Friday, 29 July 2011

Interview with Terry Tracy

It's taken me a while to get this put together but here it is :-) A big thank you to Terry Tracy for answering my questions about her novel 'A Great Place for a Seizure' and I hope my readers find this interview as fascinating as I do!

1. Having read the book from cover to cover I’ve been left wondering; how
much of your novel was based on your own experiences in life?

More than half of the novel is based on my life. For the sake of plot and pace I left out the more boring parts and introduced interesting twists to the life of the main character. For example, I'm not a political refugee, I'm not Hispanic, and I did not suffer the loss of a parent. I wish I could deny the autobiographical aspect because there is so much raw emotion in the novel, but I had to draw from my life to make the story genuine.
The novel is supplemented with my imagination, life experiences of others, research, and random observations, but I'm in there, no question about it.

2. In relation to the previous question, throughout the novel Mischa faces a
lot of challenges in getting others to see her as a person instead of being
defined by her epilepsy. Is that a problem you yourself have faced?

I have not been defined by my epilepsy because I haven't let people define me by my epilepsy. I have epilepsy, it's part of me, but it's not all of me. My epilepsy has contributed to the definition of my identity probably as much as being a woman or an American. 
Because the book concerns identity and, in particular, the identity of a person with a disability I lay that tension out in the novel and concentrate it. 
I took the few instances that I faced or read about in the memoirs of people with epilepsy and magnified them to make them significant events in her life.
That way this question, “Is a person with a disability defined by the disability?” stands out in high relief and is easier to see. If I had made the novel more reflective of my experience then I don't think that theme would have come through as clearly.

3. Mischa goes through some tough times throughout the novel and some of
these times are made even more difficult because of her Epilepsy, would
you say you yourself have found this to be true?

There have been tough times due to my epilepsy, but I've also lived through
some tough times that were completely unrelated to my epilepsy.
I think it's important not to make a disability an excuse for difficulty in life or failure. Life is difficult in general. 
My epilepsy might have inhibited my life in some areas, for example, I never took up mountain climbing as a hobby. Having a seizure whilst dangling from a rock would not be a good thing. Therefore, I've never considered it as a past time.
As a result I never despaired for not fulfilling a dream to climb Mt. Everest because I never had that dream. But just because I can't be a mountain climber, a race car driver, or a pilot isn't a failure as a result of epilepsy. I suppose that difficulty was self-censored out of my life. It is not a life choice that I made and so I didn't experience my epilepsy as a difficulty.
I love to write and that is my hobby and passion. Coincidentally, that past time is pretty compatible with epilepsy. Having a seizure at a desk is not so bad. So perhaps I just looked for other paths and tried not to set myself up for too much failure or difficulty. That's just an approach to life, but I think it works with or without a disability.

4. If I had to pick one of my favourite chapter from the book it would have to
be ‘The Taxi’ because of the clever way its written in relation to the rest of the
book, do you have a favourite part?

Thank you. I'm glad you liked that chapter. I enjoyed writing it because I could satisfy the closet philosopher in me in a way that fed the story.
My favourite chapter comes early on, Chapter 7, “The Living Room.” It's become my favourite for technical reasons. Before this book I had only written on political and historical subject matters in my studies and my work as a human rights activist, journalist and diplomat. 
What made me nervous about this project was learning to write dialogue. If I couldn't do that, then I
knew that I couldn't write a novel. Chapter 7 has a lot of dialogue. It took quite a while to craft the timing and the tempo of the conversations between the characters. Therefore, for all the distance that I travelled up that learning curve, I like Chapter 7. 
It represents the first hurdle I passed in penning this novel, learning to write dialogue.

5. Other than Mischa, who was your favourite character to write about, and
were they based on anyone you met in your life?

My favourite character was Sophie. She is a composite of many of the people in my life, family, friends, and the many strangers who just dropped in at difficult times and showed me love, compassion and kindness. I distilled all those people and those experiences into one person and that is Sophie.

6. Without posting spoilers, did you always plan for the book to end the way
it did?

No. One night it just hit me. I still remember being in bed and looking into the dark, trying to get my head around how to end the story. Then it struck me around 2am in the morning and I woke up my husband up to tell him. He said “that's good” and went back to sleep. I had to go back and adjust several chapters (or should I say stories?) and scenes as a result of that bolt of lightening.

7. ‘A Great Place for a Seizure’ came across as very informative and
educational as well as being a very emotional and thrilling read. Was there any
particular event that inspired you to write it?

A situation and an event inspired me. The situation was my new found status as a stay at home mom when we moved to the UK. My husband had followed me and my career around for 7 years, so now it was his turn. As a stay at home mom I started reading fiction, something I had not done as much after high school.
The event that inspired me was reading The Idiot, by Dostoevsky. I had always wanted to read that book, but never got around to it. I was curious because the title character was epileptic as was Dostoevsky.
The character's name is Prince Myshkin, who is best described as a carpet because he lets everyone walk all over him.
As an epileptic, I found it irritating that the most famous portrayal of us was the pathetic and humourless Prince Myshkin. One day I wondered, “What if I wrote a novel and the main character was a sarcastic epileptic?

8. Finally, what is the most bizarre or interesting place you have ever had a

The most bizarre place was at an international diplomatic event, in Miami. Several ambassadors, former heads of state, and representatives from international organizations were present. I think there were a thousand people or more. In the middle of a speech I had a gran mal seizure. 
A close second is at Cambridge University where I had a gran mal seizure in the middle of a class. From what I heard afterwards, the very distinguished Cambridge don, a well known history professor, was very shaken.
Because the medics couldn't get to me someone had to go through the classrooms looking for people, big guys, who could take me out of the building. They found a student, a rugby player on the University team. He carried me on his shoulders, down the stairs. I was completely unconscious after them both and only woke up in the hospital to find out what had happened.

Once again to massive thanks to Terry Tracy for allowing me to interview her and for answering the questions very honestly :-)
To view my review of 'A Great Place for a Seizure', click here

You can purchase the book from by clicking here or if you're from the states you can get it from by clicking here

Thanks for reading guys!


  1. Really powerful and magnificent interview!I would love and am looking forward to read this book :D

    I'm a new follower feel free to drop by

    And I cordially invite you to my First Author Interview

    Take care and Have a nice day! ^_^

  2. thanks for the comment, it's an amazing book and a must read for anyone :-) I'm just going to check out your author interview now :-)


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