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Interview with Tracey Lyons

It’s still true: Write what you know. After 36 years of marriage, novelist Tracey Lyons understands romance—those first tummy flutters, that awkward first date, the falling in love stage, the breakup. Then the second breakup. And the third. Followed by a massive snowstorm that hurls real life hero and heroine—and her mother—back together.

In many ways, theirs was the classic small-town-girl-meets-sophisticated-city-boy story, set in an idyllic community in upscale New York. With a few starts and stops, of course. In Tracey’s seventh grade year, TJ moved in from the Boston area. Her initial thoughts: Wow, a big city guy.

But not for long. His dad, once a salesman, had purchased a farm. Now big city guy was small town farm boy. Not nearly so impressive. For the next few years, they saw each other in passing at school, then went their separate ways.

“We didn’t start noticing each other until I tried out for cheerleading,” Tracey said. “At first, we were just really good friends.”

And so it begins

Their senior year, Tracey and TJ started dating. This didn’t last long—but then neither did their breakup. Perhaps Tracey was prepping for the necessary breakup that occurs in every romance novel. Either that or they were a couple of immature teenagers. We’ll assume the former considering their breakup didn’t last long.

TJ and Tracey at the prom in 1977

This time, they were all in, and the two on-again, off-again lovebirds got engaged.

Then broke up—again. This time Tracey thought for sure they were through. Maybe they would have been, if not for an act of God, and a promise TJ made when their relationship fell apart.

And so it begins, again

Fast forward six months. Tracey and her mom are driving down a long, river road, returning to Albany, when a horrendous storm hits. The kind of storm that keeps most drivers off the road—and that kept their car from driving up a hill. Sitting there trapped in the valley of the road, surrounded by trees and mounds of snow, her mother says, “When you and TJ broke up, he told you if you ever need anything, anything at all, to call him.”

Tracey stared at her and shook her head. It had been half a year since she and TJ had even talked. Why would he come help her now? Why would he even answer his phone?

But her mother wouldn’t be dissuaded. Perhaps because, stranded on that deserted road, she felt they had no other options. “You’re going to walk down to that house, ask to use their phone, and call him.”

Sounds simple, right? Except this place was a 10- to 15-minute walk, in thick, icy snow. And Tracey wasn’t wearing boots. So freeze to death in the car with her mom or on the road heading toward her ex-boyfriend? She chose the latter. “I figured it was worth taking a chance,” she said.

And he came. The rescue, though not on horseback, required a 10-mile drive from TJ’s home to where they were. Then he had to drive 20 miles to their home before returning to his home.

“I figured, any guy who would come out in the middle of scary weather to rescue my sorry butt was worth holding on to.”

The perfect setting

They were the only car on the road for a good 30 miles. “It was actually really beautiful,” Tracey said. They were surrounded by dense, white-topped trees, ice crystals glistening in the moonlight. The radio softly played, “Superstar,” by The Carpenters, with the line “Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby,” underscoring the moment.

Sitting in TJ’s car, with her mom in the backseat, TJ placed his hand on hers. She looked at him and said, “I hope you remember this song.”

That moment was the beginning of their happily-ever-after—and this time, there was a wedding.

In addition to love, the spark for a thriving career was ignited. “I believe everyone should get a happily ever after,” Tracey said. “Every writer brings a lot of something to each of their stories. I bring the idea that, without relationships, you’re not going to survive in life.

“When you’re writing a romance, you already start with: they meet, they have that dark moment, they break up, and there’s conflict they have to overcome to reach their happy ending. Sometimes it takes a snow storm.”

Though her real life rescue hasn’t shown up in a book yet, she brings that element of overcoming into every one of her stories. In her scenario, she had to rise above her pride and make that call to TJ. In her latest release, A Changed Agent, from Waterfall Press, her hero also must push past his pride to hold tight to the one he loves. If he does, he just might find the kind of love Tracey and her husband did—one that’s only grown stronger with every subsequent storm that’s come their way.


Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God’s children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a frequent contributor to Visit her online.

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