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Fantastic Women: Rachel Caine

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So, there I was in Galaxy bookshop, having a browse along the shelves, looking for something new to read, when what should catch my eye but a really nifty piece of cover art on a book called 'Ill Wind', by someone I'd never heard of. Rachel Caine. I grabbed the book, flipped it open, and read the stuff that came before the actual start of the story -- connected prologuey kind of stuff, but not a traditional prologue because this was urban fantasy. And I laughed out loud. Then I bought the book, and read it -- really fast. Then I bought the rest of them, because 'Ill Wind' was the first in a series, the Weather Warden series, and I was in love.

I had the enormous good fortune to actually meet Rachel in Austin last year. She's fantastic. Funny, bubbly, instantly comfortable and welcoming. Rachel, like me, is a fan. She gets as babbly squeeing fangirl about stuff as I do, and that was just so delightful to discover. She's also a phenomenally talented writer who has a level of professionalism and commitment that is unparalleled in this game.

Without further ado, let her tell you about herself in her own words ...


1. Give us a brief bio: The Fabulous Life and Times of You!

Well, at least I had an unusual start to life: I was born at White Sands Missile Ranch in New Mexico, USA ... the site of the first atomic bomb tests. My mother and father both worked there. Since then, I was quite a wanderer -- I come from a military family tradition, so home was wherever the next posting was, for quite a while. My parents settled in El Paso, Texas when I was in junior high, and I stayed there long enough to graduate from high school. Sometime in there I developed two equally strong obsessions: writing (although it was only for my own amusement) and music (which I thought would be my ultimate career).

I continued to pursue music through college (Texas Tech University, Lubbock) although at the urging of the sensible people in my life I also began to major in computer science, then business. Ultimately, I staggered out the doors of higher education with a degree in accounting, which I have happily never really used, and played professionally as a musician for a few years, mostly with regional orchestras, although I was lucky enough to play for legends like John Williams, Peter Nero, and Henry Mancini as well.

I moved to Dallas, succumbing to the lure of bright shiny cash, and started like as a day-job worker, which has served me well for many years. In 1990 I faced a difficult choice: pursue the music (part time) or pursue the writing (part time). I chose writing. Still miss the music, though.

Many misadventures later, it baffles me that I stand here as the Director of Communications for all of North America for a large international company, and still have all these books published. I have no idea how that happened. And continues to happen, apparently.

2. What drew you to writing speculative fiction?

It's always, always been my first love. My father was a true SF fan, reading voraciously; he introduced me early to science fiction, which horrified my mother (it wasn't especially ladylike, in her view). However, that said, my forays into fantasy and SF were never successful until recently -- what success I had came from writing mystery, horror, and suspense, until the Weather Warden novels.

3. Describe a typical writing day.

Is there such a thing? Well, if there was, it would look like this for me:

4:30 a.m. - alarm clock goes off
4:45 a.m. - alarm clock goes off again, I scream into my pillow and get up
5:30 a.m. - somehow, I am at the coffee shop, fully showered and dressed, with no memory of having arrived. They have my caramel mocha ready.
5:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. - through some mysterious chain of events that has never been clear to me, words appear on the screen of my laptop and some of them make sense
8:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. - Day Job
7 p.m. - 11 p.m. - Dinner/email/family time, all at the same time usually
11 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. - collapse
4:30 a.m. -- rinse and repeat

This is better on the weekends, in the sense that I get up at 4:30 but I write until around 1 p.m., then have the rest of the day to gad about doing errands, and all the other stuff that I don't get to do during the week. Or conventions. Or signings. Or promotion. Occasionally, I nap.

4. What's the best thing about being a writer?

That little sense of peace that comes from shutting down the computer, knowing that you achieved something that hadn't existed the day before. Also, seeing your books in unexpected places, like in the hands of a reader at the airport. That's just WEIRD. But good.

5. What's the worst thing about being a writer?

For me? Lousy hours and too much stress, but that's because I basically have two gigantic full-time jobs I attempt to balance.

6. What other literary genres appeal to you, and why?

I love mystery, suspense, and historical in particular. Young adult and some romance appeals as well. I confess that I still love a good scary story.

7. What are you working on at the moment?

Two things simultaneously: (1) a proposal for a new series, which is almost finished, and (2) the seventh book of the Weather Warden series, which is due in August.

8. How has the spec fic field changed since you joined it?

It's never *stopped* changing! I've seen it careen from one extreme to another: Horror is WHITE HOT! Horror is DEAD! SF is HOT! DEAD! ... etc. I never pay much attention, truthfully. I happen to be in a "hot" field right now for Urban (or Contemporary) Fantasy, but that doesn't mean much ... trends come and go. The important thing to me is to write a cracking good story that people want to come back to and read over and over.

Ten years ago people were positing that epublishing would revolutionize the industry, but although it's made differences in certain areas -- most notably, I think, in the romance and erotica markets -- it hasn't shaken the foundations of civilization. The printed word continues to appeal, no matter what.

I think it is harder for new writers now, but then again, people were saying the same exact things when I first started almost (gasp) 20 years ago. The things that worked, still work, and those are hard work, good writing, and simple determination.

9. What do you know about the publishing game now that you wish you'd known when you first started out?

You know what? I can't think of a darned thing. There were lots of things I learned along the way, but nothing that I would have necessarily done differently, either. Huh. Weird!

10. What's the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Sit your butt down and WRITE. Don't talk about it, don't say you'll do it when you can work it out of your schedule, don't wait for inspiration. Sit. Write. That's all there is to it. (That advice has been given to me a hundred times, and it's been right every single time.)

11. What's the best piece of writing advice you never received?

This is something I just learned by doing and observing: be polite, be prompt, be prepared, be nice. Editors are just like anybody else -- they like working with people who are good-tempered and dependable. Being a ranting diva may seem cool when you see it in the movies, but in real life, there are precious few who can carry it off, and even fewer who can sustain a career despite their bad behavior.

12. What's the one piece of writing advice you'd like to pass along?

Learn to let go. Love your work when you're doing it ... and then let go. That detachment will save you later in professional life, when the stakes get higher, the criticism harsher, and the stress more unrelenting. Learn how to look at your writing without bringing ego and emotion to it, and you'll be much happier overall. You'll never stop learning and growing as a writer.

13. Who's the most influential writer in your life?

I thought long and hard about this question. From a personal standpoint, it's a tie between Patricia Anthony and P.N. Elrod, both good friends and incredible mentors.

From a purely inspirational literary standpoint, I'd have to say Roger Zelazny (in particular his Amber books).

14. What are you future writing plans?

I'll keep writing just as long as anybody wants to have something from me. But I would really like to do this new series I'm proposing, and also to get into some non-traditional formats, like graphic novels. I'm also going back to doing some screenplay writing.

15. What's the one book you think all aspiring spec fic writers should read?

"How to be Your Own Literary Agency" by Richard Curtis. Even if you have an agent, it's good to understand all this -- it's a business, and you as a writer should know how it works. Besides, it's an interesting read!

http://www.amazon.com/How-Your-Own-Literary-Agent/dp/0618380418/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-8318668-4649743?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182290376&sr=8-1

Finally ... spend a little time talking about your books and writing -- the themes you gravitate towards, why you've written these particular stories, why your characters are the people they are, and how they reflect elements of yourself. What is it you hope your readers will gain/experience from reading your books?


I know that certain themes have always resonated with me: heroism, sacrifice, redemption. You'll find those themes in most everything I write, I think. But those are the themes that make it worthwhile for me to read a story -- people wanting to be more than they are, better than they are. Even when they fail. It's the definition of "more" and "better" that separates heroes from villains, I think -- both are active characters, trying to shape their lives.

I've never been focused on trying to have deep, layered messages in my stories. I admire those who do, but everybody has something they're best at, and I'm best at telling adventure stories. I try to work emotional depth into them, but first and foremost to me a great story has to entertain, has to consume the reader so that they forget anything but the world they're reading.

Hmmm, regarding the characters ... by definition, they have to be reflections of me and my personality, in some sense. Or reflections of people I've encountered over the years -- not in whole, but specific aspects of their personalities. But characters have always had a kind of alchemy to them for me -- I start from a premise, and I end up with a person. I have no true idea how that happens, and I'm not going to try to find out ... as long as it works.

I hope that readers come away from my books with a reaction. The worst sin of a writer, to my mind, is to write a book that doesn't end up having any emotional investment or reaction from the reader -- something that at the end of the day, the reader forgets as soon as the cover closes. I want readers to FEEL. Now, that might mean that they hate me for something I do to the characters, or for the kind of endings I put on the books (as you know, I'm a shameless user of cliffhangers), but there's no better compliment to me than somebody emailing to say they stayed up all night to read a book, and then went to the store and pre-ordered the next.



And there you have it ... the wonderful Rachel Caine, in her own words!

Rachel's upcoming works are:

Thin Air (Weather Warden #6) - August 07
Athena Force: Line of Sight - August 07
Many Bloody Returns - anthology, short story - September 07
Midnight Alley (Morganville Vampires #3) - October 07

You can catch up with Rachel on her blog at http://rachelcaine.livejournal.com.
Her website is http://www.rachelcaine.com

Next up in the Fantastic Women series: Lois McMaster Bujold.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
readerjane
Jul. 21st, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting these! They're fascinating.

(Next up in the Fantastic Women series: Lois McMaster Bujold.)

Ooh, can't wait. Especially can't wait to hear LMB's future writing plans.
karenmiller
Jul. 22nd, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! And I hope I'm prompting you to read some of these authors, if you haven't read them already ...
satimaflavell
Jul. 23rd, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
However does Rachel do it? Wonder Woman lives!

Kudos to Karen for this "fantastic" idea!
karenmiller
Aug. 1st, 2007 04:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! I just want to spotlight some people whose work I really really love.

Spread the word! *g*
karenmiller
Aug. 1st, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
And yes, Rachel is da bomb!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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