Fish guts, singing toilets, and The Lightning Conjurer Series

Rachel here! I had the supreme honor of sitting down for an interview with Alexa Rose from Jazz House Publications, where we discussed school suspensions, fish guts, singing toilets, and then eventually got back on-track to chat about The Lightning Conjurer Series 😉 The original link can be found here, otherwise the full interview is posted below. Cheers!

 

Author in Profile: Rachel Rener

On a drizzly Friday afternoon, I sat down with author Rachel Rener to chat about writing, life, and the journeys we take from there to here and beyond. For those readers who have not heard of Rachel, she is the author of “The Lightning Conjurer”, a three-part series that tells the tale of Aspen, a young woman who must come to terms with her abilities as an Elementalist of unprecedented power.

Rise of an author

Though she is an author of growing renown, Rachel has not always enjoyed writing. In elementary school and junior high, the rigid and humorless structure of writing had been a cause for rebellion as well as a few visits to the principal’s office. That changed when she attended Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colorado, and she was assigned a rather dry essay on the effects of the ebola virus.

“I decided to do a creative short story about a woman who contracted ebola and died,” Rachel said. “It was dark and gripping and lacked the proper empirical data. Unsurprisingly, I failed the assignment, but the teacher took me aside and told me I needed to be a writer.”

College would further delay Rachel’s writing career. Seventeen years old and unsure of her future, Rachel dabbled in international affairs, nutrition, and linguistics before earning a B.S. in neuropsychology. Regardless of the subject, long essays were her favorite part of the coursework and her professors would often write ‘LOL’ in the margins  – even in scientific papers.

Crowds move through Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Crossing at night. Photo by  Timo Volz  on  Unsplash

Crowds move through Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya Crossing at night. Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Life led Rachel to Tokyo in 2010 where she would write a blog about life in Japan. Using her wit and wry humor, she talked about her daily experiences. Standout memories from this time include using toilets that played music and artificial gurgles to mask the sound of pee and eating fermented fish guts. The blog caught on, and with it came the spark of passion for writing.

Full-Time Author

That blog was just the beginning of Rachel’s writing career. Her authorial success looms, but to get there, her life has another massive change in store. It’s the 2010s, and Rachel has just switched careers from translation and localization (she’s studied eight languages) to corporate marketing and advertising. And though she had excelled at her job, her overactive imagination kept pulling her toward writing. Whether penning humorous dating profiles for coworkers, concocting R-rated poems and limericks for her friends’ birthdays, or creating her own comic books, writing had always been a creative outlet to offset her drab desk jobs.

“Most of all, I’ve always been interested in the fantastical realm,” she said with a note of playfulness. “I’m not interested in airplanes; I’m interested in dragons!”

She went on to describe the challenges of reading at home. “[As a kid], I would get in trouble because I’d be up all night with a flashlight under the covers, reading Goosebumps, Animorphs, The Lioness Quartet, Ella Enchanted. I’d hide books under my mattress.”

I think many authors can relate to this experience. Maybe we didn’t always enjoy telling stories, but we were fond of reading them. For Rachel, reading fantasy gave way to writing fantasy.

“It was all my husband’s fault,” Rachel said by way of a segue. “He’d been encouraging me for a really long time to write.”

That encouragement carried the added advice for Rachel to leave her corporate job and focus on creative writing.

“Leaving a well-paying corporate job felt terrifying, exhilarating, and left me completely guilt-ridden. It was also the best choice of my life,” she said.

When she told her husband she didn’t know what story to write, his advice had been to just sit down and write what came to mind. Rachel wrote without forethought.  For “The Lightning Conjurer: The Awakening”, Rachel began with a woman and let the story unfold around that person. Taking her husband’s advice, she sat down and let the words flow from her fingertips.

Rachel’s complete series has found its way to shelves and end tables across the world. Photo by Rachel Rener.

Rachel’s complete series has found its way to shelves and end tables across the world. Photo by Rachel Rener.

“I imagined a woman alone, a hermit, living away from the world with two-colored eyes. Before I knew it, [my husband] knocked on the door, and I was 5,000 words in.” She went on to say this pattern of writing continued with such fervor. “I never had writer’s block. I never got stumped. Every day, I had a few thousand more words. I didn’t know the ending until I was about 100 pages away. It felt like I was possessed by Aspen.”

I can appreciate how Aspen had inspired such a story. She is an amazing woman who reads like a best friend rather than a staid heroine or a metaphor wrapped in pretty words.

An Indie Author Among Indie Authors

With her time in corporate America behind her and “The Lightning Conjurer” written and available globally, Rachel Rener has joined the annals of successful indie authors whose works speak for themselves.

So who does Rachel read? The indie authors she admires most are Annette Marie, Dorothy Dreyer, J.C. Kang, and Jeff Kohanek, to name a few.

“They are inhumanly prodigious in their works and all have breath-taking stories to tell.”

Rachel is not finished telling stories, either. Her next novel is in the works, and it tells the tale of 16-year-old Lilah Quinn who has a curious form of epilepsy that manifests in strange and supernatural ways. The novel’s working title is “The Girl Who Talks to Ashes”. Also coming soon is a villain-driven short story to be published in an anthology in December.

In Closing

I have long admired Rachel’s writing and kindness. She is funny and smart, and her stories have inspired me to take a closer look at how I write. I wish everyone could chat with her and hear the passion in her voice and the absolute humor of her anecdotes. Instead, I leave you with Rachel’s hard-won advice for indie authors:

“Don’t do it alone. Talk to all the indie authors you can: what worked for them, what didn’t work for them. Find as many beta readers as possible and take their feedback seriously. Hire an editor. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. When you do go out in the world with your beautiful new book, be careful not to go out trumpeting your own name over and over again; self-promo is the killer of great writers. People will find your book, fall in love, and champion it for you.

“Above all, write what you love and feel most passionate about. If some critic out there says vampires are cliche but you love ’em and have a great idea in your head, go out and write the best damn vampire story ever written.”