Plunged into a musical family at birth, Rachel Rager was exposed to the excitement and magic of musical theater throughout her childhood. Starry-eyed, she attended college musical rehearsals with her pianist mother – imagining herself as the heroine in the spotlight – becoming a hopeless romantic from the start. Though Rachel’s own natural musical gifts motivated her through college and she now holds a vocal performance degree in operatic singing, she has loved writing sweet romance novels for over eight years. Creative writing has served as a beautiful escape from the emotional rigors of raising her family.
Rachel published her first novel, By Love or By Sea in April of 2009 and continues to write sweet romance novels. She currently lives in Provo, Utah with her handsome husband – the love of her life – where she enjoys curling up by a blazing fire with a good book, getting her own creative thoughts on paper, and singing until the coyotes start howling. She loves picnics in the park and being the mom to three future starlets.
Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Rachel: About nine years ago, after I finished writing my first book, that’s when I decided that I wanted to be an author. I woke up from a dream and decided to try and write it down. After I finished, I wanted to get it published and be an author.
Deirdra:What is your writing and educational background?
Rachel: I have nothing but what I’ve taught myself and learned from my friends. Growing up, I hated English and only did the minimum to pass my AP classes with a ‘B’. When I got to college, I did the basics for the credits, and that’s it. (I am happy to say that this last semester, I took a creative and imaginative writing class and got an ‘A’!)
Deirdra:What makes you passionate about writing?
Rachel: I love getting lost in my worlds and the stories. I only write the heroes I LOVE!! And I love it when people sigh and smile at the end!
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Rachel: Long and rough! I submitted my first novel after it was done. I was so proud that I had done it, and then devastated when it was rejected. (Looking back, it was terrible and worthy of a rejection, but at the time, it broke my heart.) I didn’t give up. I worked hard, learned what I could about the querying process and continued to write more books. With each book I wrote, I got better and better. Finally, after five and a half years, I got a contract for my third story! And just over six years from when I started writing, I held my book in my hand!
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Rachel: Of course. Who isn’t? Rejections are hard. Every time I get a critique and someone isn’t absolutely in love with my book, it’s hard. I’ve discovered that in order to be an author, you have to have tough skin. I douse my woes in chocolate and then get up the next day, call a friend who loves me, get hyped back up, and try again!
Deirdra:What is your writing schedule like?
Rachel: I write whenever I get a chance. I used to write during nap time. However, as my girls get older, that’s harder. More regularly, I write in the evenings after they are in bed. (Yes, I ignore my husband those nights. But in fairness, he watches movies and TV shows I don’t like, so it works out well!)
Deirdra:Where do your ideas come from?How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Rachel: My ideas come from all over. One day, I was sitting at a stop light and saw a guy cross the intersection in a beat up pick-up truck. He was EXACTLY what I’d been looking for for a character! I have gotten ideas for books from dreams, TV, life at the mall, you name it. If you walk around with an open mind and are willing to question what you see and make-up lives for people you encounter, it’s amazing what worlds of possibilities open up.
Deirdra:Can you tell us a little about By Love or By Sea?
Rachel: By Love or By Sea was written as the third book in a set. It was also the third book I wrote. (I don’t know if the other two will ever see the light of the printed world, but you never know.) I had written the character of Caleb Newman in the first book and he was five. His fun personality won him a special spot in my heart. However, I did pattern him after my brother, so maybe that’s why. As I was writing my second book, I got to thinking about pirates and being lost at sea, and the whole thing just kind of came together.
Caleb goes to sea and his ship sinks and he is presumed dead. Then he shows up seven years later and tries to put his life back together.
Alice Frank lives with her grandparents and thinks Caleb is a ghost. As a child, she had loved him, but he was too old for her. Now, he’s back and trying to win her heart, but she’s engaged to someone else and swore never to love Caleb again. Caleb must then decide if she’s worth fighting for and if he can overcome his dark past.
Deirdra:What are "Sweet Romance" books? How do they differ from regular romance books?
Rachel: I call them ‘sweet romances’ because they have all the excitement and passion of a good old romance book without the smut. They are clean, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed or compromised in reading them. I don’t write what I don’t want to read. And honestly, if I had to write something like that, I’d be too embarrassed to EVER publish it.
Deirdra:What do you hope readers will get from your books?
Rachel: I hope readers come away with feeling refreshed. For me, reading is about escape. I hope my readers feel the escape and the fun that is meant to be enjoyed while reading them.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Rachel: It depends on the story. I have a story I wrote for my Wednesday Romance section on my blog, and I just sat down and wrote it out. I’ve had others where I’ve actually outlined and calculated the events and when they need to occur to make things work out. For me, it depends on the story. Most of my brainstorming is done in my head, but I have found that the occasional character interview helps to clear up a few details.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Rachel: Ha! All the time. Usually in the form of facebook! Oh wait. Writer’s block. I get that kind of snag too! Strangely enough, in By Love or By Sea, I had the entire book worked out in my head. I knew the conflict and the end, everything. Except HOW to solve the problem I’d created! I sat in front of my computer screen, not knowing what to write, every day for a month. I’d write all sorts of stuff, only to delete it all. But I found that just sitting down and trying every day, even though I knew I’d probably get rid of it all, helped me to find my solution. One day, after a terrible day of writing, I jumped on-line and found one little word that fixed ALL my problems! I did my research and finished the book in a week!!
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Rachel: No. I sometimes need quiet. It depends on the day I’ve had and how loud my kids have been. I don’t mind a little music now and then, but I also don’t mind quiet. Sometimes, if my husband’s watching something on TV with intense music, I’ll close the door to my office and turn on some music, too. I’m not writing murder stories, after all!
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Rachel: Everything. If I see you on the street, you have the potential to appear in a book. If you are doing something I find particularly intriguing, I might write about it. I have notebooks everywhere, so don’t think I won’t write down a phrase or two about you, because I will! (eye brow wiggle)
Also, when my husband and I travel, I find myself looking at the landscape and will often have ideas swarm into my head. Fortunately I have notebooks and pencils in my car too!
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Rachel: I have learned lots from many of my friends and fellow authors, but the woman who inspired me to write was Marcia Lynn McClure. I never read much growing up. I didn’t spell well and I didn’t like to read. So I didn’t. When my oldest daughter was eight months old, my mother-in-law gave me A Heavenly Surrender, by Marcia Lynn McClure and I was hooked. Marcia writes clean romances, many of which are historical. After reading her books, I began to daydream and imagine and that’s when I began to write.
Deirdra:What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Rachel: I have to love them. If I don’t love them and find them fascinating, I can’t write them. They are flat. I need to know them and have them be a part of my life. How do I do that? I talk to them in my head. I think of them constantly. Really, it’s kind of like having an affair in my head. I have to know them that well, or they will fall flat.
Deirdra:What authors do you admire, and why?
Rachel: I admire all authors. I know that’s a cowardly answer but it’s true. At some point, all authors have had the dream and felt the fever that goes along with writing. They felt it so much that they learned and honed their craft and worked to accomplish their goal. It’s not an easy thing to do, and I admire anyone who’s willing to put that much time and effort into making their dream a reality.
Deirdra:What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Rachel: I love anything chocolate. Those yogurt cover pretzels are good too. Usually, I don’t eat while writing so much as when I edit. When I edit, I LOVE to much! (As is evident by my waistline!)
Deirdra:Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Rachel: I actually majored in Vocal Performance in college and sing opera! I play the piano too. I come from a musical family and it comes easily. While growing up, I played the violin too.
One thing that most of my readers don’t know about me is that my family used to sing together. My mom would play the piano, my dad would sing bass or tenor, (depending on my brother’s age) my sister would sing alto, I’d sing soprano, and my brother would sing wherever he was needed! We’d sing for church and other functions. One day, we were driving to Washington from Wyoming for a family reunion, and our car broke down. Each family was supposed to put together a talent to share. My family was working on a complex a cappella song. So, while we were waiting for our tow, we were practicing and really getting into it. A trucker on the side of the road came over to see if we were okay or needed help. When he saw us jamming out to our own beat, he thought we were drugged up and loony! J
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Rachel: Perseverance is key to any goal you have. If publishing a book is something you desperately want, do your homework, learn everything you can about your craft, make friends with people who can help you. And keep at it. Don’t let rejection knock you down. Get back up and go again!
Deirdra:What are you working on now?
Rachel: I’m working on several things. I’m finishing up edits on a book with a working title of Sweet Ivy.
Ivy Lewis, provider and nurturer for her seven siblings, finds herself lonely and forgotten. Accepting life as hopeless, she becomes entranced with daydreams of the handsome Lord Sterling Bennett, Earl of Oakly. Ivy soon realizes this charming man of wealth will torture her heart, unwittingly envelope her in dangerous secrets, and save her life.
Amidst such duress she finds herself spending time with the humble gardener, Mr. Alan, who has secrets of his own. Left confused betwixt two loves, she finds her way through the adventurous lies surrounding her love and her heart.
I’m also editing a historical romance set at Fort Caspar in Wyoming. That’s fun because I’m from there and it was fun to learn about the area I grew up in.
Then I’m writing a fantasy romance. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before, but I’m entranced with the characters and LOVING it!
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Rachel: By Love or By Sea is available in print or in ebook from
Rachel: On Wednesdays I post a chapter to a clean romance. So if you follow along, you can read things as I go. Some stories I finish on my blog, others I don’t. All I turn into ebooks for purchase. It’s just a fun way to help get over the hump in the middle of the week.