One of our lovely wedding photographer Tracy Gow has just had her first novel published and we’re so delighted for her. Back in 2017 Prima magazine ran a competition to find a new author for the super successful Mills & Boon True Love series. Tracy entered the competition which she only went on to win! Respect and mega well done Tracy.
2017 proved to be quite a year for Tracy in many ways as she was also accepted onto a masters degree course specialising in ‘writing practice and study’ at Dundee. Not one to do things by halves, Tracy then went on to win the Gavin Wallace Memorial Prize at Dundee University – awarded to the best student in the year in terms of performance.
Whilst all of this was going on Tracy was also busy with her successful photography business which she has been running for 15 years. As so often happens when new opportunities arise, it they also add focus to the future and Tracy has now made the decision to step back from wedding work and concentrate on commercial photography, and writing, of course.
Her Brooding Scottish Heir
Published just three months ago, Tracy’s first book ‘Her Brooding Scottish Heir’ – published under the pen name Ella Hayes has been met with great reviews.
We’ve just read it and thoroughly enjoyed it, so without giving too much away, we’ve asked Tracy a few questions about her reasons for putting her writing career front and centre now. And we couldn’t resist asking Tracy to tell us just a little more about her book, hopefully just enough for you to want to read and enjoy it yourself.
What motivated you to pursue your writing ambitions at this stage in your career? You’re a really successful photographer, so why the switch?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. As a youngster, I kept diaries, wrote a lot of letters to friends and family (no email in those days) and I always enjoyed creating stories and poems. When I went off to University, I had my sights set on a career in journalism, but somewhere along the way I got lured into visual storytelling.
After 25 years of looking through a lens (10 years in television, 16 years in my own photography business) I suppose I felt ready for a new challenge, but in a way, it’s not really new. I’ve just come back to where I started.
It sounds like you’ve had an amazing year. Tell us more
I actually started writing again in 2013 and wrote a couple of novels between 2013 and 2016. One of those is still at first draft stage, the other is undergoing editing/revision at the moment. I was thoroughly enjoying the whole writing process, but I had no idea if my work was any good or not, so in 2017 I decided to apply for a master’s degree course (Writing Practice and Study) at Dundee University. I thought it would be the quickest way to get feedback on my work. It’s a small, selective course and I didn’t know if I’d get in because the standard is high, but I was accepted which was very encouraging.
At about the same time I entered a Mills and Boon writing competition in association with Prima Magazine. A friend of mine had suggested it and I wasn’t sure about it to be honest, but then I came up with an idea, so I wrote the first chapter and synopsis and sent it in. I honestly didn’t think I stood a chance because I’d set my story in Scotland (from my recollections of the Mills and Boon stories I’d read in the early 1980’s the settings were always rather exotic).
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I won! I was astounded and utterly delighted, but it was a real case of “be careful what you wish for” because now I was facing a full-time master’s degree alongside writing the rest of the Mills and Boon romance (that was the deal) and I still had photography work to do as well. It was a brutal year!
We’re fascinated to know what lead you to a particular style of writing – romantic fiction. And will you stay with this genre?
The answer above explains how I got into romance writing. I have a two-book contract with Mills and Boon for 2019, so romantic fiction is going to be on the agenda for this year but who knows what will happen after that. My first novel (languishing in a drawer) is a romantic suspense story/thriller and my second “big book” is a coming of age story set in Scotland. They are both stories about love, but they probably wouldn’t fall into the romantic fiction category per se.
I do feel at home writing about relationships and love, human joys and struggles, conflicts and heartaches. I like to see and feel emotion. I’m the same when I’m photographing people – I want to get a sense of the person in the picture – tease out a person’s character. I’ve been asked quite a lot if working as a wedding photographer led me to writing romantic fiction, but I wouldn’t say so.
Working as a photographer has given me a great opportunity for observing people and situations though, and I suppose that colours my writing in some ways. Whatever I’m writing, I think love will always be part of it because love rules us in so many ways – it’s the knot we’re always trying to untangle. I think that’s why love stories have an enduring appeal.
We’ve read your debut novel and we love it. Where do you get your inspiration from for the characters and the storyline?
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Her Brooding Scottish Heir was inspired by artist, Ellis O’Connor who used to do some fashion and beauty modelling when she was a student. Back in 2014 she was supposed to be working with me on a styled shoot. Sadly, she had to pull out at the last minute, so I’ve never actually met her, but I’ve kept up with her on social media because I really like her work.
She’s been to several off-grid artists’ residencies in the Outer Hebrides and in Iceland, and that gave me the idea that my heroine could be an artist seeking refuge from her broken engagement in an isolated Scottish bothy… Milla O’Brien is blonde and Irish because she’s just like Ellis! Because Mills and Boon like their stories to be “aspirational”, that narrowed the field for potential heroes – so the hero had to be a laird’s son, but I wanted him to have been through some tragedy… so I made him a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers. In my head, he looks like a young Tom Hardy!
When you begin writing, do you have a storyline mapped out in detail, or does it evolve as you go along?
A bit of both. I start off with an idea and make a plan for how I think it’s going to go, but sometimes a story picks up its own momentum, or your characters might throw you a curved ball and you have to make a decision about which way to go.
I like to be open-minded when I’m writing; the idea you started with might evolve into something stronger and better or might lead you down a blind alley. You have to step away sometimes and let things percolate!
Can you tell us a little about Her Brooding Scottish Heir without giving too much away for those that haven’t read it yet?
Post-graduate art student, Milla O’Brien has been ditched by her artist fiancé, Daniel. Heartbroken, she flees to an isolated bothy in the Scottish Highlands to lick her wounds and to finish her exhibition pieces. As she nears Calcarron Estate, she gets a puncture and is rescued by the unfathomable laird’s son, Cormac Buchanan.
Royal Engineer Cormac is heading back to the estate for his sister’s wedding, but playing the dutiful son and heir is the last thing he wants because a year on, he is still grieving for his best friend, Duncan who was killed in Afghanistan. Both Cormac and Milla want to hide from the world, and they definitely want to hide the attraction they are feeling for one another, but sometimes, fate has other plans…
We understand that you’ve just written another novel. Are you able to tell us more, or is it still under wraps?
Yes, to both! I have just finished writing my second romance for Mills and Boon. I probably can’t say too much, except that this story is about a wedding photographer (they say you should write what you know) who is asked to step into another photographer’s shoes at a prestigious Italian wedding venue. I actually shot a wedding in Sorrento in 2016 and knew I would find a way to write about the experience one day!
It feels like we’re on a great writing adventure with you. Will you pop back with your latest news soon?
I would love to, thank you! Maybe when I have a release day and a title for my Italian wedding story, I could come back and talk a bit more about it. I’ve certainly got a lot of great photos to go with that one!!
All landscape images courtesy of Tracy Gow Photography