It was an honor to “sit down” with Laura, creator of The Magic Book Corner blog, and chat about The Lightning Conjurer series, secret Sailor Moon side projects, and the writing process in general! We’re posting the full interview below, but you can check out the original blog post here!
The Magic Book Corner warmly welcomes a fabulous author today – Rachel Rener.
For those of you who do not know her, Rachel is the one who wrote The Lightning Conjurer Series – one of those addictive and spellbinding series that will have you flying through the pages, one book after another, from cover to cover. Yes my fellow bookdragons! It is that good!
Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview Rachel! And welcome to our little Magic Book Corner! It’s wonderful to have you here.
Thank you for featuring The Lightning Conjurer series in your blog! I read through every post of yours and felt honoured to be included in such a wonderful collection of reviews.
1. To begin, could you please tell our readers here a little bit about yourself?
I went to school for Psychology and Neuroscience, while also focusing on languages (I’ve studied 8). After graduating, I decided to make excellent use* of my degree and move to Japan, where I taught English. And then I ended up in Istanbul, working in both English and ophthalmic pharmaceuticals.
Again, great use of the Neuroscience degree, right? When I came back, I worked a variety of oppressive desk jobs in sales and translation until I abruptly quit to write my debut fantasy series, The Lightning Conjurer, which was a total whim and not something I had actively planned to do.
*Sarcasm alert! On a side note, wouldn’t it be great if there were a font or emoji for indicating sarcasm in text? I’d personally opt for candy-apple green and italic.
2. I have recently read your Lightning Conjurer Series and I will straight out say it here, that I simply couldn’t set it down. For me, it is one of those series that one would want to reread over and over again and I absolutely adored it! How did it come to be? What inspired you to write it? How did it all start?
First and foremost, thank you! The series is very near and dear to me and nothing means more to me than hearing from others who loved it, too. I’ve always wanted to write, but have never been able to produce more than half a page of fiction thanks to the low dopamine in my brain, otherwise known as ADHD. (Actually, that’s a lie – I once wrote a 10-page Sailor Moon fanfic, but that’s a secret that only we – and your readers – can know.)
Anyway, my husband, who has always encouraged me to pursue creative endeavours, sat me down in front of my laptop and said, “Write.” I had no idea what I was going to write, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I saw a young woman with heterochromatic eyes, all alone in a cabin.
Seven weeks and eighty-something-thousand words later, the first draft of Book I had been born.
3. Did you plan it all out or wrote it as it came?
I compare my style of writing to walking around in a dark forest with a dim flashlight. I only see things a few paragraphs before they come, and I don’t have a map of where I’m going. This is the main reason it took me 30 years to write my first manuscript; I thought everyone had to have a detailed outline, all the major plot points, and a thorough breakdown of every primary and secondary character before writing a single word of the manuscript. That works incredibly well for some; but for me, personally, the story is hiding in the back of my mind and it’s the writing itself that draws it out.
4. Do you intend to continue with The Lightning Conjurer series, or is Aspen’s journey at an end?
For now, Aspen’s story is at an end. It’s possible that a prequel may come (hopefully Barish-centred) or maybe even a sequel, with Aspen having to deal with some of the unresolved issues of Elementalists vs. the rest of the world. But at this time, I’m content with the open-ended nature of her story’s close.
On a side note [warning, Major Spoiler]:
I know many readers didn’t catch this, since I had intentionally written this particular reveal in an underhanded and relatively vague manner, but the entire series is actually Aspen recounting her life to her father while in her coma. Given that piece of knowledge, it would be tough to re-open the series since the POV would have to be obligatorily shifted.
5. I am eagerly looking forward to your next novel. So tell us, are you working on something right now? And if yes, do you have any publication date in mind?
I am! I’m in the early stages of a standalone book that’s totally different from T⚡C. It’s a fantasy novel that revolves around a teenager with a very interesting form of epilepsy, but it’s darker and bit more tongue-in-cheek than my usual style. It will most likely be released in 2020.
6. What readership in particular is your Lightning Conjurer series meant for and why?
Anyone can fall in love with Aspen and her story, and I’ve been surprised by the number of 45-year-old men who have reached out to say they loved it. But in general, I’d say if you grew up loving Sailor Moon, Harry Potter, and/or Tamora Pierce, you’ll like this series. Fans of heavy romance and/or Cassandra Clare most likely won’t. (I’ve discovered this through a handful of wrathful GR reviews.) It’s all a matter of taste. But I grew up loving magical, powerful, unapologetic women and this was the story I was hungry to read but hadn’t been able to find. So, I wrote it myself.
7. What should a reader expect when picking up your books?
A fast-paced plot; short, cliffy chapters; a feeling of distrust about every new character you meet (particularly in book lll); an overuse of hyphens in book l; a heavy dose of magical realism; a slow-burn romance that (I hope) culminates into a satisfyingly yummy conclusion; and, in general, a series where you *think* you know where it’s going but it still manages to catch you off-guard every time.
8. Why Elementalists? Why people who can catch lightning, move the Earth, hurl fire balls and manipulate water? Not that I’m complaining because they are downright fabulous! But how did you come up with the idea?
Of all the types of magic in the world, the elements have always intrigued me the most. And what can I say? I’m a selfish writer.
9. The powers and magic, as well as the ranks of the Asterian Order seem so well described and structured. Was there a lot of research behind it? What was the inspiration behind them?
I love the Harry Potter series and you will never catch me saying a negative word about it. But when it comes to magical systems of that vein, I’m not fond of “soft” magic where you can mutter a spell or wave a wand and make anything you want happen without consequence. I like magic that’s based in science, where it feels real enough that you almost believe it could exist. I like magic that comes with sacrifice, magic that has hard limits. Magic where you have to work for it. That was one of my favourite parts about writing this series, and I LOVED any research (electrical conductivity, the nature of water molecules, melting points of geological elements, etc.) that had to do with building such a system.
In the Asterian Order, there is pride that comes with one’s innate ability and, given some of their more insidious goals, it would make sense that they would want to reward their strongest players.
10. The third book in the series provides a pretty cool list of all the symbols of the main Elementalists? What are they based upon?
The pretty squiggles in my head! In all seriousness, I came up with a system that I outlined in Book l, The Awakening, that I was pretty proud of. Nadia’s unique symbol, which indicates her extremely rare Electromagnetic abilities, is my favourite, along with Barish’s special Magistrate insignia.
11. I loved Aspen as a character, as well as her development. She does seem to be the badass girl that saves the day at times, but she is much more than that. There are so many layers to her, and so much of feeling! Insecurity, loneliness, fear… Aspen has them all. Could you tell us a bit more about her? Who is Aspen and why did you write her just so?
Aspen has so many layers; in California, when she went by “Rose”, she was popular and gregarious and confident and well on her way to becoming a doctor. She was also powerful in her Elemental abilities, but that wasn’t particularly important to her at the time. As Aspen, she was frightened, unsure, lonely, vulnerable, paranoid, even. She had no one but herself (and Evelyn) to rely on, and when her world around her started to collapse, she had to face it while still broken and lost.
Truly, the series at its core is the story of Aspen choosing who she wants to be while reconciling her various roles: Rose, Rowan, Aspen, Pentamancer, Prophet. In the end, she is all of these things and none of these things. For me as an author, it was a joy to be able to watch her grow.
12. Speaking about characters, you have somehow managed to seamlessly include so many from different backgrounds and different cultures. And they all seem real. Was there a lot of research behind their creation, or are they based on something/someone real?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to travel a lot in my adult life, and that played into their various cultural backgrounds somewhat. I will say that Sophia’s personality was loosely based on my brother’s, and Aiden borrowed a lot from my wonderful husband. Appearance-wise, he was inspired by Ross Poldark, who may be one of the hunkiest literary gentlemen around, IMHO. Evelyn is a mish-mosh of all the wonderful parental figures in my life and definitely has the whole ‘Jewish mother’ thing down pat! All of the characters have traits of people I’ve known – some good, some not-so-good, but they all are totally unique and I love how they developed over time. As for my own personality: as much as I love Aspen and we share certain common traits, I’m definitely most like Eileen.
13. My favourite character (after Aspen, Aiden and Evelyn of course :)) was Ori, though even the others were pretty great too. Sweet and funny and awesome! How did Ori come to be?
I just adore Ori. In hindsight, I think he may have taken on some of the traits of one of my beta readers (an extremely lovable guy who lives in the Netherlands), but of all my characters, Ori took control of every scene he was in and pretty much wrote himself!
14. I also loved the part describing Aspen’s trip to India. It was beautifully and so realistically rendered! Have you been there yourself to describe it so well or was there research behind it?
I was in India in December of 2018, just before I started writing the third book. My experience there shaped every aspect of those chapters. It was a hell of a trip!
15. And what about Aspen riding a bike and the motorcycle gang? Riding a bike in Aspen’s case is described with so much feeling that you can almost feel her joy! And then that whole closeness in between the bikers she meets… the feeling of belonging and family… I loved every moment of it! What prompted you to write this part?
I used to own a Buell (which is a type of sports bike that Harley Davidson used to make) and I miss it every day! I was never in a motorcycle club, per se, but there is a solidarity and camaraderie among bikers on the road, regardless of what you ride.
Once, when my bike was having mechanical issues, I took it to a huge Harley Davidson shop, right off the highway in northern Colorado. There was some big biker convention going on that day, and various clubs from all over the country were there, barbecuing and drinking.
They nicknamed me “Bone-crusher Bonnie”, even though I was a young squirt compared to all of them.
16. There are always obstacles and disappointments in any writer’s career, especially in that of Indie writers. Did you face many and if yes, how did you deal with them?
Jesus. There have been So. Many. Hardships. I couldn’t publish my series traditionally because of Aspen’s age: being in her 20’s placed my book squarely in the New Adult category – which is also a subset of erotic romance. Since romance/eroticism wasn’t the primary genre of this book, the big agencies didn’t know how to label it and therefore couldn’t take it to the big 5 pub houses. So, there were many rejections. Many comments that I needed to make Aspen younger or “sex up” the series. There are people who hate the concept, friends who won’t read it, days where books don’t sell. But in the end, you have to stay true to yourself, true to your book, and no matter what, you can’t dwell on the negativity.
(This is all easier said than done, of course.)
17. And now, to our last question, do you have any advice for aspiring or upcoming writers? Or perhaps any message for our Magic Book Corner readers?
There is too much advice to write! If there are any aspiring writers out there in the MBC audience, come find me on FB or Twitter and ask me any question you’d like. Really! I’m always happy to share my mistakes with others. But for here and now, I’ll just say: Write what you love, write often, and don’t listen to negativity – unless it comes from an expert, in which case you might want to put on a pair of humble pants and listen to what they have to say.
Thank you so much for being here today with us Rachel. I truly appreciate it.
Thank you, Laura, for putting so much thought and love into The Magic Book Corner, and for inviting me to be a part of this incredibly special blog.
About the Author: Rachel Rener
Rachel Rener graduated from the University of Colorado after focusing on Psychology and Neuroscience. She lived overseas in both Japan and Turkey teaching English, then returned back to Colorado after missing her friends and the gorgeous skies there.
When she’s not engrossed in writing, Rachel enjoys painting, reading, photography, traveling, and, most recently, getting clay everywhere except centered on the potter’s wheel, where it belongs.
She lives about thirty minutes away from Aspen’s fictional cabin, along with her husband/best friend, a stellar mineral collection, a cockatoo also known as “Jungle Chicken”, and a bunch of fish who provide plenty of Game of Thrones-style drama and intrigue.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/thelightningconjurer
Twitter handle: @RachelRener
To purchase personalized signed copies of Rachel’s books, please visit her Facebook shop.
Click here to buy the paperback versions.