Interview with Award-Winning Author Tracy Barrett

King-of-IthakaIntroducing Tracy…

Tracy Barrett is the author of numerous books for young readers, including the award-winning biographical novel, Anna of Byzantium (Delacorte, 1999). Her most recent publications are two young-adult novels, Dark of the Moon (Harcourt, 2011), King of Ithaka (Henry Holt, 2010), and the four books in a middle-grade series, The Sherlock Files (Henry Holt). Forthcoming from Harlequin Teen in July, 2014, is The Stepsister’s Tale. Tracy was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Regional Advisor for the Midsouth from 1999 to 2009 and is now SCBWI’s Regional Advisor Coordinator. She was awarded the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994. She holds a B.A. with Honors in Classics from Brown University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in Nashville, TN, where until recently she taught at Vanderbilt University. For more info, visit her website and blog.

Let the conversation begin! 

What inspired you to write your first book?

While doing research for something else, I stumbled on the historian Anna Comnena, who was born in the twelfth century and was raised to be the heir to the Byzantine Empire. For some reason, her father changed his mind and made her hated younger brother his heir. She didn’t take it well, to put it mildly. I tried to imagine what her life in exile must have been like, and wrote what I thought was a short story of her reflecting on her life. My critique group wanted to know more, so I wrote one more chapter. They asked what happened next, so I wrote just one more chapter. This went on until I realized I had a book, which became my first novel, Anna of Byzantium.

What one word describes you?

Thorough. 

Do you bake or buy?

Bake. I have a serious sweet tooth and I bake a lot.

Do you believe in UFOs?

Of course! The “u” stands for “unidentified,” and until everything floating around up there has been labeled, there will be UFOs.

Should you tip for takeout?

Always.

BarrettTracyRTWhich is worse, being in a place that is too loud or too quiet?

Too loud is worse, although I do best when there’s a low level of sound.

What is one quality that you really appreciate in a person?

Curiosity.

What is the most distinguishing landmark in your city?

Nashville is the Athens of the South, and to prove it, we have the world’s only full-scale replica of the Parthenon that reproduces both the interior and the exterior of the building. I was a Classics major, and was all prepared to scoff at the Nashville Parthenon when I moved here, but I love it.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I’m ashamed to tell this one. My sister was about a year old, sound asleep with her thumb in her mouth, and I pulled her thumb out so that she would cry.

What would you rather have: a nanny, a housekeeper, a cook, or a chauffeur?

A housekeeper. 

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