Island Dreaming

What inspired On The Island
by Tracey Garvis Graves


I’m so happy to be celebrating International Chick Lit Month! Thank you so much for having me.
One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “What inspired you to write On the Island?” The answer is, “Several things, actually.” I have always loved the ‘stranded on a desert island’ premise.
When I was thirteen years old I begged my mom to take me to see The Blue Lagoon. It was the hot movie at the time (or at least it was if you were a thirteen-year-old girl who idolized Brooke Shields). I was probably a little too young to see the movie, but since my mom was super cool and knew how much I wanted to see it, she took me anyway. I loved everything about that film. It had action, adventure, and romance, and it was a true coming-of-age story. I fell head over heels for Christopher Atkins, and I wanted to live on a beautiful tropical island with him. I wanted to swim in the crystal-blue water and live in a cool house that had a slide for transporting you from one spot to another. I no longer own a VCR, but I still own a copy of The Blue Lagoon on VHS and I’m not remotely embarrassed about this fact.
Fast forward many years to my obsession with a TV show called Lost. My husband and I spent one cold Iowa winter watching every single season back-to-back on DVD. Sometimes we’d stay up until 1am so we could watch one more episode.
I was also a fan of the movie Castaway. But one thing drove me absolutely nuts: Hollywood released this big-budget film and the only thing they gave Tom Hanks to bond and form a relationship with was a volleyball? What a travesty! I understood the purpose of the volleyball, I really did. But that didn’t stop me from wishing Tom would have had someone else on that island with him. Maybe someone he really shouldn’t bond with, or form a certain kind of relationship with.
When I decided I would try and cross “write a novel” off my bucket list, I knew I wanted to write a book that would hold my interest. 80,000 words is a long time to spend with an idea, and since writing a book was more of a personal goal than anything, I figured it made sense to write the kind of book I would love to read. The desert island premise isn’t especially original, but I thought it would be fun to write a book that had action, adventure, and romance (just like The Blue Lagoon, many years before). And what if I put two characters on that island – two characters who really shouldn’t ever be together? What would happen then?
Writing a novel was easily the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. Not only did I achieve a huge level of personal satisfaction from watching the story come to life right in front of me, but I felt like Anna and T.J. were characters I came to know as real people, as friends. I wanted them to be together, and I really wanted to share their story with others.
Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in securing a literary agent; the manuscript had a 100% rejection rate. Not one of those agents even asked to see a partial manuscript. I’ve often been asked why I self-published and my answer is always, “Because that was literally the only option left for me.” And I don’t regret it for a minute. If I hadn’t self-published my debut novel, it would still be sitting on my computer’s hard drive. Instead, over half a million copies have been sold, it has been translated into 26 languages, and MGM has optioned the book for a feature film.
My path from self-published to traditionally published author took about six months. After On the Island began selling well and found its audience, an agent reached out to me and we signed a contract to move forward with my subsidiary rights. Self-publishing was working out pretty well for me by then, and I was no longer trying to obtain a traditional publisher for On the Island. But in June of 2012, nine months after I self-published the book, I had offers from three publishers and ultimately signed a two-book deal with Penguin. The desire to see my books on the shelves of bookstores everywhere was simply too wonderful to pass up.


It’s been an exciting – but very busy – year. I’ve finished my second novel, Covet, which is women’s fiction and will be published on September 17, 2013. Here is the description from Amazon:
What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?
Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.
Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop, and they run into each other again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.
Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.
Gina from the Mother Daughter Reading Team blog says of Covet, “Covet is the book that every woman who has ever been married, or is ever considering marriage, is going to want to read.”
I also have an On the Island companion novella called Uncharted, which will be released as an e-special on July 2, 2013. It’s not a sequel, but you’ll be able to spend some more time with Anna and T.J. and also meet another character from the book (hint: it’s the guy who built the shack).
I’ve started my next book, too. It’s not yet titled, but it will be another adult contemporary romance. After that, I’m planning to return to women’s fiction. I really love both genres and feel there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two.
Thank you for inviting me to tell my story. I’m so happy to be a part of International Chick Lit Month!

Tracey Garvis Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. She is the author of On the Island, Uncharted, and Covet. She blogs at using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. She is hard at work on her next book.

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