An Interview With Tracey Garvis Graves – UK Blog Tour

I am totally bouncing off the walls right now – it may have a little to do with the large can of Relentless I drank.  But it has a lot to do with the  lovely Facebook message I got from Katie Sheldrake from Penguin asking if I’d like to be involved with Tracey’s UK Blog Tour for the release date of her debut novel “On The Island”.  Now I loved this book so much that I made it July Book of the Month.  Read the review here:  So the reason I’m excited is that after sending a long list of questions to Katie to pass on; I’ve got Tracey’s responses.  So grab yourself a cuppa and chocolate biscuit and find out a bit more from Tracey about On The Island and more.

‘Tracey Garvis Graves has one of those dream-come-true stories that make other authors simultaneously delirious with joy on her behalf and jealous as all-get-out. Tracey self-published a book … called On the Island … well, you know that saying “No. 1 with a bullet”? On the Island was No. 1 with a nuclear missile.’ – USA Today

 bestselling story of love and survival…

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a summer job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s holiday home in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation: a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having had cancer wasn’t bad enough, he now has to spend his first summer in remission with his family — and a stack of overdue essays — instead of his friends. Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. There, Anna and T.J. must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter, but even once their basic needs are met, they encounter plenty of other obstacles — including the possibility, as the days turn to weeks and then months, that T.J.’s cancer could return. And, as T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man…

About the Author:

Tracey Garvis Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband and two children. ON THE ISLAND is Tracey’s first novel and was self published in the US, spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, was a Wall Street Journal top ten and USA Today top fifteen.

What inspired you to write On The Island?

I’ve always loved the desert island premise but knew I wanted to give mine a unique twist. I thought it would be a great challenge to put two characters on an island (two characters who really shouldn’t be together) and then see what would happen.

How did you come up with the title?

I originally wanted the title to be simply, The Island, but there were already several books with that title. I then played around with, The Things That Happened on the Island, but that didn’t sound quite right. My son (who was twelve at the time) said, “Mom. Just shorten it to On the Island.” I thought that was a fantastic suggestion. He loves it when I tell that story at book signings – he feels so proud.

The title doesn’t give anything away as to what the characters go through whilst they’re on the island.  Is this one purpose?  

Not really (see above). About the only thing I was adamant about was that the word island needed to be in the title. I wanted there to be no doubt about the setting.

Is the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, but I’m certainly influenced by my love of the desert island premise. I begged my mom to take me to see The Blue Lagoon many, many years ago. My husband and I are also huge fans of the T.V. show Lost. I enjoyed the movie Castaway but never quite bought the relationship between Tom Hanks and the volleyball.

What research did you do for this book? 

I did a lot of research on dehydration, including finding out how long a person can stay alive without fresh water. I watched YouTube videos on how to make a fire using the bow and drill method (which is what T.J. used) and I remember feeling ecstatic when I discovered that breadfruit is high in Vitaman C (otherwise, T.J. and Anna really could have died of scurvy or some other illness caused by vitamin deficiency). I also read about malnutrition and how long it would take for it to cause problems even if you did technically have enough to eat.

What books have most influenced your life most?

I love Stephen King’s The Stand. It’s one of the books I remember reading and thinking, “Wow. I want to write someday.” I think Stephen King is a genius storyteller. I also went through a really long Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins phase in high school. I don’t know if those author’s books have influenced me, but they taught me about the true escapism that reading provides.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in On the Island?

I might have made it a bit longer. I was really trying hard to limit the word count to 80,000 which is considered the “sweet spot” for the type of book I was writing. Conventional wisdom was that anything longer could be harder for an agent to sell and since I had really hoped to obtain an agent, I didn’t want to take any chances. If I’d had a crystal ball and had known I would self-publish, I might have written more words.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I sometimes have to remind myself not to hold back bits and pieces of the story, whether it’s description or internal narration or some other element. I may know all the information because the entire story is in my head, but my readers still need to read it on the page.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Since I wrote On the Island in a dual narrative, I had to make sure the structure worked and also that the two main characters had their own distinct voices.

How did you decide to self publish?  Was it something someone motivated you to do?

I had no choice. I was turned down via form rejection letter by every agent I queried. I decided self-publishing was a better idea than letting the manuscript languish on my hard drive.

Anna and TJ manage to rescue a few belongings when they get deserted on the island.  The belongings were a key part to their survival. How did you decide what was saved and what was lost?

I wanted the toiletries to be saved because I just couldn’t imagine not giving them some kind of comfort items. Maybe it’s my own personal preference, but I hate the thought of not being able to get clean at least once in a while. T.J.’s backpack also contained some changes of clothing whereas Anna had nothing but the clothes on her back. The suitcase with her clothes and toiletries just made sense. The life raft washing ashore had the added benefit of the inclusion of a first-aid kit.

Can you tell me about your next book?

Covet is the title of my next book. It’s my first foray into upmarket women’s fiction (but it will still have plenty of romance). It’s the story of a married couple’s struggles after the husband loses his job in the recession. It’s a story of hope and heartbreak and though it is ultimately uplifting, you should have your Kleenex box handy.

What books are you reading now?

Unfortunately, I can’t read when I’m writing a book. The other authors’ voices mix with my own and it makes it hard to stay immersed in my own story. I’m looking forward to a big book binge when Covet is done.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Stephen King is one of my favorites. He’s just a master storyteller.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write the book you want to read, and don’t be afraid to take risks. It’s okay to think outside the box a little.

How does it feel to be a published author?

It’s truly a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be a published author and I’m eternally grateful to the readers who helped me attain a goal I once thought was impossible.

I am so pleased that Katie asked me to be involved – thank you and I thank Tracey for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you want to read On The Island, it is available on iBooks here: or Kindle:  Also it is available from today in any good book shops.


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