Q&A with Tracy Ross

Tracy Ross’ memoir, The Source of All Things, has already received rave reviews in Elle and O Magazine, and Tracy was recently featured in People Magazine (March 28th issue.) Everyone I share the book with is blown away by its raw honesty and exquisite writing… and falls in love with Tracy’s contagious energy. It has everything a memoir should: honest storytelling, compelling writing, guts and personality.

Here’s a recent Q&A I did with the author, as it appeared in Women’s Adventure Magazine:

Your connection with what you were feeling at different points of your childhood is so authentic – you’re so tuned into that. How were you able to capture that? What kind of research was required?

I looked at myself as a character instead of as “me.” I tried to keep some distance and just wrote the story.

I read an interview with Wells Tower [author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned], where he talks about auto hypnosis. When he writes, he goes into this auto hypnotic state. I would find myself being able to do that. If I would slow everything down enough in my brain, wipe out all of the clutter and all of the voices that said ‘you won’t be able to do this,’ then I could really begin to hear. I could call up and go up to those moments if I listened really closely… I knew how I felt and I knew how I reacted. It took a lot of listening really closely to hear it and feel it.

I also have journals, a ton of letters that people have saved, letters that I sent my parents when I was in Oregon. Throughout the book, I picked scenes that I felt really strongly about. Those are the things in our life that stand out: the moments that create the connect-the-dots of the important arc of our life… the moments that stand out emotionally.

I talked to a lot of people, did a lot of reporting, asked my dad and mom a billion questions to have them reconstruct what happened. I went back to my parent’s house and Twin Falls, tried to get court documents. It was really emotional and crazy. A lot of this story is me thinking “did this really happen?” That’s one of the problems that abuse victims suffer from – you spend so much time building these safety barriers around your brain and your own memory. You say “I don’t want that to influence me,” “I don’t want to remember that”… it’s the whole process of blocking it out.

What was the most challenging part of writing the memoir?

The writing. Believing that I’m not some hack and could actually tackle this from a nuts and bolts writing perspective. Also, throughout the whole process, having to pull the curtain back more and more and more. I had become very comfortable with saying “I was abused 12 times” and thinking ‘well, that’s not so bad, it wasn’t rape, so it’s OK, others had it worse.’ But I still felt so shitty.

Also, going back and asking my dad these questions was hard… he couldn’t answer a lot of them, like “What did you do when you would come into my room?” Nobody wants to know that. Even though I didn’t want to know it, I realized it was causing upheaval for my kids. I was all over the place last year and my kids had just entered the age of awareness that something’s wrong with mom, she’s not happy. And I couldn’t tell them why. That was hard. Finally, I could acknowledge and accept the fact that I had been so screwed over.

Read more about what Tracy says she hopes her readers get out of the story and how the outdoors helped her heal.

I also highly recommend her recent article in Outside, a story titled “You Don’t Bring Me Clif Bars Anymore” about the “relationship challenge” she and her husband endured.


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