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SCOTT TRACEY INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY OF WITCH EYES
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Today I’m excited to talk with Scott Tracey about his debut book WITCH EYES. I met Scott at Maggie Stiefvater’s book signing in Novi this summer.
I found the whole idea of witch eyes as the magical system very unique. And Scott did a really good job developing all of Braden’s relationships, not only between Trey and him, but also with the other characters.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.
After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.
To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he love
Here’s Scott’s bio on his website which I found interesting.
Scott Tracey lived on a Greyhound for a month, wrote his illustrated autobiography at the age of six, and barely survived Catholic school.
His career highlights include nearly being shot by the police after accidentally setting off a panic button, and sending the health department after his place of business. His gifts can be used for good or evil, but rather than picking a side, he strives for BOTH (in alternating capacity) for his own amusement.
Welcome Scott. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me!
1. Okay, even though I want to know about your whole bio, please tell us about your experiences on the greyhound bus and nearly getting shot by the police. Also, how did you become a writer?
The Greyhound thing is a fun story. Greyhound had (or maybe they still do, I'm not sure) these month long bus packages. You can travel anywhere you want for a month, on any Greyhound line, as many times as you want. Some stuff happened, and I ended up traveling all over the place at random one summer. I went from Ohio to Colorado to Washington to Texas to New York, and basically just saw a bunch of sights and did my thing.
Getting shot. Twice a year at the job I was working at, we had a big inspection. So the night before, we were always there until 4 or 5 in the morning making the place sparkle. Someone scrubbed down the alarm system on the wall, accidentally setting off the panic button. The police showed up, asked the manager to lead us all outside. Only the manager went out last, instead of first, and since we didn't follow the police's directions, one of the officers snapped at me (who was the first out the door), that he'd almost shot me through the window.
I've always wanted to be a writer. When I was four or five, I thought you had to be a reporter, because I didn't understand that you COULD write books. I thought all the books had already been written. But I always hesitated at writing a novel in the past, because I felt like I wasn't ready yet. So I waited, and I waited, and one day about 4 or 5 years ago I finally challenged myself to see if I could write an entire novel. And that's how I got my start. ;)
2. Wow! You’ve definitely had some interesting experiences. The witch eyes and the ideas that the magic comes from Braden’s eyes and that he has to wear sunglasses are very unique. Tell us how you developed that.
I was working a lot of night shifts, at the time I was set to start the book that became WITCH EYES, and every day when I left my apartment building, I'd get blinded by the setting sun. That led me to start thinking about people who were allergic to sunlight, and what their lives were like, and from there, I started wondering: if you were allergic to sunlight, and there was a supernatural cause, what would it be? How would that work? From that, I came to the idea of the witch eyes, and just how powerful and devastating they were in equal measure.
The idea of balance was really important to me, right from the start. I wanted the power of the witch eyes to be as damaging as it was helpful. So it makes Braden more powerful in his magic (which has its own negative side), but it's also killing him. Every time he uses his power, he knows his body's going to suffer.
And then there's the visions themselves. What the witch eyes do is show Braden how the world actually looks, rather than the way most people see it. Everything leaves a record, an impression, or a vibe, and Braden sees all of those things at once. The prose for the visions, which is a kind of stream of consciousness, was something that came naturally. I wanted the visions to stand out, to be something different and not totally understandable and it just kind of struck me that it would almost just be this mashup of words, images and descriptions.
3. That’s so interesting how one experience from your own life resulted in a book and a unique magical power. I loved Braden’s relationship with Trey. But I’ve read that you felt it was important not to have that love story be the primary focus of the story. Tell us a bit about their relationship and why you decided not to focus on that?
I always wanted there to be a romantic element in WITCH EYES, but for me, the real story was always Braden's journey and the intrigue of Belle Dam. Braden and Trey are just one element in a very complicated world. Between Braden's gifts, the feud, the history and secrets of Belle Dam, hellhounds, the fact that there's this connection between the two characters is one of the most normal things about the story. At least, that was my goal.
There's two main things I had to keep in mind. The first was the timeframe. The entire book covers a period of about a week or so. There's not a lot of time for things to develop, and not a lot of time for people to grow significantly. The second was that there's obviously a romantic element to the story, but as it stands in the first book, Braden and Trey don't have this perfect, love will triumph over all relationship. I mean, there's a reason why the book ends the way it does. Both of them have their faults, and just because they have a connection doesn't mean that their relationship will go smoothly.
It was important for me that Braden not be defined by his sexuality, and if the book was all about how important it was for him to find (or keep) a boyfriend, it would lessen the kind of story that I was trying to tell (which was: he's gay, but who cares about that, because there's this feud...)
4. You did a really good job balancing that and focusing on what was important to your story. I really was drawn into Braden’s friendships with Jade and Riley and the whole triangle there with Braden in the middle. Tell us about those dynamics.
I always knew that Braden was going to find a confidante in Trey's sister. Jade was the first character, outside of Braden and the adults, that I really had a solid plan for. But Riley was a surprise to me. I started writing one of the scenes where Braden first comes to school, and suddenly I'm writing about this super excitable, nosy girl who has no tact and wears too much plastic jewelry. It came out of nowhere, and suddenly Riley was a part of the book.
It just came around naturally that Jade and Riley were polar opposites. It made a lot of sense, with this feud that's defining the town, that Braden would continually find himself trapped between both sides. So Riley leaning towards Team Thorpe was kind of perfect.
One of the things that I tried to be really conscious of was how the characters had all related pre-Braden. There's a natural bit of tug-of-war when Braden first gets to town, and a familiarity between Riley and Jade that implies that their history is complicated.
5. You gave some awesome advice on not using stereotypes in LGBT stories that is so useful and that I think applies to a lot of writing, like about minorities for example. Guys, you can listen to the whole vlog here. Can you share some of your tips?
I think all of my advice really boils down to one specific point: treat all your characters like they're three dimensional people. Gay characters are more than just the sum of their sexuality - there are a hundred different types of gay people. Everyone has some complexity to them, just because it isn't apparent at first doesn't mean it's not there. Adding a stereotype character into your manuscript doesn't make it edgy, or make it stand out. The characters who stand out are the ones who are dynamic, and fascinating in some manner.
6. I so agree. And your advice applies to writing about any minority or kids whose families are not formed from traditional avenues, like adopted kids. I read that it took a year and a half to sell WITCH EYES. What was the process like and what decisions did you have to make along the way?
Being on sub off and on for 18 months was hard, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world. I tried really hard NOT to think about it as much as I could. But you always worry - especially when a rejection comes in. 18 months sounds like a lot, but half of that was broken up into different stages.
We did a few tiny rounds at first, testing the waters as it were, and then a round of revisions before the submissions went wide after 9 months. So there were a lot of stops and starts in the beginning. It's like waiting in line at the grocery store, and then someone cuts in front of you, or the cashier goes on break. Every adjustment to the process stresses you out, even if you don't want it to. ;)
There were a few times where editors came back with suggestions of things to change or adjust. One of those being if I would consider changing Braden into a girl. Or if I'd add a female co-narrator and make it a buddy comedy with a gay guy/straight girl and cut the romance angle. But the book, to me, was always about telling the story that I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it. It wouldn't have been as special to me if I straightwashed the characters and made it into something it wasn't.
7. You have such a good attitude toward the long wait. I love how you describe it like the line at the grocery story. How did Ginger Clark become your agent?
One of my good friends is Gretchen McNeil, who wrote POSSESS and is one of the YA Rebels. Ginger is her agent and Gretchen has ALWAYS sung her praises. So last year when I found myself needing to find a new agent, she was at the top of my list. I think she might even have been the first query I sent out, now that I think about it.
Anyway, Gretchen referred me, I queried like normal, Ginger requested the full of my new project, and a few months later we signed together.
8. I’ve seen tons of interviews that you’ve done around the debut of your book. What marketing did you do and how did you decide what marketing to focus on?
I'm a big advocate for only doing things that you're comfortable with. I like to blog, so I didn't mind doing a lot of guest posts and interviews (a LOT of guest posts and interviews). I'm not AS comfortable with vlogging, so I only did a couple of those (but it's still a nice change of pace). And then there were a few guest chats I ended up doing that turned out to be a lot of fun.
I tried to have fun with it. I did little things like made up a quiz for Facebook that people could take, to see if they were Team Lansing or Team Thorpe. I made a fan page for the Witch Eyes series on Facebook (and later an author page), and updated the book trailer that had been done originally back in 2009. I'm usually pretty talkative on Twitter, so I did some outreach there, too, but I tried to make it fun more than anything. It's hard, because you never want to be that person who ONLY talks about "my book is coming out, my book is coming out, hey have you heard? My book is coming out."
I really just tried to stick to the kinds of things that I was comfortable with. I also tried not to be too overwhelming with anything, so that six months from release I wasn't annoying people daily to buy my book.
9. That’s good advice to do what you’re comfortable with. I have to admit I’ve never done a vlog and would be nervous doing one. Glad I’m not alone. What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on the edits for book 2 in the series, DEMON EYES, which comes out next fall. And after that, I have a fun project I've been playing around with that I'd like to finish. It's a bit of new territory for me - writing in present tense for the first time, a female protagonist, a new setting.
Thanks Scott for all your great advice. Good luck with your book.
You can visit Scott at his blog, WITCH EYES Facebook page, and his author Facebook page.
Scott’s publisher generously offered a copy of WITCH EYES for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on December 10th. I’ll announce the winner on December 12th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. On Friday, I’m super excited to be participating in an awesome book lovers holiday giveaway blog hop. I have some fantastic offerings for you to say thanks for all the support you've given me this year. And hop around for other giveaways. Please stop by and enter the contest.
Then next Monday, I'll be interviewing debut author Karsten Knight and giving away a copy of WILDFIRE. On Wednesday next week, I'll be doing a special blog post so I can interview Shelli Johannes-Wells as part of her blog tour for UNTRACEABLE. I'll be giving away a copy of her book. Then the following Monday I'm interviewing Louise Caiola and giving away a copy of her debut book WISHLESS.
Hope to see you Friday!