A Few Moments With . . . Tracie Peterson
Almost 20 years ago, Tracie Peterson received her first fiction contract from Heartsong Presents and Barbour Publishing. In 1995, she went on to write for Bethany House. Since then, her total number of releases is nearing 100. The Kansas native and long-time resident of Montana was instrumental in forming American Christian Romance Writers, which we know now as ACFW. Recently I had the opportunity to ask Tracie, this year’s ACFW conference keynote speaker, a few questions.
Lynette: Back in 2000, when you and the other authors (DiAnn Mills, Andrea Boeshaar, Lynn Coleman, Gail Gaymer Martin, and Misty Taggart) created an organization for Christian romance writers, what did you envision? Is that vision close to the reality ACFW is today?
Tracie: The vision I had for this organization was to see a group of like-minded writers coming together to encourage and inspire each other. I hoped there would be training, networking, and all kinds of help available to writers at every stage of their writing career—and that’s what I see today. It’s not a perfect organization by any means, and there will always be things I wish it could do or be, but overall I feel it has the best of what we’d hoped for.
Lynette: I’m certainly grateful for the role ACRW and ACFW have played in my writing career. Where would you like to see our organization be in 10 years?
Tracie: I would like to see even more focus on local chapters. Smaller groups will offer the positive one-on-one people need. The online helps are fantastic though, so I don’t want to see that go away. I have a vision of seeing local chapters attending online workshops together and sponsoring local retreats and conferences. The local group can be so vital to new authors, but also to the established author. No one understands the heart of a writer, like another writer.
Lynette: One of the greatest blessings for me is meeting with my local chapter. I look forward to seeing growth at the local level as well. Our group has changed as it’s grown. What change do you look forward to most in the world of Christian fiction?
Tracie: I’m excited about books getting out there to more and more people. If that has to come through ebooks or any other format, I’m all about that. I think the more we work to make quality fiction available to the public, the better it is for each and every person with a story to tell.
Lynette: The variety of books available in the market excites and amazes me. What do you think we’re doing right in Christian fiction, as publishers and authors?
Tracie: I think it’s important to make books available at a reasonable price. I’m also all about quality. Most of us realize the details are important. I’m impressed with authors working on their craft, studying the changing genres, and working to hone their skills. When I see conferences well attended, it excites me because it represents a real commitment to the art of writing. Another area is book covers. I’m so impressed with the change in book covers in the last 10 years. Publishers have gone to great lengths to improve the art details.
Lynette: Speaking of improvement with publishers and authors, in what areas do you think we can improve?
Tracie: Quality. I often hear publishers talk about cutting back on editorial work and how authors need to have their book as publish-ready as possible. I’m all for that. We owe it to ourselves and the publisher to produce the best product possible. But, I also want to know that publishers are just as devoted to spending the money needed for quality editorial work. I need a fantastic editor to team with me. However, I also always strive to improve my techniques.
Writers and publishers need to be willing to change. I’ve had to re-invent my style and voice several times. Authors are often afraid to do this, but I think it’s necessary. If you have a following and readers expect a certain thing from you, I’m not suggesting you stop writing that way. However, authors need to be constantly growing and changing to meet the needs of new readers as well.
Lynette: What are some thoughts you’ll share at conference?
Tracie: Writing for me is a ministry and a passion. I want to share that and encourage writers to find their passion for writing and to explore why they do what they do. I also want to have fun and a few laughs. We can’t be serious all the time. Especially when James Scott Bell, Jim Rubart, Steve Laube, and Chip MacGregor are in the audience.
Lynette: Your release this month—To Have And To Hold—and your October release—House of Secrets—look like they have very different themes. Is there a common thread to both?
Tracie: Forgiveness. All my books have that common thread. Forgiving has been such a needed element in my life. I’ve often been on the giving and receiving end of forgiving and I’ve found out just what an amazing gift it is.
Lynette: Who has been the greatest influence on your writing?
Tracie: There are so many people who’ve influence my writing and it would be impossible to say one was the greatest. My mother encouraged me to write and really helped me to become a storyteller. A variety of authors have inspired me—and a great many of them are in ACFW. I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from Liz Curtis Higgs who said, “Don’t do junk for Jesus.” That’s stuck with me. I want to give God my very best.
Lynette: Even on the best days, writing can be difficult. What obstacles in your career has God helped you overcome?
Tracie: My entire dream of writing has been a journey of obstacles to overcome. I wanted to write Christian fiction long before it was popular, and God made a way through writers like Janette Oke and Bodie Thoene. I wanted to write Christian romance and God opened a way through the Heartsong Presents line from Barbour Publishing. I wanted to write longer length historical sagas and God put me in touch with Judith Pella and Bethany House. It’s been an amazing journey.
Lynette: Sometimes our journeys don’t seem that clear and discouragement lurks around every turn. If you sat down to have coffee with a discouraged writer, what would you tell her?
Tracie: Connect. Connect to God. Connect to the reason you write. Connect to the industry. Without doing those things, you only get a portion of the full package. Most writers are their own biggest enemies. Their insecurities and pride often create problems that keep them from connecting. The first two issues of connecting to God and why you write are very personal, but connecting to the industry is no harder than joining ACFW or attending a conference for writers. The industry has a lot to offer and when one area or genre closes, another inevitably opens. Don’t give up.