Howell author to publish mystery book with Penguin-Random House line

HOWELL — For nearly 20 years, Tracy Gardner, a full-time nurse, has been writing stories, poems and books, now it’s starting to pay off for the Howell resident.

Gardner is set to release his second book in the Avery Ayers Antique Mystery series in June, “Peril at Pennington Manor,” via Crooked Lane Booksdistributed by Penguin Random House Publishing Services.

The book follows Gardner’s first in the series, 2021’s “Ruby Red Herring,” which is one of five nominees for the Edgar Allan Poe Prize for Mysterious Writers of America 2022also known as Edgars, in the division of the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Prizes which will be awarded on April 28.

“I am beyond thrilled that her book has been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Prize. It is very well deserved,” said Faith Black Ross, editor at Crooked Lane Books.

“It was totally out of left field,” Gardner said. “I received the email from Mystery Writers of America saying he was nominated and I didn’t even know he was up for consideration. I did not expect that.”

Howell author Tracy Gardner searches for a copy of her recently published mystery, "ruby red herring" on Tuesday April 5, 2022 to sign copies of his book for sale at 2 Dandelions Bookstore in Brighton.

Just like becoming a bestselling author was something she didn’t believe was possible at one time.

Growing up with parents who were both teachers, Gardner knew she was expected to go to college, graduate, and find a good job.

“I think the idea of ​​doing anything writing-related wasn’t even on my radar because it wasn’t practical,” she said.

She had been writing short stories and stuff since she was young, and as a teenager she wrote agonizing song lyrics and poems, and even had a poem published in her high school newspaper.

“I don’t think I ever really trusted anything I wrote. It was just for me,” she said.

As she was looking for direction after high school, she asked her then-boyfriends, now husband Joe, what he thought she should pursue and he suggested going into the medical field. .

Gardner eventually went on to pursue nursing education: she earned an associate’s degree from Henry Ford College and started working at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital. She has been in the field for 29 years and currently works as a nurse case manager for Aetna.

About five or six years after her marriage, she started a family and eventually had three children: two daughters and a son. The youngest, Joey, is 19, while daughters Katie and Halle are both 22.

Return to writing

Around 2002, when Joey was 4 years old, Gardner wrote about two-thirds of what would become her first book, but due to family health issues, she filed the manuscript in 2006.

Then, four years later, she met a new neighbor, who convinced her to join a book club. During conversations the two had, Tracy admitted that she was a writer and that her neighbor wanted to read her work.

“It got me started thinking about trying to get it published,” she said.

Trials and Tribulations

She finished the book and gave it to her neighbor. From then on, she spent about four years sending out query letters to over 100 different publishers.

She eventually self-published “The Fall of Our Secrets” in 2014 under e-LIT BOOKS, an independent startup that is now out of business.

“I think at the time I was like, ‘Someone wants to publish my book,’ so I could quit my job. I’m going to be on the bestseller list,” she said. declared.

It was around this time that Gardner met his current agent, Frances Black of Literary Advisor At New York.

“She loved my writing and she loved me, and she thought she could shake things up,” she said.

Gardner signed with Black in 2014 and sent manuscripts to different publishers for another four years, then was scratched again.

“In the meantime, you’re raising kids and doing a day job. Live your life, and then you have this, at night, you write, send this stuff and get rejections,” she said.

In 2018, Gardner asked Black to remove her name from Black’s website because she wanted to get away for a little while. Black kept Gardner on the web and let the young author figure things out for six months.

take a chance

Finally, Black encouraged Gardner to prepare a pitch because Hallmark Channel was creating a publishing arm and they were looking to delve into the mysteries. Gardner wrote a five-page synopsis for Stacey Donovan, creative director and editor of Hallmark Publishing at Crown Media Family Networks.

“I really did it because I had nothing to lose,” Gardner said.

Donovan, however, didn’t like the synopsis and thought most of the ideas wouldn’t work, including putting a lost poodle in jeopardy.

“It was hard to write a murder mystery. There’s no violence. There’s no affair. If you think about motives for murder, that pretty much leaves money” , she said.

Plan the story

For Gardner, the writing process always begins with a character.

“A lot of times they just pop up in my head and they’re interesting enough that I need to know more, so I’ll start writing my own story in my head about the character,” she said. . “You start thinking about their circle, their world, the people around them and their journey and their struggle.”

Local author Tracy Gardner works on character connections and plot twists in a notebook at 2 Dandelions bookshop in Brighton on Tuesday April 5, 2022. Gardner said,

Gardner tries to identify the victim in his head. Then she uses a piece of notebook paper to sketch out the murder. Using a web template, she places the victim in the middle, draws a circle around their name, and creates a series of suspects and their motivations.

Gardner ended up publishing a three-book mystery series with Hallmark about three sisters called “Out of the Picture” (2019), “Behind the Frame” (2020), and “Still Life and Death” (2021).

“It was good. Looking back, it taught me how to write,” she said. “Between the process of writing these and the rounds of editing they put them through. I feel like every book I’ve written has taught me so much more.”

After that, Black encouraged Gardner to launch Crooked Lane Books.

“It’s all about connections,” Gardner said.

They sent Gardner’s first book in the Avery Ayers Antique Mystery series, “Ruby Red Herring” (2021), to Ross at Crooked Lane Books and she loved it.

“I fell in love with Avery Ames and Tracy’s story the moment I read it and was so thrilled to be able to acquire it for Crooked Lane. An Antique Appraiser is a truly unique twist on a comfy and new hook that I haven’t seen before,” Ross said. “I also love how she combined New York and a small town. It really is the best of both worlds.”

To buckle the buckle

Now she’s about to release the second book in the series, and she’s still wondering how she got there, suggesting her high school would be amazed at what she’s become.

“It’s the one thing I liked to do all the time I was in school was read and write and probably write more than read, but I never thought of that as something something I could actually do,” she said. “It was probably my aspiration, which was my blockage, why I didn’t know what to do with my life.”

Gardner is currently working on a psychological thriller about a medical examiner. She also submitted a piece to Alcove Pressa second line with Crooked Lane Books which focuses on romance novels.

Tracy can be found @tracygardnerbooks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Lola R. McClure