Creative Frontiers went over to meet Tracy Baines, one of the inaugural authors in our e-zine Six of the Best.
Tracy has a husband who also makes her laugh (see title above!), a son, daughter, stepson and three glorious grandchildren. She has just acquired a puppy named Harry (Springer Spaniel – mad like the rest of us). Tracy drinks enough tea to float the Royal Navy and has a fail proof method for getting the covers on duvets. Her short stories have appeared in mainstream magazines in UK, Australia, South Africa, ROI and Scandinavia.
CF: What subjects or genres do you like to read?
TB: I like to read anything and everything. It would seem a poor life if one couldn’t read. I’m the proverbial sauce bottle reader: I need to know where it’s made, what’s in it. So I suppose I love to read to learn and I think you can do that from fiction as well as fact. I love a good uplifting tale, well told.
CF: Who are your favourite writers?
TB: Niall Williams for his lyrical description. Margaret Graham for her sense of story, place and character. Anna Quindlen for her plots. Susan Hill and Beryl Bainbridge for their brevity.
CF: What subjects or genres do you like to write?
TB: I suppose I write about family, because that’s what I know and enjoy writing about. The struggles, the hardships, the everyday problems we may encounter, how we deal with them, how we get through them.
CF: How did you know you wanted to write?
TB: My grandmother used to tell me the stories of her family. The men were all at sea on trawlers that sailed from Grimsby. Life was very hard, the men away at sea for long periods and the women running families by themselves. She didn’t want the stories to be lost and I said I would write about them. Although I wrote notes and did a lot of research I never had the confidence to tackle a novel. That and John Boy Walton really!
CF: How did you get the confidence to start writing?
TB: It took years – and a row with my husband. You know, the ‘I’ll show you’ argument.
CF: If you can remember the day you went from non-writer to writer, how did that feel?
TB: That took years as well. I went to a writing class for a long time. I had sold more than 30 short stories before I felt I could call myself a writer.
CF: Do you find novels or short stories easier to write?
TB: Although I’ve written a novel I haven’t yet published it. I think whatever you do most of is the easiest. I think that’s the same for most things. The more you do it the easier it gets (allegedly).
CF: How (and where) do writing ideas come to you?
TB: Everywhere, something I see or hear when I am out and about. Sometimes I read an article and that triggers a story as well. I start thinking ‘What if?’ or ‘What would I do in that situation?’
CF: What writing methods and discipline do you practise?
TB: I try and write every day even if it’s only Morning Pages of letting my thoughts dribble on the page. If I keep writing coming back to short stories is a lot easier as my writing muscle is still getting exercise. I write mostly in my office but I also work on ideas and take notes anywhere I think of them. I always have a notebook by the bed and one in my bag for jotting down ideas or lines of dialogue. I can’t always read the ones in the book by my bed as I’m usually writing the notes in the dark but I mostly get the gist of what I mean. I transfer ideas into separate notebooks for short stories, articles and keep a notebook or box for larger works in progress.
CF: How much do you edit and polish?
TB: Lots and lots. I always find this the most satisfying part of writing. Really shaping the sentences, deleting whole paragraphs and scenes that don’t add anything is strangely satisfying. I suppose that’s because the struggle of trying to find the story is over and I enjoy discovering the deeper meaning of what I am trying to say.
CF: Which do you find easier: constructing characters or building a plot?
TB: That’s an easy one to answer. Characters. Why? Because I like to get to know what makes people tick. I think in another life I’d like to have been a psychologist, but I’m too impatient.
CF: What’s the hardest thing about writing for you?
TB: Getting started. Once I’m writing I’m away and lose all sense of time, but I can procrastinate to Olympic medal standard.
CF: What do you most enjoy about writing?
TB: Connecting with other people. Sharing things.
CF: Do you fall into writing ‘dumps’ and, if so, how do you get out of them?
TB: Write something different. I put what I’m working on to one side and either get out of the house and do something not connected with writing at all, or I work on some other piece of writing. So if I’m writing a short story I might switch to working on a blog post or article.
CF: If you’ve suffered rejection, what works for you in dealing with it?
TB: If? I don’t believe there is a writer that hasn’t suffered rejection. When I first started writing I took all rejections as a personal slight – ‘I’ was a failure. I learned that you have to keep it separate from yourself or your self-esteem hits rock bottom. It’s still hard when you get work back but if you’re not sending things out you’re not trying hard enough. Success is all the sweeter for having rejections.
CF: What are you working on at the moment?
TB: A book about eating disorders from a parent’s perspective and the effect on the whole family. It was the book I needed to read when I found out my daughter was ill. I hope it will help other people in the same position.
CF: What further ambitions do you have for your writing?
TB: I want to keep discovering new horizons, a fresh way to see the world and share it with readers.