Like most self-published authors, Tracey Garvis Graves just always wanted to write a novel and was determined not to let her “100% rejection” by agents and publishers stop her. The Des Moines wife and mother of two says she set out to write On the Island in 2010 “because the best way to find out how to write a book is to sit down and write a book.”
In one year, On the Island—about a woman stranded on a desert island with a teenage boy she was hired to tutor after he missed a year of school because of cancer treatment—became a “phenomenon,” the focus of a promotion on Amazon, and Graves invested in a couple of online ads that got the novel selling up to 5,000 copies per month. Then MGM optioned the movie rights. Jill Schwartzman at Plume read about the movie deal in Variety, and contacted the author.
“The people at Penguin read it right away,” says Graves. And Plume published On the Island in paperback last year.
This coming September, Dutton is publishing Covet, Graves’s second novel in hardcover, and Plume will release an e-only companion novella to On the Island (which has sold more than 500,000 copies) by Graves this summer.
“It’s a huge sense of accomplishment to write a second book,” says Graves, who adds that she started working on Covet to take her mind off of the rejections she got for On the Island.
Covet is about a couple whose marriage is at risk after the husband has been out of work for a year and lands a job that requires that he travel, and his wife befriends a police officer in his absence. Graves said she was inspired by a series of questions in her own life, like what would happen if her husband, working in commercial real estate lost his job? “Of course, with fiction, you want to take it one step further,” says Graves. The novel asks, what happens if the life you want and the woman you love belong to someone else?
Covet is very different from On the Island, but still straddles the line between romance and contemporary women’s fiction. “I’d like to be known as an author who writes a different book every time,” says Graves. More than anything, the one-time self-published phenomenon says she feels lucky to be able to have quit her day job at Wells Fargo to write full time. But she still spends a lot of that time communicating with fans on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.
This is her first visit to BEA, and Graves says she is excited to meet as many booksellers as possible. She is signing today at Table 8, 3–4 p.m.