I’m fortunate to have been published in print, and digitally during the past few years. As I don’t want to lose my work, I’m posting it here too. Below, you’ll find my interview of Rachael Caine, a favorite author of young adults.
The bestselling author of the Morganville Vampire series for young adults was in town to promote her current book, Glass Houses.
What made you start writing?
I had an assignment from a teacher. She gave us a sentence to work into a story and I came up with something completely different. I came up with two wizards duelling in a dusty western town in the cowboy era. She encouraged me to start writing my own stories and keep them in a journal.
For many years I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I just wrote things. It wasn’t until I was 28 that a friend of mine urged me to find out about actually ‘becoming’ a writer. That’s when my path to publication really began.
How and when did you decide to start sending out your manuscripts?
I didn’t consciously decide, a friend of mine decided for me. He brought me a ticket to a writer’s conference. He didn’t tell me I was going. He just took me there and left me with the ticket, ‘Go find out about this, I’ve paid your way in.’ So I felt I had to make the most of it. I met my first editor there and thanks to the endorsement from my friend I felt brave enough to talk to the editor. He ended up buying my first book.
How did you feel when you learnt that you had become a New York Times best-seller?
It was odd. At that point I had been writing professionally for many years and published about twenty books. It was shocking to me that I was writing something that was popular enough to start getting that kind of success. I was still employed full-time, and that day I was at a conference for work. That was when I got the call. It was the end of the day and everyone had gone except my boss. I was so excited I blurted it out ‘My book just hit the New York Times!’ She played it cool and said ‘That’s great, but let’s talk about tomorrow…’ So I contained myself. Next morning, I was greeted with a champagne breakfast with all the conference attendees.
Why do you have so many pen names?
It wasn’t the plan, I started out with my maiden name Roxanne Longstreet but I wasn’t hitting the right market. People recognise your name, remember your past books and don’t take a chance on the next. Sometimes you want to start out as a new writer with a new book. I took my married name Roxanne Conrad. When the Weather Wardwn series came out my publisher asked me to create a new pen name, so I became Rachael Caine.
You become a new person. Partly it has to do with how sales are tracked – quickly and electronically. It can be very hard to overcome statistics if you haven’t had a great start. When you have a wonderful new book, it can be easier to start over, when no one has any expectations for your sales.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I think any writing is important. Whether you are writing your thoughts or writing stories. You need to practice the process of turning thoughts into words, picking the right ones and learning your voice. I don’t keep a journal any more, but it helped start me out.
The landscape of publishing is very different now…
It’s both great – and scary. The pace of publishing allowed you to refine yourself. I was rejected frequently, but it always taught me something. Today, it’s easy to hit Kindle Direct five minutes after completing your first story, and put it up for sale. Not everyone is ready for the fire storm which can erupt. There will always be people who don’t like your work – and they’re quite direct about telling you this online. They have a right to, they paid money for your book. Make sure you’re ready. You can get to the market faster, but if you’re not ready it can damage your confidence.
Have you ever considered self-publishing?
At this point in my career I wouldn’t do it with my novels. I have a large audience for my traditionally published books. But for smaller, one-off projects or novellas, I’d probably do it.
You’re an ‘online author’. Do you enjoy this and has it helped your career?
I’m naturally a very social person. It’s great when you write several books a year, you can live behind your computer and never leave. With twitter or facebook you know that there are other people out there somewhere, commiserating with the fact that you haven’t left your pyjamas in two days.
It has allowed a lot of writers to connect. It’s become a smaller and more supportive world. It wasn’t that easy for us to find each other before. Now I meet people online years before I actually see them face-to-face. I have friends in countries all over the world. I met Trudi Canavan in Australia earlier this year, but I’d known her for quite a while before that.
My online audience is fantastic. They’ll tell you what they love – and what they don’t. It’s refreshing for readers to tell you what they mean. If you only hear criticism in a formal setting, you’ll only hear the good stuff. But if they can send you a tweet about why they think a character did something stupid, they will. I just saw a review of my work that pointed out that I use the word ‘suddenly’ way too much. I went and counted, and that person was right.
As a novelist of vampire books, are you ever compared to Anne Rice or Stephenie Meyer?
That would be really nice. I think we’re all thought of as a continuum. We will be asked ‘Are your books like X or Y?’ Usually the answer is yes and no, because we share a common root, but our twists on vampires is what makes it interesting. I don’t know if anyone compares us exactly, but I’m honoured if they do.
We heard you write to music?
I have playlists I create for each book. This became a habit when I became Rachael Caine. I started listening to a particular album at first. Then I realised I could use itunes to create my own from varied artists. Now I start writing with about ten songs. This is the core of the book – in music. I add songs in as I go and you can tell how difficult a book was by how many songs are in my playlist. 74 is a bad number. I share these with my readers, so they have a soundtrack for my book.
This week I learnt that one of the musicians’ daughter reads my books. He had no idea he was listed in the back until she told him. I met them at one of my signings and I got to meet him in the flesh.
Anything on the horizon?
I’m going to finish the Morganville series at 15 books. Daylighters will be out in November. My adult series will be finished by the end of this year, and I have a brand new YA novel to do next year called Prince of Shadows and isn’t connected to any of my other books. It’s a take on Romeo and Juliet, set in the period. There’s always stuff on the horizon, but I don’t know what it looks like yet.