An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O’Hara. Twin Piques is her third Chick Lit release. The pet psychic character in this novel was inspired by Tracie’s rascally rescue dogs. She’d love to know what goes on in their heads!
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school – plays, essays, short stories, etc. Writing just came naturally, and I enjoyed sharing my work with others. I dreamed of one day publishing a novel, but I also had dreams of marrying a prince and starring on a soap opera. None of those dreams seemed very likely to happen, so I did what sensible people do when they grow up and got a real job (administrative work.) I took a stab at writing a Historical Romance in my early twenties just to see if I could do it, but got distracted by real life and never finished it. For the next decade or so, I kept my creative juices flowing by penning a lot of genre fan fiction that was well-received online.
My “Aha!” moment came when I lost my job as a personal assistant after 12 years. My friends and family encouraged me to follow my bliss and devote myself full-time to writing a novel. The thought of chasing a dream was pretty scary, and I honestly didn’t know if I had what it took to not only complete a novel, but submit it to agents and editors. Rather than spend the rest of my life wondering, “What if?” I decided to commit myself 100% to getting my work published. I’m happy to say that despite a lot of ups and downs, it’s been a really rewarding experience and I’m proud of myself for going after what I wanted.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? I am awakened every morning at 10:00 by my houseboy, Fernando, who brings me breakfast in bed (an egg white omelette w/spinach and cheese – very healthy.) I dictate a chapter or two of my latest novel to my personal assistant while getting my hair and make-up done (by professionals, of course). Then, I’m off to meetings with my “team” (publicist, manager, agent, fan club president, et al). In the afternoons, I do personal appearances, interviews, etc. Then, it’s back home to get ready for whatever movie premiere, club opening, or gala I’ve been invited to . . . Oh, wait, did you mean a day in my real life? Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as much fun as my fantasy life. In fact, it’s totally unglamorous. I’m chained to my desk for up to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week (this is why I have carpal tunnel and a twitchy eye!) My writing “uniform” is a t-shirt, sweats, and fuzzy slippers (I have them in 5 different colors – no lie!) The only breaks I take during the day are to exercise, do household chores, run errands, or play with my dogs. Other than that, it’s work, work, and more WORK, and I love it!
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block, but I’ve definitely experienced writer’s burn-out. I’m a perfectionist, and I can get very frustrated with myself when my stories don’t turn out the way I want them to. At times like these, I have to step away from the computer and recharge my batteries by hopping on the treadmill, going to a movie, or chatting with a friend.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? I’m both a plotter and a pantser. I would sooner walk into traffic than write an outline; I loathe the things. However, I have been known to use dry erase boards and copious amounts of neon-colored post-its to help me figure out the chronology of a book and how different plots/characters intersect. I always know the beginning and ending of my books and I write very detailed character bios before I ever start work on a story. Then, I set the characters down on the page and let them play. They’re very good at leading me where they need to go and I find that my stories unfold in a much more organic way when I use this method rather than plotting out every little detail in advance. I always say that the best bits in all of my books are the surprises, not the things I planned.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I was very fortunate in that I got offers of representation from two well-respected New York agents for my first novel. The agent I chose to go with was very high on my book and was sure she’d have no trouble finding a home for it. This was about 10 years ago when publishers had a glut of Chick Lit and were declaring the genre “dead,” so my agent had no luck with publishers. I went on to write two more books, both of which I queried agents and publishers about, and I got nothing but positive feedback, but nobody wanted anything to do with humorous fiction for women. I was actually told more than once that I was “wasting” my talent and should switch genres! Since I wasn’t interested in writing novels about teenagers or vampires, I decided to go the indie route with my books and I’m so glad I did! Now I’m getting my stories into readers’ hands and I love having control over all aspects of my work.
The publishing process for me was fairly straightforward. I did a ton of research, joined several online writers’ groups so that I could pick the brains of successful indie authors, and established a platform for myself on social media with a blog and Facebook/Twitter accounts. I also invested money in getting my cover art and formatting done by professionals, which paid off for me in spades. Readers tell me all the time that it was my fun, colorful cover art that first attracted them to my books.
My advice to aspiring authors is to keep writing and learning and growing. Challenge yourself with each new project (switch genres, create a character who’s outside your comfort zone, switch from third-person narrative to first-person, etc.) Connect with other authors, both aspiring and published – they will be your biggest cheerleaders. And most importantly, never stop believing in yourself!
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? Oh, gosh, it’s really impossible to pick just one. My writing career has been filled with lots of wonderful moments, all of which I cherish. It’s a memorable day any time I complete or release a book. And I always drop a note in my joy jar whenever I receive a particularly nice review or message from a reader.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. My most recent novel, Twin Piques, chronicles a critical few months in the lives of sisters Sloane and Willa Tobin. They’re identical twins, but polar opposites in every way. Sloane’s a hyper-intelligent, sharp-tongued forensic accountant who’s focused on getting a promotion at work while Willa is a sweet, kooky pet psychic who’s on a search for true love. How the two of them help (and sometimes hinder) each other from reaching their goals and finding happiness is the core of the story. There’s comedy, romance, cute guys, and even cuter dogs in Twin Piques!
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? I think women of any age can read and enjoy my books. I have some devoted male readers, as well, so I like to think that my stories/characters cross gender and generational lines. My books fall squarely in the Chick Lit/Romantic Comedy category.
9.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? A lot of my free time is spent with my three Cocker Spaniels (Victor, Hallie, and Reggie). I’m addicted to television (I watch everything from Disney Channel shows to Top Chef and think the DVR is the best invention since the wheel.) and crossword puzzles (I do 3-5 a day and like to time myself.) I love theater and try to get to New York to see several Broadway shows every year. And, of course, I am a rabid reader who enjoys a wide variety of genres, everything from Historical Romance to Young Adult.
10.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) As I said earlier, social media is really the best way to connect with potential readers, but you really need to engage with people there, post fun things related to your interests, and refrain from promoting yourself and your books 24/7 (That’s a huge turn-off!) Participate in group events (blog hops, Facebook parties, etc.) as often as you can so that you’re exposing yourself to the fanbases of other authors.
11.Tell us about the book cover/s, how the designing came about. I had a “vision” for the cover of Twin Piques the whole time I was writing it. So, I just had to find the right artist to bring it to life. I loved the cover art for my friend, Traci Andrighetti’s book, Limoncello Yellow, which was done by the super talented Lyndsey Lewellen. So, I contacted Lyndsey, and we were off to the races! She did a phenomenal job of coming up with a design that incorporated both my ideas and hers. I loved all her suggestions and was absolutely thrilled with the final product!
Fun fact: Lyndsey was pregnant with twins (and on bed rest) when she was creating the illustration of Sloane and Willa for the book’s cover, which was either an amazing coincidence or fate! Lyndsey’s twin boys, Digory and Emeth, were born shortly after the cover was completed.
Book Blurb (Twin Piques)
Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common.
How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. Although she’s been looking for “The One” for what feels like forever (A teenage marriage to a French mime and dating a guy named Spider seemed like good ideas at the time!), optimistic Willa refuses to give up on love. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head?
Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job, where she uses her gift for numbers to take down slimy embezzlers and asset-hiding spouses. When she’s assigned two high profile cases, Sloane feels confident the promotion she’s been angling for is within her grasp. But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore?
To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?
Purchase Twin Piques (Global Amazon link): myBook.to/TwinPiques