Rachel Spangler

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Today I have the pleasure of interviewing award winning author Rachel Spangler. I just finished reading her book Does She Love You for the second time. (I'd read it when it was first released and just picked it up again.) It was an interesting story that I enjoyed very much, so I was inspired to reach out and ask her if she'd be willing to have a chat with me.

AJ:  Welcome, Rachel. Thank you, in advance, for allowing me to ask you some nosy questions. 

Thanks for taking the time to be nosy, I love to talk about myself, er, my work.  I mean my work.

AJ: I like to start with some easy questions first. Here we go.

Light or dark chocolate – Light, I’m sweet.

Favorite color - Cerulean

Dogs or cats – I am allergic to both but have always had cats, so let’s go with cats. Unless we are talking about Huskies. I can’t have one, but I want one so bad.

Tea or coffee – tea, and I’m a bit of a snob about it.

Cup half full, or cup half empty – Totally half full…is that an oxymoron?

Do you have a favorite saying? – It varies, but right now I like the ever inappropriate, “Just like prom night.”

AJ: How did you fare in the latest deluge of snow in Buffalo?

Pretty well. We live a little bit out of the city, so we got only about two and a half feet of snow.  I know my friends in warmer climates scoff and say “ONLY?” but when friends 15 minutes away got 6 feet, we feel pretty lucky.  The roads were closed around here for a while, and my son got three snow days, which is unusual, but we never had any real concerns. We’re used to snow around here. It takes a hearty constitution and a sense of humor to live on the shores of Lake Erie.

AJ:  Your character Nic and my character Bernie Maxwell from Awaiting My Assignment seem to share a number of similar qualities. In my story, Bernie met an untimely death (although she does make a cameo appearance in my most recent story It's Complicated.) In Does She Love You, how did you come up with Nic? Was she based on someone you know, or just created from scratch?

I sure had my moments of wanting to kill Nic, and I do ultimately put her through the wringer because she wasn’t a ton of fun to write. Initially, I wasn’t going to write from her point of view at all.  When I got the idea for the story (from a Reba McEntire song) I wanted to write a more classic romance focusing on Annabelle and Davis.  At GCLS that year, however, KG MacGregor gave a keynote address about not taking the easy road, about telling the harder stories.  That’s when I decided that while Nic was the harder character to really dive into, she was in a lot of ways the most dynamic.  It was a long year of digging into darker sides of the human psyche because I wanted to really understand her.  I didn’t want to invest so much emotion in a story just to end up with a flat, static villain.  I wanted to write a real person who you could read about and say, “I hate what she’s doing, but I get what’s driving her to do it.”

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AJ: You have pictures on your FB page of your adorable son. Would you want him to be a writer? Why or why not?

If that’s what makes him happy, absolutely. You’re a writer. You know how awesome this work can be, how rewarding.  It’s by far the best job I’ve ever had. I get to work from home, which allowed me to be with him during those early, crucial years. I get to travel with him because of my work, too.  He’s been all over the country meeting cool people because of my job. I would love for him to be able to hold a book in his hands and feel that pride, that sense of giving back such a huge part of himself.  I would prefer he make a little more money than I do, though, because I’d love for him to have some more security in his life, but ultimately his stories will be his to write.

AJ: Do you work at a job other than writing and, if so, what is it you do?

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I am primarily a writer.  I have taught a little bit of creative writing, and I’ve dipped my foot in the substantive editing and social media pools from time to time, but the bulk of my days are spent writing and parenting.  It’s a good life, and I have been well and truly blessed with a wife who allows me to live it.

AJ: Were you always a storyteller? Do you have formal training to be an author?

Thank you for saying storyteller.  People usually ask if I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and the answer to that one is no, but I have always told stories.  My grandpa has audio tapes of me telling stories at like 3 or 4 years old. I am always the person at a party telling stories to anyone who will listen, and they usually get bigger the more I tell them. My dad is the same way, so I think I learned it from him, but I had no formal training. I have a master’s in education, and a minor degree in English, but I’d never even taken a creative writing class when I wrote my first book.  Since then I’ve done a lot of studying craft, books, workshops, and most importantly talking with other authors, but my best training has been to live life to its fullest, to read great books, and to practice writing every single day.

AJ:  How hard was it for you to get your first story published? 

Actually it was very easy.  I got in on the ground floor at Bold Strokes pretty early on.  They were the relative new kid on the block then. I think they were still accepting stories that needed a lot of work, and mine certainly did.  It got put through the editing wringer.  Nothing I’ve experienced since then even comes close to the horror of that first editing experience, so I’d say getting in the door was easy.  Staying in the door was the hard part.

AJ: LOL…I bet I could match you rewrite for rewrite on my first book, Sunset Island. What are you currently working on and when can we expect to see it.

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I just finished Heart of The Game, which will be out in March.  It’s about a professional baseball writer who falls for a single mom, so it combines two things I really love, Cardinals baseball and kids.  There is a lot of love in that book, and I hope readers pick up on that.

What about you?  What’s next on your plate?

AJ: I’m currently editing my next release that is also due out in March. It is another romance called I Love My Life. Judging from the picture on the right, you might like it. It deals with a romance between two women who meet at a class on navigation for sailors. Thanks for asking. 

Since I just read your book, Does She Love You. I'm curious who you might cast in the roles of your characters should it be made into a movie.

I’ll say that while writing the book I pictured Laura Linney in A Simple Twist of Fate as Annabelle, Alexandra Hedison (L-word, season six) as Nic, and a young Annette Benning in The Seige as Davis.  That was probably the book I had the best visuals for.  A lot of times I just get pictures out of magazines, but for some reason, those three characters were all actresses.

AJ: I'm sure your life is very full, but if you were to find a spare moment to read a book, which author would you turn to first?

You’re right. I don’t get to read as often as I like, but I never miss a romance from Georgia Beers.  I know a lot of people think I’m such a fan of hers because we are friends, but honestly, it’s the other way around.  I was such a huge fan of hers that when I became a writer at the same publishing house, I sought her out and bugged the living crap out of her until I wore down her defenses and she agreed to hang out with me. 

Who are you reading these days?

AJ: I'm currently reading TT Thomas' The Blondness of Honey. After that is Nancy Healy's second book, Betrayal.

Some of the authors I interview say they write longhand. I can't imagine writing a story longhand. What is your writing process like?

Oh Lord, no. That would be awful.  I’m of a generation that has always had easy access for computers.  I can’t member the last time I wrote something other than a quick note long hand.  I even type my grocery lists.  Other than my signature, I don’t really remember how to use cursive.  With my novels I start with characters and their main conflict and I write (ie type).  I write every day from beginning to end, and I generally have no idea what’s going to happen until right before I write it.  The first draft is completely organic. Then comes a massive 1-2 month self edit.

AJ: Editing, reading, then rereading my work before submitting it is my least favorite part of the writing process. What is your least favorite and most favorite part of the process for you?

Yeah, probably the editing is the worst, though that does get a little easier each time around.  I’m more used to the process now, and I’m great friends with my editor Lynda Sandoval, so there’s more laughter than tears these days.  But editing is still hard work. I’m a big picture person, a people person, a dialogue person.  I am not a detail person or a trim down person. I want to be creating. I like those times when I’m free and unrestrained and the possibilities are endless.  I don’t do well with cutting, or forms, which is why writing the back copy and blurbs is hard for me, too.

AJ: Absolutely—writing the blurb is so much harder than writing the book. 

You’ve obviously been writing for a while. Do you have an amusing or heartwarming story you'd like to share regarding an interaction with a fan/reader?

I’ve honestly gotten to know so many amazing readers it’s hard to pick just one.  I will say there are a couple women who have contacted me because I deal with issues of faith, both in my books and on my personal webpage.  I think so many people have been told that you can’t be a gay Christian that when someone shows them otherwise, there can be a really strong connection there. Those connections are so rewarding for me. It makes me feel like my work really matters to people’s lives. 

On a lighter note I put together a readers-and-writers whiffle ball game during Women’s Week in Ptown every year, and that’s just pure fun.  I love chances like that to just hang out with readers.

Do you ever go to Women’s week or GCLS?

AJ: I've only been a published author for fifteen months. In that time I've rewritten and edited six books and a novelette, so I've yet to go to either…no time!

What was it like to give your first autograph?

Weird.  It’s still weird actually. I’m no better than anyone else. Why should my name matter more than someone else’s?  I don’t ask the plumber to sign my toilet, or the mechanic to sign my car.  And yet I do often have the impulse to have authors sign my copies of their books, so I guess I get the impulse for people to want me to sign theirs.  Still, I find it odd which work we decide to value in this way and which work we don’t.

AJ: Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t think so. Other than to just write. I try to write every single work day, and I do shoot for about 1,000 words in general, but that can change in different circumstances. Other than that I just like to be comfortable while I write.  I hardly ever sit at a desk, usually opting to bring the laptop into bed or to one of the big comfy chairs we have in the living room. I want to be able to completely meld with the world I’m writing, not have to worry about distractions like my butt falling asleep.

AJ: After you’ve finished your book, who is the first person you have read your book and give an opinion about it?

A lot of times my wife is my first reader, but that’s a double-edged sword.  I don’t go in to her classroom and comment on her teaching.  I’m there to support her, and if she reads my work, I want the same from her. The first real outside opinion I seek is from my beta readers, Barb and Toni. They have both been with me for a long time, and they know what I’m looking for. They are gentle and rarely criticize. They are good about asking leading questions or helping me highlight the strengths of the story and the areas that need more of those strengths. It’s a good way to ease into thinking about what the readers see in the book and making sure that their understanding lines up with the things I hoped to convey. Then the book goes to my editor and the hard work begins in earnest.

AJ: You are on a number of social sites. Do you get feedback/responses from one more than another?

Definitely Facebook. I’m on Twitter, Google +, Ello, Pinterest, and I have a website, too, but Facebook is a playground for me.  I am Rachel the writer, Rachel the friend, Rachel the mom, Rachel the Christian, Rachel the boi who likes inappropriate jokes all on the same page. I think people like that.  I’m me all the time.  I’m not there to sell them books. If that happens it’s because they sense my excitement, not because they are getting fed a sales ploy.  I think people really feel like they get to know me there, and it offers a lot more give and take than the other platforms, so I get a better sense of readers there, too.  Writing is solitary work, and it gets very isolating, which is hard on me as an extrovert. I am a social creature, so I really love social media. 

AJ: Do you have any pet peeves?

Willful ignorance.  It’s one thing not to know something. It’s another to revel in not knowing something. The first is human, the second is mean and stupid, and it brings down our entire cultural discourse.

AJ:  If you had to live in a different time, would you move forward in time or back in time?

I do so love the Little House on the Prairie Books and occasionally think about going back, but honestly, I have a weak immune system and an affinity for Facebook, so I don’t think I’d fare well in the past.  Besides, history hasn’t been kind to bois like me.  I think if I had to go somewhere else, I’d go forward.  I want to see what we can become, hopefully better, kinder, more connected, and more fluid.  That would be exciting for me.

AJ: Thank you for this opportunity to chat, Rachel.

This is fun. I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. 

AJ: You can find Rachel's contact information below:

My books: http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/Author-Rachel-Spangler.html 

Facebook (as Author Rachel Spangler)

Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest (as Rachel Spangler)

My website is www.RachelSpangler.com

                                                 

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