Grace of Crows
by Tracy Shawn
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 2013 by Cherokee McGhee
Book Blurb: (taken from Goodreads)
Tormented by anxiety, Saylor Crawmore tries every cure from self-help books and therapy to medication. Nothing has worked. She's desperate for an answer. Along with Saylor's anxiety, she must navigate the ongoing rip current between the troubled generations of her family. Her aging mother's narcissism, her teenage children's compulsions, and her husband's need to pretend everything is okay compound her debilitating fears. Saylor discovers her childhood friend Billy, homeless and ignored since his teens, and her world begins to shift. This encounter sparks Saylor's journey to gain insight into her strange fears and forge the power to overcome them. Armed with her new awareness, Saylor summons the courage to help her family.
Lets start with the cover: I really liked the cover simply because I absolutely love crows. A very simple cover with a blue background with light blue outlined crows and the top with one single black crow soaring in the middle of the book followed by light blue crows at the bottom. The single black crow spoke loud and clear to me, I wanted to know why was this book titled "Grace of Crows", I wanted to know what the symbolic meaning behind the one black crow.That single black crow was beckoning me to crack the book open, and I am glad i did.
Let me start with saying one word that describes this book... Beautiful.
Author Tracy Shawn takes the reader on an empathetic journey of self realization and a hope for the beginning of healing for her character Saylor. Anyone who has suffered or has a loved one with anxiety can easily feel Saylor's struggles and understand where she is coming from. Shawn drops the reader in the mind of a person suffering from anxiety and how she has to battle not only her fears, but be a mother, daughter, wife and friend. Things that may come easily for some, but for Saylor, there is lots of work in these tasks. The reader cannot help but admire her and I found myself many times pulling out my internal cheer-leading outfit with pom poms and cheering for Saylor.
Shawn had the ability to give the characters with small parts, such a presence. Introducing Saylor's friend, Billy. I immediately fell in love with Billy because he was simple and to the point. Another character named Lenny, he packed such a punch with just a short visit. She (Shawn), left me wanting to know more of Billy. And wishing Lenny was a real person.
Another character that was pivotal in the book was Saylor's mother Erica. Erica's character will have the reader on a truly emotional roller coaster.
The best part and in my opinion the most important part of this book is how it makes the reader feel. It may sound cliche but I truly was waiting to exhale as I read the book. This book addressed mental illness in such a way that you get just a snapshot of what it could be like. And that snapshot for me was a wonderful awareness.
On the Hottie Scale, this book is without a doubt a Hot - Page Turner.
Hottie Syreeta got a chance to sit down with author Tracy Shawn for an interview.
I have heard from other authors how their characters “came to them” How did Saylor come to you and tell you her story?
Saylor came to me after I had decided to write about what would happen when an anxious woman battling irrational fears reconnects with her childhood friend, who has become homeless. Once I had that main plot down, I took out a pad of paper and started free-writing whatever came into my head about what Saylor looked like, where she lived, her particular fears and quirks, and most importantly, who her family members were and how they all related.
In fact, whenever I got stuck on what was going to happen next in the novel, I’d free-write for at least five minutes without taking the pen off the paper. Amazingly, through all the disconnected sentences, I’d always find a gem, which helped move the story forward.
Because it is bold and really jumps into Mental Health issues what made you decide to write Saylor’s story?
I wanted to create a story of a woman who battles anxiety and ultimately wins, yet still isn’t perfect. I did this so that readers could relate to Saylor and understand the reality of how their own healing can happen with time, patience, and work. I wanted to write a book that takes readers on a journey toward hope, and at the same time, helps others not feel so alone.
I knew someone who was homeless, as well. He was a childhood friend, and I thought of him often. So, I decided to write a novel that tells the story of what would happen when a woman dealing with internal pain comes into contact with a man whose external life is fraught with the much worse challenge of being homeless.
Although Saylor’s story is not my story, and is a work of fiction, it still reverberates with the emotional pain of my own struggles with anxiety and includes within the storyline, my own insights toward healing.
Do you think there will be a sequel to Saylor and her journey?
No, I don’t think so. But, who knows? Maybe after a couple of other novels under my belt, I may be “called” back to Saylor and her story.
How did you come up with the title?
In many cultures, crows are symbolic of going from darkness to light. They are seen as creatures of transformation with higher perspective—and a talent in speaking the truth, which my character, Saylor, is striving to attain.
What are your current project(s)?
I’m currently working on “From The Sea,” a psychological novel about a woman who has experienced her fourth miscarriage and is currently at odds with her husband.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d say the songwriter Joni Mitchell because her poetic lyrics, otherworldly voice and amazing musical compositions seem to have been imprinted in my brain! I’ve been listening to her since I’ve been in junior high, and sometimes when I write, I can hear one of her songs in my head. The way she puts her words together, her songs are telling her personal stories and are also universal at the same time.
What was one of the first books you read that is still your favorite?
I was introduced to Ray Bradbury’s book “The Illustrated Man” when I was in seventh grade. It’s a collection of short science fiction stories. To this day, I still remember how the tattoos predict a character’s future in “The Illustrated Man,” and how in “The Veldt,” technology takes over the role of parents. From time to time, I’ll re-read Bradbury’s stories and can still be taken away.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading Anne Tyler’s “Back When we were Grown Ups.” I love her writing style.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That writing is definitely a craft that needs to be honed. A writer must be open to lots of input, but ultimately has to remember that he or she is the storyteller who must make the final decisions. I also learned four important things about writing, which can pertain to a lot of other endeavors in life: patience, determination, hard work, and time will pay off.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part about the writing process is how long it takes! In fact, from start to finish, “The Grace of Crows” took over eight years. Within these eight years, I took the advice of at least three main editors and three main reader friends and had to rewrite, revise, and edit many, many times over.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Find your teachers and keep learning. I believe that first-time novelists need much more input than they think they will. The first thing is to read, read, read—and keep on reading. Then, take classes, workshops, and go to writer’s conferences. Study books on writing; utilize everything that can be used to hone your craft. If your book keeps getting rejected, hire editors—and listen to their advice—to help you polish your work into a more marketable level.
And most importantly, don’t give up. I had many rejections and many people telling me to self-publish, but I persisted until I found a traditional publisher who thought my story was important enough for him to take on.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
The take-away to my readers is that we’re all in this together. Everyone has “stuff” we have to live with. Be empathetic to yourself because it will help you on your own journey.
About the Author
Tracy Shawn lives and writes in Santa Barbara. She's worn many work hats (including waitress, floral designer, receptionist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and core counselor at a psychiatric center for schizophrenic adults). Her educational background includes a master's degree in clinical psychology. Tracy enjoys incorporating her educational background and eclectic work history to heighten character development in her short stories and novels. Her writing has appeared in literary journals as well as print and online newspapers and magazines.
For more information, visit her website: www.TracyShawn.com