For the Open Mic’s Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, Day 26 I check in with Chicago-based mystery maven Tracy Clark. Tracy is a testament to persistence and belief in yourself, and now her Cass Raines series is one of the best of its kind out there. She is also a fellow journalist, so I can relate to what is getting her through all this – deadlines!

OM: First and foremost, I hope you and yours are well and staying safe during this pandemic. What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make in your daily life since this started? 

Clark: Thank you, Rich. Yes, everyone’s fine. Hope you, and everyone out there, is staying well and safe. I’d say the biggest adjustment has been in trying to get into an efficient rhythm working full time from home now. Illinois is under a full-on stay-at-home order, so I’m here 24/7 till at least the end of May. At home. With all the distractions. There’s work to do, writing to do, but also laundry to do and cleaning to do and, the phone rings incessantly and the mailman rings the doorbell, and packages are delivered and there’s a pandemic and no vaccine and you’re running low on paper towels and you can’t find a Lysol wipe in the stores to save your soul. But you’ve got to write because you have a deadline, but your mind’s still half on the paper towel situation. It’s wild.


OM: With so much bad news coming at us all the time, I’ve found it very hard some days to stay positive. Have you experienced this as well? If so, what are you doing to bring your spirit back around? 

Clark: You know what, my spirits fine. Yes, this is a pretty tough time and there’s a lot of uncertainty and sadness and fear. I feel for those who have lost their jobs and their livelihoods without any real relief in sight and for those who have lost loved ones or are worried about the safety of loved ones. It’s just a horrible, horrible time. But it’s good to know that we have good people, selfless people, out there working hard to pull us through. Our first responders, healthcare workers, our cops, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, store clerks, all working tirelessly to get us through to the other side. We’ll get there. Just follow the directives, take the precautions, look out for your family and neighbors, be kind to strangers, be loving, be human. You stay positive by focusing on the positive, I think. The world is full of good people. Find them. Help them. Be one of them.


OM: You write the excellent Cass Raines series. How has this situation impacted your creativity? Have you been able to keep to your usual writing schedule? 

Clark: First, thank you. I’ll admit my writing schedule has been a little erratic now that I’m home ALL the time. I used to have a sweet little routine. I’d go to work, break for lunch and write, then write another couple hours at the end of the day. Now that I’m not going into the office and working from my kitchen table, it’s a little weird. My brain sort of knows something’s not quite right, so the writing is slower. Even my body has caught on that the chair I’m writing in now is not the chair I normally sit in when I write, and that’s throwing me off a little too. The creativity’s still there, knock wood, or at least I think it is, but I’m not in my usual writing spot and the time I’d normally go there is taken up by other things I can’t avoid. Of course, I’m still writing. My deadline looms. I have zero time to whine or give myself time to get adjusted. It’s go time. Fingers crossed.


OM: A lot of writers I know are having their book launches delayed, etc. Has this had any impact on your new Cass Raines book? 

Clark: So far, I’m still a go for May 26. How that’s going to affect me in terms of readership or whatever, I don’t know. Hopefully, readers will find the book. A launch in the middle of a global pandemic certainly isn’t ideal. There can be no in-person launch events, no book club or library appearances, etc., which is sad. I enjoy meeting readers face to face. That’s the best part of being an author, right behind typing the words THE END. I’ve got a couple online things set up, but that’s about it at this point. I’ll have to give this some serious thought soon, though. Right now, I’ve got edits to finish and day job work to do and, again, that laundry.


OM: Speaking of that, tell us more about the new book and, if possible, any future plans you have either for that series or something new. 

Clark:  Book three in my Cass Raines series titled “What You Don’t See” releases on 5/26. In this one, Cass is recruited to act as bodyguard for a rather diva-ish magazine publisher who’s being stalked and threatened by creepy letters and anonymous flowers. The diva, Vonda Allen, doesn’t want Cass and her ex-partner Ben Mickerson to investigate the incidents, only protect her from anyone who might come at her. The self-centered and entitled Allen makes no provision for members of her staff. Unfortunately, Cass’s simple security work job turns into something far more sinister when people connected to Vonda Allen begin to die violently. When one of those attacks hit far too close to home for Cass, she drops the security detail and begins her relentless hunt for a craven killer.


There’s a book four in the series, “Runner,” due out May 2021. Not sure what happens after that; I’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, if this lockdown goes on for much longer, I may have to invest in a more comfortable writing chair. The one I’m sitting in now sucks.


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