Tracie Peterson has been dubbed the “Queen of Historical Fiction.” With over 100 novels published, Peterson has transported her readers back in time to explore significant historical events and unique settings ranging from the Deep South to the far north. In her newest book, Beyond the Desert Sands, book two in the Love on the Santa Fe series, Peterson heads to the New Mexico desert during the early 1900s and brings to life the bold beauty of the area and those who lived in it.
We wanted to talk with Tracie about this new book and about her writing journey:
Tracie, in writing your new book, Beyond The Desert Sands, what do you feel makes it stand out? The current book and series deal with the Santa Fe Railroad. I grew up in Topeka, KS where the Santa Fe was big news. I had family who worked for them and loved riding the train. Through this series I am able to promote that railroad and the way they made such a huge difference in this country.
In this new book, what would you like the reader to feel and walk away with? The story speaks to issues of past mistakes or experiences making difficulty for the future. As with most of my stories, forgiveness is a topic that is threaded throughout the story.
Tell us about when you start writing? I’ve written most all my life but got really serious about it when I turned 30. I sold a few articles and had a column in a Christian newspaper, then finally got my first book contract a couple of years later.
Do you have favorite authors, if so who are two of them? Tom Clancy and Charles Martin.
Do you feel they influenced you? In what way? Both are great storytellers and that always influences me as I study what they did to create a story that made me want to keep reading. I also learned a lot about multiple sub-plots from Tom Clancy’s writings.
At what point in your writing career did you feel like you had gone from amateur to pro? When I quit my day job in 1995. As the sole support of my family, due to my husband’s illness at the time, I knew I had to make this work. I felt God telling me it was time, however, so I took that leap of faith.
What do you look for in choosing a setting for a new book? I want a setting that has enough interesting tidbits and appeals that it can because like a secondary character in the story.
What steps if any are involved in research for your books? I am well known for my research and accuracy. When I plot out an idea for a book, I make a lot of notes as to what kind of things I’ll need to know for the writing of the book. Most of the time the initial research comes ahead of any idea for a book. I love to read non-fiction history. I usually line up non-fiction books that focus on my topic place or event or time period and start reading. I try to always go to the place I’m writing about and explore the lay of the land and talk to locals. I watch documentaries and really try to immerse myself in what was going on at the time. I also read the newspapers of the time to see what was popular, what was happening, etc. And usually in the process of my research, I find a person or two who is an authority on the area or event and utilize their knowledge.
What would you say is the best writing advice you have received so far? To write what I know and learn what I don’t.
What is the worst? Don’t even try to write, hardly anyone ever gets published.
Between plotting, character development, dialogue, and scenes, which is easiest for you, and which takes a lot of effort? I love all of those aspects. Character development is something I really enjoy. I even made up a list of 100 questions to ask about my characters.
What is your schedule for writing? Everyday, Monday through Friday. I get up and get to work going over what I wrote the day before, then checking my detailed synopsis for what comes next and then writing the next chapter.
What do you do if you get stumped? Take the day off and come back to it fresh.
Did you or do you make any sacrifices to be a writer? In the beginning it was difficult. I had no office. I lived with my in-laws and family (3 kids and husband) in a small house where there was no place to escape for quiet. Once I was able to afford a laptop, it got a little easier. I could go in early to work and sit in the car and write or use my lunch hour to write. There was a lot of juggling to do in those early days.
Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you? I’ve always loved romance, so a little of both could be said.
What is the best way you found to market your book? Word of mouth
Did you actively build a network of readers and if so, how? I did a lot of book signings and speaking events at libraries and writer conferences. I also wrote for a book club that automatically gave me a group of readers which was nice.
Are you on the Social Media Highway and if so, do you schedule times to post? I’m on Facebook and Instagram, but don’t really schedule post times. I just try to add something when I can.
We are always interested in the advice successful authors can offer to beginners and those who are still trying to get published. Would you give us suggestions and advice? Join a writer organization like American Christian Fiction Writers. I helped to found that organization and the helps they have to offer are incredible. You get to network with other authors, as well as editors and agents through ACFW and there’s also a yearly conference that provides all sorts of workshops and one-on-one appointments.
Tracie Peterson is the award-winning author of over 100 novels,
both historical and contemporary. Her avid research resonates in her
many bestselling series. Tracie and her family make their home in
Montana. Visit traciepeterson.com to learn more.