Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Interview with Tracie Banister

Today we're talking with author Tracie Banister about her novel IN NEED OF THERAPY.

Welcome, Tracie! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Like my favorite fictional heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, I am a Southern belle who lives on the outskirts of Atlanta. I'm addicted to television (I watch everything from Disney shows to Top Chef and think the DVR is the best invention since the wheel.), crossword puzzles (I do 3-5 a day and like to time myself.), and salt and vinegar potato chips (My one junk food weakness.) Animal rights (I have three rescue dogs, two with special needs.) and finding a cure for diabetes (I've been a Type 1 diabetic for over 25 years.) are my two passions. I love theater and try to get to New York to see several Broadway shows every year. And, of course, I am a rabid reader who enjoys a wide variety of genres, everything from Historical Romance to Steampunk.

How long have you been writing?

I've been writing since I was a child and have tried my hand at everything from plays to literary analyses to short stories and full-length novels.

Tell us about IN NEED OF THERAPY. What’s the story about?

I think my book blurb says it best:

Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be: warm, compassionate, supportive. She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

As so often happens with my books, the basic concept for In Need of Therapy came from an outside source (In this case, my mother!) One day, she said offhandedly, "You should write a funny book about a female psychologist," and a light bulb went off over my head. It just seemed like such a great idea since I've always been fascinated by psychology (I took several courses on the subject in school.) I decided to set the book in Miami and make the heroine a Latina, which opened up all kinds of wonderful possibilities with her having a large, crazy family that caused just as many problems as her patients did. Throw in several potential love interests, all with glaring flaws, and I had a really fun, multi-layered story to play with.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I've never been part of a formal critique group, but I and several of my author friends bounce ideas off each other and trade feedback. I mostly self-edit because I'm a pretty big control freak and I'm very meticulous about spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc., but I've learned the value of having someone else give my manuscript a final once-over before sending my work off to be formatted. When you've read a book twenty times, it's easy to miss a typo or two.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I'm a little bit of both, so I suppose that makes me a plotty pantser. :) I would sooner walk into traffic than write an outline; I loathe the things. However, I have been known to use dry erase boards and copious amounts of neon-colored post-its to help me figure out the chronology of a book and how different plots/characters intersect. I always know the beginning and ending of my books and I write very detailed character bios before I ever start work on a book. Then, I set the characters down on the page and let them play. They're very good at leading me where they need to go and I find that my stories unfold in a much more organic way when I use this method rather than plotting out every little detail in advance. I always say that the best bits in all of my books are the surprises, not the things I planned.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I get frustrated when I can't translate the scenes in my head on to paper as perfectly as I would like. That doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, I want to rip my hair out! In those situations, it's usually best if I just move on to another chapter and let the scene germinate in my subconscious a little longer. Eventually, my brain will work through whatever problem I'm having.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Pens, post-it notes, the internet so that I can quickly do research, a thesaurus, baby name books, and hand lotion. I know that that last one is a little odd, but I find the process of rubbing lotion into my hands to be very helpful when I'm pondering creative choices. Also, massaging my hands periodically throughout the day keeps my carpal tunnel from acting up.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Teleportation, because I love to visit new and exciting places, but I hate having to travel to them. How awesome would it be to wake up and say, "I'd like to have a croissant for breakfast," then blink, and you're sitting at a café on the banks of the Seine noshing on fresh, buttery bread.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

One of Pilar's patients in In Need of Therapy is a hypochondriac, so I googled some pretty strange diseases while I was writing that book. Stuff like Arachnoiditis, which is not the condition that afflicted Peter Parker in Spiderman, but an inflammation of the nerves surrounding the spinal cord, and Acromegaly, which is a growth hormone disorder.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: therapy, parakeet, and parachute.

Although Percy, the parakeet, had been through months of physical therapy for his broken wing, he still didn't trust that he could fly and insisted that a parachute be strapped to his back before he would attempt it.

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

relaxing on the couch, watching one of the many shows I've recorded on my DVR. It's all research for my writing, of course. ;)

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I have such a long list of people who've been instrumental in helping me to achieve my goal of becoming a published writer. First and foremost, my mother, who has always encouraged and believed in me. Plus, all of the friends and family members who have patiently listened to me yammer on and on about my work for the past 8 years. And finally, all of the wonderful authors, bloggers, and readers I've met online this past year who have been so generous with their advice, comments, and support. I could not have done any of this without them!

And finally, where can people find you and your book online?

I have a blog and I'm very active on Twitter and Facebook. If you love books, TV, dogs, or all of the above, please follow or Friend me! I always enjoy connecting with readers and other authors.

Barnes & Noble: 


Meredith Schorr said...

Very creative interview! I will have to try putting lotion on my hands to see if it feeds my creative juices too :)

Line said...

Teleportation, you say? Sign me up please!

How pitiful though that I just closed my eyes and expected to be transported to a Caribbean beach?!?! sadly, that didn't happen....*pout*

Natalie Aaron said...

Loved this interview! I might have a touch (a touch!) of hypochondria so I can relate to Pilar's patient (though I've never looked up Arachnoiditis!)

I'm starting "In Need of Therapy" this weekend - I can't wait!