Thursday, August 27, 2009
Please welcome Rachel Ann Nunes, one of our most prolific LDS authors we
have, to the Book Nook today. Remember to make a comment here and be entered to win a copy of her upcoming novel, Saving Madeline.
1. Teri - When did you first start writing and who was your inspiration?
Rachel - I came up with novel plots as early as ten and eleven, but the dream of being a writer wasn't concrete then. The first remembrance I have of really knowing I would be a writer was when I was twelve. I loved reading, and I wanted to make up my own stories. The inspiration at that point was that I devoured so many books but never found the exact one I was looking for, so I decided to write it. I read just about anything and everything, but most of it was fantasy.
2. Teri - When I first read your Ariana series, our daughter Sarah also
read the first book and absolutely loved it, wanting her then boyfriend
and now husband to read it. What inspired you to create such wonderful
characters for this series?
Rachel - Ariana: The Making of a Queen was my first published novel and a lot of heart and soul and research went into it. The storyline was partially inspired by a woman I met while serving an LDS mission in Portugal. I think the most important thing in creating characters is to make them human--with all their beauty, warts, strengths, and faults intact. They need to be someone people like and wish to see happy, and their struggle has to be one we can identify with on some level. I think Ariana spoke to a lot of people that way.
3. Teri - Do you create stories or scenes from dreams you have?
Rachel - Sometimes I will receive inspiration in dreams, but more often than not they are day dreams that I'm purposefully pursuing rather than night dreams. There have been notable times, however, when I've gone to bed thinking about my characters and then dreamed about the plot and it worked perfectly into my story.
4. Teri - What was your first writing assignment?
My first professional writing experience was when I sold a story when I was in college at BYU that would be used to keep foreign students' interest as they learned English. Later I wrote feature articles for a weekly newspaper and a few articles for magazines. Then I decided to work on publishing my novels.
5. Teri - Do you travel to places that you write about to get a feel for the place?
Rachel - With six relatively young children, it's more likely that I'll set a book somewhere I've already visited in the past and then do a lot of additional research to make it feel real. I'm sure I'll be able to do more traveling in the future, but for the moment, the Internet is a great tool. I can choose a location and actually walk down the street, seeing all the buildings as though I were actually there.
6. Teri - Do you ever get writer's block and if so, what do you do to get
the creative juices flowing again?
Rachel - I never have time for writer's block. There simply is too much else I have to do, so I must write when I have the time. On the occasions when I haven't felt the strong urge to write, it's been because I haven't researched enough, I don't know where the story is going, or because I'm under too much stress. These are solved respectively by doing the needed research, making a simple line-by-line list of what I have to include to finish the book, and locking myself in my bedroom for a few days to watch an entire season of 24.
7. Teri - When you were a little girl, what did you write about and what
made you become an author?
Rachel - When I was twelve and in the seventh grade, I wrote my first science fiction story. My English teacher seemed impressed, and I found I had many more stories I wanted to tell. At that moment I decided to become the WORLD'S GREATEST AUTHOR. Ha! At twelve, that didn't sound so daunting as it does to me now. That I remember my teacher's name—Mrs. West—when I don't remember any other teachers at Dixon Junior High goes a long way toward saying what a profound experience this discovery was for me.
8. Teri - Your upcoming new novel, Saving Madeline, is about a
young female attorney working on a kidnapping case. When I noticed this
new book of yours a few weeks ago on Ensign Books website as an upcoming
new release, the synopsis caught my eye, thinking this book would be
something that I would love to read, as it involved a kidnapping case.
Do you strive to write stories that are in the news in order to capture
the reading audience? I know that my top three TV shows are: Without A
Trace, Law & Order: SVU and Cold Case, so knowing the ins and outs of a
case are important to me in a show and in a book.
Rachel - I'd say that most authors do try to stay up on current events. A book is always more noticed if you can hit the market just right. As for Saving Madeline, just such a current event inspired this novel. Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse.
Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse. All charges against the father were eventually dropped.
While my plotline does not follow this real life one, and is completely fictional, the news story definitely got me thinking in that direction. Sadly, in my research, I found many more instances where children have been hurt or killed because of a parent's drug abuse, some of which I’ve written under the Author Comments for the book on my website at http://RachelAnnNunes.com.
Keep in mind that while I try to portray a realistic story, I also have a feel for what my readers are looking for in a novel. Achieving a good balance makes it all work.
9. Teri - What do you do when creating a new series? Do you know how many
volumes the series will be or do you just visualize this?
Rachel - When I begin a new series, I generally know that I will have more than one book, but I'm not always sure how many the story will take. For instance, I had no idea the Ariana series would turn out to be seven novels. The story changes as you write and sometimes the amount of novels changes to accommodate new storylines. Any author will tell you that it's often hard to make your characters do something they don't want to do, so you may end up writing an entire new book to tell the story they want to live.
10. Teri - Now, for my last question and a question I don't normally see
being asked, and that is with an author like you, what does Rachel do in
her spare moments when she's not writing? I really think our readers
would love knowing what you do when you're not writing, as you do have
other interests and also Church callings and how many children you have
and any grandchildren?
Rachel - TJ and I have six children. No grandchildren yet, though I'm looking forward to having them. My oldest son (19) is on a mission to Japan and my oldest daughter is 17 and just started college at SUU. My other children are 15, 13, 10, and 6.
As for what I do in my free time. Well, there isn't much of that because usually someone wants me to do something--correct homework, make food, run an errand. You get the idea. But what I love to do when I have a moment is to read, go for walks, swim with my kids. I enjoy exercising while I watch a video. I love traveling, always taking the whole family at this point. I enjoy going out on dates with my husband.
I teach Relief Society once a month, I'm a visiting teacher, and I'm the chairman of the activities committee (which, BTW, is a feast or famine calling, and we have an activity this week so I'm pretty stressed). I love my ward and my neighbors. I feel really fortunate in that.
Well, it's been great having you here today on The Book Nook, Rachel.
Look for Saving Madeline in bookstores, Deseret, and Amazon next month.
Her current release, Eyes of A Stranger, is at most LDS
bookstores or online as well. You can also read sample chapters on Rachel's website