Tracey O’hara finaled in the paranormal category of the 2008 Golden Heart® contest with Night’s Cold Kiss, a dark Urban Fantasy. She went on to sell the manuscript to Morrow/Avon for their Eos Books line just three weeks after the Romance Writers of America® national conference in San Francisco.
Tracey has the distinction of being one of only two Australian Pixies (Helene Young is the other). Because of the time difference, Tracey was actually the first Pixie to receive her Golden Heart® finalist call. Cool, huh?
And speaking of calls, just wait until you hear where Tracey was when she received The Call from her agent. Talk about being in the write place at the right time.
I had the privilege of meeting Tracey at RWA® Nationals. She and I sat at the same table at the RITA and Golden Heart champagne reception where we received our certificates. She’s every bit as much fun in person as I’d found her to be online.
And now join me as our Aussie mate Tracey shares her journey to publication with all y’all (a favorite phrase she picked up from some of the Southern writers attending RWA Nationals).
G’day from down under everyone, and thanks so much for having me, Keli. I am ecstatic to be here as part of the 6-in-2 Pixie authors. I’m so very proud and thrilled to be in such great company as Susan S and Susan GH (of course she was going to win with initials like that), the fantastic Courtney with her five house auction, my fellow paranormal writer, Annette, and my same-day-sale sister, Kay. This is one of my favorite blog sites to visit, especially since there are so many of the Pixie chicks here.
•Tracey, you’ve had your share of contest finals and wins, having taken first four times, one of which was the 2007 Celtic Hearts Golden Claddagh that earned you a golden claddagh pin. One final, however, stands out. What was it like to hear the news that Night’s Cold Kiss was a finalist in the Golden Heart? Where were you when you got the call from RWA?
I LOVE my Golden Claddagh pin and wear it with great pride, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever won. However, I do seem to have great timing when it comes to getting news—well about my writing anyway. My “Call” and my GH finalist call have both been under great circumstances.
I live in Australia and, because of the time difference, hadn’t expected to hear anything until the following day. Still, my stomach was in knots. I just couldn’t concentrate on my day job and left work early that day. A few girls in my writing group had arranged to meet to see a late afternoon showing of the movie The Other Boleyn Girl so I headed off to the mall for something to eat before the show. One of my CPs, AJ, arrived early too, and we were sitting in the food court talking when my cell rang. AJ says she wished she’d had a camera to film my reaction. Apparently the blood completely drained form my face.
It was Sherry Davis—ringing all the way from the U.S. at midnight her time. She’d waited up especially to tell me that Night’s Cold Kiss had finalled so I wouldn’t have to wait another day. Lovely woman—I would’ve kissed her if she hadn’t been thousands of miles away.
Because I hadn’t expect to hear anything (if at all) for another 24 hours, I was so unprepared and just babbled incoherently. While I was on the phone a few more of my writing friends turned up to witness my embarrassing half-crying, half-laughing-hysterically conversation. I can tell you—I don’t remember much about the movie we went to see.
•So, you were a GH finalist. And thanks to the support of your family and friends in Australia, you were San Francisco bound. I understand this was your first time to travel overseas. What was it like to attend RWA Nationals and see the U.S. for the first time (or at least a portion of California, my home state)? What differences struck you the most? And how many compliments did you receive on your lovely way of speaking?
Yes—thanks to a small ACT arts grant, an RWA scholarship and my father—I was able to make it to San Francisco where I was able to meet up with all my fabulous Pixie Chick friends.
I loved it. What actually struck me most were not the differences but the sameness. But the strangest thing I think was seeing everyone driving on the wrong side of the road. It was a bit surreal coming from the airport—like the cars on the freeway were driving themselves.
But aside from that I found San Francisco a great place. Everyone was friendly and the city actually reminded me of our own Melbourne, though a bit more hilly.
As for RWA Nationals—WOW! The book signing really blew me away, all those authors in one place. I made sure I visited all the Aussies and found the great Australian delicacy—the Tim Tam—featured prominently on their tables. You guys don’t get Tim Tams I hear. Don’t tell anyone but I’m not a big fan but apparently they are awesome if you love chocolate.
I had an absolutely fantastic time meeting heaps of great new people—getting to talk and hug Pixie Chicks in the flesh. It went by in such a rush though—over so quickly. And yes—everyone kept telling me what a lovely accent I had, but I don’t have an accent—everyone else did.
One of the best things of the trip was I got to meet my fabulous agent, Jennifer Schober, and Karen Solem of Spencerhill Associates face to face. Plus there were so many girls from down under at Nationals—everywhere I turned there was someone I knew.
•You returned from RWA Nationals, just barely got over jet lag and jetted off to RWAustralia’s annual conference in Melbourne a mere two weeks later. While there you received some amazing news. It wasn’t “The Call” as most of us dream about. Instead you were at the conference surrounded by writer buds once again as you heard the awesome news that you’d sold. So cool! What happened and how did you react?
It was the absolute BEST place to get The Call (although I would have liked to have shared it with my husband first). I returned from the Harlequin dinner the previous night with a group of HM&B authors (I sold a couple of short stories to Harlequin mid June). And Robyn Grady generously bought some very nice champagne. Being the helpful person I am—a couple of other friends and I helped her drink it. I didn’t crawl into bed around 1:30 a.m. still sober but very tired.
When I woke later on that morning and checked my emails, I had several messages from my agent trying to contact me. She told me about the Harper Collins/Morrow/Avon deal, and I felt rather faint. I think I swore a few choice words and hugged my roomy and screamed a lot. Jo was a saint to put up with me. It was the first day of the conference—but I couldn’t tell anyone.
The Australian national conference is a lot smaller than the U.S. one and I know a lot of people there. It was the hardest thing ever being there and not being able to share my news with them. I couldn’t concentrate on the workshop with Margie Lawson or take in anything that was going on with the conference.
That night I got the go ahead from my agent that I could tell people and I did. It was soooo very cool. I got to collect my First Sale ribbon with the others girls. And I got to share it with the Go-go girls—Erica, AJ, Kirsty and Jo, my very talented CPs—and others writers from my local writing group.
•So, now you’re under contract with two more books due to follow Night’s Cold Kiss. You’ve entered the domain of those who live with the dreaded deadline. Since you work outside the home as well as write award-winning urban fantasy, how are you coping with the realities of life as a published author? Anything have to go by the wayside?
Two more books… Can you hear my knees knocking? I have a September 2009 release date for the first so it is full steam ahead at the moment on revisions. It is all very exciting to see it evolving under my editor’s guidance but scary that soon my baby will be out there for all the world to read if they want to.
But things have had to fall by the wayside too. I just changed jobs to one where I can work four days a week—which means a bit of a pay cut. I am also on the Romance Writers of Australia committee as the 2nd vice president and was supposed to take over the role of Web-mistress. When I sold, some very wise women told me I had learn one important thing—how to say “No”. And I have. As much as I was looking forward to taking over the Web development, I realized I just couldn’t do it all any more. There was another girl who would do a fantastic job, so after only a little deliberation, I passed the role onto her. I am so glad I did—because she is amazing.
Being an advanced unpublished contest winner you begin to feel like you might just know something—a big fish. But when you get dumped in the ocean you realize how small you pond really was. Totally clueless again.
•I enjoyed perusing your Web site and learning more about you and your writing. To my surprise you began by writing historicals. The first story was a challenge for you but the second “flowed like molasses on a hot day.” What was it that made the difference? Had you found your voice? And do you have any plans to pursue publication of your historicals?
The first story I tried to write was actually nonfiction about my family history. That is how I came into writing after all these years. I’m a failed creative hobbyist. I’ve tried wood turning, doll house making, war hammer painting and many other creative outlets and failed at all of them.
However, writing stuck and soon became my passion—my obsession really. I actually think I did find my voice with that historical, but I had no idea what I was doing craft wise. One day I would like to go back to my historicals, especially my Australian colonials. Besides, my family would disown me if I don’t finish that first historical one day.
•When did you make the shift from historicals to urban fantasy? What prompted it? And what do you most enjoy about writing in the sub-genre?
I joined RWAustralia to learn about writing and got this overwhelming idea for a paranormal. It has morphed from a paranormal romance into something a little darker over the last couple of years.
What I like about writing Urban Fantasy is that I can give my imagination full rein. I can create worlds and creatures that work the way I want them too. I can indulge my love of action/adventure with fantasy and horror. I have the freedom to write the stories I want to read.
•I think it’s cool that you’re a fantasy writer who was born in Tasmania. Many of us are familiar with the Tasmanian Devil, thanks to Looney Toons, but I didn’t realize Tasmania was part of Australia. (Geography class was many years ago.) Could you tell us a bit about the place and if you’ve seen a real Tasmanian Devil?
Tasmania is the island state of south of the continent and is often the butt of jokes here in Australia. It has an unfortunate feminine anatomical shape, which doesn’t help.
As for the Tassie devil—he is a cute looking little creature that is very aggressive and rather vicious—they have a tremendous bite power. See here for more info. I have in fact seen one in real life at a zoo. Not exactly a cuddly creature. These little guys are on the endangered species list.
•You live in Canberra now. What are some of the highlights of that part of the country every visitor ought to see and what are some of that state’s special customs or celebrations?
There are some really great places in Australia, and I have lived in just about every state or territory (we only have eight). Queensland is tropical and warm most the year ’round—and while I grew up there and most of my family still live there, I have not resided in Queensland for over 18 years.
But we also have snowfields and deserts, tropics and drought-dry outback. It is all so beautiful. Sydney is nice—but Melbourne is a really great place to visit. I love the atmosphere. Apparently our beaches are great—but I live inland now and am not a big fan of the surf.
I currently live in Canberra—it’s the Australian Capital Territory and is a government town. Politicians come here to attend parliament—most government federal departments have their national base here, so there are a lot of public servants. That is why I’m here as I am an Analyst Programmer in my day job and every department has Information Technology (IT) folks.
•With email these days, I’m sure it’s gotten easier for a writer in Australia to land an agent or get a contract with a publishing house in the U.S. How do you deal with the distance and time difference, though? And what do you have to be aware of when writing books for the North American market? I know we all speak English, but some words have different meanings. What other adjustments do you have to make? And, come to think of it, where do you set your stories?
Luckily I am a night owl so it is easy to stay up past midnight to chat with my agent if I have to—and I do sometimes. At others—when loops in the US are most active—I am either asleep or at work and sort of come in a bit late. But other than that, the Internet has made it much easier to connect with writers all over the world.
And, yes I do have to make some changes. I originally had my heroine carrying a torch instead of a flashlight. And they talk on a cell phone not a mobile phone like we use here down under. I’ll never forget when I first heard the American phrase “we’ll be rooting for you” I nearly choked. In Australia “rooting” has a much different and more intimate meaning.
But with books, TV, movies and the Internet it is easier to learn how to change my sayings. Actually I now have trouble writing in Australian English.
Currently my stories are set in the US, mainly New York. Again—thank goodness for the Internet. I can visit 5th Avenue or Central Park without getting off my backside. I would like to do some Australian settings sometime in the future, but we’ll see how I go.
•And now a question just for fun. As I was conducting my research in preparation for writing your interview questions, I discovered some other Tracey O’hara’s. I found a hockey player, a pole vaulter, a “football” player (we call it soccer here in the US—strange, I know) and a jockey. These are well known athletic endeavors, but since you write fantasy, I’d like to know what sport you’d create if given the chance. And would you be willing to participate in said sport?
Unfortunately sport and I are no longer on speaking terms. We had a falling out some years ago, and my many attempts at reconciliation have met with failure. So, if I were to invent a fantasy sport—how about a form of soccer on broomsticks? What? That’s already been done?
Well, like I said sport and I don’t speak. The best I can come up with might be extreme dragon riding or Pixie football. And no—I wouldn’t participate. Well maybe the dragon riding thing—I mean who wouldn’t want to ride a dragon, right?
It’s been great having you as my guest, Tracey. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?
Again, thanks for having me. And since I write Urban Fantasy I’d like to know if you could be a paranormal creature—what kind would you be and why? And what powers would you have?
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All those who leave a comment for Tracey between now and October 31 will be entered in a drawing for one of three cool Pixie totes featuring Tink, the most famous Pixie of all Pixie’s.
Here’s how the drawing works. Between now and the end of October, I’ll be featuring interviews with six of my fellow Golden Heart finalists. After flinging truckloads of cyber Pixie dust for one another’s sales, submissions, revisions and the like, we dubbed ourselves the Pixie Chicks.
In honor of the fact that it’s Pixie Central here at Romance Writers on the Journey the rest of the month, I found Pixie prizes. These are the best prizes I’ve ever featured on the blog, imho. They are sturdy canvas bags about sixteen inches square, exclusive of the handles.
Congratulations to the winners of the Pixie totes: AJ, Darcy Burke and Sue Mason.
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