On the Island

Tracey Garvis Graves's 5 Firsts and Lasts

UnchartedOur guest today: Tracey Garvis-Graves Why we love her: Her debut, On the Island was fantastic!  And we fell even more in love when we met her last month at BEA.

Her latest:  Uncharted-An On the Island novella! (only 2.99!!!)

The Scoop: When twenty-three-year-old dot-com millionaire Owen Sparks walked away from his charmed life, he had one goal in mind: get as far away as possible from the people who resented his success, or had their hand out for a piece of it. A remote uncharted island halfway around the world seemed like a perfectly logical place to get away from it all.

Calia Reed wasn't part of Owen's plans. The beautiful British girl—on holiday in the Maldives with her brother, James—made Owen wonder if getting away from it all might be a lot more enjoyable with a carefree girl who didn't know anything about the life he left behind.

But Owen had no idea how much his carefully detailed plans would go awry. Nor did he realize that a decision he made would have such a catastrophic effect on two passengers who boarded a plane in Chicago.

And when Owen shows up at Anna and T.J.'s door with an incredible story to tell, everyone involved will learn just how much their lives are intertwined.

Our thoughts: We can't WAIT to read catch up with TJ and Anna!  SO excited!

Fun fact: On the Island was picked up by Penguin after it's incredible self publication sales!

Where you can read more about Tracey: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Author of On the Island and Covet, Tracey Garvis Graves


FIRST-My 7th grade boyfriend and I embarked on the world’s longest kissing session when we were at a party. Neither of us really knew what we were doing or that we could take a break to come up for air. I mostly remember worrying that I might pass out from lack of oxygen.

LAST -My dog caught me unaware and slipped me the tongue about an hour ago. I’m embarrassed to admit that this happens frequently. Thankfully I also receive daily kisses from my kids and my husband.


FIRST-The first book I can remember reading – and loving – is The Monster at the End of This Book. You can probably imagine my delight the first time I read it to my own children.

LAST-The last book I read was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I am not a huge literary fiction reader, but this book blew me away. The writing is simply gorgeous. I had the pleasure of meeting Meg when I was in New York for BEA. I may have frightened her with my fangirling.


FIRST-I have always been very risk-averse. I have a fearless twin sister who was always the first to try new things, whether it was swimming in the deep end or learning how to drive a car. I have always been the cautious, careful, non-daredevil twin. However, when I wrote On the Island I took a huge risk because the main characters have a thirteen year age difference, and it’s the woman who’s older. She’s also the younger male character’s tutor. I really wanted to write a desert island book, and I knew that I wanted to put two people on an island – two people who should never be together – and see if I could convince the readers to not only fall in love with them as individual characters, but also root for them to be together. I was very, very lucky that readers embraced Anna and T.J. the way they did because it could have easily gone the other way.

LAST-My most recent risk involves following up a contemporary romance novel with a book that fits more solidly in the women’s fiction category. It’s tempting as a writer to write a book that is similar to the one that came before it. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. You know your readers will probably embrace it because you’re giving them more of something they already like. But Covet became the story I just had to tell because it was the one I couldn’t get out of my head.

I know my readers are probably expecting another love story like Anna and T.J.’s, but Covet is about a married couple who live in the suburbs. I remember back in late 2008 when the recession was in full-swing. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time and my husband was in real danger of being laid off. He works in commercial real estate and it would have been very hard for him to find another job. We were extremely fortunate because he was able to keep his job, but this experience is what gave me the spark of an idea for Covet: What if my husband had lost his job and been out of work for an extended period of time? What might have happened to an otherwise strong marriage if an outside event like this had upset the status quo? I wrote the book to find out the answers to these questions.


FIRST-I have two of them. The first was when my agent informed me that On the Island made the New York Times bestseller list. It was late on a Wednesday night and my kids were in bed and my husband wasn’t home. I was overcome with excitement and there was no one I could share the news with, so I excitedly announced the news to my dog, Chloe. That’s probably why she kisses me all the time. I also e-mailed my dad and stepmom, and I used lots of exclamation points. The second truly surreal moment came when I sold over 100,000 copies of the self-published version of On the Island in one month.

LAST-There have been several recent reviews of Covet where the reviewer really understood what I wanted to do with this book. Covet is a book that I think many women can relate to, because it’s about marriage and family and the struggles and triumphs within. The characters are very human. It’s wonderful knowing that my intentions for this book are being realized, and that I was able to successfully transfer them to the page.


FIRST-A friend invited me to a psychic party about fifteen years ago. It was just for fun and I enjoyed hearing the psychic’s predictions. I saw this same psychic a few more times and even hosted my own party, which was a big hit. But one time she really floored me by saying she thought it would be a good idea for me to write a book someday. She didn’t give me any details other than to say, “I think once the kids are a little older you’ll just want something for yourself.” This was about ten or eleven years ago, and I kind of forgot about it. Fast forward to 2011. I was working full-time and in the final revision stage of On the Island.  I had been spreading myself pretty thin and I was exhausted. My husband was gently chastising me and saying that I was going to get sick if I didn’t slow down a bit. I ranted and raved about how I was so close to being done and so happy that I was about to accomplish my goal of writing a novel. I wanted him to know how much it meant to me so I turned to him and said, “I just want something for myself!” It was then that I remembered that those had been the psychic’s exact words, and my aha! moment came when I realized that it’s okay to want something outside of marriage and children that’s just for you. Who wouldn’t want that?

LAST-This one is fairly recent. In the last year I’ve focused so intently on my deadlines that I’ve let a few important things fall by the wayside, including exercise, regular social activity (just try getting me out of the house when I have a book due), and time to let my brain re-charge by letting my mind wander. My goal is to achieve a better balance because even though writing brings me great joy, there are many other things that make me happy, too. I’m also starting to learn the power of saying “no” when it needs to be said.

Thanks, Tracey!

Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Tracey Garvis Graves

Our latest Lit IT girl: Tracey Garvis-Graves Why we love her: She is an inspiration to all self-pubbers! (And she's a great writer too!)

Her debut: On The Island

The Scoop: Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. 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.

Our thoughts: The ultimate beach read! Love it!

Giveaway: FIVE copies!  Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win.  We'll choose the winners after 6pm PST on Sunday, August 19th.

Fun fact: Tracey broke all the so-called "rules" when she self-pubbed On The Island and it paid off in spades!

Where to read more about Tracey: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


1. How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? I queried fourteen agents but unfortunately, I never found the one. I received only form rejection letters. After On the Island hit the top 10 on Amazon an agent reached out to me and I signed with her. She's done wonderful things for me, including selling foreign rights in seventeen countries, a feature film option to MGM, and a two-book deal with Penguin.

2. What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? Well, since they were all form letters I never received a personalized rejection. I did win a first chapter critique on Twitter and after the agent read it she said that it was just very "scene setting" and that nothing really happened. I was a bit surprised by the feedback since I crashed a plane in that chapter.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? Since I'd never written a novel the structure and pacing were the trickiest parts, especially since On the Island is written in a dual narrative. There were many times when I had to cut, paste, and reorganize. I also needed to make sure that each character had their own distinctive voice. The research needed to write a desert island book set in the Maldives was overwhelming at times. I'm not sure I ever want to tackle that again.

4. What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? The best advice was to get a thick skin. Most of the time I'm bulletproof, but catch me on a bad day and I'm just as vulnerable and heartbroken as the next girl. The worst advice was all the rules I read on agent's blogs. Don't include a prologue (I didn't, but only because the story didn't warrant one), don't attempt a dual narrative (I did and it was very effective for the type of book I'd written), don't write in present tense (On the Island is written in past tense, but the epilogue is written in present). Bottom line: do whatever you want but try your best to do it well. Know what the rules are but break them if you need to. The literature police aren't going to come after you and chances are your readers won't care (or even notice) what you do as long as you hold their attention and tell a good story.

5. How did you celebrate your book deal? The way I celebrate most things -with wine, friends, and family.

6. Who is your writer crush? Stephen King. I'd love to sit down with him for an hour and pick his brain. I think he's brilliant.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? Stephen King's The Stand.

8. What's on your iPod right now? I've compiled a playlist for Covet, the book I'm currently writing. It is on constant repeat in my car and features songs from Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 (off the Cradlesong album), Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and The Police. My kids are so tired of it.

9. What's your #1 stress reliever? Reading and getting a good night's sleep. I feel so much better and more energetic if I get to bed on time.

10. Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? The wonderful olympic athletes who worked so hard and gave their all in London.

Thanks Tracey! xoxo, L&L