Award-winning author, Army wife, and mom Tracy Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an unhealthy affection for cupcakes. Her quiet childhood led to a reading addiction, writing obsession, and several serious book boyfriends. Rebel Wing is her third novel.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Talk about the first story you ever wrote: The Dog, Cat, and Bird. What was it about? How old were you when you wrote it?
Tracy Banghart (TB): Oh gosh, I think I was about five or so. It was very exciting…about a dog chasing a cat that was chasing a bird. Obviously not my finest work, but I knew around that time that books would be my life in some form or another. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to pursue my passion.
LK: Your husband (AKA MAJOR HOTSAUCE) originally expressed his romantic interest by daring you to eat a raw potato at a party. What happened next? How has marriage influenced your writing?
TB: I’ve been told that the story of how my husband and I got together would make a good rom-com. It took us eight years, two break-ups, and two deployments to figure it out and actually tie the knot, but we did! My marriage has affected my writing hugely; in large part because Andy’s support is the reason I was able to write full time. Also, my newest book, Rebel Wing, is about a girl who joins her country’s all-male military in disguise…a story I never would have felt qualified – or inspired – to tell without Andy’s insight into what a soldier’s life is like, particularly during a time of war.
LK: How do you write a strong female lead? Can you tell us about some of your favorite female leads in books you’ve read and why?
TB: To me, a strong female lead is someone who doesn’t necessarily start out “strong” but who grows into herself and owns her actions and her story. In writing characters like that, I find the biggest challenge is in pacing the transformation, making my lead’s journey progress in an engaging, believable way. One of my favorite strong female leads is Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Elisa begins the book very insecure and unsure of her place…and ends it a strong and capable queen. I also love the female leads in Robin McKinley’s books – they’re always so great at being themselves while doing courageous things.
LK: What was your favorite part of writing Rebel Wing?
TB: Probably the most cathartic part of writing it was exploring my feelings about my husband’s deployment through Aris’s interactions with her boyfriend, who is sent to war early in the book. As for favorite, hmm…probably revising the final scenes and being able to clearly see how much Aris had grown and changed. I think on some level, my confidence and creativity as a writer was linked to Aris’s transformation; in the early drafts, it didn’t work the way I wanted it to…but she and I grew into our strengths together and I think we both ended in a really good place.
LK: Can you talk about your writing process? Run us through your day?
TB: Right now I’m part stay-at-home mom, part writer, so most of my day is spent chasing my adorable toddler. I try to get as much writing done during his nap and at night after he goes to bed as I can. My husband is a HUGE support – he’ll take our son on “daddy adventures” on the weekends so I can get more time to write. In terms of my writing process, I try to write first drafts quickly and take my time revising. I’m halfway between a plotter and a pantzer – I make rough, big-picture outlines and then plot actual scenes two or three at a time as I go.
LK: Which character from your books would you like to spend a day with and why?
TB: I wouldn’t necessarily LIKE to spend a day with Dianthe, Aris’s mentor in Rebel Wing, but I think it would be good for me! Dianthe is a total kick-butt woman and would definitely push me to exercise more, which I need!
LK: What’s the inspiration behind the Rebel Wing? How do you find inspiration?
TB: Rebel Wing was inspired in part by a dream I had during my husband’s last deployment. In general, my inspiration tends to come from random, small moments in my life. Something will trigger a thought or an image, and it’ll unravel tentacles of story – characters, setting, conflict – that gradually take over my life until I write it all down.
LK: What’s next?
TB: The sequel to Rebel Wing comes out in December!