Q&A With Rachel McMillan
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Q&A With Rachel McMillan
Today’s Q&A is with author Rachel McMillan. Rachel is the author of many mystery and historical fiction novels. Some of her novels include, A Lesson in Love & Murder, Murder in the City of Liberty, The London Restoration, The Mozart Code and being published on May 2nd of this year The Castle Keepers, which Rachel co-wrote with authors J’nell Ciesielski, & Aimie K. Runyan whom I recently did a Q&A with a few weeks back.
Q: What fascinates you about writing mystery and historical fiction novels?
A: I love the research and connecting some of my passions (music, architecture) into a story and characters that take me to some of my favorite places in the world. Since I was a kid, historical books were always my favorites: I think because there is something so universal about imagining how connected we are to people just like us who lived so many years ago, there’s a universality to so many of the themes I explore in my novels: especially love. It’s a common denominator. I also really want readers to get the opportunity to feel like they have traveled in my books, so (with the exception of a few years during the Pandemic) I am very careful to do as much descriptive writing for my books on location as I can.
Q: When in your life did you realize that being an author was your calling?
A: I don’t really believe that being an author is my calling so much as a passion. I have loved to devour books since I was a kid and was always, ALWAYS a bookworm. Like most authors, writing is not my only job. But I am fortunate enough that all of my jobs are within the realm of publishing. I am a literary agent and I teach when I can around workshops that pull back the curtain on the business of book publishing.
I always knew that books would be the center of my life ( my graduate studies were in Book Publishing, my undergraduate studies were as a Victorian Literature Specialist). Perhaps being an author is not my calling so much as “words and books” are my calling. I always want to find a way to match the perfect words with the perfect reader.
Q: For your historical fiction novels what was your favorite era or eras to cover?
A: One thing prospective writers should be aware of is that the industry dictates what you are writing to some degree. For instance, I never assumed that I would write anything in a WWII or post-WWII setting; but these are the zeitgeist topics that appealed to publishers and happily cemented my next contracts. At heart I am a Victorianist. My childhood reading and my University degree revolved around Victorian Literature. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to translate that into a fictional story that would lure a publisher; but I am so hoping it might in the future. For now, I use the eras I write as a magnet to pull in passions of mine. For example, THE LONDON RESTORATION: I am a huge fan of architect Sir Christopher Wren ( so much so I am now writing a biography of him). But I knew that a book about Wren during his time period would be a hard-sell to a publisher. Thus, THE LONDON RESTORATION is my way of channeling that passion into a very saleable time period: post-WWII London. I infuse so much of my love for Wren’s architectural prowess into that book.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to write great historical fiction and mystery novels? What’s your advice to anyone on how to deal with writers block?
A: The advice that I give anyone is to read three times more than you write. READ. READ. READ. You cannot pursue a future in book publishing without reading. Read in and out of your genre. Read constantly. Revisit books that move you. Reading is your battery power.
I confess I don’t truly have the luxury of writer’s block. Since my debut novel released in 2016, I have always been under contract. The business of book publishing dictates you will be working on a schedule. So, if you are stuck in a moment in a manuscript: WORK AHEAD – there is NO such thing as a wasted word. Move ahead in the manuscript; bury yourself back in the mountains and tomes of research materials until you find something you want to scribble about. For most writers you are working on one manuscript while editing another and promoting and marketing another on top of your usual commitments and endorsements and life. A working author does not have the privilege of writer’s block. Rather, they find a way to work ahead or backwards to ensure every word and moment counts.
Q: Does Hollywood have any interests or rights to any of your novels?
A: Yes. But I don’t pay too much attention to that ☺ But there are options out there.
Q: If you’re writing a new novel now, are you allowed to reveal any details?
A: I am writing several things right now. I have a book releasing in Fall 2023 called Operation Scarlet which is a re-telling of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL in occupied 1940s France. I am working on the substantive edits from my editor for that story. I also am working on a biography of Sir Christopher Wren for a London-based publisher: this opportunity came as a result of my research for THE LONDON RESTORATION, I recently signed contracts for a few other novels that I cannot talk about much right now — other than that readers will be taken to lush and intricate settings in London and Austria. I am also working on a second collaborative project with Aimie Runyan and J’Nell Ciesielski for Harper Muse.
Q: You co-wrote the novel The Castle Keepers, with J’Nell Ciesielski & Aimie K. Runyan, what was that experience like co-writing a novel with these women? Would you write a novel with them again? What is your advice to anyone wanting to co-write a novel with a friend or a family member?
A: First off we are DEFINTELY doing this again. We recently signed another contract with Harper Muse for a collective novel called THE LIBERTY SCARF. The advice I give is what I would give in any writing situation:
First off, there is no room for ego in writing: there will be a thousand rejections –from agents, to editors to readers who write one-star reviews. An author does not want to go into this business expecting that they are the best. Be teachable. Be amenable. Recognize that you are going to have to spend your time learning. Secondly, no upfront what hills you want to die on, meaning choose your fights wisely in the spirit of compromise. When you work with others you recognize that your story and portion is one cog in a giant wheel. If you are steadfastly holding to something make sure you know WHY. Be kind. And be willing to learn. There will always be someone better than you are. There will always be something that will make your book better. Lean on humility and you will get the book done ☺