With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Rachel Van Dyken
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.
She keeps her home in Idaho with her husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers! You can follow her writing journey at www.rachelvandykenauthor.com
On your website, you talk about delving into childhood dreams to see where your passions are. How did that help you in your writing? How do you think it could help other writers?
I was always fantasizing and daydreaming. I would often make up stories in my head; I’m sure most little girls do that anyway. I wanted the prince, the castle, the white horse.. I wanted it all! I think my imagination helped me in my writing only because it gave me permission to think outside the box. Most authors try to stick to rules. I hate rules. I write in run-on sentences and probably do things that drive some readers crazy. I write what I know. And I write what I like to read; I think it’s important to do that.
What does your writing process look like? Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what are your tips for moving past it?
I get up, grab coffee, get ready for the day, and write until around four or five then answer emails and do interviews. I try to write as much as I can and am usually permanently attached to my computer, even at midnight. I do experience writer’s block, usually I’ll go to another project. It’s normal to find me writing around four or five different books at one time. I think it’s the easiest way to get past writer’s block.
What is your process for revision and editing? Do you often put work aside and revisit it later on, or do you usually work on projects to completion in one push? Do you use professional editors?
I usually write one draft and then send it on to edits. I use professional editors when I self publish, and with my traditional publishing contract, I have a team that works with me as well.
Do you have a particular book that was your favorite to write? Which one was the most challenging?
I loved writing Ruin. It was such an emotional journey for me. The most difficult book to write to date has been The Gamble, the third book in The Bet series. I’ve never really had to work with a crazy deadline before and this one has to be finished in a few weeks so I think I’m needlessly stressing over it.
Ruin is dedicated to your uncle, mother-in-law, and all cancer survivors. What made you decide to focus on this topic in your novel? How has releasing Ruin impacted your life?
When you watch someone go through something difficult like cancer, your first response is “how can I help?” But with cancer, other than offering encouragement and being a pillar of support and prayer, there really isn’t anything you can do. I wanted to do something. So I wrote Ruin. I wrote it and named a character after my uncle, who, since writing Ruin, has passed away. I dedicated the first two weeks’ sales to my uncle and his medical bills in hopes that it would not only raise awareness but help my family out. Honestly, I never could have imagined the impact Ruin has made on people. I’m still getting emails and hearing stories from readers who have gone through that terrible journey. My heart aches for them. It’s such a blessing to be able to talk with readers who’ve been touched by cancer and be able to go through that journey together.
What qualities in your books do you think resonate so strongly with readers?
Hope. I try to offer hope and redemption in my books even if there is a constant underlying tone of romance. I think it’s important, especially in the world we live in, to never lose hope.
Do you find there is a lot of crossover appeal for your work in the young adult, new adult, and adult markets?
Absolutely. At first it was really difficult because I was mostly known as being a historical writer, but as soon as the NA books started getting published it was easier to cross over into contemporary.
You have been both traditionally published and self-published. What advantages and disadvantages have you found with both?
With self-publishing, you’re kind of your own little island. Everything is within your realm of control. If you fail, it’s all on you. When you’re with a traditional publisher you feel a lot more pressure to get the big numbers in sales and to keep doing better. I pressure myself regardless. With traditional publishers you’re also able to get your books into stores and expand your readership. I’ve had such an amazing experience with traditional publishing that I don’t think I would ever go back to solely self-publishing or Indie publishing.
How involved are you in the details of your books, from cover design to final proof?
With my self-published books, I’m involved in every step. With traditional books, I still give a lot of input. I just don’t pick out the images, which is nice because it takes the stress off my plate.
What has been the most effective marketing tool for getting your work to your audience? You have an amazing amount of reviews- any tips for other authors seeking the same?
Word of mouth. In every interview I do, I try to make that known. You can pay upwards of thousands of dollars for ad campaigns. The best way to market is to get people talking about your book and to genuinely care about the people that read them. I LOVE my readers. LOVE THEM. I would not be here without them and I want them to succeed as much as they want me to succeed. I feel like I have a relationship with the readers I talk to and I want to make sure that when we talk they walk away knowing that I’m not just another author who writes books but a friend who loves books just as much as they do.
As a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, how do you manage to release so many new titles a year?
I write all day, and I don’t sleep! Okay, so I do sleep, but I try to write every single day unless it’s Sunday. I don’t answer my phone, and I focus on my stories.
Your latest novel, Ruin, was just released this past month. Any special food or Starbucks drink you enjoy when celebrating the release of a new book?
I am obsessed with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Americanos!
Do you have any upcoming projects we can look out for? What’s next in terms of novels for you?
The Wager just released (Book 2 of The Bet series) and the sequel to Elite releases in December!
Thanks so much for interviewing with us, Rachel!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.