Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Author Interview: Tracey Garvis Graves

Today I'm delighted to welcome American author Tracey Garvis Gravis, whose debut book On the Island was an International bestseller, for a chat about her latest book Covet which has just been published as an eBook here in the UK and will be published as a paperback in April.   

When Daniel Rush falls for Claire Canton, there's only one slight problem: Claire's husband, Chris.

Claire, Chris and their two children are a picture-perfect family, and Claire is a devoted mother and wife. But she and Chris have been at a crossroads in their marriage ever since Chris lost his job. He's coped by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire, and she feels she has no one to talk to and nowhere to turn - until she meets Daniel.

For her, Daniel fills a void and provides almost everything that is missing in her life. Daniel, meanwhile, knows that Claire is married, and convinces himself that friendship is all he's interested in. And Chris? Chris is under too much pressure to even notice that his marriage is floundering.

As Claire and Daniel grow ever closer, and she and Chris drift further apart, Claire realises that she's going to have make a choice. But how do you choose when you want the best of both worlds - and can't bear to hurt either of the men in your life?

Your new book Covet explores the temptation of an emotional affair. What inspired you to write this story? Do you think many readers will identify with Claire and her situation?
My inspiration came from a real‐life event. In the fall of 2008, my husband was in danger of being laid off. He was a valued employee and had been with his company for over fifteen years, but the recession was in full‐swing and none of that mattered. I was a stay‐at‐home‐mom at the time so the threat of losing our only source of income weighed heavily on my husband and me. Fortunately, he did not lose his job, but we knew many couples who weren’t so lucky. Most of my books start out as a question, and Covet was no different. I wondered, “What if my husband had lost his job? What if he wasn’t able to find another one? What effect would that have had on an otherwise strong marriage? The answers to those questions became the basis for Covet’s storyline. I just had to know what the outcome would be. Men tend to internalize their feelings and withdraw when they’re under pressure. As much as Claire loved her husband and wanted to be supportive, she was extremely vulnerable to an emotional affair because her needs weren’t being met at home. I think there are many, many women walking in Claire’s shoes right now.

The chapters alternate between the points of view of the three protagonists: Claire, her husband Chris, and police officer Daniel. Was it difficult to switch back and forth? How did you get in character?
I knew my characters’ motivations so I tried to really focus on how each character would react in the situations I put them in. The challenge was to portray their actions realistically, even when they did things I didn’t agree with personally. I think writers are naturally very observant, so getting into the character’s heads was based on paying attention to what was going on around me, in real‐life situations I’d either witnessed first‐hand, or heard about from someone else.

Did you do any research for Covet?
Yes, but nothing as extensive as the research I had to do when I wrote On the Island. Because I live in the Midwest I’m fairly familiar with Kansas City. And I live in a suburban neighborhood so the setting was a place I knew very well. I interviewed a police officer so I’d have a good idea of his daily routine. I also learned everything I could about type 1 diabetes, including sitting down with a gal who used an insulin pump to manage her diabetes.

What would you like for readers to take away from Covet?
I hope that they find the story relatable. I also hope they find the story realistic and hopeful, with a thoughtful cast of characters who are doing their best considering the situations they find themselves in. I think Covet will inspire lively book club discussions based on readers’ personal experiences.

You’ve had an amazing journey from self-published author to bestselling Penguin novelist. What surprised you the most about the process? What did you learn during the process that helped guide your writing of Covet?
The thing I’ve learned the most since I’ve begun writing is to trust the actual process of writing. When I started writing Covet the manuscript was a mess, with false starts and deleted scenes and plot points I wasn’t sure how to handle. I’d been through this stage before with On the Island, but for some reason it really had an unsettling effect on me the second time around. A writer friend of mine had once said, “The only way to get through the early stage of writing a book is to trust the process. The rest will come.” She was right and I had to remind myself of that. And if something I’m writing isn’t working, no matter how much I try to figure it out on my own, I now have a trusted editor who will listen and offer advice and feedback along the way. That’s a great feeling.

What was that first moment that you realized you wanted to become a writer?
When I was almost done revising On the Island I knew I never wanted to stop writing. Watching a horrible, messy first draft turn into an actual manuscript was the most fulfilling creative experience I'd ever had. There is simply nothing like watching a pile of words turn into a story, and I knew I wanted to do it again and again and again.

Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
During the school year I like to get my kids on the bus and my husband out the door before I settle down to write. Ideally a workout would come first, followed by a quick shower and my comfiest writing clothes (yoga pants and a T‐shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather). I check Facebook and e‐mail one last time and then I write until the kids get home from school. But more times than I care to admit I skip the workout and I’m still in my pajamas when the kids walk in the door. I’ve learned not to mess with a good thing when the words are flowing.

What authors, books, or ideas have influenced you most?
Jennifer Weiner is an author whose work I greatly admire. I remember reading Good in Bed and connecting instantly with the book because it put such a fresh spin on women’s fiction. I buy every book she writes. I also love Kristin Hannah, Emily Giffin, Allison Winn Scotch, and Jane Green. As far as ideas go, I’m definitely influenced by my love of romantic women’s fiction. I love combining romance and women’s fiction because at the end of the heroine’s journey, I want to see her get the happy ending she deserves.

What’s your next writing project?
My next book is only in the research and development stage, but it’s probably my most ambitious writing project so far. It’s a fast‐paced, plot‐driven story with an element of mystery. The heroine has a three‐year‐old son from a previous marriage so there’s a “Jerry McGuire” feel to it that I especially love. I'm really excited about it.

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves (Penguin eBook £7.99, 17th September 2013 and PB coming 24th April 2014)

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