Tracey Alvarez - A Love For Road Trips And Romance
Growing up and living in New Zealand has enabled Tracey Alvarez to write contemporary romantic fiction against the authentic backdrop of this beautiful country. Today we talk to her about her book, In Too Deep, what it is that draws her to using coastal towns in her stories and why it is not a good idea to ask her for romantic advice.
Give us a short introduction to In Too Deep
In Too Deep is the first book in a series set on a New Zealand’s third biggest island called Stewart Island. Piper Harland is a dive cop—a highly trained diver who as part of her job brings drowning victims back to their families. She hasn’t returned to her childhood home on Stewart Island for nine years since her father drowned in a diving accident. Then her estranged elder brother needs her help. For her sister and mother’s sake, Piper agrees. Only it’ll mean working in close proximity with Ryan ‘West’ Westlake again—her brother’s best friend, her first lover, and the man she’s never quite gotten over. Or forgiven.
Family and close communities usually play an important part in your books. Why?
I think within all of us there’s a need to find connection and acceptance within a group—to find home. Whether that be in an urban setting or in the case of my books, a rural one, is up to the individual. I’ve lived in a small Far North coastal community for many years, and I had a love/dislike relationship with small town life. I’ve also lived (and still live) in the suburbs of a big city (which is almost another type of small town), but some days I miss the different type of dynamics which come with a real small town setting. Family, on the other hand, can drive you nuts, but in an ideal world, will always have your back. I’m an only child so the sibling relationships I write about are from observation and wishful thinking!
Give us 3 good-to-know facts about yourself
Fact 1. I love road trips, especially in the USA. So far we’ve taken our kids on three US road trips, and this July DH and I are going solo from San Diego to Georgia. Yeah, we’re crazy to be going in summer!
Fact 2. Something not many people know about me is I’m actually a qualified fashion designer. Yep, straight out of high school, I did a two year certificate in Fashion Design. Needless to say, that career didn’t quite take off…
Fact 3. A number of my books feature dogs, but in reality I’m more of a cat person! The reason for that is I’ve co-owned two dogs (a border collie named Jake, and a golden Labrador named Honey) and both of them ran off into the hundreds of acres of native bush that surrounded our home in the Far North and we never found them again. Total heartbreak. So now I stick with cats and I currently have two seventh-month-old boy kittens called Alfie and Kevin who are extremely naughty (but loads of fun). They’re my furry muses.
What appeals to you about using ex-lovers who already have a history together as your main characters?
To me the most interesting thing about people is how they’ve become the people they are now, how past relationships have shaped and changed them. And quite often past lovers change each other a lot—and not always for the better. I enjoy the exploration of relationships that have gone through different stages and forms, and there’s something about knowing a person for a long time that gives you insight into their vulnerabilities but also exposes your own flaws and weaknesses. And flaws and weaknesses make interesting characters.
Your Romances often take place on islands or coastal towns in New Zealand. What is so special about these settings?
New Zealand is by definition three Islands – the North Island, South Island and Stewart Island (where the Due South series take place). You can’t get away from the coastline in this country, and you wouldn’t want to. New Zealand has some of the most beautiful beaches and wild coastlines in the world. Unspoiled, often deserted, nature at its purest – though I do admit the water temperature is chilly most of the year round! I grew up across the road from the beach listening to the sigh of the waves every night, and I’ve never lived more than a short distance from a beach throughout my adult life.
Your characters are very relatable. Are any of them based on real people?
No, they’re not based on real people, but some of their quirks or actions come about (and get twisted with my imagination) from things people I know have said or done. For example, in my latest book my hero gets a reluctant kid out of a tree by blasting him with a garden hose. This is based on a story told by a friend of mine at a young lady’s twenty-first birthday party. Thanks Paul, you’re the man!
You captured the Kiwi-style of speech beautifully in your book. Were you concerned that it might make it less easy to follow for people who are not familiar with this form of English?
Actually, I have watered down the Kiwi style a little to cater to my predominantly American audience – hopefully without ruining our New Zealand uniqueness. It’s a balancing act to try not to jerk readers out of my stories with the many words we use differently (eg. NZ boot to US trunk, NZ biscuit to US cookie). But with the world becoming smaller with internet and social media and US movies/TV being in New Zealand for so many years, we Kiwis have adopted many US words and turns of phrase anyway. Ten books later I’ve stopped worrying about this so much, and just write the best story I can with whatever word choices I decide to use!
Piper is a strong, tough woman who uses her grief to do something positive. Do you think this is a healthier way to deal with grief?
I started writing In Too Deep in 2011 and in February 2012 my mother passed away. For weeks after her death I couldn’t write anything, but I heard her voice saying to me “Never, ever give up.” So I pushed through, one painstaking sentence at a time, and let some of the grief out on the page. So to answer the question about Piper, yes. I believe for her she did the only thing she could do to survive losing her father—help other families bring their loved ones home. I think taking those actions gave her some small measure of peace each time and the tools to begin to deal with her own guilt and grief.
What do you hope that readers will take away from this book? Is there an underlying message?
First and foremost, In Too Deep is a romance, but it also has strong themes of guilt, forgiveness, family, and hope. I hope that readers can see through the initial hostility of the hero/heroine (it is an enemies-to-lovers trope after all) and see the real, live, hurting people beneath the tough veneer the duo both show to the world.
You have published quite a lot of books already. Tell us a bit about your writing habits. How do you manage to be so productive?
Funny, I don’t really consider myself productive! I wish I could write faster, but unfortunately…nope. I do write every weekday, or at least try to. However, my family and I live with my eighty-two-year-old father who has Alzheimer’s, so his needs and my family’s needs, still come first.
Your books feature, hot, dreamy guys. What's your advice on how to meet a nice, dreamy guy?
Considering I’m a powerful introvert and get tongue tied even looking at a hot, dreamy guy, I’m probably the worst person to ask for advice! Point in case during a photo op with a former All Black (NZ rugby player) at my DH’s work dinner (DH *made* me go up to get a photo with him saying my readers would appreciate it!), I had a facial temperature of 150 degrees and muttered “Wow, you’re REALLY tall—sorry for being short,” after he said “Hello.” Doh!
In Too Deep is the first book in the Due South series. How do the other books in this series tie in with this one? Can they be read as standalones?
All the other Due South books tie in with each other, but they are standalones with no ‘cliff-hanger’ ending. However, as any author would, I recommend you do read each book and enjoy each of the characters’ dynamics with each other and their circle or friends/family/community. The first five books deal with the Harland and Westlake families – Piper has a brother Ben (book #2) and a sister Shaye (book #3) and the hero of book #1 West has a brother Del (book #3) and a step-sister Carly (book #4) with book #5 is a collection of HEA short stories for the first four couples. Book #6 and #7 tackle another family that has featured throughout the first 5 books, a Maori family called the Komekes.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on the third book in the Far North series – which desperately makes me want to go ‘home’ to the Far North of New Zealand where the temperatures are a lot warmer this time of year (winter). Also I’m about to start work on book #8 in the Due South series, which will be partly set in Las Vegas – perfect excuse to research while we’re in the US this July!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I spend far too much time on Facebook, so stop by and say hi here: http://www.facebook.com/TraceyAlvarezAuthor
My website is http://www.traceyalvarez.com, and I send out a non-spammy monthly Kia ora/hello to readers with giveaways, news, snippets, book recommendations etc here: http://bit.ly/JR3Asu