Play it Again, Tracy

High School teacher Tracy Krauss is also an author, artist, playwright and director. She and her husband reside in Tumbler Ridge, BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. Her first two books, And the Beat Goes On and My Mother the Man-Eater, were both nominated for the ‘Indie Excellence Book Awards’ for religious fiction in 2011. Tracy also has one stage play in print.

Today, on the eve of the launch of her third novel, Play It Again, the much-anticipated prequel to her first book, she shares her wise words with YsWords.

Q. I see from your website that this is not your first novel. How long have you been writing?

A. I’ve been writing for more than 25 years, but I didn’t break into the published market until 2009. I guess it goes to show that patience and tenacity pay off in the end. To clarify a bit, I didn’t start submitting anything until about 2005 or so. Before that I was a ‘closet’ writer – happy to bang away at my computer completely lost in my own head.

Q. You describe your fiction as “edgy.” What do you mean by that?

A. I’m not sure who first coined the term ‘edgy’, but in my mind it means fiction that is willing to stray from what has been typically acceptable in the Christian marketplace. This could be anything from language to sexual content to violence. In my case, I feel as if my writing is fairly tame – perhaps a PG13 rating.  I do not write graphic or gratuitous scenes and although my characters do sometimes use what I would consider mild profanity, I don’t use the Lord’s name or the ‘F bomb’. Essentially, I try to write in an authentic and realistic way. My characters are not perfect – even if they are Christians – and this is the way I try to portray them – in a believable and realistic fashion. I’ve long been a fan of Christian writers who are willing to take risks in this regard. Francine Rivers, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker come to mind. ‘Edgy’ isn’t really new, but I think it is gaining acceptance as a viable way to get the gospel across to another segment of the population.

Q. Play It Again is a sequel to a previous release (and a sequel could hardly have a better title!).  Or I guess it’s a prequel. In either case, why did you choose to continue this line? Were you in love with the characters? Did your readers ask for it? Was it indigestion?

A. Your question made me smile. I actually wrote PLAY IT AGAIN first, before its sequel AND THE BEAT GOES ON. However, my publisher wanted to publish the second one first, so the decision was basically out of my hands. Maybe it’s a strange marketing ploy … In any case, I do love the characters in both books, but then again I usually love all my characters. (Even the nasty ones.)

Q. You describe your work as “inspirational” rather than Christian. Do you feel uncomfortable with the designation “Christian fiction,” or do your stories truly not fit that mold?

A. Labeling is such a tricky issue. My work is unabashedly written from a Christian worldview and all three of my published novels are redemptive in nature. However, perhaps because of some of the so called ‘edginess’, my work doesn’t fit neatly into the normal CBA marketplace. The ‘Christian’ label can be a bit of a misnomer for those expecting a squeaky clean bonnet style romance, and similarly, non-Christians tend to avoid anything that they think will be preachy.

Q. What do you hope readers will take away from this story? That is, since it’s inspirational, how do you hope to inspire them?

A. The crux of this story is that God doesn’t expect people to have it all together before they come to Him. He loves the world’s ‘screw ups’, so to speak, just as much as the righteous and religious. He accepts anybody.

Q. Who’s your favorite character in this book, and why? Is it acceptable for authors to pick favorites, or does that pit your characters against one another and cause friction within the family?

A. My favorite is probably Jack Burton, the female protag’s aging father who is also a crusty and well seasoned jazz musician. He actually does not even come to Christ in this book, but he is still a loveable and somewhat comic character. (We find out he gets saved in book two, though, so it’s okay …J )

Q. What does your story’s protagonist most fear? Does this reflect your own fears?

A. The male protag fears failure. He’s a control freak with tons of baggage. The female protag fears rejection, since she’s been hurt before. Naturally, they both have to come face to face with their fears. I’m probably more afraid of rejection than failure, but I’m pretty laid back, though.

Q. How has your protagonist grown by the story’s end? Or would that be a spoiler? If you don’t want to tell us, make up another question. Go ahead, ask yourself anything, we can take it.

A.Let’s just say they both learn to let go as they surrender to God’s plan for their lives.

Q. What are your thoughts on the subject of self-publishing vs. the traditional route? Try to limit your answer to 50,000 words.

A. I think there is room for everyone. Things are changing so fast in the publishing industry that I think anyone would be foolish to take hard and fast sides. There is some quality writing out there that probably never would have made it past an agent’s desk.  Lots of agents and publishing houses are even beginning to recognize this and ‘self publishing’ doesn’t have quite the same stigma it once did. (Although I would say it still has a stigma to some degree in certain circles …) However, the thing that is most problematic about self-publishing, from a reader’s perspective anyway, is that there is also a lot of really poorly written stuff out there, too, and it’s hard to weed through it.  That’s one thing that the ‘old’ system had going for it. At least there was some form of quality control.

Q. What have you found to be the most effective way to spend your marketing/publicity hour /dollar? Have you tried anything that seemed to be a waste?

A. Oh dear. I’m still working through all the options, that’s for sure. I would say anything that sounds too good probably is.  (Especially if it costs money. J) While I spend a lot of time on the internet blogging and going to various social media sites, good old direct sales still seem to be an effective way to sell books. I’m talking about book signings, library visits, readings, going directly to book stores etc.

Q. If someone you’d just met said, “You’re a writer? That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to write a book. Is it hard?” what would you tell her?

A. Believe it or not, I have had more than one person say this to me. I usually just smile and say something simple like, “Oh, it’s a lot to work,” and then move on. People like that really have no clue as to what’s involved. Those that are really serious about writing already know how much work it is because they are probably writing already. Most writer’s that I know are compelled to write, they don’t just decide to do it one day. Writing is something that is inside of you. A passion. A drive. It’s something that you can’t NOT do. At least that is my experience. If this is the case then I’m usually happy to engage in a real conversation about it.

Q. What question were you hoping I’d ask but I didn’t? If I’d asked it, what would be the answer?

A. You covered it all. This was a fun interview and you asked some different questions from the standard fare, which was refreshing. Thanks. 

And thank you, Tracy. Best wishes on your book launch!

For more information about Tracy and her books, check out her blog, Expression Express, where you can find book excerpts, original art, and more.

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