This morning, NSP has the pleasure of having Tracy S. Morris, author of the urban fantasy/mystery series,Tranquility, with us. Many thanks to her for taking the time to answer a few of our questions.
NSP: Tell us your latest news.
TM: My urban fantasy mystery series, Tranquility, has just been picked up in E-Format by Baen books. You can find the series for purchase at Baen by going to http://www.webscription.net/m-9-yard-dog-press.aspx
The books are available individually for $6.00 each or bundled with the Four Redheads of the Apocalypse series through January for $20.00
You can also find the Tranquility books at their print publisher, Yard Dog Press at http://www.yarddogpress.com
TM: I started writing when I was 12 years old. I was an avid reader since about five years old. My dad used to read books to put me to sleep.
One day he pointed to the page and asked me to read to him. It was slow going, but by the time I was eight, I was reading both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass on my own. I figured if I could read both books together, which were thicker than my forearm, I could read anything.
When I was twelve, I read a book called The Ordinary Princess. I liked the book, but I thought I could write something just as good. I assumed that writing was simply recording sessions of 'let's pretend.'
So I decided that if I could make a living doing that 'when I grew up' that it sounded much better than having to get some kind of boring job like becoming an accountant.
NSP: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
TM: In high school when I started to work for my school paper, I decided at that point I was a writer. It wasn't that having a paycheck, or a writing credit from a publisher that SFWA recognized was going to make me a writer. Being a writer was something I did and something I was. I think getting paid for it makes you a wordsmith.
NSP: What books have most influenced your life most?
TM: There are so many I could point to. In Journalism, All The President's Men by Woodward and Bernstein really got me excited about Journalism.
The Darkover Novels, which were really my first exposure to what feminism was back in the mid 80's.
(I was one of only two girls born into the fourth generation on a farm of 'strong women.' I never grew up with the idea that you couldn't do anything because you were a girl. You simply did the work that had to be done, regardless of your gender. Mostly because you were the only one around to do it. My aunt ran a tractor and bailed hay because she had to. My dad learned to brush my hair and make French Toast because there wasn't anyone else. A couple of years ago, I tried to pull a Christmas tree out of the attic. It fell two stories and broke every picture frame on the wall that it fell into. When my husband came running, he surveyed the damage and said: You know, you can ask for help. I was absolutely surprised at the concept.)
Other influences -- Terry Pratchett influences me in a huge way. I love comedy and I tend to write like what I want to read. I don't want to be a Pratchett clone (although there are many worse people to ape).
But I tried writing serious fiction, and it doesn't feel as natural to me as writing comedy. Reading Pratchett helped me to find my own voice.
NSP: What book are you reading now?
TM: The stack is a mile high. I just finished Dreadnought, which is the follow up to Cherie Priest's Steampunk novel Boneshaker. I came into liking Steampunk from liking history. The Civil War especially, because I had a great history teacher. I would have overlooked the book series if not for the history angle. Her history is good, and her 'what if' conjecture is nice.
Along the same lines, I also read Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Also good history woven into the fantasy. I honestly hope Steampunk as a writing genre doesn't fade anytime soon. I really love a well-told historical fantasy. And this is a nice departure from the medieval-esque fantasy novel.
NSP: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?TM: A lot of the 'new' author sensations are usually people who have been around for a while. Every one that I pick up is new to me. I like to read a lot of small press. Because it's very different from the mass market commercial novels that all read alike. I've just finished James K. Burke's novel Home is the Hunter from Yard Dog Press. He is definitely not a new author, but I haven't know about him nearly as long as Terry Pratchett.
NSP: What are your current projects?
TM: I just finished a first draft on a novel that I want to have published as a Mass Market project. The universe is based on a short story of mine entitled "Fish Story" that appeared in the Esther Freisner anthology Strip Mauled. It is an urban fantasy locked-room mystery.
The primary character is half Lois Lane, half Indiana Jones.
While that is in the editing stages, I'm beginning to work on the third novel in the Tranquility series. It's going to be a lot of fun.
David, the doctor from the first two novels is going to have to deal with seeing his ex-fiancee again. I'm playing with a little bit of unreliable narration in this one. In his imagination, she's like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. While to everyone else, she's like Reese Whitherspoon in Legally Blonde. When she vanishes, David isn't sure whether he is responsible or not, since he's been fantasizing about killing her from the moment that she shows up.
NSP: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
TM: I think you can probably look back on the when and how question for the answer to this.
NSP: Do you have any advice for other writers?
TM: I ask other writers this question a lot, since I run interviews with authors on Tuesdays on my own blog. Most writers seem to have the same answer. Since it's a good answer, I'll just parrot it here: Apply your rear to a chair and your fingers to the keyboard.
Seriously, almost all writers will sooner or later meet someone who will tell them "I have thought about writing." What that person is really saying is "I would be a writer, but there are so many other things that I make a priority over writing." Writers write. They go without things like television or sleep, or even a clean house in order to write. And it makes them happy to do so. If you can't say this about writing, maybe you should consider finding a different hobby. One that will give you this kind of burn.
NSP: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
TM: The town that I based the Tranquility series on is my home town. It's a nicer version of my home town. One that is seen through rose colored glasses, but it's still my home town. The druggist in the town is loosely based on my grandfather's best friend, who was a druggist in this town. He is probably the character in the book who is the most based on one person. Everyone else is changed slightly.
I've had a weird life. My parents got divorced when I was five. And I spent one week with each parent from the point when I was five through my senior year of high school. At that point, I got a license and a car, and simply chose to live at my mother's house because it was most convenient.
Books sort of became a place to go when I was bored. So if I went fishing with my dad, step-mother and aunt, I brought a book. If I was sitting with my dad while he worked on a car, there was a book. If I was in my room at my mother's house with nothing to do, I retreated into a book.
NSP: What genre are you most comfortable writing?
TM: I think I like fantasy and mystery because those are the types of books that I like to read the most. Some of the earliest books that I can remember devouring are the Nancy Drew books and the Pern series.
I never liked the teen angst books (they weren't called YA when I was a teen) because they were very much driven by existential dilemmas that I never had in my own experience as a teen. I didn't have to choose between two dates for the prom, I didn't have to worry that my best friend stole my diary and passed it around school. I thought most of the books of that stripe were silly. If I was going to read silly, I would take my brand of silly with dragons in it and the fate of the world at stake.
Urban fantasy has been fun to read and write because it combines that fantasy feel with the mystery genre. Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden solves mysteries just like Nero Wolfe, but he also interacts with fey, werewolves and vampires.
NSP: Are there other genres you would like to try?
TM: I have thought it might be fun to write straight mystery or historical novels, but any time I start something like that, I usually end up throwing in some fantastic, quirky elements.
NSP: What do you see as the influences on your writing?
TM: I think I've pretty well covered that at this point.
NSP: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
TM: Anymore, a computer is a must. You need it for everything from word processing to social networking.
NSP: How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
TM: It varies from plot to plot. For Tranquility, I outlined to help keep me on track. Bride of Tranquility and this new project were discovery writing type projects. But I already had a pretty good idea of where they were going.
NSP: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
TM: It varies. I try to write about 1,000 words of original fiction daily.
I like to write a first draft longhand, and then type it. I've found that I refine and add to the story as I type.
NSP: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
TM: Quirk is a good way to describe my writing. I like to write quirky, oddball characters with interesting tics. For example, the main character of this new project thinks of herself as being like some kind of weird offspring between the Clampetts (from The Beverly Hillbillies) and The Munsters.
NSP: Anything you would like to add?
TM: You can find me on the internet at http://www.tracysmorris.com
Again, thanks to Tracy. And be sure to check out her new e-book offerings, Tranquility and Bride of Tranquility.
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