Today’s award-winning author is one very busy and talented lady. Not only has Rachelle Christensen written two suspense novels, WRONG NUMBER and CALLER I.D., along with a non-fiction book about miscarriage (LOST CHILDREN: COPING WITH MISCARRIAGE FOR LATTER-DAY SAINTS), but she’s married and the mother of four–two boys and two girls. As if that weren’t enough, she runs, blogs quite successfully, and offers marketing services for other authors. In fact, I caught up with her in the middle of the blog tour she’s arranged for David Farland’s new book, NIGHTINGALE. (It just so happens that I’m interviewing him next Wednesday as part of that tour.) But this week, we’re getting to know more about Rachelle.
Me: I believe you were raised on a farm in Idaho. Do you ever go back to those roots, and how has that upbringing impacted your writing? (I’d also love a picture of you doing farm chores as a little girl.)
Rachelle: I love my farm-girl roots and I usually visit my parents a few times each year. I learned to work hard on the farm, and I feel loke that cultivated a strong work ethic that is imperative for any writer.
I included a picture of my dad and me on his tractor, riding through the bean field. Talk about work ethic–both my parents worked full-time and farmed in addition. (No wonder you take on so much in your own life!)
Me: What was your first creative writing composition–a poem or a story? Do you still have it and could you either reproduce it here or summarize it for us?
Rachelle: I wrote tons of poems for everyone in my family. They were simple poems, but my family always encouraged me. My dad would always say, “She’s a poet and her toes show it.” (It’s in the toes, eh? Hmmm . . . I’ll have to check out more writers’ feet at the next conference.) It gave me the confidence to enter my poems in a newspaper Christmas poetry contest. I think I was nine years old the first time I won and they gave me $25. That validation started a fire in me–made me realize that I could create something worthwhile.
(Wow! Published at age nine. I’m seriously impressed!)
Me: My dad grew up in Parker, Idaho (population about 200) and longed for adventure, so he ended up living and traveling abroad. How about you? Is there something about those vast fields and drainage ditches that make a child’s mind wander to other places? If so, where did your imagination usually take you?
Rachelle: I was constantly drafting stories in my head and out loud. While my brother and I weeded sixty acres of beans, we would pretend we were royalty that had been kidnapped and made to work in the fields. We had to find magical berries (these would be the berries from the awful Nightshade week) that would help us get back to the castle. (I love it! I think you have the beginnings of a great fantasy novel, as long as it’s set in present-day Idaho to begin with.)
I definitely had plenty of time to think. I often sang to myself to alert the animal life that I was near (read: keep the skunks away). I composed quite a few songs in the fields.
(Anti-skunk songs . . . yet another talent. :D)
Me: Okay, why Psychology as a major and music as a minor? And how have they affected your writing of suspense novels?
Rachelle: I actually started out thinking I would major in music therapy, which is a mixture of music and psychology. After my first semester studying and learning the job market for that major, I didn’t think it was reasonable, so I switched. By then I was about halfway to a music minor. I absolutely love music; some of my favorite times during college were the hour I spent each day inside the piano practice room.
I had always been interested in psychology–so great for my curious nature and that side of me that wanted to help others. I think my background in psychology has helped me in finding character motivations that add to the plot and sometimes turn it on its end.
Me: You list quite a number of hobbies on your website. Besides cooking (which I imagine you do a lot of for a terrific husband and four kids), which do you spend the most time doing and which provides the greatest creative outlet?
Rachelle: I have a problem. I want to do everything. (How did I not notice that?) I love trying new things, and I love a challenge. I’ve had to give up a lot of my hobby time for my writing but I still get excited about sewing something new or making cards and stamping. I enjoy cooking, except when my kids complain. I actually have a new website which corresponds with my new series and my creative outlet. It’s called MashedPotatoesandCrafts.com. (And I love the logo in the banner!)
Me: I’ve seen how gross college students’ apartments can get, so I must say I was rather impressed that you managed to form a cleaning business shortly after college and your crew was able to clean 80 apartments in 9 days! Just how large was your crew and please describe the worst apartment you ever encountered. (I can’t imagine you took pictures of such things, but if you did . . . yes, please share.)
Rachelle: Yep, they were pretty nasty. I had a crew of about ten people. My younger brother and sister were my best workers. (Naturally. Like you, they’d been raised to work!)
At one of the apartments we actually had to vacuum out the oven. Another, the toilet seat was black–not exaggerating. I have no idea what they did to it, but we got it clean!
Me: Who’s better? Your college cleaning crew or your family, and how?
Rachelle: That would be my family, as in my Idaho family. I never realized until I went to college that my parents are both very particular about cleaning–my mom, especially. She always threatened us with the white glove test after we cleaned a room and since we lived in the sandy desert, there was always something to dust.
Me: Okay, let’s turn to writing. Please describe your writing space as your youngest child would see it. (And, yes, I must have a picture.)
Rachelle: My youngest child just turned two. He is fearless. The following events have actually happened. (Oh, boy! Sounds like a good story is coming.)
(Two-year-old): Oh, look at this beautiful new toy Mom has set up in our living room. That looks like the perfect place to try out my new dance moves. It’s a little high, but if I climb on the couch, then stand on the arm of the couch, I can just about reach–yep, there we go. I can pull myself onto the top of Mom’s new desk and . . . What’s this? I’ll just sit down right here by the printer and re-stack Mom’s paper.
Hmm, what’s this? (He grabs the webcam.) It has a funny eye in there. Maybe if I push these buttons (on the keyboard and mouse) it will wink at me. Oh, here comes Mom. She looks worried. And mad. Pshaw, she’s so stingy about her computer. I’ll just take this little black thing (the wireless mouse) and put it in my room when she’s not looking.
See, Mom, I’m getting down. Don’t worry, the desk is all yours.
(Hope you got your mouse back.)
Me: How would your husband describe your writing process, and how would you correct him–because we all know that women have to have the last word, right? And what are you working on now, by the way?
Rachelle: My husband, Steve, is incredibly supportive of my writing. When I whine about having to go through another round of revisions, he commiserates, then says, “But won’t that make your book better?” (Aww . . . he sounds like my husband.)
He would say that I sit and type at the computer a lot, talk to myself, and complain about editing. I wouldn’t correct much, except that I’m not always talking to myself, sometimes I’m reading aloud what I’ve written and he loves to tease me about that. :D
I’m working on a new mystery series and I’m excited because book one is just about ready to go out on submission and I’m drafting book two. Here’s a one-liner:
Adrielle Pyper is a wedding planner with a penchant for crafting and solving mysteries, but when it involves stolen wedding gowns and murder, she might not have a Pinterest board to cover her latest troubles.
(Sounds intriguing and fun at the same time!)
Me: Finally, I know you read a lot and widely. Which genre would intimidate you the most as a writer, and why?
Rachelle: Definitely science fiction. I don’t read as much of that genre, and I have a hard enough time thinking what to cook for dinner, let alone coming up with new tech inventions and alien sportswear.
Thanks for the fun interview!
And don’t forget! I’m interviewing best-selling author, David Farland, next Wednesday.