Habits of the Slow and Steady ~ Tracy L. Higley’s Writing Journey

by Kelly Klepfer

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

It’s so easy to get your self-worth tied up in the number of books you sell, and so easy to forget that writing is first and foremost creating art (hopefully), which will never be validated by numbers. And secondly, your worth has to come from someplace more secure than sales.  I’m not sure I “handle it” very well, but when I’m centered on the right things, I can let go of the need to see sales numbers climb.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

I am passionate about seeing people, especially women, live out the adventures of their lives with purpose and risk. So many of us get caught up in busyness that is not purposeful, or stand on the sidelines while life rushes past. In the stories I tell, I am always examining issues of what blocks us from pursuing the unique adventure we are each called to.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

The Queen’s Handmaid just released.  What happens when Cleopatra meets Herod the Great? This little-known historical anecdote was the starting point for a story that dives deep into the ancient worlds of Egypt, Rome and Jerusalem, a few decades before the birth of Christ. I loved exploring the relationships between Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Herod the Great and Caesar Augustus, through the eyes of a servant girl who sees it all while trying to fulfill her own incredible destiny.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.

Yes, and yes!  Always.  I don’t think this ever goes away. Lately, though, I’ve realized that I can’t look at anyone else’s pace or rhythm to be the standard for my own. And I’ve discovered that making just a little bit of writing a daily practice, non-negotiable, is a great habit for me. It gets the work done, slow and steady, without as much of that angst.

What is your favorite source for finding story ideas?

I’ve done lots of traveling in researching my books – all around the Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. Getting into the culture, walking the streets, breathing the air have all been such an inspiration to me. Someday I’m going to park myself on a Greek island for a month and just write!

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.

I was verbally chastised once, in front of a large tour group in the ancient city of Ephesus, for “lagging behind.”  I was too far away to explain to the woman that I was researching a book, so I just called out that information over the heads of the rest of the group.  Afterward, I felt extremely vain and showy, and wished I could melt into the rocks!

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?

They say it’s deadly to read your own reviews, but I can’t help myself.  Sometimes there’s a review that gets me down for awhile, but for the most part I just love hearing what people enjoyed about my stories. When they say that I transported them completely to a different world and brought them back changed, it makes it all worthwhile.

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

Hmmm, I’ve had quite a few!  Climbing up the suffocatingly-narrow shaft to the top of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Having the lights go out while exploring catacombs under Alexandria. Hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvius over Pompeii and looking down into the volcanic crater. Walking the same streets as St. Paul.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you’d like.

This is my favorite place to write – a patio I created under my deck a couple of years ago. On the right is the view I see when I’m sitting at the table.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

Plot, plot, plot.  I definitely like to have the entire thing laid out in my head before I begin. There are always surprises along the way, but I like to know where I’m going!

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I’ve already shared that I have a non-negotiable contract with myself to write every morning, and that’s at least 750 words. There will be other long days of writing interspersed, but if I can get that much done every day, I’m able to stay on track. I also use a time-tracking app, so when I’m ready to start my 750 words, I hit the button and race the clock to see how quickly I can get it done. Timing myself really helps me stay out of “editing” mode and in “creative” mode.

Have you discovered any successful marketing/promo ideas that you’d share with us?

Contests and being part of Fiction Scavenger Hunts have worked very well for me. People love to enter contests, and teaming up with other authors brings more traffic to everyone.

Parting words?

Thanks for giving me a chance to meet your readers!  I’d love to have folks hop over to my website, www.TracyHigley.com, to see my travel journals, read excerpts, and of course, enter to win a contest!

Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. Her lifelong interest in history and mythology have led Tracy to extensive research into ancient lands and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

Higley has authored eleven novels, including Garden of Madness and Isle of Shadows, and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her books. She is thrilled to bring readers adventures set in the ancient past, and it’s her hope that in escaping with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through these deserts, explored ruins, felt the white sand and blue sea under their feet and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.

For more information about Tracy L. Higley and her books, visit tracyhigley.com, become a fan on Facebook (tracyhigley) or follow her on Twitter (@tlhigley).