Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Author Interview: Traci Hunter Abramson

Not only does my guest, Traci Hunter Abramson, coach the swim team at the high school where she lives in Virginia, but she used to work for the CIA. Both backgrounds are reflected in her taut, gripping novels. Her latest book is Freefall, published by Covenant Communications.

Welcome, Traci! What made you start writing?
I blame my parents actually. They sent me and my sister to bed really early when we were kids. I used to lie in bed and make up stories to entertain myself for the hour or two it took for me to fall asleep. When I reached adulthood, I was driven to write the stories down and see them all the way through to their conclusions. Maybe I should be thanking Mom and Dad instead of blaming them!

How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
I started dabbling with writing my senior year in college, but I never actually wrote a complete manuscript. Rather, I would start writing lots of stories and then give up and move on to the next one. When I resigned from the Central Intelligence Agency, I started writing again and actually found that I could make my plots work. My first few attempts weren’t that good, but my sister-in-law, Rebecca, helped me edit them anyway and I learned a lot through the process. I also spent about 18 months writing a column for a small, weekly paper.

Realizing that I couldn’t write non-fiction and fiction at the same time, I quit the newspaper and started rewriting a story that I had played with over the past several years. Though it took a lot of editing, that manuscript, Undercurrents, was eventually accepted by Covenant Communications in the spring of 2003 and was published in March, 2004. Prior to that, I wrote a cookbook with my mom entitled I Don’t Do Pie Crusts.

What type of a writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
According to my cousin who is an English teacher, I am a stream of consciousness writer. I guess that’s the fancy way of saying that I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write until I see it on the computer screen. I start each project with a general concept, but I really don’t know how it’s going to develop until a month or so later when the rough draft is sitting on my desk.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Choosing character’s names is probably one of the hardest things for me. I often just flip through a baby name book or use a character naming resource until I find one that fits the character. I’ve even called up friends and family members and asked them to give me a bunch of names so I could just pick one. I’ve also had several characters who have been renamed after I finish a project because the name doesn’t seem to suit them anymore.

What is your daily schedule like?
My daily schedule is pretty crazy. During the winter months I don’t do a lot of writing because I am actively engaged in coaching the local high school swim team. After this time off each year, I am able to get those creative juices flowing again throughout the spring.

When all is going according to plan (can you hear me laughing?), I get up when my teenagers head out the door to seminary at 6 AM and write for an hour or so. Then after the kids get off to school, I try to convince my preschooler that he should let me have some time by myself with the computer. Since this rarely works, I generally hope the three mornings a week he is in preschool will be productive.

How do you handle life interruptions?
I ignore them when I can, and deal with them when I can’t. With four kids and a husband coming and going at all hours of the day, life is rarely quiet, but I don’t often have to institute the rule of “DO NOT DISTURB EXCEPT WHEN BLEEDING IS INVOLVED.” This rule is much more effective when used sparingly…and when strict deadlines are involved.

Do you write to music? If so, with lyrics or only instrumentals?
I generally don’t write to music, unless you consider the music that’s playing on the computer across the room while my teenager is on Facebook. You can see why early mornings are my most productive times!

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
It’s crazy, but I go in spurts. If things are going good, whatever food I can grab without having to take the time to prepare it is great. This might be some animal crackers or a bagel. Other times I fall into the trap of having a candy bar or two (or three) at my desk for a quick snack, but I find when I’m writing it’s easy to let food keep me from doing what I’m trying to accomplish. Sometimes I have the opposite problem of realizing it’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I forgot to eat all day. I guess you could say I’m still trying to work on my organizational skills when it comes to balancing eating and writing.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
My favorite part of writing is reading the finished product. It doesn’t matter if it’s the rough draft that I’m still shocked to have found on my desk four or five weeks after I started writing or the novel that just arrived from the publisher. I really enjoy the complete amazement of reading this new creation that for some reason the Lord saw fit to help me create. As for my least favorite part of writing, I’m not sure I have one unless you consider the struggle of finding a few minutes of quiet in a very noisy house.

What is your next project?
Right now I’m working on editing my next novel, tentatively titled Royal Hearts, which is slated to come out in August or early fall of this year. It’s a stand alone novel with a heroine who works with the CIA and finds herself assigned to protect the royal family of the fictional country of Meridia. It’s a fun romantic suspense novel that I really enjoyed writing. I also have another novel, Lockdown, that is being edited right now and will come out early next year. It is a parallel novel to Freefall and was written in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy as my way of working through that terrible incident. The result is a suspense novel that is a bit different than anything I’ve ever done before.

What is your advice for other writers?
I’ll pass along the advice a fellow writer, Lynn Gardner, once gave me. Edit, edit, edit! I know it is so tempting to think that a work-in-progress is ready for submission, but I really think taking the time to edit well and finding people you can trust to help you through this initial process makes a huge difference in an author’s success. The other thing I would also add to that is to be willing to learn and be open to advice. It’s never easy to take criticism, but during the editing process I am eager to hear the opinions of those I trust. I need them so that I can make my work better. After all, everyone wants to improve, right?

Tell us about your new book.

Freefall is the story of Amy Whitmore and Navy Lieutenant Brent Miller. Brent is sent into the fictional country of Abolstan with his SEAL team to rescue seven hostages. Things don’t go quite the way they planned, however, and Brent and Amy are left behind enemy lines. This is definitely an action/suspense novel, but romance is interwoven in the plot. The main characters have strong personalities and have to learn to trust and depend upon one another to survive.

This book is not part of a series, however Amy Whitmore did make a cameo appearance in my novel Undercurrents and there are glimpses of her family members throughout the book, including Matt Whitmore, who was a main character in my previous novels. Also, I have several parallel novels planned featuring the other members of Brent’s Navy SEAL team, the first of which is Lockdown due out next spring.

What other work of yours has been published?

I Don’t Do Pie Crusts, Fast and Easy Recipes for Today’s Busy Lifestyles, 2001, Parker Publishing

Undercurrents, 2004, Covenant Communications
Ripple Effect, 2005, Covenant Communications
The Deep End, 2007, Covenant Communications

Thank you for the interview, Traci.

You're welcome!

Visit Traci's website at and her blog here.


  1. excellent interview! trace is a terrific lady!

    thanks, enjoyed this,
    kathleen in anchorage alaska :)

  2. I can't believe how much Tracy does. It is incredible. A big surprise for me is that once a book is accepted there is very little real editting that happens. I always thought the editor worked with you more but really they are just going for gramatical stuff and consistency. Who do you get to help you with editting? How do you know when you are really done?

  3. Hi Marsha,

    A tad off topic, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the ANWA conference last Saturday. It was great to meet you and every one else that was there.


I welcome your comments.

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