Friday, October 7, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH TRACY JAMES JONES, AUTHOR OF "SECRETS & LIES"

INTERVIEW WITH TRACY JAMES JONES, AUTHOR OF "SECRETS & LIES"


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You mention in one biography I read that you traveled all over the United States. Where are some of the places you have been and why did you travel so much? Was it with family or alone?

When I was very young, my father was a foreman for a Dallas roofing company that traveled all over the U.S. and my mom often traveled with him. My early years were spent with my maternal grandmother, but about the sixth grade, and every summer thereafter, I was able to join them. My first far away trip was Columbia, South Carolina. I will always remember that trip because it was new and I got the chance to go to their amusement park called The Carowinds. If I remember right, the state line between North and South Carolina runs down the middle of the park. After that, every summer it was a new city and state. After I turned 21, I was taken on my first trip to Las Vegas, and every year since, we have a family vacation to some new destination. As of this past July, we are four generations on tour. On my own or with friends I have been to Denver, Colorado, Laramie, Wyoming, Salt Lake City & Sandy, Utah, Los Angeles & Hollywood, California.

Being that we have Pat Sawyer to thank for you deciding to write, how was it that she motivated you in this direction?

Mrs. Pat Sawyer was a teacher outside the box. She was a tall, beautiful lady with an overwhelming sense of self-worth and individuality that spoke volumes when she entered a room. Plus, she was the ultimate trailblazer in her time. High heels, short skirts, make-up, the whole shebang. As a shy and socially doomed outcast, I was in awe of her presence from the moment I took her class. Lucky for me, she knew of me because I was a lifetime classmate of her son, former Dallas Cowboy, Buzzy Sawyer. Taking me under her wing, as she did with most of her students, Mrs. Sawyer took the time to help me build confidence in myself as an individual person and encouraged truth and emotion in my efforts to write. I can’t speak for any of her other students, but like so many in my life, I am extremely grateful for the acceptance, the understanding, and the heartfelt lessons that this woman bestowed upon me.

I see that you were honored with being the first Black American author of Waxahachie, Texas in 1995. How did that feel to earn that honor and what book was it that launched that process for you?

The honor of this goes to the longtime staff at Nicholas P. Sims, my hometown library. It was brought to my attention with the release of my first book, “No Tears For A Hero – The Stephen Mitchell Story,” and it was the library staff who took the time to honor me and my work. The full entitlement is still up in the air. Officially, this announcement has been put on hold, as l was told by a City Chamber representative, until I reach best seller status. There are two other black American authors from Waxahachie, Texas. One, a children’s author in Houston, from my hometown, and the other, another former Dallas Cowboy, whose life story was published after my first book was released. My first book was published while I was in college and maintained my residency in the town, which I still do.

You have acted as stand in's in some major films. Can you tell us more about that and what films they were?

My first film experience was as an extra in the movie “Places In The Heart,” with Sally Fields & Danny Glover. She won the Oscar for that. (It was filmed in and around Waxahachie.) I was a field-hand in the background and I didn’t know how to pick cotton, nor was I inclined to, so I cheated. I bribed two other extras to pick it for me. (Ha!) Overall, the idea to do more of that was super appealing because of the experience and the friendships I made. Plus, I have always wanted to do something in entertainment.

The next movie I worked on was called “Square Dance,” with several major stars in the cast. I wanted to be in the movie because Rob Lowe was in it. At the time the only celebrity I got to know was a then 15 year old Winona Ryder. It was her second movie and I was a stand-in on the closed set. Jason Robards was fun too. I never got to meet Rob because I was never in any of his scenes. When it was all over, I skipped the cast party because I didn’t think he would attend. Found out later that he did. (Oops.)

My third movie was called, “Love Hurts,” again with a huge cast of stars, and yes, filmed in Waxahachie. This was the first film I had worked on where you could actually see me on screen. It was a wedding scene and I was part of the background action. My big thrill was meeting Cloris Leechman, Jeff Daniels, Judith Ivy, and John Mahoney, who played the dad on “Frasier.” They were all really very nice people.

The last movie I was part of was Oliver Stone’s “Born of the Fourth of July,” with Tom Cruise and Kyra Sedgwick. The movie was based on the life of War Veteran Ron Kovic. I had been a fan of Tom’s since the start of his career, so when they held open auditions at the Dallas Trade Center, I went. Out of 7000 people, I was chosen in a group of ten to be featured in scenes with Tom. Because his character was paraplegic, one of the ten was chosen to carry Tom over his shoulder during a protest battle scene, but it wasn’t me. It was dead winter in Texas at the time, but the scene was supposed to be in the summer. It was cold, but I had a great time. As for Tom, what can I say other than he was a very friendly guy. I’m still one of his biggest fans.

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(Just for you, Kitty. My sketch…)

Have you ever thought about becoming a full-fledged actor yourself?

Once upon a time I seriously wanted to be an actor. After working on so many films as background or stand-in, I really had the fever to push myself into the business. I already had a few contacts and was good friends with a Texas Casting Agent with ties in New York. What held me back was that I failed an on-camera screen test. I blinked in unison with every word I said. For Hollywood, that would not do. Finding myself to be camera shy, after that, I focused more on my writing and other talents. I also sing.

What was the name of the first book you published about the local boxer and is it still available?

My very first book, “No Tears For A Hero,” was originally published in 1995. It was a work-for-hire project that I was more than anxious to try. It required a lot of research from actual people and library archives, and many hours of writing. When it was release, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first book signing event and I loved it. In attendance was new resident and known actor, Mr. Denver Pyle, “Uncle Jesse” from “The Dukes of Hazard,” TV series.

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I was so nervous I think I was rude. Long story. In the end, he did sign a copy of the book for me and I treasure that moment always. He passed away that following Christmas. In 2008, Steve’s story was produced as a documentary film by an acclaimed Dallas Director & Brokedown Films entitled, “Champ: The Steve Mitchell Story,” which won the official selection seal for the Dallas Video Film Festival of that year. I was not included nor invited to participate in the making of the film. As for the book, though it still shows up on various online outlets, it is no longer available at this time. I may consider re-releasing it, but only as an ebook.

Is "Searching for Eden" still in proposal for a film and if so, how is that process going?

Well, a few years ago this project was shopped around to various companies, but nothing ever came of it. As for the book, I am in the process or re-releasing it, temporarily, as an ebook. With all that I have learned and continue to learn about writing and such, it makes a big difference to be able to edit your previous work for a fresh new start. I love this book especially because it was my first fiction release. A lot of heart and soul went into writing this book, and as I had originally planned, it will also be the start of a three book series. The idea for this to be three books came right after the release of “No Tears…”

Tell us more about "Secrets and Lies" and your hopes for it as a novel. Also, I was wondering if there were people you based the characters off of in real life?

“Secrets & Lies” marks a shift in my life and writing genre in comparison to my earlier books. As the world we live in has changed course on thoughts and beliefs in concern to the human conditions, so has my idea in regards to sharing some of these changes with my reading audience. As the book synopsis says; “Secrets & Lies,” is an emotional journey into the private lives of four central characters that can be defined as a contemporary multi-cultural modern romance with a provocative twist.” What I initially hoped to achieve with this book was not only to entertain, but also to educate and enlighten others to see that no matter what type of life or lifestyle we live, we are all still subjected to the same human conditions. We live, we love, we suffer, we endure. It doesn’t matter what we look or act like outside, on the inside, we are still just human, flaws and all. My characters just tell it how it is.

As for any resemblance in my characters to anyone I know personally, well, yes and no. I have met and gotten to know a lot of people in my lifetime, and to be honest, these people do give life to my fictional characters. In some it may be features, and in other it could be personality traits and or combination of names. There is only one character in this book that is based on someone I know personally, and that person is me. Who that character is, I will never tell. (Smile). If you know me, then you know who.

What is your next big step in the writing world and what can we look forward to from you in the next few months?

In the next few months I am hoping to have decided on what I intend to do in regards to releasing “Secrets & Lies” in print. Since the day it was released as an Ebook, I have been flooded with requests to have it out in print. I want that too, but the process is a little more difficult than I expected. Despite a few setbacks, I will have my mind made up on how to proceed with the printed book very soon.

Hmmm. My next big step into the writing world is a book called “Torn.” If the literary movers and shakers thought that “Secrets” was a bit too controversial, they haven’t seen anything yet. Being true to myself and to my writing style, this next book will turn up the volume on the word, “controversial.”

“Torn: Sixty Days of Calaboose” is a contemporary psychological drama that fits outside the box of familiar reading because of the subject matter therein. Though the story is without any graphic sex or extreme violence, it deals heavily with all elements of a single character’s downward spiral into madness and other experiences behind the walls of a small town county jail. In a way it can be somewhat compared to HBO’s once popular prison series “Oz,” just without the same level of exhibition or celebrity nudity - Logline: ~ It is said that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. For some, it is also a very terrifying thing to lose. ~

Question: Have you ever met a character who slowly but surely loses their mind right before your very eyes and they actually know it? It happens here…

All else I can say is; whomever said truth was stranger than fiction, need to read this book. Then decide.

Is there any advice you'd like to offer to other writers out there, or general advice to anyone?

Writing, next to an obsession, is a passion. Either you love to do it or you don’t. If you do, go for it. No matter what obstacles you may face, pursue the dream. Look, learn, and listen. The most valuable tool you can acquire is information and guidance from someone who has been there. You never get too old to learn. Write what you know and let your passion and imagination take the lead. You have something to say, so say it. You never know who may learn something from you. And when it comes to rejection, this is what my dad told me on the eve of my first tour; there will be people out there who will like you, and there will be those that won’t. Appreciate the ones that do, and never sweat the ones that don’t.

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview Tracy!


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