On 4th March I was lucky enough to attend a Q&A with Rachel Caine at Waterstones in Liverpool. She was there to answer a few questions, read from her new book, Midnight Bites, and sign books for us. Below is a transcript of the questions she was asked with her answers.
She has been writing since she was 14 yrs old, the ressones were a teacher who encouraged her to write, and the other was she was really mad at a TV show and didn't like what they were doing ,so she wrote her own, and kept writing.
By the second story she realised she didn't need the characters from the show anymore and wrote her own.
When she was 28 yrs old, her boyfriend at the time found a story she had written, and encouraged her to do something with it, she promptly tried to burn it. Her boyfriend bought her a ticket to a writers conference and said 'we're going to lunch' and drove her to door of conference, handed her the ticket and drove away. Rachel decided she would show him, she would go and talk to people and tell him how wrong he was when she was rejected, and ended up selling first story.
In 2003 she published a book under the name Rachel Caine with the Weather Warden series Her editor asked if she considered writing YA. Rachel said she loves YA but not thought about it much. Later Rachel was on phone with friend and told her about it, and asked why she didn't write YA. What came from conversation was the beginning of Morganville Vampires (vampire urban planning)
Rachel has just passed landmark of 50 books published and has at least 9 more coming in next 2-3 yrs
How do you pronounce Myrnin?
How do you pick your characters names?
Had a good system, used to put a lot of thought into it. Then she realised she has to pick names that make sense for the region they live and time period born in. Looks in a baby name book popular names for year and finds one that appeals to her. Tries not to pick one that's really long to type, or lots of accents.
The gentleman that took her to conference are they still together?
No, he left to be choreographer. Her husband Kat isn't there as he doesn't fly, and it's too early for the ship...icebergs
Do you have a writing process?
Rachel is a morning person, not because she likes morning, but its the best time her brain works. Used to try to write late at night after work but it didn't work, she was too tired. She discovered if she gets up at 5am her brain is ready to write and she can write really fast up to noon or 1. She usually sets herself a word count, depends on deadlines and how fast they are (3,000 - 5,000) but she has done as many as 10,000 words a day, but it hurts, a lot. She usually tries to plot book out in advance in a very loose way, usually 3-5 page outline, and sometimes puts 'and then something cool happens' to surprise her, doesn't want to think in detail for every little thing.
Are any character traits based of herself?
As a writer everybody is based on you. she tries to pick out particular traits that are going to be beneficial to the characters situation. usually whats going to make thier life the hardest in this situation. She tries not to base characters directly off someone she knows in case they don't like it.
Who is your favourite character in Morganville?
Always a close race, by this much [--] Myrnin, just because when she starts writing him she does not know what's going to happen. She'll say in the outline 'and then he shows up' and then skip to next scene as she doesn't know how to write that. On the other hand she always know what Shane is going to do which is terribly comforting. They are probably her two favourites...her go to characters when confused about what to do next.
What do you find most difficult about writing?
Really right now, is just the sheer pressure of meeting deadlines, she only has herself to blame as she tends to sell a lot of stuff ahead.
When writing, do you write cover to cover, or bits in between?
She starts at beginning with first sentence and writes all the way through. Sometimes she discovers the book didn't start at the right place, so she will have to go and rewrite it from beginning. Has to write in linear fashion or she doesn't feel like it evolves right, its not just the plot but also the characters learning things.
How do you feel about film or series for your books?
She would love to have major motion picture. but its important to know more money that's being spent on something the less control writer has. She wouldn't mind that but it wouldn't be the same. but she loves film and TV so would love to see what they do with it. Morganville probably a TV series, but Weather Warden as a film as the stories lend themselves more to film.
Lots of mythic tropes in your work, is there any mythic creature or theme you would like to try that you haven't yet?
Sure there are a ton, but she never knows what they are until she stumbles over them. Probably would never do werewolves as she is bad at it, she doesn't understand them, she knows they're not complicated but still doesn't understand them
You mentioned deadlines, do you have a problem when you are dealing with more than one series going at once, going from one set of books to another, how do you mange that?
She wished had magic formula for managing different things she is working on, it happens all the time. She learns to compartmentalise her brain in someway, keeping all characters and situations in one spot, like a filing cabinet. Doesn't usually have a problem going back into it, but if she does she goes back and reads other books, also having a really healthy bible of facts is important.
Scrivener has helped with keeping track, it has character pages and as she writes something down and thinks 'oh cool' she will go back and transfer it to the character page
Is there a reason why Myrnin is from Wales?
She has been through there and thought what a great place it was, she wanted to have him be from someplace that she found interesting, beautiful and wild. Sometimes the choices make themselves.
Have you ever had writers block?
Yes, personally not had real writers block, she has had days where she doesn't want to be in work. Writers block is generally defined as unable to get past it no matter how hard you try. A trick she learned from other writers is when you say writers block you are subconsciously seeing in your head a giant barrier, a giant concrete block that is beyond your power, when in fact everything about it is inside your power. You can do it. You can move past it. The more you externalise it into a block the more you give yourself permission to not go forward. Don't think of it as a block.
Have you ever had character arc planned out and when the time comes to write it, it goes in a completely different direction?
Yes, shes had characters that she knew what they were going to do and how they end up, and from the second she started writing they weren't that person any more, they weren't going to do that. Sometimes she has to admit defeat and let them do what they want to do.
After the kickstarter for Red Hot Rain, is it nice to be back with the Weather Warden series?
Yes, she did 9 books in Weather Warden series and really enjoyed it, but at the time she has gone everywhere she could think to go and needed time off. But now coming back, its all fun again, she has got a plot laid out but not started writing yet.
Very excited, thank you to everyone who supported that.
Of the books you have released so far, what has been the easiest to write, and what has been the hardest for you to write?
Easiest to write probably book 11 of Morganville, Last Breath, because she knew exactly how it was going to go and had been planning to do it since book one, just hadn't had a place to put that story yet. It took 3 weeks to write that book.
Hardest, don't really know..maybe Firestorm from Weather Warden. she had other things going on in her life that made it very difficult, when your not well, physically, it makes it very hard to write. It was the year she had cancer treatments, then had multiple shattered arm, she was on a lot of pain meds. When you read that book remember she edited it on codeine, when she got the proofs back said 'oh heavens' and had to rewrite a lot of that.
What made you write Prince of Shadows from Benvolios point of view?
She wanted to have an alternate view point...and Tybalt dies (spoiler), she would have done it from Mercutios point of view, but he dies. Everybody she wanted to do it from was dead by halfway through the play, so she went back and thought who's this Benvolio guy saying sensible things, and then he just vanishes so she thought 'he's got his own story I should probably talk to him'.
Any advise for anyone wanting to publish a book themselves?
There are a ton of great resources out there now that didn't exist when she started. But the most important thing to remember about writing. imagine yourself on stage of local theater. reading it out loud to a crowd of people, that's what you're doing when you publish it, and its very easy to get excited and to put your work out there and it not be perfect and not be ready. Be ready. When dealing with publishers/ agents, do research and make sure you understand contracts, its the boring business part, because all of that is important, it is a business and you have to really look into it as a business. also. Don't pay anybody to publish your book, don't do it'
This transcript was done by myself from my phone and typed onto my PC. Questions and answers are the best that I could give, with some unintelligible bits. Some answers have been cut short to save my fingers, and for ease of time.