Behind The Books – Interview With Tracey Garvis Graves

by Maryse on May 16, 2012 · 10 comments

in Behind The Books

Author Tracey Garvis Graves

I’ll never forget the day my friend Tina started reading On the Island, and promptly recommended it to me. I was intrigued! Not only did the book detail a dangerous circumstance and a fight for survival, (two people having to survive on a deserted island after  plane crash!? Wow!) but there was an added *kick* to the intrigue. How the relationship between these two survivors (a 17 year old and his 30 year old female tutor) would progress. Alone, with nobody to cling to, to talk to, but each other. You just knew as a reader, you were certain to experience a special bond in the process.

“… Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

…It explores the human need for more than mere survival, the meaning of bonds formed in isolation, and the ways those bonds are bound to change.”

Yes. Yes. It. Does. A wonderfully detailed, beautiful tale. A story of not only physical survival, but emotional survival, as well. This book hooks the reader from the start and doesn’t let you go. In fact this is one you’ll never forget!

And others obviously agree as this book has made (and is still currently on) the New York Times and USA Today Best Sellers Lists, and has been optioned for a movie by MGM!! With all of this exciting news, I’m thrilled that the author, Tracey Garvis-Graves is letting us into a little piece of her world today!


Maryse: Hi Tracey!! *hug* I’m so happy to have you here today!! This book took us by storm, and I’d love to hear how this story came to you. Did it come to you completely or piece by piece, as you wrote it?

Tracey: The idea came to me first. I love, love, love the desert island premise and I wanted to write a book that put a fresh spin on it. I thought it would be a challenge to put two people on an island who really shouldn’t be together and then see what happened. 

Maryse: Oh yes!! I was certainly curious as to how this situation was going to play out. How did you react to it? Excited? Nervous? Did you immediately set to write it, or think about it first? ———> (This is the old cover)

Tracey: Oh gosh, I let the idea simmer in my head for months. I thought the storyline was way too risky, and I didn’t know if I wanted to start writing it. But the idea wouldn’t go away and the story started to take on a life of its own. Finally I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll just start outlining and see what happens.” I guess we all know how it ended!

Maryse: Yep!! And what a journey it was!! I really loved the little “reality twist” that your characters experienced. Did you always know the timeframe of when their story would occur, or did it come to you out of the blue as the perfect revelation?

Tracey: A little of both. I knew On the Island had to be pre-9/11 because in the opening chapter I wanted all the characters to be able to go to the gate (even the ones who weren’t getting on the plane). When it came time for another pivotal plot point (the one you’re referring to above – I have to be vague so I don’t spoil it), and I realized the dates worked perfectly (and so did the location), I literally jumped up and down screaming. 

Maryse: A true stroke of genius, Tracey!! Kudos to you.

It is such a heartfelt, emotional read. At times scary, at times funny, but always poignant. Were there any moments in the book that really affected you personally? Any surprises as you were writing it?

Tracey: I was surprised by how much I cried while writing the book. If a reader cried while reading any of the scenes, I probably cried while writing them. There was also one MAJOR plot point that took me by surprise. I thought, “There’s no way I can pull that off.” But I think I did. 

Maryse: Lump in my throat throughout, that’s for sure.

My mom is a real fan of yours, too, and she wanted to know: “How did you feel when you finally changed the relationship between the boy and his tutor…. did it make you feel uncomfortable to take them to the next step since she had known him as a boy and you now had to make him into a man.”

Tracey: Oh my gosh, yes! I found those scenes very hard to write. Even though I felt like I knew T.J.’s character intimately (and had watched him grow up), it still felt very weird. I was literally *fingers crossed* hoping his growth would translate clearly onto the page so there would be no doubt in the reader’s mind that T.J. and Anna were ready for this next step, and that it was a perfectly natural progression. I *think* I succeeded. ;)

Maryse: You handled it perfectly! I admit I was a little apprehensive at first (there was some teasing at my expense, going into it ;) ), but I found myself delighted in the progression. Can you tell us about your own writing process and experience as you wrote On the Island?

Tracey: I wrote every day before work and was usually typing away on my laptop by 5:30 a.m. I also tried to sneak in a long writing session on Saturday or Sunday while my husband did something fun with the kids. We had to do some tag-team parenting during the writing of On the Island, but it all worked out in the end and my kids and husband have been a huge source of support and encouragement. My son helped name the characters of Anna and T.J. which makes him feel very proud (even if he’s too young to read the actual book).

Maryse: Lots of hard work (and team work), but so worth it!! I’m thrilled you went for it!

How has the self-publishing experience been for you? How long was the book available before it took off the way it did?

Tracey: Self-publishing has been an awesome and rewarding experience. A year ago I wanted a traditional publishing contract more than anything, but I went ahead with my plan to self-publish after not being able to obtain an agent. I was hesitant since so many people still look down on it, and I was feeling pretty defeated mentally from my unsuccessful querying. But then I decided that the most important thing was sharing the story with readers and letting them decide if it was good enough. I learned an important lesson: the readers are the only people that truly matter.   

The book came out in September, started picking up steam in late December, and really took off in March after Amazon included On the Island in their ‘The Big Deal’ promotion. 

Maryse: Yep! December was when I read it. It was my last book in 2011 and I ended off my reading year with a delightful bang!

Ahhhh wow, I bet some are regretting not taking you up on that query. *shakes head*. Taking that chance and believing in your story indulged reading fanatics everywhere. How lucky we are! Were you surprised at the incredible reader reaction and enthusiasm over your novel? Or had you imagined this book succeeding as wonderfully as it did?

Tracey: Surprised doesn’t begin to describe it. I am completely blown away. I thought I’d sell a hundred copies if I was lucky. 

Maryse: *grins* Any funny, or surprising reader reactions that you’d like to share with us?

Tracey: I am so surprised at the number of male readers who have reached out to me. All of them make me laugh because they tell me how manly they are and that they don’t normally read romance novels. Some of them tell me their height or that they’re ex-military men. It’s seriously adorable. On the Island is categorized on Amazon as contemporary romance and action and adventure. I think the men stumble upon it in the action and adventure category, download it, and then pretty soon they’re probably thinking, “Hold the phone. This is a romance novel. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?” But they keep reading and then write to me and tell me how much they loved On the Island. Some of them have even said they cried. I’ve also heard from a surprisingly high number of men over fifty which is not even remotely a demographic I thought I’d reach. It’s awesome! 

Maryse: YES!! I, too, have received comments from men about how much they enjoyed the story. I love that they stuck with it. Do you intend on continuing their story through a future installment or two? *crosses fingers*

Tracey: Sadly, no. There isn’t much more I could do with the story. Believe me, I wish I could because I really miss T.J. and Anna. 

Maryse: Sometimes you just shouldn’t mess with perfection. ;) This book has been optioned by MGM for a movie. Congratulations!! This story would translate wonderfully as a movie. Can you tell us about the day you received the news?

Tracey: My agent had been keeping me in the loop so I had a good idea of what was happening. When she called to tell me that MGM had made the final offer I felt oddly detached because a movie option was beyond my wildest dreams. I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet. Maybe someone should pinch me.

Maryse: *pinch* Did that help? Hehe.

Can you tell us a bit about this stage of the movie process? Will you be involved in any of the decision making?

Tracey: It’s just in the option stage which means it’s no longer available for any other studios to bid on. I don’t think I’ll be involved in any of the decision-making process, but I’m not 100% sure about that. I think I’ll have more information when/if it moves into the production stage. 

Maryse: Whether you have a say in the official “cast” of the movie or not, I’d love to hear who your dream cast would be.

Tracey: I posted my dream cast on my blog when I announced the movie news. You can find the post here:

Maryse: YES YES YES on Taylor! I think I have his picture on my review. Tina cracked me up with some of her funny “T.J” captions, and I just had to share it.

So what are you working on now?

Tracey: I’m working on a novel called Covet. It’s women’s fiction and it’s also a contemporary novel. Here’s the tagline, cover image, and short description from Goodreads:

Maryse: You know I’ll be reading it. I can’t wait! As much as we absolutely loved and highly recommend On the Island to our friends, are there any books out there that you consider one of your favorites, that you’d like to recommend to us?

Tracey: Unfortunately, my reading time has really suffered in the last two years and my TBR pile is out of control. I can’t read another author’s work when I’m deep into my own work-in-progress because I need to keep the author voices separate. One book I did read recently was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I flat-out ugly cried. It was just a beautiful, heart-wrenching story, but I loved it. 

Maryse: Hey I just looked that one up a couple of weeks ago when it was recommended, I believe, in my “Books That Made me Cry” list. I’m on it!

Thank you so much, Tracey for giving us a behind the scenes look at your amazing novel!

For those of you interested in learning more about Tracey, and receiving updates, you can follow her here:

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom May 16, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Thank you so much for another wonderful interview, it is always fun to get the behind the scenes from a book that really captured our attention.

Rebecca Espinoza May 16, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Great interveiw! “…the readers are the only people that truly matter.” Love that she said this! I’ve read so many books in the past year and many of my favs have been self-published, and most of them recommended by you Maryse! Thank you!

Ana Ivie May 16, 2012 at 9:43 PM

I just read this in one sitting today. No breaks. It was amazing! Perfect timing to catch this great interview.

Carla May 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

Wow i just finished this book today. Really amazing Maryse. Thanks for the recomendation.
Nice interview. I liked her dream cast. Taylor would be great.
I love when we get a new one. ;) Thanks!

Scamp May 17, 2012 at 12:06 AM

thanks for the interviews! I do believe my fav question is always who do you see playing your chars bc I can spend hours looking up actors I like!

Anita Fleming May 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Awesome interview Maryse!! Loved getting to know Tracey’s writing process and how the book evolved. I like her dream cast for the movie. Dont you just LOVE success stories about people who are so good at heart! Tracey you rock and your stories are so appreciated. WRITE ON!!!!!!

Maryse May 17, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Mom: It was fun!!

Rebecca: I loved that! If she hadn’t published it, we would have missed something BIG!

Ana & Carla: So glad that you guys loved it too, and that the interview coincided so perfectly with your read ;)

Scamp: I do the same. When I start a book I go on a “character inspiration” model/actor hunt. I forget to just check the author’s website as they might already have something up.

Anita: I do!! Tracey totally deserves all of the wonderful praise and success!

Sharon May 17, 2012 at 2:19 PM

I read this based on your review Maryse and I loved it. So pleased to hear more is coming from this author.

Please read The Fault in our Stars it is amazing. Big ugly cry amazing.

Maryse May 17, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Will do Sharon!! I already feel my heart breaking ’cause I read the synopsis…

Kathryn Hughett May 22, 2012 at 10:48 AM

I’m trying to get my sisters into reading. One of them read the Twilight series but she stalled after that. I ordered “On the Island ” for her yesterday from Amazon so that I have someone to talk to about it. I read it in two days and spent this past weekend talking to my entire extended family about it.

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