Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tag—I'm It!

My friend Jody Casella writes one of my favorite blogs about writing and life and the writing life. Shes also days away from the launch of her debut novel, Thin Space. I'm dying to read this one, especially after its starred Kirkus review (seriously, read that review—doesnt it sound amazing?). Jody has tagged me in a Children’s Author Blog Hop, meaning that I answer the same four questions that she did in her post and then tag three more YA authors to do the same, kind of like a writerly chain mail.

The questions and my answers:

1. What are you working on right now?
I’m writing the first draft of Mirror, a retelling of Snow White, while revising The Stepsister’s Tale, a retelling of Cinderella (my twentieth book for young readers!). Harlequin Teen will publish Stepsister in July, 2014, and Mirror is due out a year later.

I’m also revising a totally different kind of book with the working title The Icarus Complex. It’s about Clancy Edwards, a teenage girl who’s being smothered by her overprotective father and boyfriend. Her mother died in a skydiving accident when the main character was six, and her father owns a skydiving center. Clancy busts out of this smothering in a dramatic way.

This idea came to me when I was pondering how to use skydiving in a story, preferably a Greek myth retelling set in the present, and Icarus seemed a natural. I wrote the draft for NaNoWriMo last year.
That's me!

2. How does it differ from other works in the genre?
In both of my fairy-tale retellings, things aren’t quite the way we’ve been led to believe in the traditional stories. Cinderella isn’t as good and virtuous and put-upon as her supporters have claimed—she’s the typical kid in a blended family who finds it hard to fit in with her new step-family and thinks that she’s being mistreated. In Mirror, the stepmother isn’t a witch and is actually Snow White’s ally. I'm having lots of fun with Mirror, weaving in Crusades and druids and all sorts of cool stuff.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Like many people, Ive always wanted to travel to the past, but until someone invents a time machine, historical fiction is the best way to do that. An author who does careful research and writes compellingly can transport a reader to a different time.

I also love examining familiar stories from an unfamiliar point of view. My first experience of this genre was Grendel (John Gardner) and I love The Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard) and other. Recent favorites are March (Geraldine Brooks) and The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood), which gave me the seed of an idea for King of Ithaka, the story of Homers Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseuss son, Telemachos. Dark of the Moon is the tale of the Minotaur as told by the Minotaurs sister, Ariadne, and his killer, Theseus.

4. What is the hardest part about writing?
Middles! E. L. Doctorow famously said that just as when you take a drive at night you need to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’re going when you’re writing, but that in both cases you don’t need to know every tiny turn in the road. The farthest you need to see ahead of you is as much as you can make out in your headlights.

My headlights sometimes dim and sometimes lead me down dead-end streets, and then I have to turn around and figure out where I am and how to get back on track. I have a lousy sense of direction, and when I get lost while driving I panic with the irrational fear that I’ll never reach my goal and will drive around in circles until my car runs out of gas, and I get that same feeling in the middle of every book. I just have to remind myself that so far I’ve always made it, and this time won’t be any different.

I hope. 

Update: Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of wonderful fiction and nonfiction set in the ancient world, has responded to her tag! Read her post here.

Ive tagged three authors to continue the chain—Ill let you know next week if any of them have the time to participate!


  1. Hi Tracy,

    I met Jody at SCBWI-LA and heard about her debut novel. I am also SO EXCITED to read it. So happy she got a starred review in Kirkus. Those stars don't come easy.

    And your upcoming books sound terrific!

    1. Thanks, Mary! Jody is an amazing writer; this novel is sure to be followed by many more.

  2. THIN SPACE sounds like an awesome read! I LOVE your Icarus take-off (excuse the pun).

  3. I can't wait for THIN SPACE! And THE ICARUS COMPLEX is almost ready to go to my agent; I hope to run the last three chapters by my critique group on our retreat next weekend.

  4. Tracy, That Icarus novel sounds fascinating. And I love how you found a way to work your own skydiving experience into a story. Also, thanks for the shout out on TS. I must tell you that your support and encouragement over the years really helped me keep going. xxoo

  5. It's been my pleasure, Jody, and I'm so thrilled for you! Bummed I'll miss your signing (although I'll raise a glass to you in Italy).