Today we welcome author Traci Bonney. We’re talking about her writing process and her two published novels, Chantal’s Call and Brigitte’s Battle, Books 1 and 2 in The Women of Atherton series.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Mississippi girl with the heart of a nomad and the soul of a child who refuses to grow up. I love hula hoops, shiny things I can snap up for a good price at yard sales, and pretty things I can point my camera at in celebration of God’s creativity.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I hoop, make jewelry, crochet, stalk yard sales in good weather, and think about what I’m writing. I’m also a fan of a few TV shows, Castle and NCIS in particular.
Do you have a day job as well?
That’s up in the air at the moment. Have any leads for me?
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started at the age of 7 with poems. From there, I began writing short stories, often in response to school assignments. My first completed book, Chantal’s Call, was finished in August of 2010 but didn’t see publication until March of 2012 when I took the self publishing plunge.
How did you choose to write contemporary Christian fiction?
I didn’t. It chose me. When I started writing longer stories, I was into science fiction and fantasy, but everything I tried to create sounded like fan fiction based on what I’d been reading. When the idea for Chantal’s Call came to me, it was a contemporary story. Turns out I’m not bad at it. As for the Christian part, I’m writing from my worldview and belief system. I believe God called me to write, so it’s only fitting that my firstfruits honor Him.
Where do you get your ideas?
Mostly from observations and “what if” type questions. The first book in my current series evolved from a couple of ideas:
- The church folks I know are Bible literate, but when it comes to cults and other world religions, they aren’t as well versed. What would happen if someone came into a town of such people and started a cult, calling it a new work of the Lord? Would anyone recognize it for what it was, and how many people would get sucked into it before it was exposed?
- What would happen to a dead body if you put it in a kudzu patch?
What is kudzu?
Good question! Commonly known in my part of the world as “the vine that ate the South”, it’s a fast growing plant that can generate up to 18 inches of new growth in the summer. It was imported from Japan early in the 20th century as a means of erosion control and a resource for feeding cattle. Problem is, cows don’t like it, but it loves the temperate climate of the southern U.S. So, it took over.
People do all sorts of things with it, including making jelly from its flowers, frying and eating the leaves, and using it in soaps, artisan paper and other fiber items. Its abundant supply in the part of Mississippi where Chantal’s Call is set makes it an ideal resource for artistic expression, and its rapid and invasive growth makes it a great place to dump a body.
Do you often think about great places to dump bodies?
(Laughs) No. I needed a dramatic way to start Chantal’s Call. A corpse in the kudzu fit the bill and allowed me to introduce Chantal and her cousin Sue, the kudzu artist, in a memorable way.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My biggest challenge was overcoming my own prejudices and fears. I thought I needed an agent and publishing house to validate my work. After talking with other self published writers, I decided to cut out the middlemen. If I didn’t believe enough in my work to offer it directly to the public, why should I expect an agent or publishing house to take an interest in me?
If you had to do it all over, would you change any aspect of writing or publishing your novel?
No. It has been a valuable learning time, and I’ve created an excellent online support network in the process. If I’d gone the traditional publishing route, my first book would still be waiting for someone to like it enough to publish. Instead, I have two novels in the online marketplace, nine more in various stages of pre-publication, and plans to release a novella, some poetry chapbooks and a non-fiction book.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Facebook has been my best friend. My personal account, author page and interactions with FB friends have been my main online marketing tools. I’ve also marketed directly to family, friends and the local community through personal interactions and local newspapers (via press releases).
I’m considering joining the Twittersphere too, but not until after Christmas. I want to focus on Twitter after the holiday hoopla is settled and the decorations are back in the attic.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There are bits of me scattered throughout Chantal’s Call in the characters and the way they interact, but Brigitte’s Battle draws directly from my personal experience. Of the two books, it is the more true to my life in terms of a particular secret Chantal shares with Brigitte. How she ended up in the situation was different from my life, but the outcome was the same for both of us.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
That’s a tough question. There were parts of both stories I had to push myself to put into words because they were so personal. Other parts, mostly the ones where humor broke the tension or kept the romance from getting too intense too fast, were almost a relief to write.
In Chantal’s Call, I enjoyed researching and writing the section regarding the Fall Festival. In Brigitte’s Battle, there are a few scenes that made me laugh as they went from brain to fingers to computer. Not to post any spoilers, but three of my favorite scenes involve crayons, a busybody getting her comeuppance, and hula hoops.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to or a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Yes there is. One day while I was playing Freecell on my computer and thinking about the camping trip I was incorporating into Brigitte’s Battle, Krystal the red-haired hooper introduced herself by telling the story of her name. She also said she’d be at the campground the Athertons were going to, hooping at the gazebo there around sunrise if Chantal and Brigitte wanted to meet someone new.
She was such a memorable character with a couple of my beta readers that she made an appearance in my yet-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. I plan to give her a book of her own and possible cameos in my other novels.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Criticism: An author whose opinion I value said some of my descriptions of character actions slowed the flow of the story for her. However, other readers liked those very passages. The fact is, reading is a highly subjective experience. What one person doesn’t like, another will. We have to write with our own voice and style, and trust that readers will either like it or get used to our quirks.
Compliment: People telling me I couldn’t wait until next March to release Brigitte’s Battle, as originally planned. Any time readers clamor for the new book, that’s an excellent thing.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thanks for the support, encouragement and requests for the next book. If it weren’t for y’all, I wouldn’t have the courage to share my writing with the public.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Stop talking about it. Write. Publish. But before you do, edit, edit, edit your writing. Especially if you self publish. The public expects our books to be more polished and error free than traditionally published novels. So give them what they expect – your best work.
If editing isn’t your strong suit, get help with it. Join writing groups online and locally if possible. Ask for feedback, and use it. Don’t let ego or fear keep you from sharing your words with the world.
You mentioned your current series. How many books are in it, and when can we expect them?
There are four books. Chantal’s Call was released in March 2012, and Brigitte’s Battle launched November 20 in e-book format and November 27 in print format. Helene’s Hope is next; I plan to release it in March 2013. The final book, Sue’s Salvation, is tentatively set for release in November 2013.
Where can readers purchase your books?
The links are available through my blog Tracings on the Books page: http://tracibonney.com/books.
Sample downloads for both Chantal’s Call and Brigitte’s Battle are available via the books’ links on my Smashwords profile page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TraciB