Rachel never set out to be an award winning author. She was just so poor and so easily bored during her college years that she had to come up with creative ways to entertain herself, and her first novel, Learning Curve, was born out of one such attempt. She was sincerely surprised when it was accepted for publication and even more shocked when it won the Golden Crown Literary Award for Debut Author. She has now written 7 novels.
Her 2013 book Does She Love You? is a Goldie finalist in the Ann Bannon popular choice category. We asked her your 6 bloodspot questions:
1) Who/What is your favorite book/author? Why?
This is such a tough question. For someone who loves to read and really looks up to authors, I can’t pick just one. Honestly, whatever book I’m into at the moment has the potential to be my favorite simply because I get so immersed in that world. This happened recently with The Alchemist. Still, some books that I go back to a lot are Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, C.S. Lewis’The Great Divorce, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States…I could do this all day.
In Lesbian fiction it’s even harder: Lee Lynch’s Toothpick House, Georgia Beers’ Too Close To Touch, Kim Baldwin’s Whitewater Rendezvous, Karin Kallmaker’s Warming Trend…The list goes on and on.
2) What has been your most surprising or interesting inspiration for a book?
I met with a life coach once hoping to just get some character-building exercises (and because she is also a beautiful actress) and ended up instead walking away with the inspiration for LoveLife. The ordeal was actually kind of embarrassing, but worth it because I ended up with both a book and a very good friend. You can see that whole story here.
Also, Spanish Heart was based on my own trip to Spain as a teenager, which isn’t surprising in and of itself, but the circumstances surrounding the adventure kind of were. We’d only been in the country for a few hours when our teacher, the only Spanish-speaking chaperone, was hospitalized. I put that pretty directly into the book, and a lot of people found it a bit far-fetched, which makes me laugh because it’s one of the only things that actually did happen to me.
3) Writing is emotional and can be isolating. From where do you get your support?
It can be lonely work, especially since I’m an extrovert who really needs a human connection to pull from, but I’m in a better position than most in that area. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful wife who really supports my career. Aside from giving me the opportunity to write full-time she always proofreads my books and often helps me work through plot and character development. I’ve also got some amazing writer friends whom I call on regularly.
Melissa Brayden and I talk almost daily about our writing progress and kick each other in the butts when need be. Georgia Beers and I live only a few hours apart and get together pretty regularly too, which is always ton of fun. Lynda Sandoval, who is also my editor, lives literally around the corner from me now, and aside from being a great friend to hang out with, she’s also amazing to bounce ideas off of. Not many people get house calls from their editors (or would even want to), but it’s helped me raise my game. We spend more time laughing than working though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could never do the solitary writer thing for very long, and thanks to those amazing women, I don’t have to.
4) What does it mean to you to see your work in print and then up for an award?
As I mentioned above I’m an extrovert. The need to communicate is essential to who I am. When people talk about archetypes or purposes, I always say I’m a messenger or a storyteller. It’s probably the biggest part of myself. I think I’d keep telling my stories even if there was no one out there to read them, but to know that the things I write are shared by people all the over world is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
I know what it means to hear something, see something, or read something and feel a connection, a sense of community, or the relief that comes from knowing you aren’t alone. I think it’s part of the human condition to want to know that there are other people out there with the same hopes and dreams. It’s something that can connect us across differences. Knowing that I have a chance to share part of myself with my readers is amazingly rewarding. I think I have the best job in the world. As for awards, they are just an added bonus.
5) What is next on your personal bucket list to accomplish (literary or otherwise)?
My goal is always to write a book that changes someone’s life for the better, even if just in some small way. That hope is what guides me every time I sit down to write. I can’t imagine wanting more than that.
Outside of the actual writing aspect of the job, I’d like to see more of my books translated into other languages and do some readings outside of the United States. As I mentioned above, communication is key to me, and being able to connect with people world wide would be awesome.
6) What are you working on now and what’s next up for publication (if they aren’t the same)?
I just finished writing Heart Of The Game, which will be out in April of 2015. It let me spend a lot of fictional time in one on my favorite places, Busch Stadium in St. Louis. I’m a baseball nut, and I got to use a lot of my love of the game in this one. One of the main characters, Sarah Duke, is a sports writer for the St. Louis Cardinals, which is a bit of a fantasy for a die-hard Cardinals fan like me. The other character, Molly Grettano, is the mother of two young boys, which allowed me to work in some funny parenting stories from my own life. It took almost a year to write, so it wasn’t an easy one per se, but I did have a lot of fun days along the way. I sure hope you’ll all check it out next year!
Read more about Rachel on her Lesbian Reading Room author page here