An Interview With Tracey Garvis Graves

Tracey Garvis Graves’ first foray into the publishing world was with her New York Times’ best seller “On The Island” in 2012. Following the unlikely relationship between teacher Anna and student TJ, the novel takes readers away from the societal norms of today and forces us to survive on a deserted island with these two characters. Now, with a novella companion published and movie rights in the works, “On The Island” is moving to the next step — hopefully.

Stepping away from TJ and Anna, Tracey also published another book“Covet” and it’s sequel, “Cherish.” Currently she is working on an unnamed novel, which has potential to be a series, with a few other books in the works.

Back in 2012, I chatted with Tracey about what it was like to have her first novel published and the movie rights secured with MGM. Now, we talk about what the past few years have been like and what’s on the horizon for her other works, including “On the Island.”

Last time we talked, “On The Island” was just released. Now it’s in 28 languages. How does that feel?

It still fantastic. The rights to the film rights were sold to MGM three years ago this month. Book rights are bought all the time and nothing ever really happens. I was really surprised when I found out in March of last year that they were going to renew the option. After a failed screenplay and another rewrite, they pitched it out to screenwriters and brought in a team, Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn (behind films such as The Vow, Never Been Kissed, Valentine’s Day, and He’s Just Not That Into You). The production company is Temple Hill. They are the same production company that did The Fault In Our Stars, the Twilight films, and the Nicholas Sparks movies. I feel like the project could not be in better hands with MGM and Temple Hill. I really love the screenwriting team because they obviously have a really good handle on the genre’s market and I think that’s perfect for “On The Island.” Now we’re just waiting for a director to be attached. There’s a lot of hurry up and wait in this process. I’m just trying to keep busy writing and hoping I just get that call.

It sounds like the movie rights are in good hands.

I think [MGM and Temple Hill] have shown a real flair for book to movie adaptations, especially Temple Hill (who also produced The Maze Runner). I have readers ask me all the time, “What are you going to do if they change your story?” I always say that I have to trust that they’ll do a good job because that’s what they do. It’s in their best interest to try to preserve as much as they can. It’s a completely different medium. They want the project to be good as much as I do. I trust that they’ll do a good job.

MGM and Temple Hill both have films that are aimed at younger audiences. Because of that, do you think they will change “On The Island?”

I don’t know. I would think that they have the knowledge and experience to identify the target market. With “On The Island,” I have readers that are as young as 16 and others that are 65. I think it’s a very commercial story. TJ was 17 when the book starts so he’s a younger character and of course Anna’s 30, so we already have that range there. It goes back to them being able to identify the target market. I think they’ll do a good job on it.

Beyond the film, what is the next step for “On the Island?”

I did write a companion and that’s “Uncharted.” I have been adamant with my readers about there never being a sequel to “On The Island” because I felt that Anna and TJ’s story ended in a really good place for them. Trying to extend the story still requires conflict. And they reached their happily ever after so there was really no reason to draw that out.

I know that readers become very attached to the characters, so I went back and wrote a companion novella about some of the events that happened before Anna and TJ got to the island. It was just supposed to be an e-special, but recently Penguin granted me permission to do a paperback because I had so many readers ask for a signed copy of both. That’s going to be coming out in the next two or three weeks. People really connected with “On The Island.” It still makes me happy when I get messages from new readers, especially now that it’s been released in so many countries. That never gets old.

Now Covet is out and has a sequel —

“Covet’s” sequel was released in October and is called “Cherish.” “Covet” was extremely different in comparison to “On the Island.” “Covet” is women’s fiction and “On the Island,” while it does have elements of women’s fiction, it is what I would consider a contemporary romance. It has all the elements of a contemporary romance, including a happily ever after. “Covet” was definitely women’s fiction, it was my first hard cover, and it appeals to a completely different audience. It deals with three main characters and only two of them really receive their happily ever after. Readers were clamoring for me to continue the story from another character’s perspective and so I did. That was kind of my first foray into a second chance romance.

Between “Covet” and “Cherish.” I also released another book in September called “Every Time I Think of You,” which is a mix between women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and a mystery element as well. Everything I’ve written ends up being completely different.

Is it fun to write like that?

I really enjoy just writing the book that I want to write, which is a little problematic for me as a writer because I’m at the point now, at five books in, where I need to focus a little more on what readers expect from me. I think each book that I’ve written appeals to a slightly different audience. I enjoy being able to do that, but my next project, which I’m just finishing now, is a return to contemporary romance. It’s probably the project that is closest to “On the Island.” It’s a straight up adult contemporary romance. It’s got a lot of banter and humor, but it also has external conflict in addition to the romantic relationship, kind of like On the Island.

Even though all of your books are different, is there an element that you carry through with all of them?

All of my books have an element of women’s fiction and romance. There’s always going to be some sort of happily every after. I was telling my friend this weekend that I write romantic women’s fiction, or women’s fiction with a happily ever after. Those two genres are usually pretty separate. Women’s fiction usually deals more with the heroine’s journey in life. Contemporary romance deals with the heroine trying to find love. I like weaving those things together. I find it frustrating to read romances that do not have anything else plot-wise going on besides the romantic relationship. But, I get a little bit weary reading women’s fiction that doesn’t have a happy ending. So for me, a romantic women’s fiction combines the two things that I love the most, but it’s more difficult to market a writer like that. But I think there are readers out there who enjoy that.

Being that this theme is “Novel,” Where do you get your inspiration?

Interestingly, the idea for the current novel I’m working on came to me in a dream and that has never happened to me before. Usually I have an idea that knocks around in my head and it gets bigger and bigger. I was actually all set to write a book called “The Girl He Used to Know,” which is a second chance romance with a lot of elements of women’s fiction. I really thought that this was the book I was going to be writing. Then I had this dream in early October and it was a bizarre dream. It didn’t make any sense, but there was a very clear message that I needed to write a book about _____, and I’m not going to tell you what it was. I thought it was crazy until I came downstairs and typed the sentence: you need to write a book about _____. I couldn’t stop thinking about that idea. The next day I had 5,000 words written. I realized as I got into it further that it was just such a fun project. It has a lot of humor in it, which I might have a funny line here or there in my books, but this one has a ton of banter between the hero and heroine.

When I’m done with this project, I will turn my attention back to “The Girl He Used to Know,” because it’s still a story that I very much want to write. I have one more book after that and then after that I’ll probably go back to the drawing board.

Do you have release dates for any of your projects?

I have release dates for nothing at this point. I would like to have this new book out by September, but it could be a little earlier.

What novels or authors inspired you to write?

I have always been a really big fan of Jennifer Weiner, she writes straight up women’s fiction and I’d say she’s wonderful at it. I have probably read more women’s fiction than romance, which is strange because the first book I would write would end up being a contemporary romance. I’d gravitate towards women’s fiction in my 20s and 30s. I was always very inspired by that, but I think that’s also when I realized that occasionally I was pining for the romantic relationship to have more of a happily ever after. What I went on to write was heavily influenced by those early titles in women’s fiction. I just wanted a little bit more.

What’s up next for you, now that you have a few projects in various stages of development?

Well, considering I have an awful lot on my plate right now, I think just finishing the things that I started. It’s really important to me to have at least one book released a year. So far I’ve written a book and a novella. I don’t have any more plans to write another novella, especially because I have a book with series potential. Then, I would be writing the second book in that series. I’ll finish “The Girl He Used to Know” and then the other novel that I don’t have a title for. That will probably take me through the next three years. I don’t seem to be able to take a break and I really don’t want to . It is a lot of hard work, but it is a very satisfying. If the movie were to progress to the point where they were shooting, I would desperately love to visit the set with my husband and kids. It would be a once in a lifetime experience. I’m not one of those writers who would try to get in on the progress, but to take my kids to visit the set — I think they would really enjoy that. That’s something that I never thought I’d experience in my lifetime and from a book that began as a bucket list item for me.

You can connect with Tracey through Facebook, where she shares updates about her book and explains her writing process. You can also tweet her @tgarvisgraves and visit her website traceygarvisgraves.com.

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