Inside the Author’s Cranium: Tracy Clark

I’ve known Tracy for many years via SCBWI Nevada events. Besides being a charming person, she’s one talented author who  believes “teens deserve to know how much they matter and that regardless of what they’re going through, they aren’t alone.” She grew up in Southern California but calls Nevada her home now. She was the recipient of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Work in Progress Grant, as well as being a two-time participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. Bonus! Drop by on the blog and leave a comment for Tracy and you’ll be entered to win an e-book from her Light Key Trilogy, the title of your choice. Winner will be announced on my Linda Boyden Facebook page on October 28. And now here is Tracy in her own words.

1. What’s your favorite word? Imagine. I love this word, not only for what it means to me as a creative person, but for the ways you can use it to get out of a pickle, to think your way into new situations, or to achieve a goal. It all begins with imagining what’s possible.

2. What’s your least favorite word? “But” Especially when it’s used to negate what was said before it. “I love you, but…” “I’m not racist but…” “I don’t mean to sound rude, but…” Ick.

3. Describe your style of writing: I like to get to it right after I’ve exercised and the kids are off to school. I’m most productive in the mornings and when I’m under a tight deadline. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I revise as I go. Often, to prime the pump, I’ll read over what I wrote the next day, revise, and then move forward. Revisions are my favorite part of writing a book!

4. Describe your work ethic: I’m incredibly, obsessively driven. I have to guard that I’m achieving some kind of work/life balance on a regular basis because, if left to my own devices, I’d write and work on my books much more than is healthy.

5. What is your main writing fault/flaw? My biggest flaw is probably that I have trouble letting go in the drafting process and not censoring and questioning myself. I know I can go back and revise, so it should be easy to open the creative floodgates, right? But it’s not easy for me to let go of my fears and perfectionism and just “flow.” I wish I could.

6. Any tips on how to flesh out a character? I think it comes down to asking questions. What do they want? What internal flaw is a hindrance to getting it? What secrets are they keeping? How would they describe themselves? Is that different from how others describe them? I’ve never seen the value in knowing a character’s favorite food or color. Those questions aren’t going to help you flesh out a character. And yes, I’m this obnoxious at a dinner party. I can’t small talk. I don’t care about your favorite TV show. I want to know what you’re scared of.

7. Any tips on developing plot? I still feel like I struggle with plot—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I struggle with pacing. At least, I feel like I do. I’m one of those “character driven” writers. I think it comes from being a reader who only cares about the plot if I care about the characters. Note: this doesn’t mean I have to immediately like them. But I have to be intrigued by them, want to know more. Therefore, I tend to write that way. What I have learned about developing plot is:

1) Make sure every scene drives the plot forward.

2) Be very aware of every character’s motivations to avoid plot holes. Think out each character as if they were your main character. Once you see the story from everyone’s viewpoint, it gives you a better “big picture” of your plot overall.

3) Thematically, is there a touchstone that keeps you grounded in your ultimate goal? It’s easy to go off on tangents. Remind yourself of the end game.

8. Who are your favorite prose authors? I have different author crushes for different skills. It’s like friendships: one friend is a great listener, one is game for your antics, one calls you on your B.S. I love Laini Taylor for her inventive language. She finds very unique ways of saying things. Heather Petty is superb at crackling dialogue. She writes the kind of conversations you want to eavesdrop on just to hide your smile behind your hands. I think Anne Blankman, Elizabeth Wein, and Markus Zusak are superb historical authors that immerse you fully in another time. Stephen Chbosky hits me in the heart with his truths. JK Rowling is excellent on so many levels that I can’t fit her in a box. So many… I could go on and on.

9. Who are your favorite poets? Mary Oliver, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, E.E. Cummings, Christopher Poindexter… I love poetry that’s not too existential, that’s accessible and immediate.

10. What intrigues you? I’m intrigued by layers; in people, in books, in cakes! Ha.

11. What annoys you? Judgmental people deeply, passionately annoy me. We are all flawed. We are all beautiful messes. To judge another, especially when you’re on the periphery of their life, is the ultimate arrogance.

12. What profession other than writing would you like to learn? I’m a wannabe psychologist.

13. What natural talents have you been gifted with? The “girl” in me who’s been trained by society never to toot my own horn has trouble answering. But I’m going to pull up my big girl Wonder Woman Underoos and say that while I’m not traditionally highly educated, I’m gifted with keen observation and natural high intellect. Those two things combined have helped me with my other talent, writing. I’m not good at anything else except loving people and having an eye for knowing a great recipe at a glance. I’m the ultimate menu planner.

14. What is your favorite writing motto/mantra? “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” I don’t want to regret not taking chances in life or writing because I was afraid. Some of the best experiences have come from leaping despite fear. Isn’t that what bravery is? Mark Twain said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” I’ve been afraid for one reason or another in my writing many times. (I’ve written eight books after all!) There is a BIG thing in ILLUMINATE that I knew I had to do, but people’s possible reaction to it is somewhat scary. I did it anyway. With my upcoming thriller, MIRAGE, I took a few chances in my writing in that book, and even the plot was not something I was sure I could pull off. I did it anyway. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

To learn more about Tracy and her books, visit

The Light Key Trilogy: SCINTILLATE, DEVIATE, & ILLUMINATE is a paranormal series hailed as a “lush metaphysical mystery.” “Passion and power are the driving forces behind this series that continues to deliver.” Kirkus Review.

Her YA thriller, MIRAGE, comes out July of 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.



About Linda Boyden

Teacher. Author. Artist. Storyteller. Poet. I write a poem a day. A picture book each month. I write novels for kids. I color in and out of the lines. I help young children love words and stories. I believe laughter comes straight from the Creator who put us on this fine Earth so we can help one another do our best.

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2 responses to “Inside the Author’s Cranium: Tracy Clark”

  1. Brittney Joy says:

    Great interview! I checked out Tracy’s website and “The Light Key Trilogy” sounds fantastic!

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