Tell us first, please, Tracey, what you love most about the writing process?
Getting to the point with a novel where I have a complete first draft and I can print it out and go, ‘Wow, that is quite a chunk and I made it all up!’
Who is your favourite author?
Penelope Fitzgerald. And George Eliot and Jane Austen and loads of others!
Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
My lead characters are real people who I research but since I am writing about the early medieval period, there are often few facts about them to go on so they still come significantly from my imagination. And then many of my other characters around them, such as servants, nuns, and female troubadours, come entirely from imagination.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I am a workaholic so I work all day, everyday, but I have to start writing first thing in the morning. If my morning is disturbed I can’t get any writing done that day, but I can read, research, organise my notes instead.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Four historical novels, all set in the early medieval period and one future fiction novella set in the 23rd century on another planet. Hard to say which is my favourite, but if I must, I guess I can say the first, Almodis the Peaceweaver. She was an extraordinary woman, active in the rule of Toulouse and Barcelona in the 11th century, and I’m still obsessed with her. I’m writing a biography about her and her two sisters now.
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?
My latest books, Conquest I: Daughter of the Last King and Conquest II: The Drowned Court, are the first two books in my trilogy on the Welsh princess, Nest ferch Rhys, and the Normans. Nest had an extremely colourful life and lived through tumultuous times. She is one of the most famous medieval Welsh women but we don’t know a great deal about her for certain. I took the bare bones of her story in the medieval texts and asked myself questions about why things happened, how they happened, what she thought and felt about the events of her life.
Does your book have a lesson? Moral?
Not a lesson or a moral, but it is about human motivations and purposes. What drives us?
What was the inspiration behind Conquest I: Daughter of the Last King?
Weekly train commutes I made between Pembrokeshire and my teaching job in Oxford, crossing the glorious triple river estuary at Carmarthen Bay and looking at the Norman castle of Llansteffan on the headland. I started imagining my characters moving in that landscape. Then I stayed in Llansteffan and walked along the headlands myself. My initial inspiration often comes from landscapes.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?
There is always a point when the characters ‘start to fly by themselves’, when they seem to start making their own decisions based on who they are, their motivations, and their interactions with the other characters.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Increasingly I do, yes, and I really like that. They tell me to hurry up with the next book and they tell me what they felt about some of my characters. It’s fascinating to hear how my stories are playing out in someone else’s head. Recently a reader in Australia told me she and her husband travelled round France with an itinerary based on my second novel, The Viking Hostage. Amazing!
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I am a fanatical swimmer. If I see water, I long to get in it. I used to be a fast backstroke swimmer. Now I take a more leisurely pace and especially enjoy swimming in rivers. I have a waterproof Kindle.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a muse: my best friend, who lives near Narberth. I’ve known him all my life and he is a great support for everything I do.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, hang out with family and friends, swim and walk.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing?
Most of those stories involve sex, alcohol, poets, and artists so I’m keeping them to myself. Umm, I travelled for ten days on Greyhound buses in Arizona and New Mexico to meet an artist for an interview in a remote location. We were both in the same tiny one-street town, but managed to miss each other nonetheless. Hmm, when I was a student, someone I had a big crush on asked me out and I was so excited I didn’t listen properly to when this date was going to take place. So I sat waiting, all dressed up, the weekend before, as well as the actual, following weekend, when he turned up.
Give us a random fact about yourself.
I was May Queen at my primary school and sat on a floral throne with a floral crown and sceptre, and presided over the maypole dancing.
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