Just arrived at my hotel and as seems to be the case lately, I am having internet connection problems. This is an interview I did with rachel Nunes, last year. Rachel is not only an excellent and prolific writer, but also a great person and friend.
Rachel Ann Nunes is the author of 22 books, including the best-selling Ariana series, the best-selling picture books, Daughter of a King and The Secret of the King, and the two most recent novels in her new Huntington series, Winter Fire and No Longer Strangers. Rachel lives in Utah with her husband and six children.
Jeff—Rachel, I knew you’d written a lot of books, but when I checked out your website and counted 22, my jaw dropped. Twenty-two! And that’s just the published books. When did you publish your first novel? Any idea how many total copies of your books you have in print?
Rachel—My first book came out in September 1996, a month after I'd had my fourth child. As you can imagine, it was rather a challenge to do book signings! As for how many copies are out there I can only guess that it's in the hundreds of thousands. My best-selling book has sold over 55,000 alone, and I expect that one to sell another 20,000 in the next year or so.
Jeff—What are the advantages and disadvantages to writing more than one book a year? Would you recommend it to other authors?
Rachel—The advantages are that when readers find an author they love, they want to read more—now! They'd read a new book each month if we could write that fast. The disadvantages are, of course, that writing books takes a lot of time. Writing two books a year is not something you can do easily if you're holding down another job, or if you're heavily involved in some other project or demanding situation in your life. At those times even writing one book is a challenge. I feel that as long as authors publish at least one new book a year, they can maintain their readership just fine. For me, as a stay-at-home mother, two full-length novels is about right for my lifestyle.
Jeff—On your website, you talk about your writing schedule and how you’ve managed to raise six children while writing so many books. You also point out the many cross stories in your novels. How do you manage to keep all the storylines straight?
Rachel—Actually, I don't ever have a problem keeping the storylines straight. My characters are very real to me. But to help me keep track of details, I have a character file for each novel that describes each character, their traits, and their ages when major events occurred in their lives. If I'm writing a sequel or a spin-off story, I copy that file, update the ages for the time that has passed, delete characters that won't be in the new novel and proceed from there, adding new characters as needed. That way I don't forget that Kerrianne loves to cook and organize, Cassi burns everything, and Mitch always walks around with a gerbil in his pocket.
Jeff—Do you ever worry that you might inadvertently make a new novel too close to something you’ve written before?
Rachel—There are always going to be some similarities in any author's work, themes that are dear to his or her heart, but it's only lately that I've begun to worry about storylines becoming too similar. Now I really consider each novel before I write it to make sure there are significant differences in my characters and their situations. I am absolutely positive that with all the two and half million words I've published, there will be some heroes or heroines that might be somewhat similar. But that's true in life as well. People the world over are similar—they have the same beliefs, passions, dreams, and challenges. It's how they handle what's thrown their way that's different. Still, I make it my job to see that too-similar situations happen as infrequently as possible in my writing. Ask me again when I have fifty books out and we'll see if I've succeeded.
Jeff—Do you read other romance authors?
Rachel—Yes. I read everything from non-fiction science articles and children's books to New York Times bestsellers. However, I rarely read romance of the Harlequin type. My favorite books right now are women's fiction. These are romantic novels, but they focus more on the plot and challenges a woman faces than on the actual romance. I like stories with strong plot and family ties rather than heaving bosoms and heroines who can't think about anything but the next kiss from the man they're trying to run away from.
Jeff—I remember the excitement of publishing my first book—seeing it in stores for the first time, in libraries, hearing my name in a radio ad and doing my first signing. But some of the expectations I had as a new author ended up disappearing rather quickly when reality set in. How are things different for you—both for the better and worse—than you imagined they’d be after publishing your first novel?
Rachel—I didn't really have a lot of expectations when my first book, Ariana: The Making of a Queen, came out. I was just grateful to have someone love my work. The book ended up selling really well and garnered a lot of attention in the bookstores, but in my daily life nothing really changed. Most people didn't even know I'd written a book. Only a few people heard the commercials. I'd done a miraculous thing, or so I thought, but I soon discovered that I was just one more book on the heap fighting for marketing dollars. I realized then that though all I'd ever wanted to do was write, marketing and the business of writing had to take a prominent place in my life if I wanted to be successful.
Soon, I was speaking everywhere, doing book signings, and answering dozens of letters. People still didn't recognize my name, though, until I had about ten books out. Now after ten years of hard work in this business, I get recognized a lot, sometimes in the oddest places. That can be both fun and embarrassing—depending on if I've done my hair that day.
Jeff—A lot of people—including me—have asked you to write a cover blurb for the back of their books. How hard is that to do with everything you have going on? Why not just say no? What do you do if someone asks you for a blurb and you really don’t like the book?
Rachel—As I avidly devour good books, reading a manuscript to give a blurb generally isn't a problem since I'm going to be reading anyway. But I've learned only to accept requests for blurbs by people recommended to me or by authors I know are good writers. I simply don't have time to wade through an inferior manuscript full of mistakes and plot issues. I tell these recommended authors that I'll only give a blurb if I feel I can do so honestly. I must say that I'm a lot more rigorous at guarding my recommendations now than in the past. I do have many author friends who ask me for recommendations, and if I have a concern about their manuscript, I'll mention it and ask them to fix it before I give my blurb. More rarely, when I may not have time to read the book by the deadline, I have ask them to find someone else.
There are many times when people I don't know send me their book through the Internet, telling me how good it'll be my for career if I give them a blurb. That always makes me laugh. Often these authors don't have a publisher or their books aren't up to par. In these cases, when the author is unknown to me or comes unrecommended, I must always decline. One thing important to note: I don't care who the author is, I won't read an electronic copy of a book—ever. I spend enough time at the computer as it is.
Jeff—I was intrigued by the part of your website where you talk about writing sci-fi and fantasy. Can we ever expect to see a Rachel Ann Nunes sci-fi novel in print? If so, would you use a pen name?
Rachel—I do have several sci-fi and fantasy books written, and I think I'll get them published one day, but right now I'm focusing on women's fiction. In fact, on my new website that will be coming hopefully by the end of this year (2005) the sci-fi and fantasy section will be replaced by other features such as guest author spotlights from big names in LDS publishing, samples from aspiring authors, motherhood essays by yours truly, and much more. When I do publish one of the sci-fi or fantasy books, I will likely do it under a pen name, but I'll be sure to let my current readership know that it's really me!
Jeff—What’s book number twenty-three and when can we expect to see it on shelves?
Rachel—Book twenty-three is called Chasing Yesterday, and while it's a stand-alone story, it ties into the Huntington family novels I'm working on. As of last night at midnight, I actually finished the galleys and I've seen the cover, so it's very close. I believe the actual release date is in January or February of 2006—I've been too busy to ask!
Book twenty-four, By Morning Light, the fourth and last book about the Huntington siblings should be out later in the year. I'll have to hold a celebration for reaching two dozen books, won't I? (Consider yourself officially invited, Jeff!) Meanwhile, fans of my picture book, Daughter of a King, can get the DVD version this Christmas. This is going to be a big hit for all ages.
Thanks and happy reading! Rachel Ann NunesVisit Rachel's Website at www.rachelannnunes.com