David Starkey spoke with Central Coast author Tracy Shawn’s for the Independent after her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, was published 2013. Her second novel, Floating Underwater, has just been published.
We don’t want to give away too many plot twists in your new novel, Floating Underwater, but can you tell potential readers what the book is about?
Fearing that her premonitions not only predict the future but may also change its very course, Paloma Leary is caught in a world between what she thinks is real and what she tells herself can’t possibly be. After her latest vision foretelling a third miscarriage comes true, Paloma questions her own sanity. But when a life-changing vision reveals a tragic secret from her past, Paloma learns to accept her gifts and embraces a far different future than she ever could have imagined.
Magical realism is a notable element of Floating Underwater. Can you talk about why that narrative strategy — where the world is mostly as we know it until suddenly something fantastical happens — was important to the story you wanted to tell?
I believe that loss and grief can make reality too hard to fathom without the hope that something otherworldly and, in a sense, magical is just beyond our everyday realm. That is why I created these extraordinary experiences for my protagonist — as well as for my readers — for don’t we all need a little magic?
I was drawn to the women’s friendships in the novel, and the crucial but vexed relationship between mothers and daughters. That’s clearly a theme close to your heart.
Yes, you’re quite right, David! Mother and daughter relationships (as well as the closest of women’s friendships) can be a complicated maze of love, disillusionment, hurt, and, hopefully in the end, understanding. It’s a theme that helps me create deeper psychological insights into my characters — as well as a cathartic exercise for me!
What would your ideal reader say after finishing Floating Underwater?
What I hope readers would say after finishing Floating Underwater is that they loved reading it and that it made them feel as if everything in this crazy world (or beyond!) will somehow, someday be okay.