Do I have a treat for you guys today!
Tracey Dyck is one of the most talented weaver of words I’ve ever met, one of the SWEETEST people in this universe, and just happens to be one of my very dearest writing friends. And because she and I live and breathe stories and words, we decided to interview each other about our writing lives. She interviewed me on her blog Saturday in which I talk about how I got my start in writing, give a peek of my writing sessions, and even admit to who my favorite character of mine is. (*gasp* So shameful to choose favorites, I know!) You can find the interview at Tracey’s blog HERE.
Before you go over there, you’re going to want to stick around to read Tracey’s answers here. She has shared some fascinating tidbits about her writing, tells us about some of her epic characters, and even shares a snippet of one of her gorgeous stories!
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Tracey Dyck.
Tracey Dyck is a spinner of tales and a writer of worlds. She gleans character inspiration from the customers she interacts with at work, spends her time off writing stories of adventure and transformation, and still wishes her closet would lead to Narnia. Learning to let Jesus write the next chapter of her life is a constant journey, one which she is determined to throw herself into day after day. She can be found pondering this adventure—and those of fictional worlds both written and read—at her blog, Adventure Awaits.
1.) How long have you been writing? Was there a certain point in your writing life where you decided to pursue it as a career?
My earliest memories of writing are from grade one, when my class had a time set aside for it each week. My childhood was already brimming with books at that point, but it was my first grade teacher who began unlocking the actual creation of stories, showing me the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end. The tinder had already been piled, but she lit a spark.
I didn’t write very seriously, however, until I was about thirteen years old, scratching out chapter one of The Prophet’s Quest, the first book of my Journeys of the Chosen series, on sheets of loose leaf. Somewhere in the midst of drafting that first novel, I realized that I wanted to pursue writing as a career. I don’t remember what the actual thought process was, but I knew I was in love with books, and I was enthralled with the magic of stringing words together into stories of my own. Authorship has been one of my biggest dreams ever since!
2.) I know we're not supposed to have favorites, but out of all your characters, is there one (or two, or three!) you're particularly fond of? If so, tell us about them!
Oh, Christine, this is a torturous question! It really is like asking one to pick a favorite child. I’ll have to limit myself to one protagonist, one secondary character, and one villain, otherwise we’ll be here all day.
I adore Luci, also known as Princess Alucinora, my Sleeping Beauty character in The Brightest Thread. She despises her magical gifts and longs for freedom—to seize adventure beyond the castle walls, to be seen for who she is and not what she’s been given. Yet when disaster falls because of her, she refuses to hurt any more people by seeking that freedom. She’s headstrong and full of life and a little bit broken, and I love her.
One secondary character whose gruff charm has also won my heart since the day he appeared on the page is Wimwhile from The Prophet’s Key (Journeys of the Chosen book 2). As an elemental called a Shifter, he has the ability to control air/wind, so naturally he’s a rather blustery fellow. He’s older than he looks—which is quite old already—and his crotchety, oblivious manners hide a soft heart and razor sharp wit.
As for a villain, well . . . the evil mith’vel dragon from Journeys of the Chosen, Criffel, has existed in my mind for years. He might be the most evil antagonist I’ve ever written, at least on a larger scale than any of my other villains. (No pun intended.) With his massive size and black scales broken by a strip of dark blue running down his spine, he makes an imposing first impression . . . which is rapidly followed by an even more imposing second impression: likely a display of cruelty or cunning. He specializes in preying on opponents’ fears. It’s all for his one goal to—ahem, I can’t actually tell you that—spoilers, you know!
(Yikes, that question was hard.)
3.) Do you have any specific themes that tend to crop up in your novels? Anything you're particularly passionate about and like to incorporate in your stories?
Themes of courage and fear show up frequently. Truest love. Sacrifice. Grace extended toward the undeserving. I become most passionate about my novels when I infuse them with something of myself. The stories that ring truest are those which delve into my own personal struggles and ponderings, bringing them to light in a fictional setting where I can experiment with them and dramatize them.
Also dragons tend to crop up suspiciously often. Heh.
4.) Take us through your writing process, from that first spark of a story to the end. How do you go about creating a novel? Does it vary from one story to the next?
Honestly, the process feels a little different each time, so this will be a generalized description! First, something gets the wheels turning in my mind, some little germ of an idea. It needs time to percolate, so I let it simmer quietly in the background, occasionally throwing a new ingredient into the mix, until I have something I can grab with both hands. Prior to this stage, the idea feels like a bubble: slippery and fragile, easily lost. The percolation happens both mentally and in the form of notes, if I remember to jot them down properly.
Then I usually make some form of plan, be it an outline or a simple bulleted list of plot points. I function best if I have an idea of where I’m going (though someday I want to try completely pantsing a novel, just for the experience).
Next comes the actual drafting process. The length of time required to get the story down varies wildly from one project to the next—anywhere from a couple months to a few years. Sometimes I write out worldbuilding or character bio stuff as I go along. But for Journeys of the Chosen, the series evolved massively over several years, and those important building blocks were fleshed out only partway through editing.
After drafting, I let the story sit for a while. Again, the amount of time changes, but it’s important to distance myself from the story before jumping into editing.
My first step in editing is reading over the manuscript and leaving notes for myself with the comment function in Microsoft Word. They usually sound like, “Fix this glaring plot hole,” or “Smooth out this description,” or “Why are A and J leaving now, when they’re not finished training yet?” or “YEAH, GREAT IDEA, [insert character name here], JUST SPILL ALL THE SECRETS TO THE ENEMY, WHY DON’T YOU?”
Naturally, once that’s done, I begin the real edits by going through and addressing all those snarky comments, along with anything else I notice. This takes several passes, the number depending on whether I’m being organized and attacking big issues first, little things later, or just slogging through everything at once. Along the way, I copy and paste each new draft into a new document so that I have the old versions on hand in case I liked something in the original drafts better.
One of my last editing stages is to check for pet phrases, repeated words, inconsistent details, and varied sentence structure.
Sometimes I send the novel to beta readers—up to this point, it’s always been during the first draft stage. Once I worked closely with a professional editor on several editing passes through a novel. For that same novel, I also had my brother read it all out loud to me to see how the words flowed, and I ended up spotting some plot holes along the way . . . but that’s a very time-consuming process we have yet to repeat.
As you can see, there are plenty of variables that change each time! I wish I had a set process, but changing it up keeps things fun, and different books need different approaches.
5.) What is your absolute favorite part of the novel-making process? (Plotting, first drafts, researching editing, polishing, worldbuilding, character building, etc.) What about least favorite?
Oh goodness, it really depends on the story! With some, I adore the discovery and excitement of drafting, and the editing is enough to drive me to tears. Other times, the first draft is ugly and sluggish and hard, and I can’t wait to start prettying it up.
Brainstorming my way out of plot knots with friends or family is often fun. Worldbuilding is a consistent favorite—I love fleshing out the environment, history, systems of society, etc. This usually happens organically as I write, and during editing I hammer it all into a consistent shape and fill in the inevitable holes.
My least favorite aspect of writing is research. The knowledge gleaned is useful and often fascinating, but going about obtaining that knowledge is hard. Finding reputable sources, combing through Google, searching the library—I could be spending my time writing instead! I must admit that I have had some pretty cool research experiences, however, like the time I sat down with a mental health worker over coffee, and discussed schizophrenia and delusions of grandeur.
6.) Where do you get your best inspiration from? (Certain books? Movies? Activities? Anything at all!)
Honestly, anything that tells a really good story! A fresh, meaty fantasy novel . . . a movie with a great cast and strong storyline . . . a piece of stirring music . . . artwork depicting strong emotion. People-watching helps me store up little quirks and tidbits to build into future characters. Invigorating conversations on the most random of topics gets my brain churning—anything from time travel to theology to the ridiculous things I wish I could do. Bible studies delving into the cultural nuances and historical context behind certain stories have also sparked ideas. (I so want to write an allegory of Jonah, or of Joseph!) Basically anything that makes me think or feel—or better yet, both—is an inspiration!
7.) Give us a rundown on the types of stories you like to write best. What would you consider your “main” genre? Are there any other genres you see yourself writing in the future? Any you can't imagine ever writing?
Fantasy is my homeland, and the fantastical tends to creep into almost everything I write. But I can see myself experimenting with dystopian, contemporary, steampunk, and perhaps thriller or mystery (if I can manage to be clever enough) in the future!
I would find it difficult to write historical fiction because of all the research (see question 5), and the same goes for sci-fi. I’ve tried my hand at a soft sci-fi element in a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but looking back, I think that was the weakest leg of the story.
8.) If you could have a tea party with 5 authors, living or dead, who would you choose? And how would you seat everyone? (i.e. Who would you like to most sit between? Which two would be fun to put next to each other? And so on.)
Christine! I love this question, but it’s so hard! Hmm, gotta think about this one . . . Okay, here goes.
I would narrow down the invitation list to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, the apostle John, and Ted Dekker—seated in that order around the table. (Bryan Davis almost makes it onto the list, but I’ve met him already. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t love to meet him again, of course!)
Dekker and John definitely need to sit together. I feel like they’d have a lot to talk about, seeing as how both of them seem to like writing about the power of love in vivid, powerful terms. I would sandwich myself between Lewis and Tolkien in order to catch every bit of the Inklings’ conversation. Stengl would have plenty to discuss sitting between Tolkien and John, methinks . . . Add the two of them together and they pretty much equal “fantasy allegory,” which is what Stengl writes.
So yes, the arrangement would be Lewis, myself, Tolkien, Stengl, John, and Dekker. THIS WOULD BE SO FUN, OH MY GOODNESS. I don’t know if I’d even be able to contribute anything to the conversation; I’d be in full-on Absorb Mode!
(By the way, I was totally imagining an Alice in Wonderland-esque tea party, Christine! It’s hard to picture some of those guests—for instance, Dekker—with dainty teacups in hand, but even so . . .)
9.) What advice would you give all your fellow writers out there?
Patience, dear ones.
Years ago, when I would hear about authors who took years and years to write their first novel or to break into the publishing world, I’d admire their dedication but think to myself, That won’t be me. I’ll be a teenaged bestseller, just you wait! But as I experienced delays and my writing road took twists and turns I never expected, I learned the hard away again and again and again: be patient. Trust God with this.
I did not get published as a teenager like I planned. But looking back, I’m incredibly glad. I wasn’t ready for it. And I know what it’s like to be on the other side of this pep talk, to shake your head and think you’re the exception. Who knows, maybe you are. We’re all on unique journeys. But I can guarantee that you and your stories are worth taking the time to become the best you can be. Whether you dream of publishing or whether you write as a hobby, you’re worth the hours of effort it takes to hone your craft, to practice your art. Take the time. Revel in the journey even if the destination burns in your heart.
I’m giving this advice to myself as much as I’m giving it to anyone else, because I’m still learning patience. I’m still learning to trust. Some days all I want is to be there already, to be living my dream of writing full time—but in reality I’m working a day job and plinking away at the keyboard in my spare hours, believing that someday things will be different. Believing that where I am now is actually a good place. A building place.
One more thing: don’t be afraid to use writing as a tool to explore your own struggles. That can be a difficult process, but it’s a rewarding one. Dare to venture into the dark corners of your heart. Wrestle with what you find there. If you write as a means of personal transformation, that story is going to connect with readers on a deep level too.
10.) Lastly, would you mind sharing with us a snippet of your writing? It can be from anything at all!
WHAT TO CHOOSE, WHAT TO CHOOSE. All right, how about a snippet from The Brightest Thread, the novel I aim to publish first. This scene takes place in the dream realm, where Luci is currently trapped along with everyone else within the castle at the time the curse fell.
“I’m not blaming you, Aleida. I just—there’s so much to absorb.” Luci stood, restless energy coiling within. The flower chair withered away. The mist now seemed more impregnable than any castle walls, for it promised to bar her way for a lifetime. She whirled on Aleida. “Will I die when the century is complete? People do not live to be one hundred and sixteen, not that I’ve ever seen. Please, how do I get out?” She pulled in a ragged breath. “How do I wake up?”
Aleida stared, eyes dull with hopelessness. Then a spark flared. She squared her shoulders, and the drawbridge armrests snapped up. “There is a magic deeper than any blessing or curse.” Though quiet, her words echoed against the mist. “It lies within the very marrow of the earth’s bones. We fairies cannot touch it.”
“What is it?” Luci whispered.
“The power of truest love. Not mere affection or selfish infatuation. The kind of love that begs nothing for itself, but offers everything for another. Truest love bleeds.”
“Where can it be found?”
The spark in Aleida’s eyes dimmed like an ember exposed to a cold draft. “I haven’t seen it in my lifetime. It may not even exist.”
Luci tried to breathe. “But if I find it, somehow it will wake me?”
Aleida spread her hands helplessly. “All I know is if it exists, it comes from somewhere deep. And the deeper the magic, the more powerful it is.”
The mist swirled around Luci’s feet, slowly at first, then faster, whipping her skirt and tangling her hair. Without a word, she sprinted away. This time she did not fall into oblivion.
She ran with eyes fixed on the threads of color.
Thanks so much for having me, Christine! You’re a fabulous interviewer, and it was a pleasure being featured on Musings of an Elf.
It was my honor! I had too much fun.
And guess what, dear readers? Tracey is doing a full take over of my blog and shall be answering any comments you have for her. So if you have further questions, ask away!
Do you have any more questions or comments
for Tracey? How ‘bout that gorgeous snippet?
SO MUCH TALENT. A special thanks to Tracey
for doing this. I loved having you on my blog!!!