Tracy Buchanan is a web journalist and producer whose latest novel, My Sister's Secret, was released this month. She has travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor and lives in Milton Keynes, England, with her husband and daughter. (Interview by Jade Craddock)
Thank you! My Sister's Secret is about a professional diver called Willow who goes on quest of the world's underwater forests to discover more about her family's tragic past when she receives a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition. I liked the way the Daily Mail described it recently: 'a pacy read' that that would be a 'great book to take to the beach'. But I'd like to add ‘for people looking for a bit of substance and depth'.
One of the main characters Willow, who goes on a journey to discover more about her family's complicated and tragic history, was how it all started. She materialised in my mind stronger than any character I've created, strong and gutsy and a little spiky too, but so desperately trying to find a sense of family.
I wrote my last novel, The Atlas of Us, in a totally organic way. It just ‘splurged' on to the page. But I had to be much more disciplined with My Sister's Secret because I'd just had a baby plus when I was in the midst of writing it, I'd returned to work too! So to ensure I wrote it to deadline, I plotted it out before writing it. I even gave myself weekly deadlines of which chapters to write by when!
Yes, and I did! So despite all the planning, as my poor hard-working editor will tell you, I did change certain elements. Sometimes, characters just take on a life of their own as you write and you can't control them!
I really felt for Willow. She's a tough cookie on the surface but has been through so much and is yearning for that sense of family around her, it's kind of heart-breaking. I felt less sympathy for Lana, one of the secondary characters, a vivacious but slightly off-kilter model. But she utterly intrigued me despite this, and was in my mind from the moment the idea for My Sister's Secret came to me, despite being one of the less central characters.
It has to be Hope, Willow's aunt, and one of the three sisters that play a key role in the novel. She's not a likeable character by any means. But she loves reading and writing, which always makes me warm to someone! And I love her dry wit and spiky personality.
Thank you. You might be surprised to hear I've never visited one, only seen one from afar! My uncle who's a diving instructor mentioned them in passing a long time ago and it intrigued me enough to look them up. From there, the fascination grew and it was all about research. I must visit one now!
What a great question. You know what, yes, I think I would have been a writer without the travel experiences. As I say above, I haven't even visited any submerged forests. So it's less about the places you've visited physically when it comes to writing, but more about the life you imagine.
Another great question. I've always been fascinated by the correlation between what's going on with the real world (on the news, in the economy) and the popularity in genres. So when times are tough, it seems like interest in fantasy / sci-fi goes up. But when there seems to be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel (which we're being told there is in the news with the economy and so on), more gritty stuff seems to grow popular.
The fact that I managed to finish it despite all the other pressures of having a new baby then going back to work. I'm just so pleased with the reception it's getting, which when you've written something amidst such madness, you do wonder how it will go down. So it's been wonderful to see how much it seems to be connecting with people and watching as it rises through the charts!
Yes, I'm working on a novel at the moment which even darker undertones and some interesting locations. Watch this space…
I've always wanted to visit Russia, it feels so romantic to me. India has always appealed, many people have told me how life-changing a visit there can be. I think Japan's a fascinating-looking country and China too. And finally, Africa is a continent I haven't cracked yet so I'd love to go somewhere like Kenya and do a safari. Maybe when the toddler's grown up!