Today I'm excited to welcome award-winning author Traci Slatton to the blog. Traci tells us about her latest book, her research and writing processes, and her new non-profit small press.
KB: What inspired you to write your latest book?
TS: My latest book Broken is a historical novel set in occupied Paris from 1939-1942. I spent a month in Paris in 2013, researching a different WWII novel, one set primarily in Germany. I had meant to use Paris as a base from which to travel into Germany, because I love Paris and can negotiate the language.
I found myself walking the streets of Paris when I should have been writing. For hours and hours every day, I wandered around Paris, starting from the Boulevard du Montparnasse and straying into every arrondissement. I got to know the city from the street level. Then I started taking the walking tours, and reading about the history of Paris. Somehow all those kilometers of walking inspired Broken.
KB: How did you come up with the title?
TS: The themes of Broken revolve around the power of love and the way that spirit informs everything. But often the way we learn about love and spirit is through anguish. The characters in this novel endure enormous stress, the stress of one of the cruelest, bloodiest wars in human history. Will they survive, or will they break under the pressure?
KB: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
TS: The hardest part of writing Broken was the research into World War II. This era in human history was full of suffering and loss, hate and oppression, unimaginable cruelty. I did a tremendous amount of research into the Second World War and it was difficult to read the recounting of what happened and to see the pictures that documented genocide and torture.
KB: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
TS: Sadly, what I have learned is that hate and prejudice spring eternal. After everything that happened in Europe in the decades leading up to WWII and through 1945, anti-Semitism is on the rise in France and other European countries. The Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn now occupies seats in the Greek parliament.
KB: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
TS: The belief in an external, hierarchical, patriarchal God is one of the greatest sources of evil in human civilization. It is my firm belief that God as love is internal, inclusive, merciful, and non-gendered.
KB: How much of the book is realistic?
TS: As I said before, I researched this era in Paris thoroughly. Many of the details are accurate, such as the way Parisians were always hungry during the occupation. Several documents said that Parisians ate only about 800 calories per day at this time. Also, over a million French men had been taken into compulsory work service in Germany, so the Resistance drew on women, high school students, and the elderly. At one point, Alia the protagonist, who is a fallen angel, is walking down the street wearing a jaunty red hat. There are references to those red hats as a kind of subtle rebellion; French fashion continued during occupation.
KB: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
TS: Not so much, since I wasn’t born during the Second World War. I talked to many, many people about what their parents and grandparents were doing during the war, so that informs my writing.
KB: What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
TS: Great question, and the answer is: Both! I start a novel with a rush of inspiration, swept along by the oceanic forces of creation. I have a few ideas about what I want to write, and I am smitten with my main characters. It’s usually thrilling.
And then a chapter or two in, my logical left brain grabs me by the elbow. “Excuse me,” it says, “where are we going with this great story?” At that point, I sit down and write a more thorough outline. I plot more carefully and think through different plot points in strategic ways.
As I continue writing, I go back and forth between the tide of inspiration and the rigor of structure.
KB: What were the challenges (research, literary, and logistical) in bringing this book to life?
TS: The biggest challenge was being culturally sensitive. I did not want to minimize the horrors of the time, or make the anti-Semitism seem fatuous and slight. There was real human suffering, and I wanted to honor what people had actually experienced as enemies of the Nazis.
KB: Give us an insight into your main character.
TS: Alia is a fallen angel. She suffered a loss and chose to become human. She’s tolerant, ethereal, and very, very sensual; her viewpoint is unorthodox because she began as one of the heavenly host. She starts out with one foot in heaven and one on Earth, but the balance shifts as she lives her life on Earth.
KB: If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about the sequels.
TS: No sequels planned, though one reader and blogger suggested one, so she could find out what happens to Suzanne, Josef, and Cécille.
KB: How long did it take you to write this book?
TS: About thirteen months, but I did write other books at the same time.
KB: Which actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your book?
TS: I’d love to see Alia played by Lizzy Caplan, the gorgeous actress from Showtime’s Masters of Sex.
KB: What are you working on now?
TS: Now I am working on the fourth book in my romantic dystopian After series. It’s tentatively titled Fire Storm or maybe Rage Point. I’m still working on the title.
KB: What book are you reading now?
TS: Right now I am reading Dr. Jane Ely’s book Remembering the Ancestral Soul: Soul Loss and Recovery.
KB: What books have most influenced your life?
TS: As a writer and a reader, I have always a novel called Whom the Gods Would Destroy by Richard Powell. It’s the story of a boy named Helios looking for his patrimony in ancient Troy. He meets all the great characters from the Iliad and the Odyssey: Priam, Hector, Andromache, Odysseus, Achilles, Paris, Helen. It’s a wonderful book, and I always related to the spirit of the quest in Helios’ soul.
KB: What books or authors have influenced your writing?
TS: I read very widely in both fiction and nonfiction. I admire the fiction of Greg Iles, Richard North Patterson, Daniel Silva, and Sue Grafton. Line for line, Grafton has some of best prose going.
KB: Do you have a writing mentor or role model?
TS: I have an archetype: Scheherazade, the Persian queen of unending stories. She was also extraordinarily well-read and widely educated.
KB: Are there any new authors that you’re fired up about?
TS: Actually, yes. My small independent press Parvati Press was recently recognized by the IRS as a 501(c )(3) not-for-profit corporation, which gives me the opportunity to expand the press and take on new authors. I’ll be starting with two authors whose work and whose voices I really love. I can’t say too much about them now, but I’ll be publicizing them more in the coming months.
KB: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
TS: Middles. Middles are hard for me. As I said earlier, I always start a novel with a burst of enthusiasm—I’m excited about the story. And then I get the same rush at the end, when I’m eager to bring the story home. But middles can be challenging for me, that’s where I rely on a good outline and my craft.
KB: Do you have any advice for other writers?
TS: Don’t give up, don’t ever give up! It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
KB: Do you ever experience writer's block?
TS: I don’t want to answer this question for fear of invoking dreaded WB! But I have written extensively about it in my book How To Write, Publish, And Market Your Book Yourself, Independently: A manual for the courageous and persistent.
KB: What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?
TS: I have to say I enjoy historical fiction, because I enjoy doing the research to make it real and believable.
KB: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
TS: I prefer print books, but I read a lot of ebooks.
KB: Do you have a special time and place to write?
TS: I have a small home office where it all happens—the despair, the ecstasy, the groans and grunts of wrestling with the white screen day after day.
KB: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
TS: I like to get 2-5 pages done when I have a block of at least two hours.
KB: What is the hardest thing about writing?
TS: Everything. Every page is agony.
KB: What is the easiest thing about writing?
TS: Nothing. Every page is agony.
KB: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
TS: It can take me anywhere from a nine months to three years to write a book.
KB: Where can we find you online?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Traci-L.-Slatton/e/B001JRTKYU
Traci’s Books on Amazon
Immortal, a historical novel, a rags-to-riches-to-burnt-at-the-stake story
Fallen, a dystopian romance, Book 1 of the After Series, “When the world ends, all that’s left is love”
Cold Light, Book 2 of the After Series, “In the end, love demands everything”
Far Shore, Book 3 of the After Series, “Love is Salvation”
The Botticelli Affair, an art history mystery vampire romp
The Love of My (Other) Life, a bittersweet sci fi rom com
The Art of Life, a photoessay on figurative sculpture through the ages
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