Meet Tracey Ward, an independent Sci-fi, YA dystopian, and new adult romance author from Oregon, USA.
Tracey Ward is an independent self-publisher author and graphic designer. After studying English literature at University, she settled down in Oregon and started a career writing books in numerous genres. Tracey has titles published in science fiction, young adult, dystopian fiction, and new adult romance.
She also spends her free time designing digital book covers for her own titles and for other authors to purchase. Her book covers and company logos are either pre-made or made to order and her talents serve her well as a completely self-published author. With over 31 titles available on Amazon, Tracey is a perfect example of not needing a set publishing house, instead being free to explore different genres and try out new ideas.
As the publishing industry continuously changes, so does the way that authors get their content to eager readers. We are very grateful that we had the chance to talk to the influential self-published author, Tracey Ward. Our interview discusses genre cross-over, accurate/proper mental illness portrayal, the importance of a solid book cover and speculations as to why people are drawn to novels like Tracey’s (YA dystopian tales).
Enjoy our quick chat with Tracey!
Lauren: How did you start getting into writing? How did you decide which genre to pursue?
Tracey: I wanted to be an author when I was a little kid. I read constantly. Going to the mall with my sister and our parents to pick out books is one of my best memories, but I didn’t actually start writing until about 6 years ago. My husband was on deployment with the Air Force and I started writing chapters of a zombie apocalypse story for him every day. I’d write them while he was asleep and make sure they were there for him when he woke up. It was a way to stay connected despite the distance. Once it was done, he told me to look into self-publishing on Amazon. I did it for him, I never had any interest in zombies, but Until the End did surprisingly well and I just kept going from there. Once I started writing, more stories started knocking around in my head and I couldn’t make them stop.
Lauren: What are your inspirations for your books? Where do you get the ideas for the ‘monsters’ of your stories?
Tracey: The zombies were inspired by my husband’s love for the undead. He liked them so I wrote about them. But the monsters in The Seventh Hour are my own making. I’m not even sure exactly what they look like, no one has ever seen them up close, but they’re terrifying. I think that unknown element is what makes them worse than they really are. The movie Cloverfield was so much scarier before they showed you what the monster looked like. Once that image was locked in, a big chunk of my dread was gone. We fear what we can’t see. It’s like the monsters under your bed as a kid.
Lauren: You’ve written a few series so far, overlapping genres such as science fiction, young adult, and romance; Do you prefer adding to the series or would you rather start a new novel, and why do you prefer that?
Tracey: It’s a mix. Sometimes I love continuing a series because I’m already so deep inside those characters and I know their story isn’t over yet. Other times, I can’t wait to start something fresh where I get to make up all the rules from scratch. A lot of my writing is based on how I feel at the time. It makes keeping to a schedule hard. I was supposed to get a horror sequel out this October but it didn’t happen because a new story started taking up all of my headspace. I’m not in much control of what I write and when. It can get really frustrating because I feel like I’m letting fans down by not brining them the next piece of a story they’re waiting for, but on the flip side I don’t want to force a book that I’m not in the right mindset to work on.
Lauren: How do you feel the horror genre has changed? Is it at its most popular now? Do you think the horror genre peak has yet to come?
Tracey: I think people will always love to be scared. Horror novels take you out of your comfort zone in a way we all need sometimes. I think horror novels, just like horror movies, are changing, though. What scares us is always different depending on what’s going on in the world. Zombies might be on their way out but something else will take their place to terrify us.
Lauren: What do you think it is that draws people to read horror books?
Tracey: The uneasy feeling it gives us. We all need that sometimes. I love a good ghost story even though it makes me uncomfortable in my own home where I’m supposed to be safe. Something inside us wants to be scared sometimes. Maybe we’re all adrenaline junkies to some degree.
Lauren: Are you self-published or crowdfunded? How do you think being an indie science fiction writer influences your work?
Tracey: Completely self-published. I’ve tried using other services, but I found that being on Amazon has been the most beneficial. Being self-published is incredibly freeing. I’ve talked to other authors way more successful than me who have been courted by publishing houses, but they’ve opted to stay independent for the same reasons I love it. You get to choose what you write. If you go with a publishing house, they’re following trends and looking for the biggest sellers. You could get some crazy demand, like write a series about hermit crabs who fall in love during World War II. Also, fairies., all because market research says that’s what people are into today. I don’t have the control over my stories to be able to cater to commands like that. I write what I want and being an indie author gives me that freedom.
Lauren: With the Quarantined series, you managed to portray mental illness accurately and yet paint such a horrifying picture. Having a character who can barely tell her delusions from reality during a zombie apocalypse is truly terrifying, how did this idea come about? How did you manage to execute it?
Tracey: I have a very dear family friend who was suffering with a mental illness diagnosis at the time. She was so brave, it inspired me to write about her. Couple that admiration with the chapters I was writing for my husband on deployment, and you get Ali. I’m really proud of her as a character. Even though I did a lot of research, I was so scared of offending people suffering mental illness when I published that story, but all I’ve heard from people is how empowering it is. Huge sigh of relief there!
Lauren: You’ve also merged romance into the science fiction genre, while at the same time, not making either storyline too ‘unrealistic’ for lack of a better word. What is the key to making both a realistic/logical post-apocalyptic world while also featuring what it’s like to be in a young adult romantic relationship?
Tracey: It helps that the characters are already afraid. It made it easy to channel the fear we feel as young adults. When you’re 17, your world is about to blow wide open. The options available to you are nearly endless and then there’s dating on top of it. There are no parents to tell you when to come home or that you can’t date that boy – he’s trouble. You have to make all of your own decisions for the very first time and that’s so overwhelming. I think my YA characters are generally afraid of pretty much everything, and blurring the lines of what exactly they’re afraid of in any given moment is key to making it feel real. Am I afraid of zombies coming around the corner or am I afraid of him kissing me? The truth is, they’re afraid of both in nearly equal measure.
Lauren: On top of being an author, you also design book covers and offer branding/logo design, how do you decide on what cover is right for a certain title? Particularly looking at your science fiction titles, while they are set in apocalyptic worlds, the covers do not feature unsettling photos of ruined cities or the disturbing creatures that now inhabit the world, why have you made the decision to go for a more stripped back cover?
Tracey: A lot of it comes back to the idea that you don’t show the monster. Whatever people are imagining in their head is inevitably going to be way worse than what I could put on a book cover. If you let the reader build the image of the monster on their own, their brain is catering it to their own specific fears. That’s something I can’t do on a cover for everyone.
I play with covers for weeks before I’m 100% sold on them. Sometimes I walk away for a few days, come back to look at it, and whatever feels immediately off to me gets changed. Then it’s another couple days away, take a look, tweak. Wash, rinse, repeat until there’s nothing “off” about it. People immediately judge a book by its cover online and I need mine to stand out, convey the overall feel of the story, and grip the reader all in the span of a few seconds. Too many elements on a cover means more seconds to process it, and a lot of people will scroll right by.