Thursday, April 11, 2013

Featured Author: Tracy Sweeney

I'm pleased to have author Tracy Sweeney as my guest today. Tracy's here to talk about her highly-rated chick lit novel, Living Backwards. One reviewer called it "a bit of chick lit with a little bit of time travel and a whole lot of drama." A book about a twenty-nine-year-old who suddenly finds herself back in high school? Mmm hmm, I'd say that would entail some drama.

About the book:

Twenty-nine-year-old Jillian Cross refuses to believe that a pair of skinny jeans has led to her untimely demise. Life just isn't that cruel. But when an overly-enthusiastic attempt at squeezing herself into them leads her to fall and lose consciousness, she is faced with just that possibility. When she awakens with both a bruised ego and a bump on her head, she's not in her tiny apartment but her childhood bedroom circa 1999-the spring of her senior year in high school. Jillian knows that time travel isn't logical. But then again, neither was her decision to wear skinny jeans. As she attempts to navigate her way through the halls of Reynolds High, walking the same path and making the same choices she made years before, she knows that any change she makes can have a catastrophic effect on her future. But when she strikes up an unexpected friendship with motorcycle-riding, cigarette-smoking Luke Chambers, can she pretend to be the same shy girl she once was? At least she has her pink sparkly flask to take the edge off. One little change won't hurt, right?

Interview with Tracy:

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

The concept of “living backwards” comes from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.  The White Queen isn’t one of the more well known Wonderland residents because clearly Walt Disney just wasn’t into her, but she’s fascinating.  She knows what will happen before it comes to pass:

'For instance, now,' she went on, sticking a large piece of plaster on her finger as she spoke, 'there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn't even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.'

'Suppose he never commits the crime?' said Alice.

'That would be all the better, wouldn't it?' the Queen said.

I thought that it fit the story so perfectly.  What if you’re able to go back and stop the crime from being committed?  What if in the process, you committed an even bigger one?

How did you create the plot for this book?

I love time travel movies. Peggy Sue, Back to the Future, The Butterfly Effect. I eat them up. And maybe I spent too much time thinking about their nuances, but if you were to really end up back in high school years later, could you effectively pretend you belonged there? Do you remember where your locker was or your locker combination? What you were studying in chem class? Where you sat? Could you be the person you were when you were seventeen? Could you make it through all of that trauma and teenage angst without a cocktail? I certainly couldn’t.

Okay. The pink sparkly flask. Tell us about it.

Everyone should have one! I’m kidding. I don’t want to be the downfall of a generation.

When Jillian turned twenty-one, her best friend gave her the flask as a gift. It was pink and sparkly and nothing she ever would have owned in high school. They named it Joan.  When Jillian had a little too much to drink, it was Joan’s voice in her head egging her on to do things that may not have been the best idea. Dance on a table. Do another shot. Make out with the random guy in the corner. Breaking out of her shell is an understatement.  

OK, maybe not everyone should have one. Haha

Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

I don’t know how to write by the seat of my pants. There are so many scary things going on in my brain. I start with a broad outline. When I’m about to tackle a chapter, I’ll flesh it out before I begin. As I go along, I make notes about plot points that I need to hit in certain chapters. I always have characters chattering in my head. Yes, I know. Crazy girl. But it’s true. I have to write it down somewhere. I’ve been known to record dialogue on my iPhone as I’m driving. I’m like Michael Keaton in Night Shift. Without Henry Winkler and the prostitution ring. Or Shelley Long. Gotta love Shelley Long.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

My friend, Liz Jaeger, did an absolutely amazing job on the cover. I swear she made me a hundred different versions of the flask – each one prettier than the next. It was miserable picking just one. I’m thrilled with the final product. She rocks.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

"And they all lived happily ever after." Is there a better one?

That's a pretty good one. Do you have imaginary friends? When do they talk to you? Do they tell you what to write or do you poke them with a Q-tip?

Does a talking flask count? I would never poke her with a Q-tip. Only with a straw.

Ha! good one! Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I actually wrote an outtake from Joan the flask’s point of view. She’s a little Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, a little Rachel Berry from Glee and a lot drunk. It was so much fun.

Are you like any of your characters? How so?

I share a lot of similarities with Jillian. I was shy and awkward when I was in high school and now...well, I’m not exactly shy. I may never shake the awkward, though. You should see me in Zumba class. There’s also a lot of me in Megan, too. I can totally kick your ass in Tekken.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?

Um, Luke, duh. He’s perfect.

Well now I've got to know more about this dude. Can you tell us a little bit about him?

At first sight, Luke is the typical bad boy, but he has good reason for the chip on his shoulder. Life has dealt him some unfortunate blows. So he’s guarded, and he’s biding his time until he can strike out on his own. When he meets Jillian, everything changes. I think he’s probably more shocked than anyone that they form a connection.

Present Day Luke is another story. Different chip, different set of problems. But man, he makes me weak in the knees.  The number one comment from my pre-readers was “Luuuukkeeeeeee”. That made me happy. Like my work here is done.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I could see Jillian racing across the city in the rain to confront Luke so clearly. I was dying to get it out of my head and onto the page. She’s so much braver than I could ever be in that scene.

Who are your favorite authors?

I’ll read anything Gillian Flynn writes. She’s amazing and evil. I gravitate toward new YA so I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor and Stephanie Perkins. Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth are geniuses.

What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
I’ll admit that I miss seeing a bookshelf filled with books, but I just love the Kindle app on my iPad. You can’t beat the instance gratification of downloading a book whenever you want it. And I read a lot.

I just finished The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, which is just so lovely. I just started The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and I’m dying to jump on Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor’s sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Poorly. Kidding. I’ve workshopped my writing, and I’ve written fan fiction. Neither are very forgiving venues, but they’re incredibly helpful. If there’s a plot hole, it will be found. If there’s a nuance to the story that doesn’t make sense, you’ll hear about it.  Concrit makes us better writers. It forces us to stop and ask “Does this make sense” before we proceed with what we’re writing. Criticism needs to be constructive, though.  Behave yourselves. 

Where’s home for you?

Where everybody knows my name. Bad joke. I’m a Boston girl.

What are you working on now?

I’ve had a very short piece – almost flash fiction – in my head for awhile now. I’m putting the finishing touches on that. I’m outlining my second novel and letting a new set of voices chatter in my head.

About the author:

Tracy Sweeney graduated with a degree in Management and Finance but prefers writing ridiculous things to crunching ridiculous numbers. She lives north of Boston, Massachusetts with her two young boys. Her short stories have appeared in Literary Juice, Solecisms and Slice of Life Magazines. She is currently working on her second novel which will be equally as ridiculous.

Connect with Tracy:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon