Sunday, April 29, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Tracy Bilen + Giveaway!

Kristen Simmons here today with fellow YAFusioner Tracy Bilen, author of WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND which hits shelves...drum roll please...tomorrow! 

Congratulations Tracy! 

Kristen: Tell us a little about your journey to publication. What does tomorrow mean to you?

Tracy: I’ve been working at writing novels for many years. Recently I had the opportunity to work with Michigan author Shutta Crum as part of the SCBWI-Michigan mentorship program. It was this year-long mentorship that gave me the push I needed to finish and sell What She Left Behind. Throughout the years, every time I tried to give up writing, I found that I just couldn’t...I kept coming back to it. It’s brought me to tomorrow, the day that I’ll get to see a book I’ve written at an actual bookstore – one of the most fun things I can imagine!

K: Having good support can be such a crucial part of this process. I'm so glad Shutta encouraged you! 

So Tracy, how will you celebrate launch day? Will there be cake involved? If so, what kind? More importantly, will you share it with me?

T: My mom’s going to be sorry you asked about the cake! My favorite cake is Waldorf Astoria Red Cake. It’s a bit of a complicated recipe and when I was a kid my mom would make it exactly once a year – for my birthday. And although I begged her many times, she refused to make it any other color than red. So how about it, Mom? A Waldorf Astoria green cake to match the book cover??? Seriously, though, on book launch day I have to judge the high jump event at a track meet (no, I’ve never done the high jump myself, but I’m really good at making little hash marks on a clipboard). Saturday, May 5 is going to be the actual PARTY at the Barnes and Noble across from Oakland Mall in Troy, Michigan. At 2 o’clock! And while my mom’s probably not going to go for the green cake idea, I’m pretty sure there will be some Ritz Bits, because that’s what my main character likes to eat. Along with some free bookmarks and a chance to win a What She Left Behind T-shirt. So if you’re in the area, come on out! And no, Kristen, I’m not putting the cake in the mail. You’ll just have to come to Michigan some day and hit my mom up for some.

K: That's disappointing to hear, Tracy. Perhaps I will come to Michigan...the possibility of a green Waldorf Astoria cake sounds way too amazing to pass up.

Little known fact, Tracy teaches both Spanish AND French! (Okay, maybe not so little known. It's on her website. Anyway.) Tracy, what inspired you to learn and teach not one, but TWO other languages? 

T: When I was in third grade my aunt said that someday I should study at the Sorbonne in Paris and that she would come and be my chaperone….well, it didn’t turn out exactly like that, but pretty close. I got a “teach yourself French” record set at a rummage sale and I used to listen to it all the time (it would always get stuck on the line “my shoe size is 42”, so I know how to say that really well). I did finally have a French teacher in eighth grade, but the high school I went to only offered Spanish, so I switched to that. But I never forgot my love of French, so I kept studying it on my own in high school. In college, I majored in French and did my junior year abroad. I didn’t take my aunt with me as a chaperone, but she came to visit in the summer. I did, however, take my boyfriend along (to the same continent, at least). He was a German major and spent the year in Vienna, Austria (which made for some pretty fun vacations). We’re married now and we have two kids, a boy and a girl. My daughter (who is six) is obsessed with languages just like me – she learns French in school but insists that I teach her Spanish at home.

K: Okay, onto your brilliant debut. WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND sounds absolutely terrifying. Can you tell us a little more about it?

T: Here’s the back cover copy:

"Don’t even think of leaving…I will find you,” he whispered. “Guaranteed.” 
Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.
Each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.


K: Your leading lady, Sara, is forced to make some pretty big decisions in this story. What gives her the strength to keep going, even as the tension with her father increases? 

T: It’s pretty difficult for Sara to hold things together, especially because she fears that her mom might already be dead. But while her dad is the enemy, she has help from key players in her life: Zach, her best friend, and Alex, the guy she falls in love with.

K: What do you hope readers get from reading WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND?

T: What She Left Behind is both a thriller and a love story; a roller-coaster of emotions—and I hope that readers will enjoy the ride!

K: I'm sure we will Tracy!

Now, here comes the best part. Tracy has graciously agreed to donate a signed copy of WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND! Please comment below to be considered for the drawing. Extra points offered for posting about the contest on Facebook or Twitter (please include mention of this in your comment). Email MUST be included in the comment to be considered. Open to US and Canadian entries only - apologies. Contest closes at midnight EST on 5/6/12. Winner will be announced on Monday 5/7/12.

Thanks for hanging out with us today Tracy! And good luck with your launch party (and the green cake), I'm sure it will be amazing.

Remember, WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND goes on sale tomorrow, May 1st. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to miss this one!