Time for another brilliant Writers on Wednesday interview. This week, I am chatting with novelist Tracy M. Joyce, author of the wonderful The Chronicles of Altaica series ...
Tell us a bit about yourself …
I grew up on a farm in Glenburn, a small rural community in Victoria, Australia. I am the youngest of three children. Like all farm kids we worked hard, but had the kind of adventures you can only have if you grow up in the country. I suspect many of them make it into my writing. We lived in a rambling farmhouse with my grandparents as well as my parents and siblings. Both my grandparents were avid readers and encouraged this in me. Story telling seemed to follow naturally. Currently I live in Melbourne, with my husband, two cats and a very lazy greyhound.
Tell us about your most recently published book?
Altaica is epic fantasy, aimed at teens through to adults. I recommend approx. 15 yo and upwards because it does deal with some fairly dark moral issues. It is classed as a crossover novel – meaning it is not strictly YA or Adult. Romance does not drive the plot as it does in many YA novels.
Isaura, the main character of Altaica, is an independent young woman, born to refugees within a community that fears her kind, for they are rumoured to be magic users. Isaura has few friends, but is fiercely loyal to those she does have. She is often uncertain and has a lot to learn about herself and others. She has to make some horrendous moral choices, yet she still keeps trying to help her friends. One of my reviewers pointed out to me that she is a young woman who doesn’t need a man in her life to make her “complete”. I hadn’t thought about this, but it’s totally accurate. I like strong female protagonists – there will be no swooning in my books!
It is a rollicking good yarn that works from multiple points of view. I hope it shows the effects of very serious issues - war, loss, deprivation, racism etc. while still being the kind of story you can get lost in.
It is not a formulaic fantasy and as such has been attracting a following amongst readers who would not normally read the genre. Several readers have told me that it is a really good introduction to high fantasy.
Tell us about the first time you were published?
This is the first time I’ve been published. The e-book came out first and I “rushed” to websites to see it sitting in there for sale. It was the culmination of so much work and waiting to be published. It was a wonderful feeling to know it was out there. However, the real impact came when the paperback landed on my desk a month or so later. WOW! That was amazing! To actually have a copy of the “real thing” in my hands - I nearly cried! It made everything feel real. I’m so happy about it and grateful that my publisher had faith in me.
As writer, what has been your proudest achievement so far?
When you realise that less than 1% of manuscripts get published, to be published is a huge achievement. However, I think the thing that makes me proudest is when I hear from fans who have absolutely loved the book. Their comments and support make everything worthwhile. I write because I love it, but their responses – their excitement and joy – are the best reward possible and I’m so grateful for their support.
What books or writing projects are you currently working on, if anything?
I’m currently working on Asena Blessed which is the sequel to Altaica. It picks up immediately from the end of this book and finishes the main part of Isaura’s adventure.
There are plans for another duology in The Chronicles of Altaica, which takes place approx. 20years after the first one. However, there will be a standalone book in between these two sets which fills in some important details in the land Isaura came from.
Which do you prefer? eBooks or Paper Books? Why?
I love having paper books, purely for their looks and the sensation of holding them. However, for fiction I nowalmost always buy e-books. They are far more practical in terms of storage space and that is something I’m short of. If I see an absolutely beautiful book I will still buy it in paper form – I can’t help myself.
For non-fiction, or even fiction books I use in my English tutoring, I prefer to have a paper copy. It’s just easier for referencing and standard e-ink displays like I have don’t do justice to illustrations or diagrams.
Indie Publishing, or Traditional Publishing?
I’m going to split this up into self-publishing, small indie presses and traditional publishing, just to be clear.
There is still a stigma attached to self-publishing, although it is lessening, particularly as authors are striving to produce more professional products in terms of cover, content and editing. I will happily buy self-published books if I think the quality is there. Distribution channels for these are improving too.
Given the enormous difficulties in getting published we are seeing more and more self-published books and I support that where they are produced to a high standard. As the level of professionalism increases with them, then so will the sales, and it will / is becoming more the norm.
I think if you’re going to self-publish, then you absolutely must invest in producing a high quality product. If you think spending money on a professional cover designer and editor is something you don’t need, then think again. If you can’t afford this, then wait until you can because they are the most vital investment you can make in the future of your book.
When talking to book stores, the first thing they asked me was “Who publishes you?” Having a traditional publisher, even a small one, still gives your work more credibility, because clearly someone other than yourself has deemed it worthy of investing in.
Big publishers- Authors all aim for the big publishing firms as the pros are obvious – credibility, distribution, marketing.
Small independent publishers – don’t overlook them. Many small presses “punch well above their weight.” You still have the advantage of having a publisher’s imprint on your book! Personally, I think they are more willing to look at new authors. Talking to authors, I believe that more new authors are considering small independent presses and I think this is great thing, particularly for diversity in our market place.
So after all this which do I favour? It’s up to you, but whichever road you take you are going to have to be prepared to be hugely proactive in the promotion of your book.
Aside from your own books, of course, what is one book that you feel everybody should read?
Kinglake 350 by Andrew Hyland. It’s about Black Saturday. It looks at events that day, the science behind bushfires and deals with the victims stories. It is really well written. My parents survived Black Saturday, half our farm got burned, but we were lucky. I think this book should be on everyone’s reading list.
Also Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, because it is one of the best Australian books I have read in a long time. I laughed out loud at times with this book and at others I could have cried – it’s brilliant.
Finally … is there anything you would like to say to your readers in Adelaide, Australia?
Firstly I love hearing from my readers!
Secondly, I’ve got a really simple message for all readers and it’s this: The single biggest thing you can do for authors is to tell other readers about the books you have enjoyed. Spread the word – tell a friend, give it a star rating on Goodreads, like or share an author’s facebook page –whatever you want - just please pass on what you’ve liked. It’s a big old world and it’s easy for good books and new authors to get overlooked.
Also, if you see a book you like and it’s in a series, don’t think to yourself, “I’ll buy it when the next one is out.” If everyone thought like that sales for the first would be down and the publisher, big or small, might not produce the next.
Support Australian literature – Thanks!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTx_DsgbVx0&list=UUXJ3diE-dOL9TlDggPvtJYQ (TV interview with Behind the Words)