Today we have the wonderful privilege of speaking with and learning about Rachael Wallen. Hi Rachael, welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and how you were raised.
Growing up two things were constant – a house full of books, and parents who encouraged me to question, learn, and seek to bring God glory in everything I did. Like several of the other authors in this collection, I was also homeschooled. Hailing from a small island nation, I’ve always loved travelling and learning other peoples’ stories.
That sounds like an amazing childhood to me. What’s your favorite genre to read and write. Who’s your favorite author?
Most definitely Sci-Fi/ Fantasy, although I’m easily sold on historical fiction as well. My long-standing top three authors are Lois McMaster Bujold, Megan Whalen Turner and Elizabeth Wein. As well as writing amazing books that I continue to go back to time and again, they repeatedly provide me with a masterclass in immersive world-building, distinctive characterization and the power of a well-constructed narrative. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Ms Whalen Turner and interacting with Ms McMaster Bujold and Ms Wein through their fan portals, and they are amazing people as well as incredible authors.
What age did you realize you loved books? When did you start writing?
My memories of reading to myself, and falling asleep reading, are of about the same vintage of learning to colour, and to ride a tricycle, just something that I’ve always done. I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who read to me from a very young age, and who encouraged me to enjoy story and rhyme.
Writing followed soon after. At least from the surviving artifacts I’d guess I was four.
Tell us about this book.
Drawing on the gothic fairytale traditions of Snow White and The Red Shoes, Snowbird and the Red Slippers takes place in a near-contemporary Manhattan, where several talented ballerinas compete amid the already challenging conditions of Nutcracker Season. Jeong Hayan has the most to prove – she defected from North Korea as a child, her future forever changed by the scholarship she received. Moira Speare might have the most to lose – her career and even her soul.
Hayan will need all her quiet courage, the mother’s love and protection sewn into her clothing, and the allies she meets to survive her international debut.
What did you learn about yourself through writing it?
I challenged myself to write a modern setting, not something I’m comfortable with! This story I also made a conscious effort NOT to leave the writing to the last minute, something I tend to do to try and foil my perfectionist tendencies through procrastination. It was still written around full-time shift work, final wedding preparation, and showing my soon-to-be in-laws around my home country. But I learned that I can work without the last minute panic as motivation.
Congratulations on your wedding!
Do you normally use an outline for the books you write, or do you just start with a few ideas?
I need to have a clear image of the first scene worked out in detail, almost visualized like the pre-title scene of a movie, an idea of the major points, and a sense of what would be a good resolution. Then usually multiple pages of research into the world until it’s visible, and a brief list of plot points. Inevitably, a lot of prewriting pondering, and a lot of stopping and pacing while writing.
LoL… That all sounds familiar!
Is there a special place you like to write?
If it’s quiet, with a big enough surface to accumulate laptop, elbows, mugs, half a bar of chocolate, and a blotter pad for scribbling maps, character names, things that might be important later, AND I can walk away and know it will be undisturbed, then I will be quite content.
What was something that surprised you in the way this book unfolded?
I’d always hoped one of the Rooglewood Press Collections would be Snow White, and from the start I knew I was going to write it about the world of ballet. As a child I dreamed of being a dancer, and I thought a lot more would take place onstage, a wish fulfilment tale really, but it was in getting to know these characters, of building a world solely theirs that the story came to life.
By taking myself out of the narrative – I’m but a guest to their culture and experiences – I think it is a lot richer. I have many people to thank for sharing their lives and cultures with me, who gladly gave me advice, language corrections and research prompts, and I hope there are readers who catch glimpses of themselves in this story.
What advice would you give a new author?
You learn from every piece you write, and the more varied your writing, the better! I was fortunate to take a course in commercial writing – basically how to write short fiction for magazines, articles for the same, screenplays and simple scripts – and later to need to write research proposals and articles for submission to a scientific journal. Word choice, the voice you pick, characters, settings and emphasis placement, with every piece of written communication you’ll hone or figure out new skills.
Critiquing your work, and getting feedback helps with that learning process. Going back and looking at old work. Retelling stories that have been done before. Even if those efforts never get further than your hard-drive, you’ll learn, and the next time it will be better.
What project are you working on now?
I’m editing a Young Adult/New Adult fantasy to hopefully be querying by Easter. The Tithe is a low magic fantasy where skilled craftspeople keep the peace between nations, but a stolen child, two breaks with tradition, and history that can’t be repeated if it remains a secret might be enough to upset the delicate balance.
Where can we find your books?
Five Poisoned Apples is currently available in print and ebook on Amazon
I’m currently also running a competition through my social media for readers of Five Poisoned Apples and specifically Snowbird and the Red Slippers.