Interview – Local Author Rachel Morgan
Our first interview on the blog! And this month we picked the brain of awesome local author, Rachel Morgan!
Rachel Morgan spent a good deal of her childhood living in a fantasy land of her own making, crafting endless stories of make-believe and occasionally writing some of them down. After completing a degree in genetics and discovering she still wasn’t grown-up enough for a ‘real’ job, she decided to return to those story worlds still spinning around her imagination. These days she spends much of her time immersed in fantasy land once more, writing fiction for young adults and those young at heart.
Rachel lives in Cape Town with her husband and three miniature dachshunds. She is the author of the bestselling Creepy Hollow series and the sweet contemporary romance Trouble series, which is published under the name Rochelle Morgan.
And we got to interview her! We included Rachel Morgan’s book, The Elemental Thief from her new Ridley Kayne Chronicles series, and we just needed to know more. So here it is!
Nickname: Rach to some people, but mostly, I’m just Rachel!
Extracurricular activities: baking, reading, watching TV series, playing in Photoshop, taking bookish Instagram photos 😉
Favorite quote/motto: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison
Fun Fact about yourself: I’m a shy introvert, but I loved drama class at school, and for a while, I wanted to be an actress!
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
At some point during my teens. I used to write down ideas and snippets of stories. I didn’t think ‘writer’ would ever be my career though. I thought it would have to fit into the cracks of my life, around whatever ‘real’ job I ended up with. I was at university, a few months into my masters in biochemistry, when I realised I wanted to write fiction full time.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I can’t write if there are people behind me. I think it’s the fear that someone might be looking at my screen, reading my not-ready-for-consumption words! So if I’m writing somewhere public like a cafe, I need to be sitting in a corner or against a wall.
What is your average working day? Do you have a set routine and how do you distribute everything across your days? Writing, publishing, me-time?
Me-time? What’s that?! Ha ha! My day begins with quiet time (Bible reading/listening, talking to God, reflecting on things that are going on in life), then after breakfast, the majority of my morning is spent writing. Those are my most productive hours! After lunch, I get some admin done, like checking emails, social media messages, and whatever ad/marketing campaigns I currently have running. Non-writing work, like graphics or cover design, or a course I might be taking, or a large ongoing project like reformatting the interior files of multiple books, also happens in the afternoon. Then I try to fit in some exercise before dinner 😉 But if I’m closing in on a deadline, then all the other stuff gets condensed, and writing takes up most of the hours in the morning, afternoon AND evening!
What was your reaction to selling your first ever book?
I was so excited that there were people out there in the world who wanted to purchase something I’d written! I found it immensely fulfilling to be able to call myself a published author.
What is your writing kryptonite?
A really good book or a really gripping TV series 😉 Even then, I usually manage to be disciplined enough to write first and read/watch later! I know myself well enough by now (after being self-employed and working from home for six years) to know what will suck me in and keep me from working, so usually I don’t even allow myself to start reading/watching unless I’ve done my writing!
Now onto your exciting new series! Ridley Kayne Chronicles!
Describe this series in five words?
(Can I cheat and go with five phrases instead?!)
Wild elemental magic, Robin Hood-style heroine, slightly futuristic, dystopian(ish), lots of secrets.
What inspired you to write the Ridley Kayne Chronicles series?
This was the very first line of an idea that I wrote in my notebook: “Veronica Mars in an urban fantasy future where magic is known, but only some people have paranormal powers.” Most of that ended up changing (Ridley became a thief instead of an amateur detective, for example!), but there are still a few small details that remain from that first idea.
You have a good eye for series! How many books are we expecting in this new series and have you plotted them all or are they just ideas in your head at the moment?
At this point, I’m planning on four books. The remaining two are partially plotted on paper and partially ideas in my head!
Was there a single moment of inspiration or did Ridley Kayne Chronicles emerge slowly?
For me, all stories begin with an initial spark, and then the remaining details of the world, the characters and the plot slowly take shape over time. No idea ever pops into my brain fully formed (I wish!). It takes time to add layers and depth. So the first moment of inspiration was the urban fantasy Veronica Mars idea I mentioned a few paragraphs up. I was still writing Creepy Hollow books at that point, so I had many months for the idea to simmer at the back of my mind.
The world building is nothing I have read before or the magic systems used. What sparked this creative world and passion behind it? And how much time did you spend plotting this before advancing this to paper?
The details of this world and its magic took a while to become clear to me. I spent several weeks writing a few drafts that had different magic systems, but nothing felt like it was working until I started writing about a world with elemental magic that had turned against humanity and devastated large parts of the earth. It ended up being a great metaphor for the way we, in real life, take advantage of the earth’s resources. In Ridley’s world, people were too greedy and pushed magic too far, and it ended up retaliating.
Do you have a favourite character in the series? And which character is most like you?
My favourite character to write in this series is probably Archer. He has so many secrets, and there are layers of meaning to almost everything he says and does. As for who I’m most like … probably Meera, one of Ridley’s best friends. Studious, law-abiding, intimidated by authority!
And that cover! It is incredible and so eye-catching! Can you give us some insight on the design of the cover and do you doodle in the art yourself?
Thank you! I looked at loads of covers of bestselling titles in the urban fantasy category on Amazon and tried to go with the same kind of style. Playing around in Photoshop is one of my favourite forms of creative procrastination! I love taking different images and compositing them into a new fantastical scene. I wish I had more time to do this between all the writing!
I must admit that when I got to the last page of Elemental Thief I wanted to scream at that cliffhanger! This is quite a tradition of yours which I am not complaining about as I love a good plot twist. But can we expect many more of these in the Ridley Kayne Chronicles series?
Um … probably! I always try to end a book by wrapping up some threads and then adding a hook that leads into the next book. (Like the end of every episode in most TV shows 😉 ) It just so happens that some of those hooks end up being a bit more ‘cliffhanger-y’ than I originally planned!
And to end things off…
With all the amazing titles you have released, you have grown quite a following and have many enthusiastic fans. Any memorable encounters with some fans that you would like to share with us?
I ended up Facebook friends with the mom of one of my young readers, and when she discovered we lived not too far from each other, she invited me to tea with her and her daughter to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. It was a surprise for the daughter, which was such fun!
The YA market is massive at the moment and getting a lot of recognition. Any advice for up and coming YA authors trying to get into this market?
My general advice is probably the same as it would be for any genre/category: Read lots and lots of YA books! You need to know what readers expect. More specifically for YA, try to get your book(s) into school libraries. If you’re planning to write a series, perhaps send a free copy of the first book to all the school libraries in your area. Or send an information pack to librarians telling them about yourself and your book(s).
Can you share some details about your road to self-publication? You have been so successful in this due to your amazing marketing skills and your incredible writing talent. Were you scared to venture into this? Were there many bumps in the road and any failures?
When I first decided to self-publish, I saw it as an interim DIY experiment. I was curious and wanted to try it out before returning to the first book I wrote and submitting it to agents/publishers so I could hopefully get a traditional deal. But by the time I was ready to click ‘Publish’ on my first self-published title, it was about a year later, and I had completely changed my mind! I was so excited by the idea of self-publishing and the success I was seeing all over the place that it had become my first choice and I was no longer interested in pursuing a traditional deal. Of course, my own success wasn’t exactly overnight, so even though it was exciting to call myself a published author, it was a little disappointing that I didn’t immediately sell thousands of copies like the Kindle millionaires of the early days! But I wouldn’t say there were any bumps or failures. I suppose I’d call it a slow meandering path to success rather than a quick, straight road!
Editing is one of the most underrated yet most important tools of a writer and self-published books. And you have obviously hit the nail on the head with your editor. Tell us a little bit about your relationship with her? How you found her? And how you view the importance of a good editor?
She was (still is, I suppose!) one of my readers, so I guess you could say she found me instead of me finding her. She has a great eye for detail and is very thorough. I agree that it’s definitely important to have that extra objective set of eyes going through the story, questioning what works and what doesn’t, pointing out inconsistencies, making suggestions for how to improve something, etc. I’m glad she found me!
And lastly! What advice would you give other indie authors out there aspiring to be just like you?
With the ebook marketplace becoming more and more crowded every day, it’s definitely harder now to launch a successful book/series than it was when I started. But it’s still possible! Read loads in your genre (and outside your genre, since that always helps too 😉 ), join author groups on Facebook, learn from the information that other authors share, make friends so you can cross-promote later on, preferably write more than one book before you start publishing them, and have a PLAN before you launch anything!
Rachel Morgan, thank you for taking the time to answer the above questions and giving us a little more insight into your life, your writing and your amazing journey as a best selling author. I personally can not wait for the rest of The Ridley Kayne Chronicles and to get lost in that magical world again.
Please take the time to visit Rachel Morgan’s site and see all the amazing books she has published as well as some useful and interesting blogs about her journey – https://rachel-morgan.com/