Friday, August 16, 2013

Author Spotlight: Rachel O'Laughlin (Complete with Interview)

Bonjour Beardies,

Yesterday, as part of our Blog Tour for Coldness of MarekElizabeth presented us with a wonderful Book Spotlight of this debut novel.  Today, I'm very excited to tell you a bit more about the author, Rachel O'Laughlin.
Follow Rachel:

Obsessed with all things history, Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in New England with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. She adores lattes, The Fray, long drives in the country, and any dark story with a good twist. Coldness of Marek is her first novel.

The Bearded Scribe: This will be a two-part question. As I hail from Vacationland: The Land of Lobstah, I'm curious: In what part of New England do you reside? Secondly, would you say that living in New England has influenced your writing at all?
Rachel O'Laughlin: WAIT. You’re from Vacationland, Joshua?! I’m from Maine as well! We have it all. Coast, woods, mountains, lakes, cornfields and potatoes. Oh, and BLUEBERRIES. I’ve lived here all my life, and I would definitely say it has influenced my writing. Most native Mainers are pretty blunt and down-to-earth, and I tend to write characters like that. And nothing will ever quench my love for the sea, for jagged rocks and island tales.  (Also, I always have to stop myself from calling things “wicked” in social media.)
The Bearded Scribe: Yes. I was born in Biddeford, but I grew up—you're going to love this sinceyou mention it—surrounded by potato fields in north-central Maine (about two hours southeast of Mount Katahdin). I love the sea, and being close to it in my youth definitely influenced who I am and will always be. I've used "wicked" on a few occasions and have received a few odd looks. And forget about mentioning Whoopie Pies to anyone! They think you're from another planet. Anywho... what is your favorite area/region of Maine?
Rachel O'Laughlin: My favorite region is Washington County. All the little coastal towns, old houses and gardens are the prettiest ever. And yeah! Nobody knows what a Whoopie Pie is! They're missing out.

The Bearded Scribe: What types of roses does your family grow? Do you have a favorite variety?
Rachel O'Laughlin: I grow any kind I can get my hands on, but my favorite would be Joseph’s Coat, an English rose. They’re not as hardy as most of my varieties, but they have gorgeous single blooms, and are primarily yellow. In one of my favorite novels, Anne’s House of Dreams (island novel alert!), one of the characters expounds on the meaning of rose colors and I’ve been unable to resist roses since.

The Bearded Scribe: We're a pretty caffeinated bunch here at The Bearded Scribe. Coffee? Yes, please! If we were to enjoy a cup (or three) together, how would you take yours?
Rachel O'Laughlin: I love hazelnut lattes. They’re my favorite ever. But on a regular writing day, a Starbucks light roast with cream makes me happy.
The Bearded Scribe: Yum! Since you're a coffee AND blueberry fan, I think I have to share my own personal kryptonite... If you have a Keurig brewer (who doesn't these days, right?), may I (highly) recommend Green Mountain's Wild Mountain Blueberry Coffee. If coffee is heaven in a cup, this must be what people mean when talking about the seventh level of it. Other than that, Triple Raspberry Mochas are my standard at Starbucks.  Speaking of typical writing days... Could you describe one of yours--or your writing process in general?
Rachel O'Laughlin: I typically write for a little while in the early morning, before my kids wake up, and then again in the afternoon while they nap. My process is pretty straight-forward. I often jump into one of my old or new projects (I call them "new shiny" or "old shiny") and pound out a scene when it comes to me, but with the books I'm actively planning to publish -- the Serengard Series -- I have deadlines set to complete drafts, to mail out for critique, for revisions, for getting final manuscripts to my editor. Sometimes I do have to bump dates, but having those deadlines in place makes sure I get it done. I use November's National Novel Writing Month every year to get a fresh, shiny draft in my hands, and I plan around that.

The Bearded Scribe: Which book introduced you to speculative fiction?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Hmm, that’s hard to say. I read a lot of Middle Grade time travel as a kid, but none of it really stuck with me, as historical fiction has always been my favorite. But the first adult speculative fiction book I read was Sci-Fi—Timeline by Michael Crichton. It brought me back to that realm of imagination, was a huge inspiration when writing my epic fantasy series, and is basically my anchor…even more than any fantasy I’ve read.

The Bearded Scribe: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Usually I just blurt out Timeline because it has meant so much to me in regards to the Serengard series, but if I had to name another, it would be Gone With The Wind. The characters are so very flawed, the emotion is raw and real, and the historical accuracy is unflinching. Not to mention the PROSE. It is an amazing novel.

The Bearded Scribe: Which author and/or book inspired you to start writing?
Rachel O'Laughlin: I always wrote, pretty much since I could hold a crayon. It’s hard to say which authors meant the most to me as I developed my writing, but I think Bodie Thoene would be near the top of the list. Her depression era, pre-WWII Europe, and middle eastern series’ were pretty breath-taking to me as a teenager. Her stories are completely epic, in that she has many characters and many points-of-view, all of them intersecting in crazy, incredible ways. It fueled my love for making everybody and everything connect and mean something, and that’s probably the most important part of keeping myself inspired.

The Bearded Scribe: What would you say is the most important lesson all writers should learn?
Rachel O'Laughlin: The oxymoron of your specialness. It sounds cheesy, but you have to know how very NOT special you are: how there are thousands of writers out there who are just as good at their craft as you are. Yet, you are the only one who can tell your stories. You’re the only one who can give them voice. So don’t think you deserve more time of day than anyone else, but do give your stories every bit of devotion you can. Because you are special in every way, and so is the writer next to you.
The Bearded Scribe: Wow! That's an amazing answer, and such an important lesson for any artist!
Rachel O'Laughlin: It was for me. :)

The Bearded Scribe: Of the entire publishing process, which part would you say is the most difficult to endure?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Definitely working with larger distributors like Amazon… a.k.a. when things go wrong and fixing them is completely out of my hands, but I’m the one who is responsible to pull this all off smoothly. Yup. Frustrating as heck.

The Bearded Scribe: From where did the inspiration for Coldness of Marek arise? Were there specific events that sparked it?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Not exactly, but it was sort of an epiphany… I hadn’t written any novels in a few years, which was very out of character for me. I just felt stuck, like I didn’t know where I was going with my writing career. Then I decided to do National Novel Writing Month and just get some words out, whether they were awesome or awful. It was just me needing to get over myself and be brave, and it turned out that’s what the episode in the cliffs is all about for Trzl.  Most of my stories evolve in my head over time, but this one just came to me as I typed. I had a murky picture of the cliffs to start with, and the name Mikel, but that was all. The characters were all vague nothings until I started writing. It was different, and weird, but that’s also part of what gave me the courage to publish it.

The Bearded Scribe: Do you have a favorite character (to write) from your series? If so, what sets them apart from the others?
Rachel O'Laughlin: My favorite character to write so far is Kierstaz. She’s aloof and emotionless much of the time, but she’s also fiercely loyal and devoted to her family and her people. There’s only a little bit of her in Coldness of Marek, but I can hardly wait until the rest of the series comes out so you all can get to know her.

The Bearded Scribe: I'm not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post for The Bearded Scribe at some point?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Absolutely! I’d love to guest here anytime. You folks are awesome. :)

The Bearded Scribe: And lastly, because we ask this of all our interviewees, is there anything I haven't asked you, but you wish I had?
Rachel O'Laughlin: Hmm…I’ve been interviewed a lot lately, and I kept wondering when someone was going to ask how I like my coffee, so I think you’ve got all the bases covered. My favorite band is The Fray. Just FYI. Thank you for having me! And yes, I’ll come back. For sure.
The Bearded Scribe: The Fray is one of my favorite bands, too.  If you like them, you should check out one of my favorite bands, Dark Water Rising.

Well, there you have it folks!  If you haven't already, be sure to check out the first post of this 3-post blog tour!  And stay tuned tomorrow for an exciting Giveaway!

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