Zoë from BookPeople’s Teen Press Corps got a chance to catch up with YA author Tracy Wolff, who was at this year’s Texas Teen Book Festival. Rewatch the panel while you still can! And don’t forget to order your copy of Covet from BookPeople! Plus, If you’re anxiously awaiting Court, you can pre-order your signed, personalized copy of the Exclusive Indie Edition now!

Zoë: Hi, I’m so excited to interview you! I love Crave and I’ve read all three books and am eagerly awaiting Court

Tracy: Me too. I’m eagerly awaiting Court as well (laughs). I’m working on the Katmere Academy guide now; we have a pretty tight deadline on it. I’ve been writing my fingers to the bone all morning. 

Zoë: So, to start, what was the inspiration behind Crave (because I don’t actually know)?

Tracy: Oh, there were actually a few things that kind of came together. I’ve always wanted to write a vampire book, but it was always a really intimidating thing to me because when you jump into the vampire pool you’re kind of standing on the shoulders of giants. And I didn’t want to do it unless I had an original idea or one that I thought would be different—which as the series plays out, you’re seeing it’s a little bit different. So, it had been kind of noodling around in my head. And then a couple years ago my editor came to me and said “I want to bring vampires back. I think it’s time. Would you be interested in helping me do that?” And, I mean, you can’t say no because paranormal is my favorite thing in the world.

I’ve written a lot of contemporary romance and even contemporary YA, and I love it, but paranormal and fantasy have a special spot in my heart and have from the very beginning. So I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And then when we sat down and talked about what we wanted the series to be, we were really both on the same page that we wanted it to be about a girl coming into her own. I mean, I didn’t want her to start out super strong and knowing what to do. I wanted to follow my journey and the journey of so many young women that I knew in my life and that I continue to know, which is you grow a little stronger with everything that you experience. And you learn to trust yourself and you learn to make a family for yourself—if not the one you’re given, then the one you choose. And I also really wanted to highlight female friendships, which is one of the things writing has given me: a group of strong women around me that I love and would go to the mat for. And they would go to the mat for me. And I really really wanted to show that. I wanted to show a bunch of young women and young men who could work together and make something great and not sacrifice who they are and what they believe in to do it. And that’s how Crave came about.  

Zoë: That’s so cool! That’s awesome I definitely feel like you succeeded in that and it’s really a great story. One thing I love about Crave is that you kind of take all the toxic vampire tropes and turn them on their heads. I love that you are kind of like: No, we are going to move on. We aren’t going to do what they did. We’re going to do something completely different. I actually read Twilight like a year ago, and then I read Crave and was like, this is so much better. 

Tracy: Aww that’s really sweet. I’m so glad you like it. Thank you so much! Yeah, like I said, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants who have done incredible things, and I wanted to be different. I wanted it to be still dark—but whether it’s dealing with my mom or my children, I’ve had a lot of issues in my own life in the last several years. I try to meet it all with humor, because if you don’t, you kind of drown in darkness, you know what I mean? And I think that humor is such a powerful coping mechanism. If you can just see the light in what you’re going through, then you’re going to be ok and you’re going to make it to the other side. I wanted that to be a message of the series too. But, yeah, I think there have been a lot of tropes assigned to paranormal romance, particularly. And some of them can be fun and some of them can be toxic if you’re not careful with them. And it was really fun playing with those and spinning them and watching them. My editor always laughs at me because I play the long game, right? You have to look at the series together to kind of see how it all fits together. Which is why I’m so excited for everyone to get Court and kind of see how all the pieces finally fit. 

Zoë: Yeah so many questions! (both laugh) It makes you want to read the next one so I feel like it’s smart because people will want to read the whole thing instead of reading one and being like I’m fine. 

Tracy: Those are my favorite emails. The ones that are like, I picked up Crave on a whim because I saw it at Target and I lost the whole week because all I did was read the 3 books (laughs). And I’m like aww, because as a writer, you know I’m a reader too, and there’s no compliment better in the world than to have someone fall into my series the way I’ve fallen into other writers’ series. It’s super exciting.

Zoë: That’s awesome! So I know you said you really like paranormal and there are so many paranormal creatures in your world. What made you decide to add so many dragons, werewolves, and witches instead of just vampires? And you added a bunch of your own creatures in there too!

Tracy: Oh and I just keep adding. There are more new ones in Court. It’s partly because I can’t choose. I’ve written a dragon trilogy before, I’ve written a mermaid trilogy before, I’ve written a witch series before. I love them all. Also, none of us exists in a vacuum, you know? This is why I always say I’m a paranormal writer versus a fantasy writer, because I love the idea of the vampire next door—the idea of all of these magical creatures existing in this world we inhabit. It’s not a separate world or an alternate universe; it’s a school right down the street, maybe. And I just love the idea when I’m on my daily walk that maybe I’m passing a witch’s coven or maybe there’s a mermaid in the swimming pool. You don’t know!

Zoë: That’s a fun answer. I do like that it’s set in the real world because it definitely feels like you could find a magical creature somewhere. Ok I’m sure you love all your characters but do you have a favorite character?

Tracy: You know, it’s so funny. People will ask me that question, and then I’ll say “Oh my gosh, well I love Hudson.” Then I’ll say, “but I love Macy!” But then I’ll say, “but I really love Flint and Jaxon!” So, no. I would like to say I have a favorite, but I think after living with all of them for four books now they’ve all kind of woven their way into my heart. In fact, I’m kind of dreading the series ending because they’ve been such a big part of my life for three years now. I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to all of them yet. I will say this: I will say that out of all the characters I’ve written, (and Court is going to be my 69th book, so I’ve done this a while), I think Grace is the most like me—how she faces the world, how she acts just who she is.

You know it’s funny because when I first gave the book to my editor, she was like “Grace is kind of a doormat.” And I was like, “Ouch, that’s not true, is it?” It’s just we come at life so different, right? The hot pink thing bugged the heck out of my editor—the fact that she wouldn’t just tell Macy that she didn’t like hot pink. But she’s been through so much already, and it’s such a minor thing, and it makes Macy so happy. Why would you take that away from her? That’s how I approach life. If it makes them happy, and it’s not hurting me at all, why would I ruin that for them? Why would I embarrass them? Why would I make them feel bad? I don’t think that makes Grace a doormat. I think it means she cares an awful lot about the people that matter to her, you know. So I don’t know if I have a favorite. I think they’re all flawed, but they all have their good points too. Kind of like people.

Zoë: I would say that all the characters are really complex. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite; I just love everybody.  I mean they all have their special things. I am Team Hudson, but it was hard for me to choose. First, we had Jaxon, then Hudson showed up and I was like what the heck is happening! Then I converted. (laughs);

Tracy: Aww, yay! I was going to ask you who your favorite was. You want to know a secret? I always had it planned this way, but I was worried because I really fell for Jaxon when I was writing Crave. Like I really fell for him. And it was very important to me throughout the series for me to not make Jaxon a bad guy, because he’s a really good guy who’s got a lot of good qualities to him. So when I was writing Crush, I was super worried that Hudson hadn’t started talking to me yet. I was like, am I going to be able to pull this off? Am I going to be able to create a character that the readers will love as much as Jaxon, because I really love Jaxon. And so we get into the Bloodletters cave and Hudson talks for the first time and I was like, “Oh hello there.” (both laugh) I literally wrote this scene and sent it to my agent and my editor and was like, I think we can allay our fears. We don’t have to worry because he’s something. (both laugh) 

Characters are the thing that is most important to me. Like building characters and building a strong team and an ensemble cast is just the thing I’ve loved through I don’t know how many books now. It’s just where I feel most comfortable and what I love the most. It means so much to me to see people responding to them in the way I hoped they would. It’s very exciting and very humbling I’m very grateful.

Zoë: Well that kind of leads into my next question. When you wrote Crave did you expect such a huge fan base to emerge from it?

Tracy: (laughs) No. I did mention this is like my 69th book right? No, I hit the Times list with another series several years ago. It was an adult series, and there was a fan base around that, and that was exciting. But no, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that we’d be hitting the list in Germany and Spain and do all the things that this series is doing. I just have truly amazing fans that are just so kind and so lovely and make the most incredible art and fanfic and are just so incredibly supportive. No, I wouldn’t have dreamed that would have happened when I was sitting in my bedroom writing the Aurora Borealis scene. That never would have occurred to me. I was just hoping somebody would like it. I was hoping they wouldn’t be like, Tracy Wolff is a big giant poser. She can’t write vampires! 

Zoë: People die in all fantasy series. I’m obviously not going to say who dies. But how do you decide who dies in a story? 

Tracy: I think that it needs to serve the plot and where I want the story to go. I think that when you get to the end of Court and you look back, one of the things that I’ve done and that my editor has helped me do all the way through is keep it so that if you go to reread the series you find something new. Every new book you read makes you look at the other books differently, because there are all these little Easter eggs I’ve laid to help you get to where I want you by the end of Court. When you look at it from the long game, you realize why every person that has died has had to die. There are . . . let me see, I’m trying to think of what my editor would do to me if I let anything out of the bag about Court. Let’s just say this: when you see what happens in Court which is a lot (laughs), there is death and mayhem and murder and a lot of things. I think what has come before will make more sense. 

Zoë: So here’s a fun random question that’s kind of TPC legendary. We usually ask this question but it’s if you could be any kitchen utensil what would you be and why?

Tracy: If I could be any kitchen utensil?

Zoë: Any kitchen utensil 

Tracy: Anything like an appliance or just a utensil?

Zoë: It can be any of those things. As long as you use it in the kitchen.

Tracy: I would be if I’m going with appliance, I would be the new Nespresso machine. That I bought my partner as a bribe when I had to go away for two weeks to finish Court. Me and my editor locked ourselves in the Driscol downtown and wrote for two weeks straight. So to survive with the kids, I bought a Nespresso machine as a bribe. And everyone in the house loves it so much. Like everybody loves it. I want to be loved that much! (laughs) So I would be the Nespresso machine. I’ll give you a utensil too. I would be a wooden spoon. Wooden spoons see all the action in the kitchen and I like to be in the middle of things. There you go you got a two for one. 

Zoë: That’s fun yeah! I actually watched that live when you were talking about being locked in the hotel for two weeks. I was like wow she’s really buckling down like to finish. 

Tracy: Well, originally I had planned right now the formatter and the printer are trying to shrink the file down because it goes to print this week finally. It’s going to be printed finally because of the paper shortage and all that. And they’re still trying to get it down to less pages because of the shelves in the stores and how many they can fit. Because on a Target shelf you can only put 2 or 3 out, depending on what Target shelf it is. So you know we were trying to shrink it down because it’s about 60,000 words longer than Covet. (laughs)  We’re trying really hard to make it as small as condensed as possible. Again paper shortage shelving space and all those things. So hopefully the print won’t be microscopic hopefully you will be able to read it without a microscope. (both laugh) 

Zoë: Yeah I know because your books are thick! I already thought they were all thick but apparently, I don’t know what thick is. (Tracy laughs) I did hear about the Katmere Academy inside guide which I’m excited about. Do you have anything you can tell us about that?

Tracy: It’s funny because everyone keeps talking about how there are so many questions. The Katmere Academy guide since it comes out before Court will not have the answers to like the big questions that you’re waiting for in Court obviously, but some of the worldbuilding questions and stuff that aren’t essential to the story are going to be in there so answers to some of those questions. It’s going to be like a close-up look at all the characters certainly any of the major characters and the world and the courts and how they work. We’re compiling it right now, and we’re gonna put some really fun stuff in it, so I’m excited about how it’s going to turn out I think. I’m having fun so hopefully, you guys will have fun reading it. Fingers crossed.

Zoë: Yeah we’re going to have all that information and different stuff like that, so yeah, I’m excited about that. So I know you are going to be writing Charm the book for the missing four months which I’m also very excited about. 

Tracy: I’m excited too! I’m excited because I have these scenes in my head about what went down there.

Zoë: Right! I guess I’m curious because I know you’re going to write the spinoff series that’s happening. Do you have any other sort of plans for what you’re going to be writing next?

Tracy: I am starting a spinoff series, and you meet the heroine of the spinoff series in Court. Literally, the second she came on the page it was another moment when I was like, “Oh my god!” Like when Hudson came on the page, like “Oh there you are!” And I’m like, yeah this is going to work really well. So I’m really excited about this series. I love Remy. Remy is one of my favorite characters from the whole series. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he and his heroine get up to in the spinoff series. There are some other stories in the Crave world that I haven’t told yet that I would like to tell, fingers and toes crossed. And there’s also a couple other ideas I have percolating in the back of my head so we will see what the next couple years come up with. I think that I’m going to be super busy, but I’m excited about that because I love the worlds that I’m playing in so that’s a good thing.

Zoë: Yeah that’s great! I am really interested to learn more about Remy because he’s super mysterious and you know almost nothing about him. I thought that was really cool that he was getting a spinoff.

Tracy: He’s mysterious but he’s also ridiculously fun. My editor keeps pulling him back. I write him super outrageous, and she’s like let’s pull this back a little bit. But I’m like, no way he’s so ridiculously fun! She’s like, no let’s pull this back a little bit. In my head, he’s this super outrageous character. We’ll see what I get to do with him in this spinoff . . . .

If you’re anxiously awaiting Court, pre-order your signed, personalized copy of the Exclusive Indie Edition now!