10 questions with Variety Girls author Tracy Baines: ‘Get a tough skin’

Tracy Baines, author
Tracy Baines, author

Variety is in Tracy Baines’ blood. Brought up backstage after her parents bought a pub opposite the pier in Cleethorpes, she developed an enduring love of live performance and even met her husband thanks to the Nolan sisters. Now she pours that experience and love for the theatres and venues up and down Britain into her fiction novels, after years of persevering on her publication journey. Her ‘Variety Girls’ sagas are inspired by that and her grandmother’s stories of life fighting for a living during wartime in a seaside fishing community. She answers 10 questions..

  1. What’s your name and where do you come from? My name is Tracy Baines and I am originally from Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire although I now live in Dorset.

  2. Do you write fact or fiction and in what genre? I write mainly fiction. My first two novels The Variety Girls & Christmas with the Variety Girls are sagas set in WW2. For many years I wrote short stories for magazines because I could finish them quite quickly when life was hectic. It takes a lot of mental energy to hold a novel in your head and there wasn’t always room in my brain. 

  3. Are you traditionally or self-published and which route do you consider best? I’m traditionally published by Ebury Press an imprint of Penguin. I’ve only been with them a couple of years so it’s early days. I’ve self-published a collection of a few of my short stories that had been previously published in magazines such as Woman’s Weekly, People’s Friend, My Weekly and many others. I used it as an experiment really, searching for a cover designer and proofreader, how to upload to Amazon and so on. It was a huge learning curve but I wanted to publish a book about my role as a carer during the time my daughter had an eating disorder. I wanted to write a book for parents that I would like to have had when I first discovered the problem. 

    They are both equally valid and both have their stresses, but I do favour being traditionally published. I enjoy the editorial process. Just when you think you’ve finished your novel professionals come along and help you make it so much better. That said you can hire some amazing professionals to assist you if you have the budget. If I had any advice to give I’d say see it as an investment in your career, and whichever route you choose always be professional. 

    4. What’s your work schedule like when you are writing? When I’m researching I can spend hours and hours reading and scouring the internet. When I’m writing I like to write every morning until I’ve written around one thousand words. I use the afternoons for admin and play. Play is important to give the brain a refresh.

    5.What advice would you give to budding writers? Persevere. Get a tough skin. Years of writing short stories taught me how to deal with rejection. I learned that it wasn’t me they didn’t like – it was that my work hadn’t quite hit the mark (and that can be for all sorts of reasons). Read a lot – and don’t ever stop learning how to improve your work. Attend workshops, readings, author events. You learn something no matter how small from everything you do. One small nugget of wisdom from an hour’s talk or workshop can be so helpful. 

Christmas with the Variety Girls by Tracy Baines
Christmas with the Variety Girls by Tracy Baines

6. Who/what are YOUR favourite authors/books? That’s such a difficult choice. I don’t really have a favourite. I go more for particular books. That said, I love Elizabeth Sprout, Anne Tyler, Anita Shreeve, Dianne Setterfield.  I have learnt so much from the author Margaret Graham who also writes as Annie Clarke and Milly Adams. If you want to write a saga I’d suggest reading her books. They are written with power and emotion, but most of all they are full of heart and compassion. Just as she is. 

7.Are you a plotter or a pantster? (i.e. do you plan out your work or fly by the seat of your pants?) Mostly plotter. I like to have an idea of my characters and the things they want most of all before I set about preventing them from getting it. It doesn’t matter if things change in the writing of it as I go along. I think it’s akin to having a map and taking an unexpected detour – sometimes the detours bring unexpected treasures. 

8.What helps you focus? Deadlines. But it’s about self-discipline – and what you want most of all. I want to write and create so I am prepared to forego certain things in order to do that. When you want something more than anything else it’s easier to say no

9.How long did it take you to write your book/books? About 6 months to write the first draft but that’s not including all the research and thinking time that goes into it. It’s about a year I suppose.

10 .Where can we find your books? In bookshops, on audio and ebook, and your library service. If you can, support your local independent bookshop but if not they are available in the larger chains such as W H Smith and Waterstones and online.

Find out more about Tracy and her work on her website

The Variety Girls by Tracy Baines
The Variety Girls by Tracy Baines
Tracy Baines, author
Tracy Baines, author

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