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Tracey Bateman Interview

by April Gardner

"I've always been fascinated with the old south and the Civil War era. Just something about a whole race being enslaved is beyond me."
-- Tracey Bateman


Tracey is the youngest of seven children and has been married to Rusty for 18 years. She now has four kids of her own. She loves Sci-fi, Lifetime movies, and Days of Our Lives (this is out of a 21 year habit of watching, rather than enjoyment of current storylines). She attends an awesome church where the focus is on raising the standard and relevance without compromise.

April: You write in a wide variety of genres (suspense, historical, contemporary). Do you have a favorite?

Tracey: Whatever I'm writing at the time is usually my favorite. I will probably not write suspense anymore. It's just not my cup of tea. And as much as people seemed to enjoy the ones I wrote for Steeple Hill Suspense, I recognized that my mind doesn't plot those naturally. In other words they were HARD. I do have a short attention span, so spacing my books so that I write one historical then a chicklit is a nice change of pace and keeps me from getting burned out.

What inspired you to write about slavery?

I've always been fascinated with the old south and the civil war era. Just something about a whole race being enslaved is beyond me. Reading everything I can get my hands on and writing about it is a way to try to make sense of that time in our history, I think. I'm not ready to let it go.

In researching slavery, were there any eye-opening/little known facts you came across that you would be willing to share?

In my own family history one of my ancestors became ill and his father sent him to the slave quarters to be nursed so that he didn't pass his illness along to anyone in the family. He fell in love with the slave girl who nursed him. Eventually, the went to New Orleans and got married and moved to Mexico where I have family members today.

You are a former American Christian Fiction Writers President. What did you take away from that experience that you have been able to use to better your writing?

The organization in general is just amazing. I wasn't published when I joined in March of the first year, 1999 or 2000. Can't remember which. And within a year I got the call. I definitely learned to be a leader, to make concessions, to stand my ground when it mattered and to think about what other people are saying. As a writer, I think just being part of the group no matter where you serve is invaluable in learning industry news, critique groups, support in general. It's just a great place to go for writers of all levels.

You mentioned that part of the plot of Freedom of the Soul (Book #2 in the Penbrook Diaries series) is based on facts from you family history. Is any of Color of the Soul (Book #1) based on actual historical events?

Not really. I am rolling around an idea based on another family story. But can't really talk about it just yet.

The Color of the Soul by Tracey BatemanWriters are often creative in other ways. Are you? If so, in what way?

I sing and play the piano. I'm not so great in the art department. Wish I could draw, though. I'd love to paint something I could actually hang up and be admired for. My daughter is a great artist, but it must have skipped my generation.

What two things would your readers be surprised to know about you?

My mother is also a published author. Frances Devine. And I've lost over 100 lbs.

Is there a book three coming in the Penbrook Diaries series? If so, can you give us a sneak peek?

Unfortunately, no. I was sad to see the series end. We had originally planned for three books, but we felt that the series came to a natural conclusion with book two and didn't want to push beyond plausibility by forcing a third book with diaries and ancestors etc. I'm not finished with the subject of race, prejudice and slavery though. So keep watching because I eventually plan to write more of that topic.

Slavery can still be a delicate topic among Americans, especially in the South. How difficult was it to stay true to history and not offend?

Can I be real honest? I felt strong enough in the truth that I didn't worry about offending. Not with this subject. I would never intentionally want to be a stumbling block for any reader, but there is a real truth about our country and the issue of slavery and I just felt I had to tell the story the way I felt it should be told without holding back the realities. My publishers were gracious enough to stand with me on it. And I really appreciate them for that.Freedom of the Soul by Tracey Bateman

Who is your favorite character in the Penbrook Diaries series?

Probably Cat, the older woman in the first book. She's living a lie and has to learn to peel away the layers that separate her from the truth. Andy learns similar lessons and I brought him back in the second book because I felt his story wasn't completely told.

Tell us a little about Oregon Brides scheduled to release this year.

Oregon Brides is a compilation of three books in a series I wrote for Barbour's romance line Heartsong Presents. They were released to book club as individual books and then compiled into one book to release in the stores. Each book tells the story of a pioneer woman with hardships to overcome, love to find, and grace to restore. They are dear to my heart and I'm so happy Barbour decided to release them in this form.

They say that every good writer is also a good reader. Who do you enjoy reading?

Francine Rivers, Angie Hunt, Lisa Samson, Kristin Billerbeck, Jodi Picoult, Sophie Kinsella.

You’re standing in line at Starbucks, what will you order?

Chai Mocha latte. :) Skim milk but definitely whipped cream. I have issues if they leave off the whipped cream.

Oregon Brides by Tracey BatemanWhat is your favorite snack while writing?

I had gastric bypass, so I don't snack a lot, but if I get hungry I usually grab some Dorritos or a bite or two of whatever we had for supper.

God has blessed you tremendously in your writing career (sale of 30 books in six years). It is thrilling to hear you give God all the glory for your success. Is there any one huge event or blessing that stands out in your mind that you can attribute to God and God alone?

Getting Steve Laube as my agent. I had waited until I had over 15 books sold before seriously thinking about an agent and had been approached by more than one who suggested they would represent me well. But I felt like the answer was no with each of those. Then I discovered Steve Laube had left his publishing house and was going to be agenting for Literary Group. I remembered him from the first writers conference I ever attended prior to being published and had been so impressed with him at the time. So I sent a proposal and after about three months he accepted me and my career has mushroomed since. There are so may God incidents surrounding getting him as my agent that it's impossible to really do God justice. But he is truly in charge of my career, and I am blessed.

What bit of practical advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Walk out your career with purpose. Find out what's selling and write that. I checked out the Christian Writer's Market guide and figured out that Heartsong Presents was my best chance to get published because at the time they published 25% new authors. (Not sure if that still bears up). Those are pretty good odds when you consider they publish four books a month. So I read a lot of Heartsongs, reviewed for them, and God supernaturally allowed me to meet the acquisitions editor at the time, who just happened to be Tracie Peterson (that's another of those stories that could only be God) and she encouraged me to submit for the line. Eventually, I landed the idea that sold.

Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

Only that I appreciate everyone who reads my books. I never take that for granted and I'm so grateful that anyone would take time and money and invest in something I wrote. And dream big. God can work out a dream for anyone who will dream and work toward that dream. It's so great to be in His will for your life. God bless!

April GardnerApril W Gardner writes adult and middle grade historical fiction. Her first novel, Wounded Spirits, releases with Vintage Romance Publishing in November of this year. She is a member of ACFW and reviews for Title Trakk, At Home With Christian Fiction, and FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours. A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her darling Hubby. A homeschool mom, she fills her mornings talking fractions and phonics with her two sweet kiddos. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. Visit April's Website or her blog, A Writer's Journey. You can also get to know April on Facebook and Twitter.