Today we’re joined in the first of a new interview series with award-winning author, Tracy Hewitt Meyer! My challenge to you: as you’re reading these interviews, I want you to find at least one take-away that will help you on your author journey and take note so you don’t forget. I’ll share some below and I invite you to do the same.
Tracy has always been an avid reader. She often reads more than one book at a time, and when she started writing, found it to be another great way to get lost (this time in imagination). She won 2014 RONE Winner for Young Adult and was a finalist in 2015’s RONE for General Young Adult. Currently she writes Young Adult and Adult Romance, and has just released her next book, The Reformation of Marli Meade:
Born and raised on an isolated Appalachian mountain, sixteen-year-old Marli Meade yearns to break free from her father’s puritanical church, but fears its cult-like clutches are so deep she may never escape.
When she meets local boy Nate Porter, though, she realizes the life she craves-to be a normal teenager-is worth fighting for, even with the grave and deadly risk that fight would entail.
As her two worlds collide, exposing buried church secrets more sinister than she imagined, and unknown facts about her mother’s death, Marli must decide if she has the courage to fight for her future or if time has run out on her chance to live.
Let’s jump into the interview!
Q1) Welcome to the site, Tracy. Tell us a little bit about you – what sort of things can you be found doing when you’re not writing and how did you become an author?
First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here today.
When I’m not writing, I work as an addictions counselor for women with children. It is hard, and rewarding, work! Other than that, I love to read and am deep into about four different books at any given time. I have one or two in my car, a kindle by my bed, one near the bathtub, and usually one more lying around the house. Hmmm…I see a pattern here!
Q2) When did your debut book get published and was it traditionally published or independently published? Tell us about it and what it was like for you as it happened.
My debut was a paranormal romance called Wren’s Fantasy and it was picked up by a small press and is no longer in circulation per my choice since I’ve started focusing more on YA. Then my Rowan Slone Series was self-published, and it was book #1 in that series—A Life, Redefined—that earned me the title of award-winning author. That award continues to be a highlight of my career!
Q3) You have just released your next book, The Reformation of Marli Meade. Let’s hear the story of your writing process for this story. When the idea came to you, how did you prepare/plan to write Marli’s story? Is there anything in particular you did with this story and if so why?
This novel was difficult to write because I made the colossal mistake of writing the entire first draft in third person. Why is this so bad? Because I’m a natural first-person writer and when I realized I couldn’t capture Marli’s voice in third, I changed the entire novel. That was a grueling process. But once I smoothed that out and was firmly in the voice, I was able to focus on making the story creepier and creepier.
Q4) The Reformation of Marli Meade is about Marli’s struggle to break away from her father’s puritanical church and to step into the life of a normal teenager. How did you develop Marli’s character? For example, did you decide on her internal and external conflicts and stakes before you started writing?
I don’t sit down and ponder too much before I start a new story. When an idea comes into my head, I’ll mull it over to see if it takes root, and if it does, I’ll start writing. No plotting. No planning. Maybe a few notes jotted down in my notebook. My first drafts are awful with a capitol ‘A’, but during that draft, internal and external conflict unfold naturally and then I build on them during revisions.
Q5) As you wrote the story, was there anything that surprised you?
That there were parts of the story I thought were really, really good! I think I’m a talented author, but I know there is so incredibly much still to learn, which is part of the reason I love novel-writing: I don’t think I’ll ever know enough or improve enough. So when I read something I’ve written and think to myself, ‘Hey, that’s not bad!’ it’s a surprising and amazing feeling.
Q6) We’re going to transition here into advice you would give to other creative writers that perhaps are independently publishing or working to grow awareness of their traditionally published books. Looking at The Reformation of Marli Meade in particular, what would you say are the core components of a successful book launch?
Getting the word out. Boom. That’s it. Ads, blog tours, reviews, engaging with readers, getting as many people as possible to jump on the release bandwagon. This isn’t something I’ve mastered and I try different things with different releases. If anyone finds that magic method, please let me know!
Q7) Did you have beta readers for The Reformation of Marli Meade? If yes, how did that come about?
I did. I have a wonderful support of writers and we swap works. I’ve used friends as beta readers and that is awesome, but they’re often too nice. So I steered toward my writer friends and they look at the work with a critical eye, which is imperative. I had two beta readers for Marli. Then I hired a copy editor to work on the details. Marli has passed by many eyes on her way to publication.
Q8) Did you have anyone else helping you with the launch of your book, such as an editor? What top tips would you give to another writer who wants to work with the same sort of professionals?
This is going to sound redundant because it’s the standard advice, but it’s so true. Bad cover art=poor sales. And it has to look good as a teeny tiny thumbnail. Then editing. I’ve read so many traditionally-published books that have errors, but I accept those if there aren’t many. I think it’s even more critical to have a highly-edited self-published book, because some readers, especially if they’re other writers, can expect poor quality because of a lack of editing in previous years. Now, though, self-published novels are professional and outstanding works of fiction. So, cover art and editing.
Q9) What are your plans to promote the story in the next few months? Have you tried any of these before and if so, what will you be doing differently and why?
Marli is on a review tour, and I’ve never done one of those. I’m anxious to start receiving reviews! Reviews are key for many different reasons—they can lead a reader to buy a book and they can get the book on those uber-popular discount sites if you do a promo in the future. If readers knew how important reviews are, I think they would review more. They’re vital to a book’s success! And all it takes is a starred review, or a quick blurb with the reader’s thoughts. A review doesn’t have to be an English term paper.
Q10) Has there ever been a time in your writing career, perhaps before the publication of your debut, where you failed at something or felt like you couldn’t do something? How did you overcome that?
I still feel like a failure at times and I’ve published five full-length novels and won a writing award. But when you put your heart into something so fiercely, it’s hard to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude at all times. When sales aren’t there or I receive a poor review or I get rejected by agent after agent after agent, I feel like a failure. And, honestly, I have thought with each book I’ve written that it’s my last one, that I just can’t do it anymore because it takes so much out of me emotionally. But then the next day I am right back in my office chair, fingers flying. When you love to do something truly and deeply, there simply is no stopping.
Q11) What’s your number one piece of advice for the writing stage?
Push the boundaries of your mind. There are millions of books out there now. How can you make yours unique?
Q12) What’s your number one piece of advice for the part that comes after a book, when you’re building awareness of your story?
Exposure. Promo can cost money but with so many books out there, you’ll likely have to pay for exposure and promotion, but it gets your book into the hands of readers and hopefully they review and share and the spider web weaves out from there. It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one knows about it, and it has become increasingly more difficult to get exposure—whether traditionally or self published. And it’s important to keep up with trying to get exposure. There is no stopping a month after release because the book will be swallowed up by the masses of other books and it’ll drown. Promo has to be ongoing.
Thank you again for having me today. It was a blast!!
To find out more about Tracy and the Reformation of Marl Meade
4 Key Take-aways:
- “I don’t sit down and ponder too much before I start a new story.” – Sometimes it’s best to just get started without too much delay. We often overthink things and that can stop us from reaching the success or achievements we’re aiming for. (Q4)
- “Getting the word out.” – Keeping things simple is often a key pathway to success. (Q6)
- “Bad cover art=poor sales.” – gone are the days when it was beyond an individual’s reach to afford a great artist or graphic designer. With 99Designs, Carbonmade and Deviantart around, it’s really easy to find someone great to bring onto your team.
- “I still feel like a failure at times and I’ve published five full-length novels and won a writing award.” – You can still feel like a failure whist being a success, so shrug it off and keep going! (Q10)