It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Rachel Menard, author of Steel Hand Cold Heart.
About Rachel Menard:
Rachel Menard earned her degree in marketing from ASU, during which time her work was featured in the university paper and her own, self-published punk zine, Chelsea. Her short fiction has been featured in the New England Speculative Writers’ Anthology, The Final Summons and on Cast of Wonders. Most recently, her self-published YA fantasy novel won the Grand Prize in the 27th Annual Writers’ Digest Self-Published E-Book awards.
About Steel Hand Cold Heart:
GRAND PRIZE WINNER OF THE 7th ANNUAL WRITER’S DIGEST E-BOOK AWARDS!
On the island of Helvar, women rule. Sixteen-year-old Carina has trained for most of her life to belong to the coveted Daughters of Hel, the steel-handed Viking warriors who provide souls to the Death Goddess in exchange for the prosperity of their island. Gaining her place hasn’t been easy. She was not borne of the island, but another spoil from another raid, raised by the island Chieftain. There are many who would see her fail, and on her first raid, she does. She doesn’t kill a priestess she should have.
Carina needs to prove her worth or risk losing her place. Before she can, her arch-nemesis drugs her wine and sends her off the isle as a captive of three foreign boys. But what is Carina’s greatest misfortune may turn out to be her greatest gift. The young men are taking her to the jewel of the Southern Isles – Fortis Venitis, a place no other Daughter of Hel can venture. Carina can place Hel’s claims on the Southern isle and return to Helvar with the spoils, a victor.
However there are many obstacles to pass before she reaches her goal. Like her rune stone that everyone keeps trying to steal, the mismatched pirates from a country that no longer exists, and the priest with his poison that melts flesh from bones. But the most dangerous obstacle of all are the odd feelings she’s developing for her victims, especially the knife-thieving captain Nik. That could make it difficult for her to kill him in the end.
Author Interview with Rachel Menard:
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- What is your writing Kryptonite?
Definitely the 1-2 page synopsis. Other authors have said to write your synopsis first, which is difficult for me because I am a discovery writer. I usually plan out 1-2 chapters in my head then write them, piecing the plot together as I go. I write my synopses at the end, going chapter by chapter to get a short summary of each one, and then I put it all together. It’s always longer than two pages, and I can never decide what to cut out or summarize. When I queried, I always queried the agents who did not want a synopsis to avoid writing it.
- Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Both. I do my best to come up with original ideas, concepts, and characters and then weave in some of the favorite tropes like enemies-to-lovers, found families, and there’s only one bed. As a reader, that’s what I want in my fiction too, something familiar and something new.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have 11 shelved manuscripts, but Steel Hand, Cold Heart was actually a rewrite of one of those old manuscripts. I loved the main character, Carina, so much I couldn’t let her go. I’m glad I was able to give her the story she deserves once I had enough writing experience to do that.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I can complete a rough draft in about a month, but it’s really rough. My writing group always tells me I’m a much better re-writer than a writer, and they’re not wrong. I do better once there are words on the page and spend the next three to six months editing those words. I have never let anything leave my hands until the third or fourth draft. That’s when my stories start to resemble something worthwhile.
- When did you start writing?
I started writing seriously when I turned thirty, which I know is much later than most. In my teens and twenties, I was too busy partying. Sometimes I regret not settling down to be more productive sooner, but I had a lot of fun, and now I have a lot of experiences and mistakes to write about. Everyone’s journey is different.
- What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Don’t try to rush success. Since I started writing later, I was definitely in a hurry to be successful. I got an agent on my second manuscript and had that manuscript go to acquisitions at a top publishing house. It was rejected there by the marketing team who couldn’t see how to place it. I was crushed, but looking back, that book wasn’t ready, and I would be embarrassed if it had gotten published. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my writing career, and I think a lot of those downs could have been avoided if I’d spent more time up front working on my craft instead of rushing to get something out there.
- Have any of your books been made into audiobooks? If so, what are the challenges in producing an audiobook?
Actually I just released Steel Hand, Cold Heart on audio. I went through ACX and had almost 30 auditions. Because of the economy, sadly, a lot of freelancers and voice actors are in need of work. I narrowed the readers down to my top five, and my husband helped me choose a favorite. I went with a voice actress named Alaura Howery. She did the work very quickly, and I loved the way she read my characters. I fell in love with my book all over again. It is such an amazing experience to hear how someone else interprets your work, and when they nail it…well, you know that’s because your writing told them exactly what they needed to do.
My advice for anyone considering audio? Make sure you listen to every word. In the review process I found a lot of breaks or repeated words where a section started and ended, and although the narrator finished her piece quickly, ACX took a month to review my book and release it. So don’t plan any promos until after that time.
- Favorite quote (doesn’t matter the source)
“You can use words to hide things or not touch them or to pretend that they are something different than they are.” M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts