self pub

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