Friday, 8 April 2016

Interview with Tracy M. Joyce

The fifth author to sit in my hot seat today is Tracy M. Joyce. Tracy is an Australian author of speculative fiction. Her debut novel, Altaica: Book I in The Chronicles of Altaica, is published by Odyssey Books. Tracy has long been a fan of the fantasy genre, but particularly likes novels that deal with deep characterisations and that don’t flinch from the gritty realities of life. This and her fascination with the notions of moral greyness, that good people can do bad things and that we cannot escape our past provide the inspiration for her writing. Combine that with her love of history, horses and archery and you have Altaica.

Hello, Tracy, and welcome to Just Books.
I'd like to begin by asking you when you first realized you wanted to be a writer...?
At the age of 12 I declared I wanted to be a writer. I was told I needed a real job.

...And what motivates you to write?
I enjoy writing and it is the same escape for me that it was when I was a child, but more than that I love it when my fans enjoy my stories. To know that I wrote something that made people happy and created a world that they could escape into – that’s the biggest motivation of all.

Where did the idea for Altaica come from?
It sounds clichéd but Altaica began with a dream. I dreamt one scene from what will be book four. That scene wouldn’t leave me. I felt compelled to write it down and within days an outline for most of book four emerged. I then said to myself, “Well this is just the middle of something. How do they (the characters) get here.” From that and a lot of hard work, came Altaica and Asena Blessed. History, myth, hobbies and names and their meanings all provide inspiration.

Please give us some insight into your characters and their personalities, and how you relate to them.
Well, I can tell you that I didn’t write any of them with the intention of having them be like me in anyway. However ALL my friends will tell you that Asha and Isaura ARE me! I believe it’s their feistiness and blunt manner, rather than any other character trait. I relate to Isaura and Asha the most. They are strong independent women who don’t need a man to validate their existence, while they both have potential love interests, this is not their reason for being, nor is romance the driving force of this story. Both women say and do a lot which I approve of, although Isaura would have to be my favourite. Isaura has had a tough life, yet she doesn’t let this affect her compassion. She is faced with heinous choices and rises to the challenge they present when others will not. I think each of our characters will be influenced in some way by people we’ve encountered or heard about. Further to that, several of my characters are composites of people I know – fortunately the real people haven’t figured out which ones.

Please describe your favourite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favourite?
I have two favourite scenes, one is the last scene of Altaica and Asena Blessed, so I’m not going to give them away and the other is the entrance of Asha into the city of Faros in Altaica. I loved it because I envisaged a massive walled city surrounded by a sprawling spider web of slums and poorer merchant districts. It was easy to visualise and write and allowed me to detail the fortress construction. The whole scene conveys the social structure within this clan really well, and weaves in backstory involving the religious order (Kenati) and the current Clan Lord as well as illustrating the clan’s social decline. It also introduced my arch villain, whom I loved writing.

"Excellent cover art is essential in selling your book."

Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
In Altaica the death of a child, proved to be a really difficult scene. Handled incorrectly it could have been viewed as controversial, so I took a great deal of care with this particular passage. In Asena Blessed there are a large number of fight scenes and battles – the trick with these was to make each not only unique but to make them seem believable and authentic. It is always difficult to balance poetic licence and truth.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are incredibly important to me in my books. I almost always choose names based upon their meanings first and then think about how the name sounds – but the meaning is paramount. I use the Oxford Dictionary of Names as it is comprehensive and has an appendix that breaks names down by country.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
Isaura’s appearance, although a little younger, is loosely based upon Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her role in The Last Legion. I’d never thought too much about the others, but Naveen Andrews, as seen in Lost would suit the role of Karan.

Tell us about your cover, the designer and the importance of cover art to you.
My cover art was designed by Karri Klawiter ( I’d hunted around for a designer whose work I liked and kept coming back to hers. I sent Karri a description of the wolves (Asena) and a bit about the main character and she did the rest. She’s a genius, nothing is too much trouble for her and she is easy to liaise with. If you look at her website you’ll also see that she’s very versatile and each of the covers is unique. Excellent cover art is essential in selling your book. Your cover is the first thing people see and it MUST make them want to pick up the book and turn it over and read the back. To do this it must touch upon key images that convey your story and / or hit upon genre themes. Everyone judges a book by its cover.

Can you tell us anything about any of your current work(s)-in-progress?
Currently, I’m working on book three of The Chronicles of Altaica. In book one, Isaura and her friends flee their homeland of Arunabèjar to escape an invading army. Book two, Asena Blessed (release date - May 1), continues their struggles. Yet book three takes the readers back to the land they fled from and explores what has happened after the invasion. The protagonist in this novel is very different to Isaura, but proves that heroes come in all shape and sizes and there is more than one way to be heroic. Of course, this book ties into the final (maybe) two books which gathers all the arcs in together and finishes them.

It all sounds intriguing!
If you don't mind I'd like to discover a bit about the person behind the books. So please tell us...
Do you like to get up early or stay up late?
Early, I’m a morning person. Due to health issues I tire easily and late nights really “knock the stuffing” out of me and I take a while to recover. I’ve always got the most energy in the morning.

Who is your favourite actor of your own gender?
Kate Winslet. I loved pretty much everything she did in A Little Chaos.

Which country would you most like to visit?
Turkey. I’d like to visit the military museum in Istanbul.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To not procrastinate!

One last question before you leave us, if you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss the most and which three books would you take along?
I’d miss tea and chocolate and possibly good read wine. Although a good cup of tea makes up for a lot.
Wrigley by Rosemary Barnes
A Long Way From Verona by Jane Gardam
The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath (The Peculiar Adventures of John Lovehart Esq.#1) by Ishbelle Bee

Thank you for an interesting interview, Tracy. Enjoy the rest of the Brain to Books Cyber Convention.

Find Tracy here:

Buy Altaica here:

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