Today our Author Talk feature is with Tracey Scott- Townsend. We take a look at Tracey’s book and we put the characters under the microscope.
Tracey is the author of four novels, The Last Time We Saw Marion, (2014) Of His Bones (stand-alone sequel to The Last Time We Saw Marion, 2017) and The Eliza Doll (2016). Another Rebecca was originally published by Inspired Quill in 2015, and is to be re-released by Wild Pressed Books in September 2018.
As a poet, she has performed on the poetry stage of Hull’s Freedom Festival and in many local open mic settings. She won an Apples and Snakes commission for Deranged Poetesses ‘Maidens’ at Arc Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees in March 2018.
Tracey is also a visual Artist. She has four grown children and loves to travel with her husband, dogs and cat in their campervan whenever they get the opportunity.
The Last Time We Saw Marion
Published: 12th April 2014
Meeting author Callum Wilde is the catalyst that turns Marianne Fairchild’s fragile sense of identity on its head, evoking demons that will haunt two families.
She is seventeen and has spent her life fighting off disturbing memories that can’t possibly belong to her.
His twin sister Marion died seventeen years ago.
When Cal and his older sister Sarah spot Marianne in the audience of a TV show that Cal is recording, they are stunned by her uncanny resemblance to Marion. They have to find out who she is, but they both soon come to regret the decision to draw her into their lives. Events spiral out of control for all of them, but whilst Cal and Sarah each manage to find a way to move on, Marianne is forced to relinquish the one precious thing that could have given her life some meaning.
The book is set in a haunting estuary landscape of mudflats, marshes and the constant resonance of the sea.
The Last Time We Saw Marion is the story of two families – but the horrible truth is that two into one won’t go…
The Eliza Doll
Published: 1st May, 2016
Ellie can’t work out whether she’s running away from the past or towards a future she always felt she should have had. She left university and had baby after baby without even meaning to. But it was her third child she blamed for ruining her life.
Now her children have grown and Ellie is on her own. She shocks everybody by selling her home and moving into a converted van to travel the country selling handmade dolls at craft fairs.
It can be lonely on the road. Ellie has two companions: her dog, Jack, and the mysterious
Eliza who turns up in the most unexpected places. At every encounter with Eliza, Ellie feels as if she’s standing again in the aching cold of a waterfall in Iceland, the sound of crashing water filling her with dread.
Ellie can’t change the past. But is it really too late to rectify the bad thing she did when Eliza was a baby?
Of His Bones
Published: 1st March, 2017
Mariana feels like a pawn in other people’s games. Her birth mother is ill and opportunities for them to be reconciled are running out.
Despite being adopted, Mariana has always felt secure with who she is. But both sides of her birth family are now closing in, and whatever she decides will irrevocably alter many lives; most of all the man and woman who created her.
Of His Bones is about predestination and choices. It explores themes of familial love, identity and the powerful hold of the past. Set in the seascapes of East and North Yorkshire, this novel is the sister-book to The Last Time We Saw Marion.
Published: 13th Sept, 2018
Rebecca Grey and her alcoholic mother, Bex, live in insecurity and poverty. Following a tragedy in Bex’s past she made a decision which nobody must ever find out about. Will Rebecca escape from her mother’s lies and make a life of her own?
A gripppng psychological family drama about Rebecca Grey, a sensitive girl who’s spent her childhood caring for her alcoholic mother, Bex. They lurch from one poverty-stricken situation to another until Rebecca is hospitalised with exhaustion. While there, she has an illness-triggered hallucination which entangles her deeper than ever into her mother’s psyche. As an art student, Rebecca can’t understand why she is repeatedly impelled to paint a white horse in a blue landscape. And then there is the boy with yellow hair who she glimpses from the corner of her eye.
Bex’s life was frozen by a shocking tragedy when she was nineteen. Her ‘great grief’ caused her to make a decision which nobody must ever find out about. Rebecca has been implicated in her mother’s lies since the moment of her birth, a fact that her father, Jack, has no inkling of.
As Rebecca gets to know her father’s new family, the gap between her and her mother widens. The mystery of Bex’s dark past comes into focus when an old woman she has never met contacts Rebecca, claiming to be her grandmother.
The thunder of hooves is getting closer for both Rebecca and Bex and the blond-haired boy is more and more often in Rebecca’s dreams. Can Bex continue to keep Rebecca in the dark about the circumstances of her birth, or will the final twist in her tail set Rebecca free to make a new life of her own?
Adapted from a short story written by the author when she was an art student, Another Rebecca was inspired by the painting There is no Night by Jack B. Yeats.
Published: 21st Feb, 2019
In September 2016, Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a children’s social worker. She’s also struggling to come to terms with the recent drowning of a Sheena, a teenage girl she had deeply cared for.
Engrossed in her book, when somebody sits opposite her at a table on the ferry, Lauren refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea across the table, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories.
Lauren studies the hand on the table in front of her, the line of the scar drawing a map of the past in her mind. She was the one who created the scar, not long before her relationship with the love of her life ended almost thirty years ago. Lauren hasn’t seen Neil since she walked out of their shared life, unable to forgive either herself or him for a decision he strongly pressured her to make.
She’s not ready to meet his eyes, not yet. From his scar to his wrist bone, following his arm upwards and across his shoulder to his collarbone, his chin and the lower part of his face; Lauren remembers incidents from their past and tries to work out what caused their life to go so horribly off-track.
When she finally meets his eyes and they speak to each other for the first time, Lauren believes she has set her life on a new course. But her gain will result in losses for others. Is this really what she wants to happen?
My Characters under the Microscope
by Tracey Scott-Townsend
How do your characters begin in your writing process? Do you have an incline for a name or you know how you want them to look?
Usually the idea for a story comes before the characters. They’re the vehicle for carrying the story. For example I’ll think: I want to write a novel about such-and-such, who will my main character be? Then I need to decide what sex, gender and age-bracket they’ll fit within. Only occasionally I’ll start with an idea of a particular character and then build the story around them. This happened with my fifth – as yet unpublished – novel, Sea Babies. I watched a video about artist Maria Abramović coming face-to-face with her ex-lover of 30 years during her performance piece in which she had to gaze into someone’s eyes without speaking for an entire minute. I found watching the emotions play over their faces so moving that I wanted to create something similar in a novel. My characters, Lauren and Neil, whose relationship ended explosively a similar amount of time ago, reunite across a table in a ferry restaurant. Lauren relives their past as she examines every aspect of Neil from his hand to his chin, before finally meeting his eyes. I often base a character’s appearance on someone, or a combination of people, that I know or who are in the public eye. Neil’s appearance was inspired by the actor Ted Neeley in the film of Jesus Christ, Superstar because that’s who he reminds the young Lauren of.
How do you choose your names?
I just wait for my characters’ names to ‘come to me’. I can’t explain it. I never deliberately pick a name. I just picture the character until the name drops into my mind.
Which character is your favourite to write?
Bex was one of my favourite characters to write. She’s the alcoholic mother of Rebecca in my soon to be re-released novel Another Rebecca (Wild Pressed Books, September 2018). Bex is shockingly selfish and a terrible mother to poor Rebecca, but you can’t help feeling a bit sorry for her sometimes, especially because it’s her alcoholism that dictates her behaviour. It was the tragic accident in her past that made her decide to ‘stop living even though her body would go on’. I loved writing the scene in which she married her dead fiancé. After a lot of research I discovered that in some countries you can be given special dispensation to legally marry your fiancé after they have died. It was a macabre scene to write but also moving.
Which character is the hardest to write?
Possibly my hardest character to write was Ellie in The Eliza Doll (Wild Pressed Books, September 2016). In a way, Ellie is the closest character to me I’ve ever written. As a twenty-year-old she goes to live in a commune in the village of Pottersea on the estuary of the River Humber, with her musician boyfriend Jonah. She’s pregnant with their baby and she gives birth to her daughter, Rosie. Her story parallels mine in that I also moved out to a sort of artists’ commune in the same location (Kilnsea, East Yorkshire) with my musician boyfriend, and I was also pregnant. But my baby was stillborn at 26 weeks. It was really hard for me to make Ellie into an independent character and it took several drafts of the novel before I was able to do that. But when I think of her now she’s nothing like me.
Are any of your characters based on a real-life person?
Iris Portman, Rebecca’s aunt in Another Rebecca (Iris also appears in The Eliza Doll) was a cross between my older sister, Dawn (RIP) and an Irish-Canadian woman acquaintance who plays concertina and ukulele. Like my sister, Iris went off in the late 80s with a bowtop caravan pulled by a horse and became a new-age traveller. Iris is strong-minded, a bit scary and has a heart of gold.
Eliza is Ellie’s third child in The Eliza Doll. She was partially inspired by my youngest son, again with a hint of Dawn mixed in. Visually, I had a picture in my mind of a friend’s daughter as the model for Eliza.
Lastly, if you could have dinner with one of your characters, who would you pick and why?
This is a tough question. I’d love to have dinner with Maya from an as-yet-unpublished novel of mine called The Vagabond Mother. I’d like her to tell me what it’s like to be a middle-aged backpacker. But I’ll pick Marianne from my first novel The Last Time We Saw Marion (Inspired Quill 2014). It might be uncomfortable as Marianne has Anorexia so I’d have to pretend not to notice that she wasn’t actually eating. But if she was prepared to talk to me I’d like her to tell me all about her experience of remembering a previous life, and becoming involved with a man twice her age who she feels an intense connection with. Eventually she comes to understand that Cal Wilde was her twin in the previous life. It might be an emotional dinner!
Thanks so much for these questions, it’s been a pleasure thinking about my characters from different novels. Just imagine if I could get them all together in one room! Some of them would recognise each other from books they’ve appeared in.
Another Rebecca was originally my second novel, published by Inspired Quill in 2015. It has been re-released with an overhaul and a brand-new cover.
Thank you so much to Tracey for taking part in today’s feature.
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