Spotlight 42: Rachel Rawlings
Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from the Self-Publishing Show and this is Self-Publishing Spotlight where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.
Tom Ashford: Hello, and welcome to the Self-Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors at all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes, and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career.
My name is Tom Ashford and I’m part of the Self-Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get your self publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit.
This week’s guest is Rachel Rawlings. She’s written nine books in the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres and she lives in Tennessee.
Rachel Rawlings: Hi, it’s nice to be here. Thank you.
Tom Ashford: It’s great to have you on.
Do you want to start by going through the nine books that you’ve got?
Rachel Rawlings: I have a couple of different series. The first series that I released, my Marin Kincaid series, has six books and a couple shorts. And then from there I released the Jax Rhodes series, which is actually a duet, more than it is a series, and has one novella spinoff, Asalta Key. And then we have Rotten Luck, which is a standalone. And the Touch of Ink series, which is two books out right now, will be three total. And that is Ink It Over and Better Ink Twice.
Tom Ashford: Nice. Sounds great. Okay, well if we dive into the questions, the first one’s a biggie, which is why do you write?
Was there a particular reason that you went into urban fantasy and paranormal romance, or was it just writing in general that inspired you?
Rachel Rawlings: I’ve always written. I did a lot of writing when I was younger. I started with poetry and had notebooks filled with incomplete stories through middle school and high school, and eventually grew up, got married, had kids, and all of that kind of stuff just fell by the wayside.
And then one day, it was always back in the back of my mind. Like, “I really wish I had completed those stories. I really wish I had done something with that.” And as a parent, you’re always telling your kids, “You can do anything if just put your mind to it. You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”, and you tell them all these things, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “Well, I didn’t really do that though, did I?”
So then I just buckled down and started putting the books out.
Tom Ashford: Why the choice of genres?
Rachel Rawlings: I myself am a little strange and unusual. And so I think that is what appeals to me. I always have had an interest in fantasy.
For me, reading when I was younger, it was Tolkien and Choose Your own Adventures. And getting older, Anne Rice was a huge, author choice of mine, one of my go tos, and then it became Kim Harrison and Patricia Briggs. And so it’s just some of my favorites and what I gravitate towards.
Even with movies, I’m the same way. The first movie I ever saw was The Last Unicorn. That was like the first movie I can remember ever seeing at the movie theater, which may date me a little bit, for the listeners out there. But that’s okay.
Tom Ashford: Did you want to pursue a traditional contract at first or did you know that you always wanted to go indie?
Rachel Rawlings: I don’t know that I put that much thought into it. I think it was really just more, “I’m going to finish this book and show my kids that you can.” And then when I was finished writing it, KDP was in its early stages and I thought, “Okay, well this is cool. I can make a book and put it out and just have it for family and friends.”
I really didn’t ever intend to do really more than that because that for me was the accomplishment. I was like, “I completed it. Here it is. It’s physical proof that I did it.” And so I think after that it just kind of gravitated towards being indie.
Tom Ashford: Question number two is how do you write? So do you plot your stories out or do you pants them as they say?
Rachel Rawlings: I’m a pantser on the road to recovery. I so desperately want to be a plotter. I have had planners and different workbooks and whenever there’s a course that’s like even remotely related to plotting, I’m like, Oh, I should take that. I’m going to do that.”
And yet I still end up being the first reader. I feel like the characters always ended up taking a left turn at Albuquerque. I never know what they’re going to do next. And it just always seems to, the best laid plans, right? Isn’t that what they say?
Tom Ashford: Yeah.
Rachel Rawlings: So it never seems to work out that way for me. No matter how desperately I would love to be a plotter. And I see all of people’s beautiful vision boards and I’m like, “Oh, I want that for myself, so much.”, and still a pantser.
Tom Ashford: How long do your books generally run?
Rachel Rawlings: Anywhere between 60 and 90,000.
Tom Ashford: Okay. Because I think if it was like a George RR Martin epic, plotting’s usually the way to go.
Rachel Rawlings: Yes. I think you’re right that I can get away with it because it’s definitely not, I’m not breaking over those like 100, 120,000 word marks.
Tom Ashford: Is there a particular software that you use, like Scrivener Word, that sort of thing?
Rachel Rawlings: I still use Word. I’m pretty old fashioned. I’m a little bit of a troglodyte when it comes to technology, honestly. I’m usually relying on my husband for that. I know enough to be dangerous. So Word is great for me, because even when it does updates or different things, it’s still the familiar.
Tom Ashford: Is there a particular time and place that you prefer writing?
Rachel Rawlings: I’m usually at the kitchen table, honestly, especially since we just moved not that long ago. We were East Coast, in Maryland, and I had a little writing corner set up. But since we’ve moved, now it seems to be more the kitchen table, coffee always nearby, and it is usually around four or five o’clock in the morning, and the house is quiet, my husband’s off to work, the kids are still asleep, and I feel like I can get my most productivity like that time in the day.
Tom Ashford: I don’t know if I’d be productive at that time of the day.
Rachel Rawlings: You get used to it.
Tom Ashford: Question number three is are you a full time author? If you are, how did you get there and if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen?
Rachel Rawlings: I am, that’s an interesting question. I wasn’t a full time author a couple of years ago, because I was still working full time running family businesses. We had a couple of flash floods, like natural disasters, back to back. So we ended up having to close the business, and then I decided, “Okay, well this is it. Maybe this is a sign. This is, it’s time to really buckle down and make this the career that I want it to be at this stage.”
In order to make that really happen, I’m doing a lot of PA work, which supplements the income that I used to have, and really honing those skills while I’m working with other authors to help them advance their careers. I feel like at the same time I’m honing skills that I’ll be able to utilize for myself when I’m back in a position to be able to go full time.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, definitely. And it’s a little bit of a throwback question here:
In terms of your urban fantasy and paranormal romance, do you find that you get a lot of crossover between audience there?
Rachel Rawlings: I definitely think so. I think that sci-fi fans, romance readers, I feel like people read a lot of different things, and or they cross genres even when they don’t realize it, because so many genres have blended or have sub genres and there’s all these little niche things that we’ve really kind of seen explode I think, within the indie world too. Or maybe we’re all just becoming more aware of it.
They’ve always been there, but now we have all these categories and keywords and all these things that were becoming more to the forefront for all of us who were more hyper aware of it. But I think readers read far more genres than we give them credit for.
Tom Ashford: Number four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Rachel Rawlings: I’ve probably made all the mistakes, from not doing really the due diligence that I should have in the early stages with editing and really understanding what resources there are available within the indie community.
We’ve come a long way since the heydays of like 2009 when indie publishing was really kind of taking off, and there’s so much more available today, and I think that leads into what I’ve gotten right, which is not quitting, and continuing to learn, still taking the classes to hone the craft, whether it’s writing itself or marketing. There’s just, as you well know, from where you are, there are some amazing resources out there, and I think staying aware of that is one of the things I’m getting right, like making sure that I’m in the know.
Tom Ashford: Definitely. I think in terms of things like the live shows and conferences and things like that, often it’s the networking and building relationships and learning from the other people as much as you know actually learning things from the sessions themselves.
Rachel Rawlings: Yes, absolutely. I couldn’t agree with that more.
Tom Ashford: Question number five is what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Rachel Rawlings: Write something every day. We should look at it like it’s work, but it’s also a habit and we need to, kind of that muscle memory and I think one sentence, turns into one paragraph, which turns into one chapter, which eventually turns into one book.
It’s okay if it’s dirty ugly copy, when you’re done with that first draft, that’s perfectly okay. I feel like any author you talk to is going to tell you that they hate it when they finish, or have hated it throughout the process. I don’t feel like we love it until it’s been edited and polished and perfect and that’s not what your first draft is for. So just keep pushing through that first draft and the rest will come.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, the hard bit is getting the book done in the first place.
Rachel Rawlings: Yes.
Tom Ashford: Awesome. Those are your five questions. Thank you very much for coming on, Rachel.
Rachel Rawlings: Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure and an honor.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week’s Self-Publishing Spotlight.
Don’t forget that you can get your free self-publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit, and if you want to appear as a guest on the show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest.
I’m Tom Ashford and I’ll see you again next week.
Grab Your SPF Freebies!
Sign up to receive your SPF starter package, which includes a free 3 part video series on getting started with FB ads, and inspirational and educational weekly emails.