You are the author of several books of mainstream fiction, romance and none-fiction. Your newest book Stolen things was released in the autumn of 2019. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what Stolen things is about?
Sure! Thanks for having me. I’ve written more than two dozen books in many genres, however, Stolen Things is my first thriller. It’s about what happens when a 911 dispatcher picks up the phone to find her own daughter on the other end of the line. Her daughter has been assaulted, she doesn’t know where she is, her best friend is missing, and there’s a dead man in the closet. No spoilers, that’s how it starts!
Stolen things is your first thriller book. Why did you decided to dip your toes into thriller writing as well?
I decided to get into thriller writing because for the last few years I’ve read almost nothing but thrillers. My two favorite genres are thriller and memoir, and I’m deeply invested in writing both.
You have written 16 books under the name Rachael Herron. Why did you decide to take a new pen name (R. H. Herron) for your thriller books? What does the H stand for?
Actually, Stolen Things is my 25th book (two are still in revision and with my agent), and all of the others are under Rachael Herron. My publisher, Penguin Random House, decided it was important to make sure readers could tell the difference between my other books and my thriller genre. (Also, I know they like to do that to make the name more gender-free, hopefully appealing to more people.)
You are what is called a hybrid author which means you have published both through traditional methods as well as self publishing. How did you end up utilizing both ways? Do you know before a book is done which publishing route you will take with it?
My first three books were all romances, and they flopped in the States. But they were bestsellers in Australia and New Zealand! HarperCollins, my US publisher, didn’t want to buy any more in the series, but Random House Australia bought books four and five in the Cypress Hollow series. Since no one in America would touch them then, I self-published them all over the world (minus AU and NZ), and got into self-publishing that way. Now I do all my romance and my non-fiction self-pub – I don’t even offer these books to my agent. She reps my mainstream lit, my thriller, and my memoir, because that’s what she loves to sell. It’s a great mix and really leaves me feeling very flexible.
When working on a new book which comes first to you story or characters?
Always, always character. I get a glimmer of the plot, but it’s never more than a premise, sadly, and a great premise still isn’t a story. I struggle with good, tight plot, and it’s something I always have to work on in revision. Character is what drives my plotting.
On top of being an author you are also the host of two podcasts. How do You Write and The Writer’s Well with author J. Thorn. Why did you decide to start a podcast? What has podcasting brought to your life?
I decided on the spur of the moment in the middle of the night to start a podcast. I found a LifeHacker post about how to do it. I got out of bed, and by the time my wife woke and found me in my office, I had the How Do You Write URL, a graphic, creative commons music for the intro and outro, and was scheduling my first interviews. I jump into things with both feet.
The shared podcast, The Writer’s Well, was just a happy occurrence – J. Thorn came on my show and we had an amazing bond, instantly. We just clicked, so we started our show! Podcasting has brought SO MUCH to my life, not in monetary terms, but in terms of connection. I get to actively help other writers, and I feel I owe the community this debt, as I was helped so much by so many before me.
Fast-Draft Your Memoir is hands down one of the best writing books I’ve read about the craft of writing. What inspired you to write this book? What is it about memoir that you find interesting?
Oh, thank you so much! That means a lot to me. For me, it all started when I was kid. Even then, I liked to read things that were true. I started my blog way back in 2002, and I learned from it that the more open and honest I was about my own difficult things (shame, etc.), the more people responded. It’s been a wonderful journey. I teach the course the book is based on at Stanford each Fall, and it’s one of my favorite things to teach. I get to watch people uncover and retell their own stories, and in doing so, they transform themselves!
You wrote your first 10 novels while working as a 911 dispatcher. From where did you find the time and energy to write while still maintaining a full time job?
I have no freaking idea. I look back at that time and boggle. I was running on sheer adrenaline for many years, and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I was contracted to work no fewer than 56 hours a week at 911, but it was usually more like 70 or 80, plus writing at least 20 hours a week. It was rough, but my goal was to write my way out of my job, which I did almost four years ago! It’s so much better now – I sleep every night, and I’m so much more healthy now.
A question from one knitter to another. What are you knitting right now?
I love this question! I’m about to start the last sleeve on a gorgeous sweater called Franca by my favorite designer, CocoKnits. And I’ve always got socks in progress in my backpack, always. I’m also about to cast off a shawl with approximately 1,000,000,000 stitches – I just have to remember how to make a picot edge and I’ll be on my way.
What’s next? Is there a new book in the making? If yes, what genre will it be?
Yes! Happily, I’m writing the next thriller, working title Hush Little Baby, which will be released next year by Penguin/Dutton. I’m also revising two memoirs (!) and playing with a women’s fiction romp.
If you would have to give three tips to somebody dreaming of writing their own book what would they be?
- Do a little bit, every day. A few words a day add up into whole books faster than you could dream they could.
- Your first draft will be terrible (they all are – that’s their mission in life). Lower your expectations of greatness. Greatness is for later, when you’re in revision.
- Read absolutely everything. You can’t make something from nothing, so be constantly refilling your well.
Rachael Herron’s website: https://rachaelherron.com/
Links to Rachael’s books in Helmet library:
Author photo: Tawnie Ashley