To celebrate the releasing of Rachel’s 4th book this past month I thought it’d be fun to interview her! She’s a sweet and wonderful person. Always quick to help if she can or give a listening ear. Make sure you follow her on her social media sites and you’ll see she’s just as sweet as her historical romances!
About the author:
Rachel Fordham has long been fascinated by all things historical or in the words of her children “old stuff”. Often the historical trivia she discovers is woven into her children’s bedtime tales. Despite her love for good stories she didn’t attempt writing a novel until her husband challenged her to do so (and now she’s so glad he did). Since that time she’s often been found typing or researching while her youngest child naps or frantically writing plot twists while she waits in the school pick-up line. In addition to her passion for storytelling she enjoys reading, being outdoors and seeing new places. Rachel lives with her husband and children on an island in Washington state.
Questions about Rachel and writing:
Leslie: Was it hard to know what genre you wanted to write in? Rachel: I have always loved historical fiction, so it made sense to try writing what I was most familiar with. I LOVE this genre for so many reasons and there are endless stories to tell. I have a few ideas outside of historical romance that someday might become books, so although I adore historical romance, I leave the door open for whatever ideas beg to be written.
Leslie: Which, if any, book character is most similar to you and why?: Rachel: I can recognize pieces of myself in most of all of my characters but none of them is a replica. Let’s take a look at the leading ladies from my four published novels. I can related to Em’s questions about beauty, but I don’t think I’ve ever been skittish, or as brave as she is. I can relate to Penny’s desire to help people and do her best at her job, but she is quicker to swoon than I am. Agnes is quick to love (I can relate to this), but she keeps a lot to herself and I usually have at least one person that I talk things out with. And from my latest novel A Lady In Attendance there is Hazel. I try to find the best in my days (like she does, though I fail often), but I am not a spitfire or a redhead. I actually hate confrontation!
When writing characters I try to pull from real life just enough that each character is well-rounded, but not so much that I am held back trying to make my characters behave exactly like someone I know. They need to be free to make choices unique to them.
Leslie: What’s one of your author dreams/milestones that you hope to achieve?: Rachel: That’s a great question. I try to aim high, and at the same time be content with my success however it looks! This is a tricky balance to find. For me, I have goals like selling a million copies someday, having a book made into a movie, writing outside of a genre etc. But those goals are all held lightly, in such a way that if life circumstances or a nudge from God tell me to change my goals, I’ll be able to easily do that.
Leslie: If you could make a movie for A Lady In Attendance, who would star as Hazel and Gilbert?: Rachel: Don’t hate me…but I seriously have no idea. Please send me all your suggestions so I can see who you picture. I tend to have characters in my head before I go and look at images and then no one fits (I should try doing that in reverse so I’d have a good answer).
Leslie: What gives you inspiration?: Rachel: Inspiration for new ideas can come when I am reading about history, learning about someone’s relationship or daydreaming. Inspiration to sit down and write can be harder. I have to get in the zone. Music can help, reading a chapter I have already written or writing a scene I’m excited about are all different strategies that have helped.
Leslie: Where is your favorite spot to read or write?: Rachel: I have the most giant closet ever (it’s ridiculously huge). I used half of it as a nursery when I had babies but for the longest time it sat empty until recently when it was converted to a writing/reading nook. That’s my ideal place to be…but the reality is that I do most of my writing at the couch with kids all around me.
Leslie: Any favorite writing snacks?: Rachel: I need to stop snacking while writing! But I’m a sucker for popcorn. I munch on it too often or the treats my kids are forever baking (they love to cook).
Leslie: Do you write any parts of your real life into the books?: Rachel: Absolutely, but mostly small things. There are names of people who are dear to me, inside jokes, mentions of food my mom used to make and flowers I had on my property growing up. I try to weave in little things knowing that the person that Easter egg is for will find it and hopefully know that in a small way these books are love letters to those that have made my life so fulfilling.
Leslie: Who’s your favorite character you’ve created?: Rachel: Favorites are so hard! I usually love the characters I am writing the best because they are who I am spending so much time with. I can honestly say that I love all the characters I’ve created, but probably the one that I always think, “I’d love to write that character again,” would be Margaret Anders. She’s prominent in both The Hope of Azure Springs and Yours Truly, Thomas. She has a fun, blunt personality that’s tons of fun to write.
Leslie: Which book has been your easiest/hardest to write?: Rachel: A Lady In Attendance and A Life Once Dreamed were both books that came quickly, and required minimal editing. The Hope of Azure Springs was hard because of medical trials that occurred during the writing of it. The hardest by far was Yours Truly, Thomas. That book was a headache! I had to make so many major changes to that one. I wanted to throw it out several times, but in the end it was worth it.
Leslie: A Lady In Attendance starts off differently from your other books, as Hazel is in prison. What kind of research did you discover about prisons then?: Rachel: I loved discovering the history behind the reformatories and the front runners for that movement. I already had a story in mind when I got to researching, if I had not, then I might have written a novel that took place completely in that setting because it was so fascinating.
For me in 2021, it seems obvious that people can change. But in the late 1800’s there were still so many people that believed “once a criminal, always a criminal” or they believed in “bad blood”. Thankfully, there were trailblazers around this time stepping forward and saying, “Maybe what we thought was right, isn’t. What if we educated these people, trained them and preached to them.”
Truly inspiring individuals! I’m grateful I got to learn more about them and include a tiny little piece of that into Hazel’s backstory.
Leslie: With the suspense/mystery in A Lady Of Attendance, where did you get the inspiration for this? Rachel: The funny thing about suspense is that I didn’t know how big a role it would play when I started off writing this book. I knew I wanted her to have a troubled past that was unsettled but I was surprised as the rest of you that it turned into a bit of a mystery/suspense novel.
My original draft doesn’t have Patrick coming back and trying to take his anger out on her. I had things resolved in court but my early readers wanted more. I kept saying, “it’s a romance, I don’t want it bogged down with mystery.” But then I stepped back and said, “actually, it’s more than a romance, so give the story what it needs.”
Leslie: Will your future novels have this suspenseful element?” Rachel: As for future books, I’m not sure. My 2022 book is a subtle mystery/villain storyline. For books beyond that, it will depend on what the story needs. It’s been very fun hearing that readers enjoyed this aspect of the story!
Leslie: What other things can you tell us about reformatories during that time period from your research? Rachel: I’ll list a few –
- Prior to this movement there was really strong public sentiment that if you committed a crime you were always a criminal. This movement challenged that.
- They only took women up to age 25 and most all sentences were five years.
- A lot of women were alcoholics or prostitutes.
- There are amazing women that put themselves out there to get funding, organize education and fight the public disapproval of these efforts.
- A lot of these early ideas are still used in the juvenile detention world.
- For someone like Hazel it would have been a big step down, but for some of the women it was the best they’ve probably ever lived.
I found it super fascinating and would love to dive deeper myself!
Leslie: What advice would you give aspiring writers?: Rachel: There is so much I could say, but in order to keep this not too long, I’ll just mention three.
- Don’t edit your first draft. It should be the ugliest thing ever when you’re done, but editing can happen later. Make sure you have a story there and let yourself feel the thrill of writing at the end. Once you realize you can do it, you’ll be miles ahead of other aspiring authors who spend years trying to get their opening sentence right.
- After you write that awful first draft and you are sure there is a story worth telling, go and read all your favorite books and ask yourself how the author did it. Analyze pacing, look at the prose, study the characters. Learn from those that have gone before. With all this new knowledge you’ll be able to see your manuscript with fresh eyes.
- Enjoy the process. Don’t be so eager to get to the end that you rush and publish before your book is ready. Don’t be so eager to publish that you miss the view as you go. If you’re antsy to call yourself an author, relax, if you put words on the page, then you’re an author already!
Leslie: Not a question, but the whole thing with the corn husking and the red ear of corn was wonderful! Rachel: I’m so glad. I loved writing those scenes and just love those old traditions. There are some funny true stories about red ears and kissing!
Thank you Rachel!
It was so much fun to get Rachel’s responses! Make sure to follow her here!