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Author Talk: January 2014

An Interview with author Tracy Shawn by David Starkey

Question: Saylor Crawmore, the protagonist of THE GRACE OF CROWS, is deeply anxious about almost everything. Why did you find her anxiety so compelling?

Tracy Shawn: I have suffered from severe anxiety myself and wanted to write a story that others could relate to, learn from, and ultimately gain perspective and a grounded kind of hope from, as well.

Q: That can be tricky—transforming your own life into fiction. What challenges did you face turning Tracy into Saylor?

TS: I really didn’t face too many challenges in this regard, because Saylor is a wholly fictional person with her own personality, history, and different kind of fears than me. Although, if she were a real-life person, we definitely would be able to commiserate about our anxiety!

Q: A key moment in the novel comes when Saylor runs into Billy, a friend from her child, who’s now homeless. Why is Billy such an important character?

TS: Billy can be seen as a symbol of Saylor’s deep-seated and irrational fear of losing everyone she loves. And yet, he is also a survivor with a loyal heart, the positive mirror of who Saylor really is.

Q: I gather that Billy is based on a real person?

TS: Growing up, I did have a childhood friend who I often thought about in my adult life. One day, I found myself crying just thinking about him, and somehow intuitively knew that something had gone terribly wrong with his life. I called a friend, who still lived in my hometown, and she said that she had picked him up hitchhiking just a week or so before and that he was now homeless and deranged. Unfortunately, I never found him, and from what I know through the grapevine, he probably is dead now. What’s weird is that when I was writing THE GRACE OF CROWS, I pictured him living under a pier, and found out later, that for a time, the “real” Billy actually did.

Q: It’s tough getting a novel published. Can you talk about the process of finding a home for THE GRACE OF CROWS?

TS: Oh boy, is it tough! I made many mistakes along the way, including querying agents before the novel was ready. After a large number of rejections, I decided to query small but traditional presses. Interestingly, after months of rejections, I had two that were interested. I signed with Cherokee McGhee and after a year of revisions and editing, it was published!

Q: Can you tell me a little about Cherokee McGhee? That’s an interesting name for a publisher.

TS: It is, isn’t it? I actually don’t know the reason behind the name, but I queried them because I liked that their homepage states that they “strive to bring excellence in literature that may be missing in the celebrity-oriented big houses of New York.”