Tracey Garvis Graves became a New York Times bestselling author overnight with the success of her first self-published novel, “On the Island.” The novel has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and is being optioned by MGM for a feature film.
The novel is a romance between 30-year-old Anna and 17-year-old T.J. Anna is tutoring T.J. and has agreed to go with his family on vacation to the Maldives to continue his studies. While over the Indian Ocean, their plane crashes. They are the only two survivors, and become stranded on a deserted island. The novel is told from the points of view of both T.J. and Anna and switches off at the start of every chapter. Inspiration for “On the Island” came from the movie “Castaway.”
“I’ve always loved the desert island premise,” Graves said. “I really enjoyed the movie “Castaway,” but wished there had been two characters on that island. I never quite bought the relationship between Tom Hanks and that volleyball.”
At first, I was skeptical about reading a romance where the characters had such an age gap, but Graves wrote this unusual romance with such ease that the age difference doesn’t matter. It is easy to see they belong together. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good romance. “On the Island” is a fun, tropical read that is sure to brighten up the dull days of winter.
“I wanted there to be a compelling element,” Graves said. “Writing a book about two characters who really shouldn’t be together gave me a wonderful challenge. If I could get the reader to buy the relationship and really root for Anna and T.J. to be together, I thought it would give the book some added depth.”
Graves shows her readers that T.J. and Anna’s love is what gives them the willpower to stay alive and find ways to survive on the island. Graves wasn’t sure how “On the Island” was going to end and used only a rough outline that she changed as she wrote. Her ending actually was a total surprise to her. The hardest part for her was trying to make T.J. and Anna’s story as realistic as possible. Her favorite part of the novel is at the ending.
Graves submitted her manuscript to 14 literary agents but was rejected by them all. To help make her novel a reality, she hired a developmental editor and a copyeditor and used Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing programs. She found the artwork for her cover on Getty Images. The beach picture is an actual beach in the Maldives, and she had her friend apply the cover text. After selling 340,000 copies of her book, Graves landed a two-book deal with Penguin Publishing Group.
When Graves found out her novel was a success, she was ecstatic.
“I still can’t believe all the wonderful things that have happened,” Graves said. “I’m eternally grateful to the readers for embracing the story.”
The large number of interested readers is the reason self-publishing was such a success for Graves. She really loves meeting her readers, but she still gets a little bit nervous for book signings.
Advice Graves wants to give to aspiring writers is, “Don’t give up. There has never been a better time to be a writer, because there are options for bringing your work to the marketplace. Self-publishing is now a very viable option and a wonderful way to jump start a writing career.”
Graves earned a four year business degree from Grand View University and has previously worked as a recruiter in human resources. Graves’ hobbies include reading women’s fiction and contemporary romance, spending time with her family, and surfing the Internet. She is now a full-time writer and has just turned in her second novel, “Covet” to her editor. Graves lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband and two children.