NaNoWriMo Feature: Tracy DeBrincat

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month, 2015! We’re celebrating all month long with a gangbuster sale on some of our favorite novels, a consultation program for those of you with in-progress manuscripts, and this–a daily feature profiling a Black Lawrence Press author who has done the unthinkable: completed a novel.

Today’s featured novelist is Tracy DeBrincat, author of Hollywood Buckaroo, which won the inaugural Big Moose Prize in 2011. (P.S. We’re running an early bird special on the Big Moose Prize this month. Send in your manuscript by November 30 and get $5 off the entry fee!)


Hollywood BuckarooExcerpt

When I wobble back to the Motel alone, all the lights on Mane Street are out. Around me are stacks of boulders, medieval mountains beyond them, and a wildly starry canopy above. The moon is a hair smaller than last night’s full disc, the Milky Way a faint white stripe. Stars arc and fall like fireworks. This moment requires punctuation. I find a Joshua tree around the back of the Bowl, and throw my head back for a long, dreamy piss. Suddenly, a squawking bird flies out at me from the base of the tree. Wings beat the air, feathers fly, and a pointy yellow beak pecks at my shins. Stunned, I step backwards, right onto the weak ankle that I crabbed on the highway. I’m flat on my ass again and the Satan chicken or rooster or whatever the hell it is dances away, dragging its wing in circles, clucking and cackling. There are feathers in my nose, stickers in my hand, and pee on my pant leg. My foot throbs. I laugh so hard my eyes fill with tears.

Craft Notes

Place – especially an unusual, beautiful and dangerous place – provides an excellent backdrop for revealing insights into a character’s emotional state. Also, I love to have Nature interact with characters. Could my protagonist have waited to pee until he got back to the Motel, like a civilized person? Of course. But he needed to do something primal, something natural, in the face of all that beauty, and peeing was all he could access at that moment. Was there a consequence for his action? Yes, a chicken attacked him. So much for deep primal connections. But the fact that his response was to laugh and cry lets us know there are pent-up emotions just below the surface, that are just waiting to mess up every decision he makes.

1) What is the hardest part of writing a novel? What are your techniques for dealing with this aspect of the process?
The hardest part is wherever I am right now, which I deal with by taking a deep breath, writing through it, and then finding myself somewhere else so I can look back and see where I’ve been and fix it.
Right now actually is the hardest part. I’ve got a full first draft, which I know I need to go back and reshape. Putting my finger where it actually starts and then folding in what needs to be there while trying not to bleed all over the parts that must be let go. So much work and time invested. So much left to do. Making sure to revise in a way that remains true to my original vision and doesn’t eff everything up.
2) What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Write toward an image. See the movie of the narrative in your head. Take the reader through the experience of seeing your story cinematically.
3) How long did it take you to complete your novel? Please talk a little bit about your journey from first word to final draft.
The writing of Hollywood Buckaroo carried me through a few presidential administrations. I wanted to write about a place and needed to find characters and a story that expressed its soul. Not the most expedient way to work. I don’t recommend it, unless you really love a place and want to keep going back there for “research,” which I did. (Pioneertown, California. Visit if you can.)
4) What is your favorite writing time beverage?
Coffee. Water. Tea. Whiskey. In that order, daily.
Suggested Reading
1 – Crushing on now: The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac: A Novel by Sharma Shields
Love how the author integrates myth and magic into a realistic family saga.
2 – Going steady with: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The perfect YA novel: Beautifully layered standalone chapters in a young boy’s life during the Reagan/Thatcher years.
3 – Totally jealous of: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Twins. Love triangle. Art. Crotchety old artist/mentor. Teen angst. Give it to me.
4 – How-to: From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler and Janet Burroway
The art of dreaming the movie of the story first, then letting scenes and words fall into place.
5 – One of those books: I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal
Hilarious POV.


DSC_0714Tracy DeBrincat’s novel Hollywood Buckaroo was awarded the inaugural Big Moose Prize and published by Black Lawrence Press. She has also had two short story collections published: the Elixir Prize winner Troglodyte (Elixir Press) and innovative fiction prize winner Moon Is Cotton & She Laugh All Night (Subito Press, University of Colorado Boulder). She has published prize-winning short stories and poetry in literary journals from Another Chicago Magazine to Zyzzyva and authors the occasional blog Bigfoot Lives! ( Tracy is a freelance creative advertising consultant in the entertainment business and loves living in Los Angeles, where she is currently working on a YA novel titled How to Kill Your Coyote.

Author Photo by Mark Bennington