Our Zoom with Tracy Clark was such fun! She was so easy to talk with and we learned a lot about how she came to be a published mystery author. We were impressed with her commitment to getting published and how she got right past rejections on her first book and wrote her second book, and then her third book while still receiving rejections. By the time her first book was accepted for publication she was able to tell her publisher that she already had the second and third books already written! We were also interested to learn that a writer’s workshop in Chicago helped her to make the first book better – and that the workshop’s teacher liked it so much she told her publisher about the book – which led to its publication.
She struck a chord with many members when she also talked about some of her favorite formative mystery authors. She worked her way up the devoted mystery reader scale starting with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, graduated to doyenne Agatha Christie, and immersed herself in the female mystery authors of the 1980s golden age: Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Margaret Maron, Barbara Neely, and Eleanor Taylor Bland among others.
Broken Places has a similar feel to many of these authors’ books. We love her protagonist, Cass Raines and the thoughtful way Tracy introduces readers to her by placing her directly in the midst of her life-altering rooftop confrontation at the beginning of the book. Talk about hitting the ground running!
We talked about the way Cass developed a close family of her own after the death of her mother and the abonnement by her father. Her loving and supportive grandparent have passed away, leaving her completely alone. Her emerging family includes “a detective, an ex-con and a nun” (we loved the play on the old “walks into a bar”) and her main source of support, her “Pop” Father Ray Heaton. She is devastated by his murder and obsessively committed to finding his killer and seeing justice done. We pause a bit to consider the return of Cass’s real father on the scene and how – while her anger and distance are understandable, she isn’t taking in the absolute devastation it was for her father to lose her mother of cancer, and that he knew Cass’s grandparents would raise her right.
Despite – or because – Tracy is a “pantser” (writing “by the seat of your pants”) the story evolved character by character creating the plot as the various characters interact. We talked about how this style really made the story flow and kept readers in suspense before the murderer is revealed. And speaking of character, we all, deeply despise Detective Farraday and entreated Tracy to make sure he gets the comeuppance he deserves!
There were many other comments and questions the group had for Tracy especially what would be coming next. She surprised and intrigued us by telling us the next one will be a stand-alone thriller, also set in her beloved Chicago.
We couldn’t have had a better time talking about this terrific series starter with its warm and talented author.