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Tracey Bateman Interview

by Kevin Lucia

"We need to hang onto the dreams of our heart and pursue the skills along with the Godly character to handle the success that comes with the fulfillment of dreams."
-- 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.

Kevin: Tracey, if you could for a moment, tell us about your journey to the world of “published author”. Was this something you always dreamed of doing, or a career path that developed along the way?

Tracey: I wanted to write as a kid. I don’t know how much of it was career oriented and how much was just for escape. We didn’t watch much TV or do video games. I wrote off and on and did well in English. Then when I was 25 I went to college and took a writing class. And I was hooked!!! I started researching the market and found critique groups and met Tracie Peterson who was acquiring for Heartsong Presents at the time and kept encouraging me to submit a proposal and I did. It was a God journey and I truly believe that He put her in my path.

I see you’ve been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association since its beginnings. How important do you think it is for novice writers to become involved in writers associations such as these?

VERY. I didn’t have ACFW the first few years of my journey. But I didn’t get published until about six months after the organization began. At this point I know for sure that many many of the published authors in the group wouldn’t be if they hadn’t had the encouragement and instruction of this organization. I also believe it’s important which group you join and for Christian fiction there is none better. It’s a changing organization and I miss the grass roots, family feel, but as it’s grown it’s becoming a wonderful phenomenon and I’m very proud to be part of it.

You have quite a body of work. How much time in a year do you spend writing? Has it been challenging juggling a family and writing career?

In the beginning it wasn’t as challenging because I was so driven. As I’ve settled in and become more mature and seasoned in the business I want more time off so all the deadlines are a challenge. My agent is awesome and has been encouraging me to find a home (in other words ONE publisher) and establish a mutually beneficial relationship including a (GULP) brand. And I think that’s the direction we’re trying to head—as God leads. If I have to, I’ll keep writing everything under the sun as long as it pays the bills. But in 2008, I feel God leading me beside some stiller (is that a word?) waters. My family needs more of me, present and accounted for. And I need to be accountable and loyal to one publisher instead of spreading myself so thin.

What’s a typical writing day like for you, as you’re working to meet a deadline?

It varies. Sometimes I sit with the laptop and coffee. Sometimes I need to move to the desktop for a change of pace. Sometimes I head to the coffee shop. All in all, whatever it takes to get it to my publisher. Writing on deadline is really hard when you’re a procrastinator with perfectionist tendencies. It means the ONLY way to meet deadlines is to put it off, adjust deadlines.

Defiant Heart by Tracey BatemanTell us a little about Defiant Heart.

Defiant Heart is the first book in the Westward Hearts series from Avon Inspire. It was released last July with a launch at CBA. It was an amazing experience. The three book series features women who are struggling to find their place in the world and overcome obstacles. Book one features Fannie Caldwell, escaping an abusive master. Book two which is being featured right now is Distant Heart. It continues the story of the pioneers and focuses on Toni Rodden, a former prostitute we met in book one.

Any future projects brewing?

Book three in the Westward Hearts series will release in August Dangerous Heart will feature Ginger, a woman with revenge on her mind. But she learns grace throughout the book. It’s my favorite of the three Westward Hearts.

Also in February the second book in my Drama Queens series will release and in August the final book will be out. You Had me at Goodbye and That’s (not exactly) Amore.

Networking sites like Myspace, Shoutlife, Shelfari, and Facebook are all the rage today, especially for those in the creative arts (writing, art, music, acting). As an author, do you think any of these networking sites make a difference in book marketing, or are they the latest “techno-fads”?

I’m actually JUST starting to participate in these things, so I’m not sure. I’m a little overwhelmed with it to be honest and trying to figure out the expectation. If you can shed some light for ME I’d appreciate it. :)

I see you have an anthology of short fiction. Being a fan of the short story myself, I would LOVE to see this genre explored a little more with anthologies and collections in the CBA market, especially by the bigger publishers. Do you think this could ever happen in the CBA?

Well, these are more novellas than “short stories” Novellas can be anywhere from 20,000 to 35,000 words. I actually do love a short story, though. I don’t think it’ll ever be a big enough ticket item for the CBA to really care about it. You Had Me At Goodbye by Tracey BatemanBut if there’s enough interest anything is possible. For awhile several publishers were doing novellas. Now it’s sort of waning. So we’ll see I guess.

Leaping off the last question, Stephen King recently wrote an article for The New York Times about the state of the American Short Story, and how it could be currently listed as “stable”, but not in great health. Any comments on that?

Wish I’d read it. Anything Stephen King has to say about the state of American literature in whatever form is probably a lot more wise than anything I could possibly have to say anyway. The man is an icon. Scary…but an icon all the same.

As a writer, I learned how to actually end stuff with short stories, and writing them has actually taught me a lot about narrative control and word economy. Are there any other things fledgling writers can learn from grappling with the short story?

Any time you can learn to be concise it’s a good thing. The last Lord of the Rings comes to mind…were there THREE endings?

Would you consider any authors – contemporaries or otherwise – as inspirations? If so, which would you say have influenced you the most?

Definitely Francine Rivers. And more her walk with Christ. Lately, Robin Lee Hatcher’s newsletters and emails to different writers loops have really been a source of spiritual inspiration to me. As a writer, I have been affected by many many writers, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Jodi Picoult to Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. I love a lot. I also LOVE Phillip Gulley and that Hometown series. I’m actually reading the Christmas one over right now.

Color of the Soul by Tracey BatemanChristian entertainment has changed much in the last few years; especially in the areas of music, fiction, and movies. What do you see in the future for Christian entertainment?

It’s going to continue to grow with the culture. My mom refused to allow me to listen to Petra when it first got big. Now my kids are listening to Christians screaming and somehow find it edifying. There will always be something for everyone and I think it’s important to be open-minded about styles while very narrow-road oriented when it comes to matters of doctrine and faith. Jesus and the Love of God are what sets us apart. The rest is about style as far as I’m concerned.

On an unrelated note, how do you feel about Amazon.com’s new wireless reading device? How do you feel about someone potentially downloading Distant Heart?

It doesn’t matter to me. God is in control of my career, my sales, and my reputation. I hope whatever is best for books in general and keeping Christian fiction in particular out there, is what thrives.

I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that he has an “inner circle” comprised of his wife and closest friends who read his work before any editors or publishers do, to give him an “everyman/woman’s” opinion. Who reads your work – if anyone – before a publisher and editor does?

I have a couple of crit partners and my mom. It’s always been a small group for me. I’ve sent in two books without a reader and had to rewrite both books totally, so that pretty much says it all. :)

Finally, if there was any advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Wow. I love and hate this question. My advice had varied over the years from: What God makes happen for one He’ll make happen for another, to: God is in control and you have to walk the path He chooses even if it means no publication. I feel like we need to hang onto the dreams of our heart and pursue the skills along with the Godly character to handle the success that comes with the fulfillment of dreams. So if you feel God calling you to write, study to show yourself approved unto Him a workman that need not be ashamed.

In doing so, seek His face and don’t let pressure keep you from what’s important. Other than that, only God truly knows what’s coming for you or for me. If I stop selling tomorrow, I’m exactly back at square one in this field. My walk with God and family are what matters, so keep the focus there. And that’s my advice. :)

Thanks for this opportunity. I’ve enjoyed it.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.