Tracy Rees: False Starts and New Beginnings

Tracy Rees: False Starts and New Beginnings

Set in the 19th century, Amy Snow is a historical mystery following orphan Amy as she unravels the clues left in a bundle of letters. The letters were gifted to Amy by her only friend – heiress Aurelia Vennaway – who tragically died young, and contain clues that could lead Amy to a life-changing discovery.

“Our heartfelt congratulations go to Tracy. Her writing was exceptional, the story compelling and we couldn’t help but fall in love with Amy Snow. We are very proud to be helping Tracy launch what will be, I’m sure, a very successful career as a novelist. We wish her the very best of luck.” – Judy Finnigan

“All the shortlisted novels were of exceptional quality and it was terribly difficult to pick a winner. However Tracy’s writing really stood out – we really fell for the character of Amy and we can’t wait until you get the chance to read it when it hits the shops next year.” – Richard Madeley

We caught up with Tracy to hear more about what life is like for a bestselling author.

False Starts and New Beginnings

It’s no secret that stories are my first and true love. I thrill at the germ of an idea; I’m beguiled and seduced by intriguing scenarios, larger-than-life characters, fortunes unfolding and flowing. But over the years I’ve also written quite a bit of poetry. Mostly it’s been just a personal thing, cathartic; I don’t often share them. Just as well really, because they tend to fall into two broad categories: very depressing and only marginally less depressing. I find poetry a great way to work through difficult experiences and vent painful emotions.

Last year, about a month before I was shortlisted for the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition, I wrote the following poem. Warning: it falls into the “very depressing” category. But before you skip ahead enthusiastically to read it (seeing as I’ve sold it so very well) let me share the context. (It still makes me smile!)

At that time, I was going through a really difficult patch. Relationships, finances, jobs, home life…nothing was working. The one shining light was my determination to give my writing prominence in my life – to get it out there and never give up. Hence, I was entering a lot of competitions. One of these was a poetry competition with the theme, “New Beginnings”. I was nearly at the deadline so I just skim-read the brief, and the words, “new beginnings, whatever they mean to you,” jumped out at me.

Now, I was feeling fairly jaded. I’d had a lot of new beginnings over the years, which I’d embraced enthusiastically but which didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. I think I’m a really positive person but as everyone knows, sometimes it feels that life’s given you one too many knocks and you can’t take any more. At times like that, your own bounce-back factor is just tiring. So I sent them this:

On Ash

Is it more than the heart can bear,
this relentless resurrection after death?
It’s the miracle that topples us, perhaps,
when we know what’s to come:
descent into ash.

It all turns to ash in the end:
hope and happiness and hurrying heart;
expectation weighing down like a body
pressing for tangle-sweet release
then no more! Snatched away
like a death-dealing socket from a child
who only wanted to play.

Starting over gets harder every time
though practice has perfected the art.
And we are urged to rally!
Every end a new beginning,
each boot-slammed door, a window opening –
a path for possibility on tender wing.
But I can’t feel a thing,
I am prostrate on ash.

And we were told many things:
beauty and virtue meet just reward;
hard work reaps good fortune.
But no equation can predict the glory and despair
of knowing that we will begin again.

Preserve me from my own exhausting indestructibility!
New beginning or false start?
Rebirth, that blighted fate,
waits among liberated ash and still-twisting embers
where we lie and contemplate
the lives we were supposed to have
and the ways we lost them.

Woah! Anyway, THEN (after sending it off) I read the full guidelines. The competition was all about celebrating spring! They gave examples like skipping lambs, newborn babies, spring weddings or even spring cleaning! (What?)

What must they have thought when they read mine? (In case there can be any doubt, I wasn’t placed.)

I wanted to share this because it still seems miraculous to me that something so wonderful happened in the midst of such angst and confusion. It’s a great example of what I mentioned above; the way fortunes unfold and flow. This is surely one of the reasons that we all love a good story so much. When our heroes and heroines are suffering, we gain reassurance – “it’s not just me!” And when their fortunes change, it gives us hope – “if things can work out for him/her, then they can for me”. Books are one of the best ways that humans can inspire and comfort each other, without even meeting.

Winning the Search for a Bestseller is one of the very best things that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been quoted as saying it’s a dream come true – and it is. I said to Richard, when he phoned to congratulate me, “you’ve made my… life!” And they have. (“You’ve made my day,” certainly didn’t cut it!)

And it doesn’t stop there, because now, of course, people are actually reading Amy Snow – and loving it. Hearing from readers saying they can’t wait to see what happens next or that they’re bereft at finishing it, or that I’ve inspired them to write (or do whatever it is they’ve been dreaming of) is the most moving, rewarding experience imaginable. In my experience, if you have a dream and you don’t pursue it, life is only a half-lived thing. When you do pursue it, things can get tough for a while. But then the sun comes out. Miracles do happen and they are worth it.

So what happens in the next chapter, for me? I still wake up some mornings and think, “I’m loving writing this book, but I really should go and get a job.” Then I remember that this is my job. My passion and my means of making a living are one and the same, and I really can’t imagine a more blessed circumstance than that. Becoming a published author in the normal way would have been wonderful. But winning this competition has taken it up several hundred levels to become a five-star, gold-plated experience. Working with Richard and Judy on radio interviews, a podcast and even a TV appearance has been immense fun and a real privilege. Working with the dream team at Quercus, Furniss Lawton and WH Smith is fascinating, enjoyable and an education.

As for daily life… if I had to sum it up in two words, they would be “exciting” and “busy”. I’m juggling a wealth of publicity activities for Amy Snow with writing book two; two very different strands of work which I love in different ways. Writing, of course, is as necessary to me as breathing. It lets me be dreamy and imaginative and there is no better feeling than letting the magic of the creative process unfold. Promoting Amy draws on my sociable side, and it’s tremendous to connect with people in this way. It’s a perfect combination for me.

And for a final bit of good news… I now have a two-book deal with Quercus. I’m so happy that I’ll be working with them again and continuing our amazing relationship. I’m about a quarter of the way through book two, though I’ve had to press pause on it around the publication of Amy. As much as I’m enjoying the whirl (savouring every minute!) I’m also looking forward to things becoming a little calmer so I can focus once again on the story, putting words on a page. Intriguing scenarios, larger-than-life characters, fortunes unfolding and flowing…

I don’t know what sort of poem I’d write if I were to write one today. I do know that it wouldn’t fall into either of the existing categories! What I’m trying to say is, life is great, and I am very, very happy.

But of course, this is just the happy ending. Or in fact, and I really do mean this, it’s the happy new beginning.

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees is available to order online today as a Paperback or eBook.

You can read more about the Search for a Bestseller competition on the Richard & Judy Book Club website, as well as an interview with Tracy and videos of her meeting Richard & Judy for the first time and her first glimpse of the Amy Snow book cover.

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