What do rainbow cupcakes have to do with a writer’s life? Today’s guest author Rachel Nightingale reveals this and more as part of the book tour to celebrate the release of the second book in her YA fantasy series.
Rachel was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years, and many diversions later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle, published by Odyssey Books, and also, rather unexpectedly, an award winning playwright.
She is currently writing the final book of the Tales of Tarya trilogy – which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world – and desperately trying to ignore all the other stories clamouring for her attention. Rachel lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.
For more information about Rachel, go to https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/
Why do you write? Two reasons – one is because I’m a better, saner, nicer person when I do. The second is because if I didn’t get the stories and ideas that bounce around inside my head onto the page, I’d probably explode.
How has your theatre experience influenced your writing? There are aspects of performing that you have to experience to understand – the energy buzz that comes from the audience when they love what you are doing, the anticipation when you’re about to step onstage at the beginning of a show, and the sheer, utter panic of improvising and knowing you could fall flat on your face at any moment. They’re emotional, physical, visceral experiences and I hope I’ve captured some of that in my books. Plus if I hadn’t personally experienced the magic of the theatre I don’t think I would have even had the idea to write about a world where that magic is actually real.
Your series is a fantasy, which draws on your imagination, however you are also an experienced editor. This skill is obviously an asset to a writer – does it have a downside, for example when you are working on the first draft? That’s a really great question. I think it did when I first started editing professionally, because it was really hard to turn my analytical brain off, which meant my creative brain didn’t get a look in. Now I think I’ve worked out how to balance the two so I can let the creativity flow but at the same time I’m conscious of how I’m using language as I put it on the page. It means I have to do less reworking later, which is great.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Children. I wrote Harlequin’s Riddle around the same time my son was born, and when it was published last year he was starting Year 11. The thing is, children take a lot of time, and so do books. No first draft is ever going to be perfect, and if you send a book off to a publisher before you’ve spent the time to craft it into the best book you can make it, you’re not doing yourself any favours. But finding that time when you’ve got young kids is pretty tough. So getting the books to publishable standard took a long time.
How involved have you been in the development of your books? Do you have input into the cover/illustrations? I had come across Nadia Turner’s artwork in a shop near where I lived. Beautiful prints of gypsy wagons and animals with top hats – they were stories in themselves. I thought her artwork would be perfect for my covers. I’d been rejected by the ‘big five’ Australian publishers and was considering self-publishing, so I approached Nadia, gave her a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle and luckily she also thought my stories and her art were a perfect match. Then I got offered a publishing contract by Odyssey Books. It’s not usual for the author to organise the cover, so I had to go to my publisher with Nadia’s artwork and go ‘um… I commissioned this a while back, what do you think?’ Fortunately my publisher loved it (of course, because Nadia’s work is AMAZING!). I’ve been lucky enough to get to keep the artwork from both covers and I can’t, can’t wait to see the cover for book three!
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I write fantasy I figure rainbow cupcakes are an important part of the image, so once a fortnight I go to my local café and have a hot chocolate and rainbow cupcake whilst working on book three. Then I Instagram it, which hopefully makes all those cupcakes a tax deduction. It doesn’t get better than that! Mind you, I also LOVE getting to talk to people who love my book, because writing is a very isolated job.
—the worst? Writing is a very isolated job! I actually enjoy that to an extent because I’m very introverted, but the problem is it leaves me with my own thoughts a lot, and the anxiety can creep in.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d do more classes and read more books on the craft of writing. When I was starting out I had the stupid idea that reading books on how to write would stop me finding my own voice. But there are so many different facets to writing, from grammar and sentence construction to point of view, pace, structure… it’s never ending. I’ve developed an understanding of those, and hopefully some skill with them, over many years of writing and editing. But I could have saved a lot of time and got rid of some of my bad habits earlier if I’d trusted the expertise of others rather than stumbling around figuring out how to do it myself.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That’s a tough one because I decided to become an author at the age of eight, so it would need to be the sort of advice an eight-year-old would understand. Maybe ‘make sure you always put money aside to feed your stationery obsession’?
What’s the best advice you were ever given? To think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to craft good writing. It takes time to find a publisher. It takes time to get known once you actually have a book out there. It’s so easy to get discouraged.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Writing is a craft. No matter how talented you are, you need to be willing to keep working at it. I edited a book a while back which had chapters from different authors. One of them had been around a long time and was very esteemed. I pointed out to him that he overused a certain word throughout the chapter, and in all his years of writing no one had every pointed that out before – and he realised he overused it everywhere. We all have personal quirks we are blind to and things we can improve, even when we’ve been writing for a long time.
How important is social media to you as an author? We’re told all the time that it’s important, so there’s this sense that you have to do it. I wrote a whole blog post on why that’s really hard for me as an introvert. https://www.rachel-nightingale.info/2018/the-introvert-paradox/ My publisher’s advice, which I think is great, is to do what you are comfortable doing. For me that’s mainly blogging and Instagram. It can take up so much time, and I need that time to write!
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I have done. What worked for me to overcome it was that I went back and reminded myself of why I wanted to write. I did this by re-reading some of the books I’d loved as a child and teenager. It helped me get back in touch with the magic of story telling.
How do you deal with rejection? Chocolate, wine, and cuddles with my puppy dog, Snowy.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Magical, imaginative, visual.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Zelda Fitzgerald! I think it’s one of the greatest injustices of the world that she’s not given the proper credit for her contributions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. He virtually transcribed parts of her diary for Tender is the Night. Her writing is original, lyrical, poignant and so, so beautiful and I feel terribly sad that she lived in an era where she didn’t get to express herself creatively. I don’t know if she would be a great source of advice, but she would be a fascinating person to talk to.
Columbine’s Tale is the second book in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy, The Tales of Tarya, about the gift of creativity and where it can take you.
For three hundred years the traveling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?
Tragedy and an ancient mystery plunge Mina ever deeper into the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, known only to a select few artists, a place where dreams are transformed into reality. In Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers somehow attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, pursued, plotted against, beset by divided loyalties between the travelers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.
Check out Rachel’s visit to the following blogs as park of her Book Tour.
Monday Oct 22 – Sunday Nov 4 www.justkidslit.com/blog
Monday Oct 22 www.maureeneppen.com
Tuesday Oct 23 www.karentyrrell.com
Thursday Oct 25 www.readforfun.com.au
Friday Oct 26 www.littlebigreads.com
Monday Oct 29 http://sharingyourstory.com.au/
Tuesday Oct 30 www.carolyndenman.com
Wednesday Oct 31 blog.boomerangbooks.com.au
Thursday Nov 1 nikkireads.blog
For enquiries about Books on Tour visit