Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Rachel, and congratulations on the release of ‘Countering His Claim’.
Thanks so much for having me!
This is your eighth book in four years! Do you have any tips for those who struggle with time management or motivation?(Especially considering that you were also the RWA President for a large chunk of this time period.)
Deadlines. They miracle motivators. 😉 If you don’t have a deadline with a publisher, then create a deadline for yourself. Contest deadlines are great for this, but you can also set a deadline with your critique partner, maybe to send them a chapter by the end of the week. Or set up a reporting in group – three or four people who report in on their progress, so you know you’ll be kept accountable.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Finish the damn book. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
You write for Harlequin Desire, is there another genre you’ve ever considered writing for?
Before I was published I wrote a single title romantic comedy that won the Valerie Parv Award. I think about revisiting rom-com sometimes, but I’m sticking with Desire for the moment.
We know that you are a Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice fan. Which screen version is your favourite and why?
The Colin Firth / Jennifer Ehle version, no question. Partly because it was a mini-series so it had room for more of the plot, but also because they’re faithful to the book, and the actors – particularly the two leads – are so perfectly cast. Though I must admit a soft spot for Bride & Prejudice (the Bollywood adaptation) and the 1940s version with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson (which is heaps of fun as long as you accept that it’s not faithful to the book – there are Victorian era costumes and a change of heart for Lady Catherine at the end).
You have a degree in Psychology. Has that come in handy when creating your characters?
I think all our experiences of people and situations and our previous study come together in the subconscious when we’re creating characters and stories. It’s hard to know what exactly influences specific examples, but I do think the more life experience and the more subject / topics you’ve studied (formally or informally from personal interest) the better for that creative space in the subconscious.
Of all the characters you’ve created, which one do you have the biggest soft spot for and why?
I definitely had a soft spot for Della from Countering His Claim after I put her through the worst backstory I’ve given a character – when she and her husband were attacked by a group of men, her husband was killed before her eyes and she was left for dead. Once she woke she had horrible physical and emotional scars. I still feel bad that I gave her such an awful time! I also have a soft spot for her hero Luke who is so patient and giving when he finds out what happened to her.
Can you talk us through a normal writing day for you?
A normal writing day consists of popcorn and trying not to get distracted by the internet. I also try to fit meeting my daily word count goal in there. I keep close touch with my circle of writing friends who keep me motivated, so there’s always some contact with at least a couple of them in a day – I can’t imagine the journey without writing friends.
What’s it like being a USA Today bestselling author?
Having a tag like that is great to put on my website, and it was certainly a good reason to open a bottle of bubbly the day it happened, but I don’t know that it affects a career as much as some might think. You’re only as good as your last book, or, for the publisher, as good as your last book’s sales. Having said that, I’m still pleased to have it.
What are the essential ingredients of a successful romance novel?
There are the basics – a heroine we can sympathize with and cheer for, a hero we can fall in love with, a journey of emotional growth for both protagonists, some lovely sexual tension, and an emotionally satisfying ending. Learning and improving your writing craft will help you achieve this (was it Emma Darcy who said if you think you’ve got nothing left to learn then it’s time to get out of the business?).
But to be truly successful, there’s always an X-factor, that something extra that truly lifts it above others. For some books that’s the voice, for others it’s the startlingly original premise, the intensity between the characters, or the fast moving action that keeps the reader turning the page. Of course, that “something extra” can be difficult to create!
Could you give us a sneak peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Countering His Claim’, please?
I’d love to. This is from chapter one, where Luke and Della have just met – the ship’s captain has asked Dr Della Walsh to look at a cut on Luke’s hand. It’s the first time Della has a glimpse at the type of man she’ll be spending a lot of time with in the near future.
They arrived at the medical suite and Della stopped at the reception desk just inside the door to speak to the duty nurse. “Jody, is Dr. Bateman in?”
Something about Luke Marlow affected her. Perhaps it was his power over her future as her boss. Or the strange magnetism he had as a man. Or simply her unsettled nerves about the reading of Patrick’s will in an hour and the accompanying sharp reminder of her friend’s death only twelve days ago. Regardless, she knew if she didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable, it would be more appropriate to hand him to a colleague for treatment.
Hearing his name, Cal Bateman stepped into the reception room and Della’s shoulders loosened in relief.
“Cal, Mr. Marlow might need some sutures in his hand.” She turned to their patient. “Dr. Bateman will take care of you.”
But when she turned to go, Luke’s smooth, deep voice stopped her. “No.”
Her heart skipped a beat and she swiveled slowly back around. “Pardon?”
Luke stood facing her, dominating the room with his height and presence, his expression neither stern nor encouraging. “If I need stitches, I’d like you to handle them, Dr. Walsh.”
Puzzled, she looked at him. Why should it matter to him which doctor he saw? “I assure you, Dr. Bateman’s surgical skills are second to none. He did some advanced training in plastic surgery, so he’ll leave less of a scar than I would.”
“I don’t mind a scar,” Luke said, unconcerned. “I want you, Dr. Walsh.”
Her chest tightened. Was he flirting with her? No man had tried since…her husband. She deliberately cultivated an unapproachable aura to prevent it. Though, Luke Marlow didn’t seem the sort of man who bothered taking notice of such things.