ME: If you had to describe yourself in one sentence, what would you say?
RM: Rachel is imaginative and anxious city-girl bookworm who tries hard to balance her career and the realization of her life-long dream of publication
ME: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any interesting hobbies?
RM: I work full-time in educational publishing. I love to travel in Canada, the States and in Europe especially. I am a massive theatre nerd (for example, a few months ago, I was in New York for a weekend just to see 6 shows). I am also a baseball nut and try to catch as many Toronto Blue Jays games as possible during the season
ME: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
RM: They haven’t changed really, since teenage-hood, I have three: the Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I was a little kid.
ME:Tell us three things about yourself that might surprise your readers:
RM: 1.) My degree in University was as a specialist in Victorian Literature (especially Dickens!)
2.) I am a classically trained singer
3.) I have never had a driver’s license ( most Torontonians like myself use public transit and the subway)
ME: What genre did you start out writing? Have you changed course? Why or why not?
RM: I have always scribbled at historical romance and that is the first genre I wrote. I wrote since I was a little kid and it took twenty years for me to finally query an agent with a historical romance. The book was not getting traction but editors were interested in seeing something else from me. So while it was still being shopped, and cognizant that Romantic Suspense was a growing CBA market trend, I began working on a female Sherlock Holmes. I am as much of a misfit in writing mystery as my female Sherlock and Watson are at solving crimes.
ME: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
RM: As a Canadian, it was hard for me to get editorial feedback saying “ we don’t publish stories set in Canada. Can you change your setting?” I guess that always just hurt a bit because I love my country and its history ( though I am extremely well-versed in American history and it plays into a few Herringford and Watts books: set in Boston and in Chicago, respectively and featuring prominent American historical personages). While most of the editorial feedback we received on the series was helpful, I had one editor dismiss it immediately by saying “I don’t really love this voice. But I like the title.” I am someone, however, who loves reading reader reviews that aren’t perhaps shining! I would much rather a review that criticized while showing a careful reading of the book.
As for compliment: I really love hearing from readers who said that this book validates them in their stage of life. I think we spend so much time trying to fit women into boxes: she’s a mother or a career woman or single or married. Women are so many different things. They are both Jem and Merinda--- a little bit of both. It was my intention to champion women in a way that perhaps hasn’t been as clearly explored in the CBA and I love when readers find this resonance. Also, I love when readers see that beyond the fun mystery and the trouser-wearing detectives, is a much darker and deeper look at social reform and the immigrant experience. That is a driving force throughout the series (alongside runaway roosters)
ME: Any other genres you’d like to try? If yes, what and why?
RM: YES! I really do want to get back to straight historical romance. I have so many books that have been languishing for years because I was too afraid to pitch them or show them to anyone. I am first and foremost a historical romance novelist. But, I have always been a voracious mystery reader so I can safely say that this is now going to be a part of my writing oeuvre going forward. I especially like cozies, but would love to riff on noir fiction and hard-boiled crime such as Rex Stout and Dashiell Hammett much as I riff on the Doyle Holmes canon in the Herringford and Watts series.
ME: If you could go back in time and do something differently at the start of your career, what would it be?
RM: It was only three years ago that I finally queried an agent (who was, also, the first person to ever read a piece of my fiction. I was too shy to show family and friends). Thereafter, I was flung into the whirlwind that landed the Herringford and Watts contract and the 6 stories in the Herringford and Watts series. I really should have moved up this insane moment of courage earlier! I waited so long because I was so afraid if I was truly terrible, that something I passionately loved to do would be taken away from me. Instead, it was a relatively quick turn-around. I signed with the first agent I queried (my first choice) and landed this amazing debut opportunity. Why did I wait?
ME: What is the most important piece of advice you’d like to give to unpublished authors?
RM: I am going to cheat and give you three:
I tried so hard to write a manuscript that conformed to what I thought publishers were looking for (an aforementioned historical romance) but it was when I threw caution to the wind and really wrote a book undercut by my personality and zany characters and love for Toronto and detection and romance and words that I was signed. They say write what you know but I say write what you love!
Also, always have something in your back pocket. Your first submission may not be your first published project. When my first book was on submission I started writing Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder when that was on submission I immediately started another historical romantic adventure. Keep writing.
Finally, I have never attended a writing seminar or workshop or class or lecture. Neither have I ever read a book on writing craft. But I have read thousands of books in all genres. I try to read five CBA titles in all genres a month, 2 Gen Market titles and 1 non-fiction book (history or biography) … having a subway commute to work really helps ;) Read everything. Read in your genre. Read in other genres. Follow authors. It will not only help you become a stronger writer, but will also give you the connections needed when it comes time to find influencers and endorsers and prove to editors and agents that you have a well-rounded knowledge of the industry and comparative titles.
Thanks, Rachel! Readers ~ For a chance to win a copy of Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder, leave a comment for Rachel McMillan. US and Canada only please.