Author Interview: Tracy Cross
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
I used to take ballet classes. I started when I was about six and went until I was seventeen. The pivotal classes began when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen. The first class would be on flats and the second classes were on pointe. Those classes were two-three hours long and we had a break in between. I started writing little comics and shared them with the other girls. Then, I decided to write a book called, “The Secret Affair”. (It was during the entire “Dynasty Period” on television. I was inspired). I shared the chapters with the other ballerinas in between classes while we ate orange slices and raisins and they loved it. Thriving off their feedback about how good it was, I started writing from there.
2. What's your favourite book of all time?
I read a lot. I can’t really quantify one book as my favorite of all time, but I can say without a doubt, I do love Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. They wrote the really good episodes of the Twilight Zone. I was really into late 50’s, mid 60’s horror and fiction after I discovered Matheson (Outside of “I Am Legend”, I really like his short story “Born of Man and Woman”.) But, I also became super addicted to the graphic novels like, “Teen Titans” and Chris Claremont’s “Dark Phoenix Saga” which wins, hands down. I can always read “Phoenix” any time, any place.
3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read! I always am about reading different genres. Step outside yourself and try something new. I have read anything from Ken Follett to Stephen King to Mary Sheldon to Edgar Allan Poe. It helps to expand your mind and writing to see how each writer tackles some similar issues in different ways. Another piece of advice is to be observant. Listen to how people talk. Take public transportation and just listen. Listen to how men talk and how women talk. This will help improve when you write dialogue.
I’ve seen books where some men “imagine” how women speak or view themselves and it is atrocious. I have to say, I do write good dialogue but I also have ample enough opportunity to listen to adults, children and teens talk every day, all day.
4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author?
Edits. You write the first draft, which is usually a good idea but not super honed to perfection. Then, you give it to your group and then come the edits. However many people in your group means that’s how much you’ll edit. Just when you think you have a decent final copy (you never will), you send it off to be published and it comes back with more edits. I need another me to input all my edits because I write a lot and am a member of an outstanding critique group that gives me a lot of great edits. I do appreciate the edits because we are all about improving our craft, right?
5. What's your favourite movie?
Aliens hands down. Did you know that Bill Paxton improvised most of his lines? My family and I have the movie memorized, hands down. We even use lines from the movie to motivate each other or to joke about something. I remember when I got a new job and told my father. He didn’t congratulate me. He quotes “Aliens”- “Every meal a banquet, every paycheck a fortune! I love the Corps!” Yeah, we’re a fun lot.
6. What's better, dogs or cats?
Dogs forever. Cats are assholes. They will look at you and push stuff off the table or knock your stuff over. My sister has a cat that would wake me up whenever I slept over her house. It would stand up and pat me on the back. What a jerk! Then, it would look down at me and watch me sleep.
Dogs, on the other hand, are awesome. They are protectors and don’t do asshole things on purpose. Dogs are also big dorks and I love that about them. They also smile. I’ve had dogs my entire life. Trivia-my first dog was named “Boobs”. I don’t even know why my parents allowed it. Maybe because I was a cute little kid and didn’t know any better.
7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life?
With money not being an object, I would purchase a four unit apartment building and work with the genetically enhanced (learning disabled). I would live in one of the units and let them live in the other three units. This world is a hard enough place and I would want for them to acclimate to it in a way where they feel comfortable. We would also go on food tours around the world because-life! I am all about helping others because you never know when you will need help yourself.
I would also hire someone to input my edits. Oh, that would be a fun job because my writing usually looks like I’m half asleep.
8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write?
I draw from some personal experiences when I write. Recently, I’ve written several short stories. In one of them, I killed a specific person because they were getting on my nerves. I enjoyed killing them in the most brutal and gory manner ever. It helps me see my shrink a bit less.
I also draw on some of my experiences and think- “What would have happened if I…?” I change up some small details of my life and run with it. Most times, it’s fun because I think I’m less inhibited in my work than real life. Hard to say for a person whose motto is “I’ll try anything once.”
9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline?
You have to have strong characters and know them inside out so they can further your story line. You can have a great story line and weak ass characters-trust me, you won’t get far. I’m a huge advocate of planning, planning, planning. I use spreadsheets to “interview” my characters. If I’m going all out, I imagine what they would wear and maybe try to live their life for a day.
10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents?
Some people network or meet people like a friend of a friend to find agents. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones, if you are serious about it, you will go about it like you are looking for a job. Use spreadsheets etc. Find your favorite author and look to see who represents them and go for it. You only live once, why not? And once you get one, don’t think that’s it! I’m celebrating! You have to work as hard as your agent. They get 10% of your earnings, no matter what. Make it worth it for you and your agent.
Check out Tracy Cross' latest title, Arc City Stories by clicking here.