Ever since reading MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY, I have been a big fan of Rachel Harris. I love her writing, and was absolutely thrilled when she agreed to answer my questions. In sharing this interview, I do have to confess one BIG thing: I am not a fan of Adult Romance books. But Rachel has completely changed my mind with her recent releases, TASTE THE HEAT and SEVEN DAY FIANCE. Both stories are filled with tons of heart and humor and have encouraged me to read in a category and genre I thought I would never be interested in. This to me is the mark of an amazing writer – taking the reader on a journey and involving them in a world they thought they would never enjoy.
Many thanks to Rachel for taking the time to share her odyssey today…
Amy: You alternate between writing YA Fiction and Adult Romance. Is there one you are drawn to more?
Rachel: I also write new adult as well, and I think I’m drawn the most to whichever project is up next and gets me excited. They each have their own unique quirks, challenges, and fun twists. YA is often about the excitement of firsts and testing personal and society’s boundaries. NA is about the journey of discovery and finding out who you are. And with Adult, for me at least, it’s more about healing from past hurts and finding true and lasting love. All of those speak to me, both as a reader and as an author.
Amy: I love how in your Love and Games series you use your home state of Louisiana as a setting. Did you know right away that you wanted to use it for TASTE THE HEAT?
Rachel: Definitely! The idea originated with the food angle, which was inspired by watching Chopped on the Food Network. I’ve also always wanted to set a story in New Orleans and when presented with a story idea focused on food, it seemed like a no brainer!
Amy: MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY was your debut novel. Was that the first manuscript you had ever written? If not, how many novels did you work on prior?
Rachel: I wrote one other novel prior to My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, and that book is actually going to be published fall of 2014—The Fine Art of Pretending. I wrote that book in the fall of 2010 and while querying agents, I quickly began writing MSSSC. I ended up finishing and querying that book only a few months later. The agent I initially signed with decided to submit my second book first. But I’m very blessed in that every book I’ve written has found a home so far (*knocks on wood*)
Amy: Did you have beta readers or critique partners for that first manuscript? How did that affect your writing process? Do you still use beta readers today?
Rachel: I had critique partners from the very beginning, though they have changed a bit since then. My current CP’s actually helped me edit that first manuscript just before my agent took it out to shop, and it was amazing to see how much I had grown already in a year. Finding the right fit is crucial I think in the process—having other writers and readers whom you trust, who enjoy your writing style, who have strengths where you may be weak, and who also can benefit from your help as well. Critique relationships should be a give and a take.
Now I have a core group of critique partners and a fabulous set of beta readers, and I rely on them so much. Hearing what they loved and what they just didn’t get are so helpful. I don’t feel good about a chapter until I’ve heard back from my girls 😉
Amy: When you first started writing did you struggle with rejection? If so, how did you keep on writing?
Rachel: When I first started, no not really. I was writing for myself and my two partners, and my husband who thought I was amazing. The struggling part came a little during the querying process, but even that went fast and the agents who passed were all very complimentary. The hard part for me came once the book went out to readers. And it remains a challenge with each new release. Wanting to please readers who have invested themselves in my characters and writing, hoping new readers will fall in love with the stories, crossing my fingers that people will get my humor (tee hee). I follow all the reviews during the tour, read the ones people send me, but the way I keep writing is by stepping back again after the tour is over and focusing on the next project. Giving the readers who do love my books something to look forward to.
Amy: What was your first query like? Did you struggle with it or did it come easily?
Rachel: I love writing blurbs and synopsis. I’m a weirdo. So for me, the query stage was fun. I will say that I’ve found it’s MUCH easier to write the full synopsis before you draft the whole book…that would’ve made it even easier, as I didn’t know that trick back in the day, but even without that, I liked querying. * ducks tomatoes*
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Pam van Hylckama Vlieg? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Rachel: Pam was actually my second agent. My first agent call was a process of me speaking with a few agents, deciding which one I felt I clicked with, and going forward not really knowing what to expect. Although that first agent and I remain friends, we did separate ways over a year ago and I planned to go without an agent for a while. But Pam and I spoke through Twitter a few times and out of the blue—right after I had chosen to separate from my agent—she DM’ed me, asking me if I had representation. We spoke about the projects I had lined up, what I was looking for in an agent, and I sent her a partial of my adult romance debut, Taste the Heat. We signed the next day I think.
Amy: You just released your fourth book, SEVEN DAY FIANCE, which is an amazing accomplishment. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one important thing about the publishing business, what would it be?
Rachel: Enjoy it…and slow down!
I’m a homeschool mom, so I’m not one of those authors who can put out four or five books a year—or at least, I shouldn’t be. But over the last year, I’ve had amazing opportunities fall into my lap and I leapt at them. Honestly, I don’t think I would change a thing, as having had so many releases so close together has introduced me to readers and authors I may not have met otherwise. And I’ve grown a lot in my process and craft. But publishing three books this year and likely four next year has been a bit exhausting to say the least LOL. I think if I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to slow down, talk things through with my husband a bit more, and really look at my time commitments. Decide what is possible for me. Publishing isn’t a race. Readers will love a good story whenever you can get it to them.
Rachel Harris grew up in New Orleans, watching soap operas with her grandmother, and staying up late sneak-reading her mama’s romance novels. Today, she still stays up late reading romances, only now she does so openly.
A Cajun cowgirl now living in Houston, she firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations.
She homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches countless hours of Food Network and reality television with her amazing husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult Fun, Flirty Escapes, and LOVES talking with readers!