Friday, November 2, 2012

Interview with Tracie Banister

Today I'm thrilled to host the lovely Tracie Banister - a true Southern Belle with equal dedication to her creative and philanthropic interests.  When she's not tending to her special needs rescue dogs or supporting diabetes research, Tracie's building engaging worlds and developing sassy characters.  She's earned rave reviews for her books BLAME IT ON THE FAME and IN NEED OF THERAPY - both "great chick-lit reads" are heralded as compelling tales of characters that are relatable and lovable, with stories so riveting readers can't put them down.  And both books have just been released in paperback!  I'm honored to have Tracie here today, and I'm so pleased she agreed to answer a few questions for me.  Read on to discover what makes her tick, and find out how you can get your hands on one of her fantastic novels!

Welcome Tracie.  Will you tell us a bit about yourself?

Like my favorite fictional heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, I am a Southern belle who lives on the outskirts of Atlanta. I'm addicted to television (I watch everything from Disney shows to Top Chef and think the DVR is the best invention since the wheel.), crossword puzzles (I do 3-5 a day and like to time myself.), and salt and vinegar potato chips (My one junk food weakness.) Animal rights (I have three rescue dogs, two with special needs.) and finding a cure for diabetes (I've been a Type 1 diabetic for over 25 years.) are my two passions. I love theater and try to get to New York to see several Broadway shows every year. And, of course, I am a rabid reader who enjoys a wide variety of genres, everything from Historical Romance to Steampunk.

What drew you to writing?

I believe it was my love of books and reading that made me want to become a writer. I always revered the written word. When I was a kid, I had a word-a-day calendar, enjoyed flipping through the big dictionary my grandmother had sitting on a stand in her living room, and couldn't wait to enter every spelling bee at school!

Will you share a bit about your creative process?

I'm both a plotter and a pantser. I would sooner walk into traffic than write an outline; I loathe the things. However, I have been known to use dry erase boards and copious amounts of neon-colored post-its to help me figure out the chronology of a book and how different plots/characters intersect. I always know the beginning and ending of my books and I write very detailed character bios before I ever start work on a book. Then, I set the characters down on the page and let them play. They're very good at leading me where they need to go and I find that my stories unfold in a much more organic way when I use this method rather than plotting out every little detail in advance. I always say that the best bits in all of my books are the surprises, not the things I planned.

What inspires you?

I get ideas everywhere – from friends, family, the internet, TV, magazines. I never know what will provide a springboard for my imagination. There is a little bit of me and my life experiences in every story I write – these can show up in character quirks (like a heroine loving to do crossword puzzles), or places I’ve visited, or relationship dynamics.

How did you develop Blame It on the Fame?

I've always loved the movies and reading about the lives of celebrities, so writing a book about the five women vying for the Best Actress Oscar seemed like a natural for me.  Once I'd decided to set my novel in salacious, scandal-ridden Hollywood, I had to commit to being honest about the kinds of things that go on behind-the-scenes in that industry and in my characterizations of the female leads. These women are not saints; they use colorful language, they engage in steamy sex, they stab each other in the back (as do all of the people they work with), but they also have their deep-seated issues and vulnerabilities. One of my favorite reviews for Blame It on the Fame came from a woman who had worked in the movie business for years. She said that my book and the characters in it were very "realistic," which made my day!

What about In Need of Therapy - how did that story come to you?

As for In Need of Therapy, one day my mother off-handedly said, "You should write a funny book about a female psychologist," and a light bulb went off over my head. It just seemed like such a great idea that was rife with possibilities (What does a psychologist really think when she's listening to her patients' problems? How does her shrink persona translate to her personal life? Is there a downside to being caring and empathetic?) I've always been a bit of an armchair psychologist myself as I took some Psych courses in school and I love to analyze people and give them advice, so I relished the opportunity to write for a heroine who did that for a living.

Blame It on the Fame dives into the backstage drama of Hollywood awards season.  Have you ever had a brush with a celebrity?  

I met quite a few celebrities back in the '90s as the company I worked for attended a convention for the television industry in Vegas every year. I was supposed to be working the booth, but I snuck off quite a bit to stand in line to have my photo (Polaroids!) taken with various actors/actresses. Off the top of my head, I can remember meeting Jane Seymour, Joe Lando, Fran Drescher, Lorenzo Lamas, the cast of Party of Five, Robert Urich, William Shatner (Captain Kirk!), and Chuck Norris. Oh, and I ate dinner in a restaurant in Vegas sitting at a table right next to Shaun Cassidy, which was a big thrill for me because I had a crush on him when I was very young.

Which celebrity would you most want to meet?

If I could meet any celebrity now, I'd probably choose Kenneth Branagh. 

Ooh.  I just adore him.
He's one of my favorite actors, and I think he's incredibly talented, plus he seems very nice and funny in interviews. I think we could have a wonderful chat! I'd love to pick his brain about some of my favorite Shakespeare plays.

Do you have any projects in the works?

My next project is a still-untitled Chick Lit novel about two sisters who are polar opposites and live in San Francisco. I can't say anything more without getting spoilery, but I can promise plenty of comedy, romance, cute guys, and even cuter dogs.

I am, also, hoping to write a Regency Era series that will have the same comedic and romantic elements that my modern-day novels do. I've already got several chapters of the first book in the series under my belt and I look forward to moving forward with it as soon as I'm done with my San Francisco story!

Thanks for joining me Tracie - and congratulations on the paperback release of your novels! 

Thanks so much for having me on your site today, ST! If your readers would like to take a fun, romantic trip to the sunny beaches of Miami this fall, I invite them to pick up a copy of my novel, In Need of Therapy. Or if they prefer something a bit spicier à la the works of Candace Bushnell or Gigi Levangie Grazer, I suggest they give Blame It on the Fame a try. Both novels are now available in e-book and paperback.

In Need of Therapy:
Lending a sympathetic ear and dispensing sage words of advice is all part of the job for psychologist Pilar Alvarez, and she’s everything a good therapist should be: warm, compassionate, supportive. She listens, she cares, and she has all the answers, but how’s the woman everyone turns to in their hour of need supposed to cope when her own life starts to fall apart?

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart. 

In Need of Therapy is available in e-book and for the first time in paperback at Amazon , Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble

Also from Tracie Banister:

Blame It on the Fame: 
A power-trippin' bitch, a has-been, a skanky ex-model, a press-shy indie queen, and a British stage actress no one knows - this is how the Best Actress hopefuls in this year's too-close-to-call Oscar race cattily describe each other. Which of them will win the much-coveted gold statue and what price will they be forced to pay as they travel the red carpeted-path to Hollywood glory?

Amidst all the press-schmoozing and angsting over which designer gown to wear, these Oscar contenders feud, commiserate, and face a succession of personal crises – scandalous secrets come to light, marriages implode, accidents land two nominees in the hospital while another receives news that could derail her career, all culminating on Tinsel Town’s biggest night when anything can happen, and does.

You can find Blame It on the Fame in e-book and its newly released paperback format at Amazon and Amazon UK .

To get to know more about Tracie, stop by her blog, Books By Banister or visit her on Twitter or Facebook .

And be sure to pick up In Need of Therapy and Blame It on the Fame, available in e-book and now for the first time in paperback!

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