Author Interview

Author Interview with Rachel Caine


Rachel Caine is the NYT, USA Today, and #1 WSJ bestselling author of more than 50 novels to date in a wide variety of categories and genres. Her most recent series are the Stillhouse Lake books (thrillers), the Great Library series (young adult), and the Honors series with Ann Aguirre (young adult).

Rachel Caine

Honor Bound



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Wolfhunter River



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Sword and Pen



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Goodreads Author Page

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What inspired you to first start writing? Is your motivation to write now different or the same as before?

I started writing at age 14 because I was frustrated with a TV show, and I didn’t think it had done the story right. So I rewrote it, and in the process, added new characters. Before I finished that story I killed off all the TV characters, so my career (then) as a fan fiction writer was very short indeed; I continued to write those original characters into new stories for years before I realized that I might be able to actually do something with my writing other than just entertain myself.

Fundamentally, my motivation remains the same: to tell a good story. I love writing, or I’d find an easier way to make a living (I had a perfectly good day job for a very long time). And of course, the motivation to keep going now has to be at least partially about contracts and deadlines! But mostly: I just love telling stories.

Writers are projected as loners or introverts. Is this true for you?

It certainly was in the beginning. I’m an only child, and as a military kid I moved constantly and made few lasting friends until high school and college, so … I was definitely an introvert until college, when I started coming out of my shell. Writing forced me to be an extrovert, oddly enough; I had to be assertive enough to go to conferences, talk to editors, make connections. I had to learn to read my work aloud to an audience and be entertaining and informative on panels. So now, public speaking comes quite naturally to me for the most part, but it didn’t start out that way.

What genre do you like to write in? Why?

I’m pretty flexible. I like good writing no matter the type of story it is; I’m not much drawn to literary writing, but genre writing? I love all of it. SF/F will always be a comfortable home to me, but I’ve written (and enjoyed) horror, thriller, paranormal romance, young adult fiction, mystery … I like pretty much everything as long as it has an interesting premise and involving characters.

How often do you write and what schedule to you like to keep?

I try to write every day; it’s my day job, after all. I don’t always succeed! But that’s the plan. I find I write best early mornings up until about noon, so I try to plan my days that way; serious writing happens from 5 am to noon or 1 pm, by which time I’m kind of out of the zone and then I switch to running errands, doing work around the house, doing social media and messages, etc. When I’m traveling I have to cram in the writing wherever I can.

What is the easiest part of writing to you?

Ideas are easy for me. I have a vast backlog of ideas I’ll never get to write. Beginnings are usually easy, and so are endings; it’s the swampy middle that always gets me down!

Can you share any tips on inspiring other writers to pursue their dreams?

The biggest thing I can offer is this: be persistent. Understand the business you’re getting into. Understand that it’s a very crowded industry, and getting more crowded every day. So you need to be in it for the long game. Finish something? Celebrate, then start something new. Don’t stop. Don’t think that you’ve ever “made it” because that goalpost changes every day. Keep working, reading, improving, listening, learning. You’re not as good today as you will be tomorrow, so learn your craft and learn the business on an ongoing basis because both will change over time.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Why?

I love meeting readers at events. It’s such a joy and an honor, especially in YA events, to see the impact you have on peoples’ lives with your stories. And, honestly, I love telling stories, so there’s not much I don’t love about this business.

Who would you compare your work to? What differences set you apart?

I’m bad at comparisons, to be honest. And my work has been compared both favorably and unfavorably to different people in different genres over the years; I try not to do it for myself. I just bring what I bring, and let other people make those decisions.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

Not anymore. It devastated me the first few times I got them, but honestly, I have to think about how I feel as a reader first. I don’t like every book I pick up, and there’s no reason I should; books and stories are intensely personal experiences. So not everything is for me, and my book is not for everyone. I just take that as a given now.

What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?

Let’s see … first, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then a biologist. Oddly enough, never a writer. When I was old enough to really have a set ambition, I wanted to be a classical musician (and was, for a while).

What book have you read that has been the most life changing?

SO difficult to say; I’ve read tens of thousands of books, and all of them changed me in some small way. I suppose it would be Roger Zelazny’s NINE PRINCES IN AMBER, which introduced me to the idea that the world I live in was a twisted reflection of the “real” world at the center of reality. It blew my teen mind in a big way, and I began to look at stories in a whole new light.

Are you working on anything right now? If so, what can you share?

I’m currently writing BITTER FALLS, the fourth book in the Stillhouse Lake series, and rewriting HONOR LAST, the third and last book in the Honors series.

Who is in your support system? How do they keep you motivated?

Well, my husband first of all; he supports me in a benevolent gardener kind of way, in that he leaves me alone to do my thing until I need to talk about it, and supports me emotionally and in person at events and signings. I have friends who keep me motivated as cheerleaders, but also as just friends who ground me in real life and make me get out of my own head and just enjoy things.

Do you keep a blog or a journal? How does it help you as a writer?

I don’t like to do either one of those. Honestly, I bore myself in blogs and journals; I’m just talking to myself, and it’s not very interesting to me. So I prefer to just write fiction.

Do you have any daily mantra’s? What do you tell yourself to keep your inspiration alive?

I don’t have anything like that, to be honest. I just focus on the story itself. That’s where my inspiration comes from; it isn’t imposed upon me, it comes out of the excitement of plunging into a new world, characters, and story. I guess that’s not very helpful, but it’s true for me!

What is the biggest success as a writer? What have you learned?

There are so many levels and milestones of “success,” and virtually none of them are permanent in this business. I’ve had bestselling series, certainly, but everything has a life cycle, and so do hit series unless you become an evergreen classic. You can hit the NYT list multiple times, but that never ensures that you’ll stay there forever. You can sell projects to Hollywood, but chances are it won’t get made, and if it does, chances are it might not succeed. So it all depends. There are no official “success” markers in this business beyond what you expect to get out of it. If your goal is to just write a book, you can achieve that. If your goal is to write a NYT bestseller, you can achieve that. If your goal is to see it made into a movie, you can aspire to that too. But none of it may make you FEEL successful in the end. It’s all arbitrary and variable. I’ve learned most of all to find joy in the process, not in the outcomes.

Has your writing taken you to other cities, states, or countries? If so, where?

Yes! I get to travel fairly frequently; in fact, I have to watch out not to do it too much. I’ve been privileged to travel extensively in the US, into Canada, to Brazil, all through Europe, to Australia, and New Zealand. It’s absolutely amazing, and I love going new places and meeting readers.

How will you handle fame if/when you reach that level? How do you think it will change your writing?

Fame is so relative in writing! I hate to be a downer to people, but the most famous writer in the world (currently, probably either Stephen King or J.K. Rowling) probably won’t get recognized on the street most days. Anyone below that level, no matter how “famous” they feel or seem to their fans, is only famous in that segment, so as soon as you’re outside of that cocoon people don’t know you at all. I’ve sold more than 5 million books, am a 7-times NYT bestseller, a #1 national bestseller, but the question I most often get asked at non-writing events is, “And what have you written? Anything I’d know?” So humility is such a necessary part of this process. 

The only thing that changes in the process is that you get paid better, but only while your books are selling at that level, and—as I said before—it’s temporary, so always assume your next book is your first book. Because in a very real way, it is.

What advice would you give your younger self about writing?

I’d just tell her to keep writing and not to sweat how long it will take to get somewhere. We live in an age of instant gratification, but writing—or indeed any art form—takes time and work and craft before you’re ready to endure the criticism of other people. So be determined, but also listen to advice. But not all advice. Just the parts that make sense to you.

Have you slipped personal places, people, or animals into your writing? What is the best thing you’ve mentioned? Have people noticed?

I did use my own background a few times; once, I wrote a mystery novel in which the main character was a clarinetist in an orchestra, which was definitely drawn from my own life. People … I try not to do that, to be honest, it rarely works out as a compliment, and you can never take it back. I did use events of my own life in minor ways in some books, though.

How did you celebrate the launch of your book?

With hard work! Honestly, I have a book coming out every three or four months, usually, so I am usually writing something else while promoting the newest thing. I’d like to say “champagne” or something, but in my experience I rarely have a chance to just purely celebrate. It’s another phase of the work; I have to schedule social media posts, email alerts, buy ads, schedule tours, work with bloggers on interviews, etc. So there’s not really much time to party around that.

The one ritual I have is this: I buy a copy of my own book the day it comes out. Because I feel like I’m symbolically investing in my own success.

If given the chance, what author would you interview? What is the most important question you would ask?

I’m going to have to skip this one. I honestly have no idea!

Have you experienced writer’s block? How do you handle it?

Sure, I think most people have experienced times when they don’t know how to move ahead on their story. I don’t call it a “block” because that just externalizes the problem, when in fact we as authors control the problem and solution ourselves. I double down. I go back to the drawing board. I work the plot and figure out where I’ve gone wrong. I cut chapters and rewrite. I skip to another point. I’ve done all those things, including writing sticky notes to myself up on windows or interviewing myself on camera to try to shake loose ideas. Anything that works is valid! But the most important thing to keep in mind is this: it’s just a problem to be solved. There’s not a giant concrete block in your way. There’s just you.

What would you tell others who are considering traditional/self-publishing? Any advice?

I think it’s all about what you, as a writer, want to accomplish for yourself. Self-publishing is a perfectly valid avenue, but it comes with significant responsibilities. Just self-pubbing isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’re also responsible for the editing, the design, cover art, promotion, and distribution of your work. What’s your strategy? What audience are you trying to target and how will you get word of your book to them? You need to know these things, and be prepared for the amount of time and effort it will take to go that route.

Traditional has drawbacks too, but one thing going for it that’s hard to beat: you’re hiring a partner who’s a specialist in all those things I just mentioned. Are they sometimes mired in the past? Yes. But at the same time, they’re super good at what they do or they’d have failed already.

Ask yourself this: do you want to sell internationally? That’s difficult for self-pub. Not impossible, certainly, but more difficult. Do you want audio editions? Translated editions? Learn about your rights in your work and how to best use them, first of all. When I was coming up I heard many people say “Nobody sells foreign rights.” Couldn’t be more untrue. I sell foreign translation rights constantly. I’m published in 26 languages. And those make me as much money as US sales, and sometimes more.

What do you want to be remembered for as a writer? A person?

Honestly, I don’t think about “legacy.” That’s not in my control. I just try to be a good person, be kind, do what I can for others, and tell good stories. My legacy, if I have one, is the impact I have on the world for good or ill. So I try to make it for good, and I don’t worry about the rest of it.

Thanks, Rachel!

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