Author Spotlight: Tracy Deonn

Tracy Deonn is a writer and second-generation fangirl who grew up in North Carolina. Tracy has worked in live theater, video games, and K–12 education. When she’s not writing, Tracy speaks on panels at SFF conventions, reads fanfic, and keeps an eye out for ginger-flavored everything. Her debut fantasy novel Legendborn is out now!

What is your book about?

Legendborn is a contemporary fantasy about a sixteen-year-old girl named Bree who infiltrates a university campus secret society that she believes may have a connection to her mother’s death. The secret society members call themselves the Legendborn, and reveal that they are the descendants of the knights of the Round Table and are fighting a centuries-old magical war. Bree’s mission to find the truth then gets more fun, more complicated—and more dangerous.

What was your inspiration for this story?

The first kernel of Legendborn appeared when I lost my mother. Then, I found out that she had also lost her mother when she was my age, and that the same was true of my grandmother. I immediately wondered how such a pattern could have happened in my family. Of course, we don’t get direct answers to questions like that, but as a writer, I decided to create an answer. That’s really how and why I began crafting Bree’s story—a book-length, contemporary fantasy answer to an impossible real world question.

Are there any other stories you would like to retell or see retold?

I’d like to do something with The Neverending Story. I really lived inside that film for a long time as a child—and even have an Auryn tattoo. The book, written by Michael Ende, is a really interesting journey, and goes farther and deeper than the movie was able to.

What are the kinds of stories you want to write?

I’ll probably always write contemporary fantasy! I love finding that balance between the contemporary and the fantastic, and asking both of those genres to challenge one another. I think my stories will always have a romantic component, either in the world building sense or the interpersonal sense. And I think I’ll be centering Black girls and women for a long time, to make up for what I grew up craving as a voracious reader and fangirl.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It’s really difficult at the moment, with lots of exciting things happening around Legendborn! I am genuinely interested and engaged with storytelling in lots of forms, whether that’s a documentary style project like Looking for Leia, novels, webcomics, video games. In that way, I’m able to “work on” writing as I study other forms of story and spend time with them. So, that’s good! But you still have to get words on the page, so in terms of logistics, the only thing that truly works is scheduling strict writing time, clearing distractions, and turning off or removing devices when I work. I’m also trying to get better about taking true breaks away from writing to refuel.

Any advice for up and coming writers?

I know people say this a lot, but the best advice I can give is to write the story you want to read, first and foremost. I think that starting from our internal desires in that way is how we see innovation, because each of us has a unique perspective and lived experience. Whenever I feel that I’ve strayed away from the “heart” of my story, I remind myself of why I started writing it. It helps to have friends remind you of that when you’re neck-deep in revisions, too!

I also think it’s a great idea to ask for specific categories of feedback when you share your work in a workshop or with a critique partner. That doesn’t mean you ignore feedback that you didn’t ask for, but it is helpful to both parties if you can say, “I’m really looking for someone to help me with x” if that’s what will be most helpful to you at the time. For example, when you’re still on your first draft, line edits aren’t the most ideal, but maybe that’s when you need character help or comments about clarity.