” I called. Lily and Carli looked at me like I had three heads. “That’s what they say,” I explained, “when they’ve cut down a tree and it’s falling and they want to warn people.”

Carli was puzzled. “Why don’t they just say, ‘look out, there’s a tree falling?”
I gritted my teeth. “Because that would take longer to say. They want people to get out of the way quickly.”

Carli was undaunted. “You could say it fast. Like ‘lookoutthere’satreefalling.’ Kids might not know what ‘timber’ means.”

“WhatEVER!” Lily exploded. “Just shut up!”

“LOOK,” I hissed. “We are getting a goddamned Christmas tree.”

The girls gaped at me.

“We’re getting this one.” I pointed to the tree closest to me.

“But some of the needles are orange,” Carli said hesitantly. “And it’s not very big.”

“It’s perfect,” I snapped.

Within minutes I was sawing away at the trunk with vicious cuts. Goddamned--sonofa--BITCH! The tree was mine. It began to lean. Breathing hard, I gave it a shove, looked at Carli and yelled, “Look out, there’s a tree falling!” Lily rolled her eyes. Carli stared at me, unblinking.

We headed back for the cabin with the murdered tree. We did not speak. Suddenly, a black and white cat darted in front of us. Carli twisted around to look and dropped her end of the tree. “Mumma, look! He’s so cute!”

We put down the tree and I walked to the next row where the cat had disappeared. “Kitty-kitty-kitty!” What was he doing on a tree farm? The owners leased the property but didn’t live there, and the closest neighborhood was some distance away. It must have been a stray. I continued searching.

“MOM!” Lily called. “Can we go?”

“I'm trying to find him,” I yelled back. “He shouldn’t be out here.”

I moved between the trees, taking slow, careful steps. Black tail with a white tip, snaking back and forth. He was huddled under a tree. I crouched down and reached for him very carefully. Lily yelled my name again just as my hand came in contact with the stray. He whipped around to face me...shit! I felt his needle-sharp claws sink into my wrist, in the space between my glove and coat. He bounded away through the brittle yellow grass.
I met up with the girls near the cabin. “Where’s the cat?” asked Carli.

“He took off.” Gingerly, I pulled back the edge of my coat sleeve to reveal the scratch. There were two half-inch gouges, deeper than I’d thought, and very red.

“Did he bite you, Mumma?” Carli leaned forward to peer at my wrist. “It looks like teeth marks.”

Now I was unsure. What if he had bitten me? If he was a stray, there was no telling what diseases he could be carrying. Toxoplasmosis, or cat scratch fever, or....rabies. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men, he could have rabies!

I gave Lily a little push in the direction of our car. “I need to pay for the tree. Take your sister to the car and I’ll be right out.”

“But can’t we have some hot chocolate?” Carli asked.

“But that’s the best part!”

We are not the Perfect Family!

Buy the Book!
Amazon / Smashwords

About the author:

Tracy H. Tucker is first and foremost the mother of three of the best people on Earth. She has a Master's in Literacy from the University of Maine and has inspired the youth of America for seventeen years. She's an avid animal lover and would like to publicly thank her husband for putting up with the pet hair, the dogs in the bed, the things the cats hack up and the repeated requests for goats. It's a wonderful life.

Connect with Tracy:
Blog/ Facebook page/ Goodreads/ Twitter

Review of I Kill Me, Tales of A Jilted Hypochondriac

I recently had to make the difficult decision to stop doing reviews. Thankfully, I read and reviewed this book before that dreadful edict came down. In short, I highly recommend this book.

Maybe it's because I could relate to the main character, Christine, with her hypochondria and overbearing mother, or maybe it's because I love to laugh, and this book provides plenty of laugh out loud moments, or maybe it's because I like a good contemporary love story, or maybe it's all of the above...but I loved Tracy Tucker's I Kill Me.

Ms. Tucker takes us inside the head of a forty-something wife whose husband has just left her. To make matters worse, with every bump, scrape, or you name it symptom, Christine is certain she has a deadly disease. No, it shouldn't be funny and entertaining to be in a hypochondriac's head, and neither the author nor I am making fun of the very serious disorder, but Christine's thoughts are just flat out funny, and you can't help but like her. I found myself wishing she'd say out loud the things she was thinking about her idiot husband, but I still enjoyed her spunk in thinking them.

I'm also a fan of using dialect in novels, and the British accent Ms. Tucker gives one of the characters is spot on. I could hear her in my head perfectly, and even though the woman was annoying as all get out (in a good way), I loved reading her dialogue.

There are a few things I was hoping Christine, would achieve, and Ms. Tucker did not disappoint. I won't spoil the ending, because that makes people cranky, but I can't think of a more satisfying ending to this book than what the author gave us. I loved this whole book, but the ending? It is one of the best endings ever. I happily gave this book five stars.