Morning and happy Saturday lovelies! Today on Meet the Author we’re talking to the lovely Tracey Scott-Townsend……
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name’s Tracey Scott-Townsend. I’m an author, and also a poet and a visual artist – I’ve exhibited my work throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott).
Most importantly, I’m the mother of four grown-up children, and I’m wife to Phil. We live in Hull and run a small press together called Wild Pressed Books. We love to travel and work in our campervan with our two rescue dogs and the cat.
I also love sheds, and am very excited that I will soon be getting one on my new allotment – it might happen to double as a writing shed!
What inspired you to start writing?
Reading must have inspired me to start writing, when I was a child. I escaped into books, I couldn’t imagine life without them. My mother read us stories until we could read by ourselves, and I did the same thing with my children.
How many books have you written and published?
My five published novels are Sea Babies(2019), Another Rebecca (2018), Of His Bones (2017), The Eliza Doll (2016) and The Last Time We Saw Marion, (2014).
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
I imagine that, like me, most authors would answer “my latest book” to this question. Sea Babies is set between Edinburgh and the Outer Hebrides from the 1980s to the present. I was inspired to write it by the landscape and the haunting quality of the Scottish islands, and also by a video of artist Marina Abromovich meeting her ex-lover of 30 years ago again during a live performance. I wanted my book to have the power of their emotion as portrayed on the screen. My main character, Lauren Wilson, unexpectedly comes face to face with the love of her life, Neil, on the ferry to the Outer Hebrides. But in the end, the issue that drove them apart in their past turns out to be the very same one that has the power to make or break them in the present.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
They just ‘come’ to me. I let the names filter in as I imagine the character. I can’t say more than that.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Hmm. Difficult one! I think I’m going to pluck a supporting character: Peggy McLeod, out of Sea Babies and have her come along to the island and help me, she could organise anything! On the other hand, I fear she’d get on my nerves within quite a short time, so I’m going to change my mind. Alicia is a dog in my next novel The Vagabond Mother (January 2020), a beautiful, white-coated Collie/Labrador cross who is more-or-less exactly the same as my own lovely rescue dog, Luna. So I’ll take Alicia onto the island with me and she can keep me company, without getting on my nerves…
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
Choosing from many: I love Julie Myerson books. She writes dark, compelling literary fiction which I really admire. My favourite of her books is The Story of You, which runs along the same sort of themes as I write about in my own books – motherhood, loss, relationships and landscape. I was introduced to Julie Myerson books by a mobile librarian when I lived with my children in a village in Lincolnshire.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I wrote poems from the age of 7, I used to stand on a bench in the school playground and recite them. I wrote my first attempt at a novel when I was 10. It was called Bonny, King of the Brumbies, and was about Australian wild horses. I think it was heavily plagiarised from Elyne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, which I remember picking from the shelves of our local library, where I used to spend my Saturday afternoons as a child.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Bar staff, crèche worker, Bra-fitter in Marks & Spencers, workshop leader, school teacher, practising artist…
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
This is another difficult one… On a personal level, I think I’d be like Henry in The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) and give myself some advice for the future. I’d visit myself as a young teenager – I’d probably find myself sitting at the top of the South Common in Lincoln in the early hours of a summer morning, playing my wooden penny whistle to try and entice out the rabbits – and I’d tell myself it was all going to be okay. “You’re not weird, you’re not a misfit. Things will work out for you: be who you are and don’t try to be anything different.” On a wider level, I’d love to go back to Tudor times and have a look around (and try not to get my head chopped off!) This was my favourite historical time as a child and I read a lot of fiction set in that era.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My sister, Dawn, who died in 2009. There’s so much we could talk about.
What are your favourite things to do?
Besides writing and reading, I love to make clothes with my sewing machine, and I love to grow things in my garden and now also on my allotment. I love visiting wild, expansive countryside, which I’m lucky enough to do in our campervan.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I’ll tell you a funny story: on one of our campervan trips to the Outer Hebrides, we were waiting for the ferry from Leverburgh on Harris to Berneray, from where we would drive to Lochmaddy in North Uist. In line to board the ferry, one of the port workers, having walked up and down the line, examining all the vehicles, came up to us. He leaned his arms on the driver’s window, casual as you like. He struck up a conversation with us – I seem to remember talking about the heat and how stifling it had been in the attic where he had been doing some work – then he suddenly remarked that he’d noticed we had a tow bar on our van. Yes, we have, we agreed.
Then he asked us if we would take a trailer across to Berneray for him.
Startled, we said that we didn’t have a ticket for a trailer.
Ah, it’ll be fine, he reassured us. Just mention my name when you get on the ferry, it’s Ken.
But what do we do with the trailer when we get there?
Just leave it in the layby to the left of the road when you drive off the ferry.
As it happened, nobody asked us anything about the trailer (empty, we were relieved to see, with no apparent suspicious packages or rolls of money secreted about it). Ken helped Phil to attach it to our van before we drove onto the ferry. Driving off the other side, we came to what we assumed was the layby Ken had mentioned. We then realised we didn’t know how to detach the trailer and it took us a good half hour, and oily hands, before we succeeded in our task. The following day, we drove back over to Berneray to see the seals, and the trailer was gone from the layby.
This story illustrates the friendliness and relaxed attitude of the people of the Outer Hebrides. I used a version of this incident in my latest novel, Sea Babies, in which Lauren is asked to carry a package across from Tarbert to Skye.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Be disciplined with yourself and don’t give up on a novel half-way through: keep going!
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
Off the top of my head, I’m going to say Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. I remember it from when I was a child, the sense of poignancy it evoked in me, and it still makes me feel that way now. In a way it’s all about sense of place and relationships, which are the heart of any story.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent book – out now in e-book, paperback release 1stMay – is Sea Babies. Set in Edinburgh and the Outer Hebrides, with visits to Ireland and Iceland, the main character is Lauren Wilson, a children’s social worker who feels defined by a traumatic event in her past. She’s allowed it to dictate the decisions she’s made ever since, and it’s only when she moves into a remote cottage in the breathtakingly-beautiful area of Uig Sands on the Isle of Lewis that she starts to feel she might be able to make some positive changes in the lives of others as well as her own.
But what she never expected, was to come face to face with Neil again. Neil was the love of her life and at the time they split up it seemed the scars they gave each other, both physical and mental, might never heal. In the end, the issue that drove them apart in their past rears its ugly head and gets between them again. It now has the power to make or break them in the present.
Here is the Kindle link to buy Sea Babies. You can also pre-order the paperback, which is released on May 1st:
Thank you so much Tracey for taking part. Your new book sounds fabulous, and you have shared some wonderful stories and insight with us so thank you again!
Any questions for Tracey, you know what to do!
Have a great weekend all.