Saturday, May 11, 2024

Q&A with Tracey Lange



Tracey Lange is the author of the new novel The Connellys of County Down. She also has written the novel We Are the Brennans. She lives in Bend, Oregon.


Q: What inspired you to write The Connellys of County Down, and how did you create your character Tara and her family?


A: This book started with the idea of exploring the challenges a woman faces trying to re-enter society and rebuild their life after spending time in prison. I was particularly drawn to the question of how her absence and homecoming would impact her family.


Tara has a history of acting out and getting into trouble, but the more I got to know the Connellys the more I realized that she's a symptom of the dysfunction within the family as a whole.


These siblings raised themselves to large degree, which created a tight but, at times, unhealthy bond between them. They’re sort of stuck in that dysfunction because they’re all keeping some shameful secrets, from the world and from each other. 

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book called it a “compassionate look at family dynamics and a reminder that it’s never too late to heal.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love this takeaway. I think it gets to the central idea of the book. Everyone in this family really does have good intentions—they’ve just made some awful decisions along the way.


Tara’s homecoming brings a lot of these issues to the surface. Each Connelly sibling is forced to face the pain of the past and the mistakes they've made in trying to overcome it. 

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I never know how my novels are going to end when I start writing them. I think I intentionally avoid deciding because I don’t want to rule anything out.


I spend a long time developing my characters and getting to know them before I start writing the first draft, and they in turn help me find the story, including the ending. However, I also learn so much about the characters during that first draft, which inevitably results in changes.

Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I chose the title based on a fairy tale that is very important to the Connelly siblings. It's an emotional tie to the mother they lost when they were young and a connection to her upbringing in Ireland.


The fairy tale is really a reflection of the best their mother saw in each of them and how they bring it out in each other. It prompts Tara to find purpose in prison by developing her art while she’s there, which leads to a new career possibility when she’s released.


I chose County Down in Northern Ireland because that’s where my father comes from.  

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m very excited about my third book, What Happened to the McCrays? It's due out January 2025 and takes an intimate look at both sides of a marriage that has fallen apart. The setting is a small town so it's very much about the power of community. It’s also a little about the magic of middle school hockey! 

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One of my biggest thrills as a writer is connecting with people, so I’m so grateful to readers who have given my books a chance. It makes my day when someone takes time to send me an email, or post a picture or kind review. Thank you!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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