Interview with Rachel Coker, Author of Interrupted

 Rachel Coker

 Interrupted by Rachel Coker
Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn’t shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie’s heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.
Today, I'm hosting Rachel Coker - teenage author of Interrupted - for an interview! When I first found out about Rachel, she was fifteen and blogging about her upcoming book (although now she is recently sixteen and freshly published). She became a huge inspiration for me and her thoughts mirror mine in many ways based on her blog posts. She's smart, has beautiful writing, and I'm so happy that she stopped by! Her answers were extremely helpful to me, so I hope they're helpful to y'all too! (Also, sorry if the spacing is a little off. I'll fix it and then Wordpress will screw it up all over again!)
Do you think homeschooling had an effect on your writing?
Oh yes, definitely! Homeschooling has given me the ability to take time to develop my gift of writing, and work at my own pace. I also like to joke that with a house full of history books, research is a snap!
What was your reaction when you first landed an agent? When you heard you were publishing?
When I first found out that an agent was interested in representing me, I was floored. Especially because Bill is one of the best agents in the Christian publishing world. I couldn’t believe that someone like that would even want to read my book, much less represent it! Bill was very honest about the odds in publishing, too. I knew that it was a slim chance that someone would want to publish my book. That’s why when I found out that one of the biggest companies wanted my book, I was stunned all over again! I think it took a while before it sunk in, but luckily everyone else was willing to watch me do my happy dance all over again a few weeks later.
How do you manage being a teenager and an author (balancing social life with work)?
I’ll admit it: It’s hard. I feel awkward sometimes when my friends talk about doing things and I have to opt out because I have a book signing or something that weekend. But, for the most part, everyone is really supportive of me and they realize that my life is kind of complicated. I realize that I could stop writing and go back to my normal life and not have to worry about taxes, filing expenses, responding to emails, and traveling all the time. But then I would miss out on so many wonderful things!
Many authors comment on time management when asked about the writing process. Do you believe that your homeschooling perhaps made for more writing time?
Oh, I definitely think so. I managed to wrap up most of my high school education in three years, so that I’ll have an extra year to focus entirely on business and writing. I usually work for an hour in the morning, do school all day, and then take time to write in the evenings.
How did your family support you?
My family has done everything for me. They pray for me all the time, walk around with my book in Barnes and Noble trying to get people to buy it, and blab about me to everyone from the dentist to the lady at McDonalds. Seriously. My mom is especially sacrificial for me. She’s my travel partner, my secretary, my treasurer, my consultant, and my biggest supporter. This whole thing would be a flop if not for her dedication to me.
Has writing affected the way that many of the people you know look at you and talk to you?
Ha! Not the people that I know! Trust me when I say that I get no special treatment from any of my friends or family members. They still tease me and give me a hard time about things. People have been very nice to me, obviously, but I’m not a celebrity or anything.
You mentioned practicing your signature for your first book signing and driver's license in this post. How did your signature change when you practiced for your signing?
I like to think my signature has an intentional messiness to it. But I’m probably just trying to justify my insanely crappy handwriting to my mom.
What did you look to for inspiration (books, movies, music, articles)?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I like to think that my writing has a sort of poetic, cinematic feeling. I love to use descriptions, as long as they sound light and airy and delicate. So I love drawing inspiration from poets like Emily Dickinson and really dreamy movies like the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. I would love to hear that readers find that sort of romantic, poetic quality in my books.
What are your interests besides reading and writing?
I play the piano, but I bet you never would have guessed that. ;) I also run my own portrait photography business, which is huge passion of mine.
What do you think is the hardest part of writing - the first draft or editing/revising?
Ugh. First draft. I passionately hate writing first drafts. Everything feels so awkward and stilted. It really makes you question if you have any real talent at all.
Who are the writers that inspire you?
I’ve said it a million times, but definitely Katherine Paterson. Her books have always inspired me so much. I also have an obvious fondness for Emily Dickinson. And Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” has had a huge influence on me as a writer.
What would your dream review be like?
I read a review that was pretty much the most fantastic thing I have ever heard about my book. This woman just understood all of my characters so well. She talked about how much she loved the underlying softness of Allie’s character and how strong and steady Sam was, always ready to “take Allie’s crap”. Gosh, I loved that review. I read it out loud to my whole family.
How have other authors reacted to your publishing (because of your age)?
Everyone’s been really nice and supportive of me. I’ve especially connected with Stephanie Morrill, who runs the Go Teen Writers blog. I think she’s been my biggest source of encouragement as another author.
How did faith play a role in your writing?
I definitely knew that my faith would play a big part in Allie’s story, because it is such a big part of my own life. In order for her to come to that place of healing, she definitely needed God. But I feel like faith is always a part of my writing. My parents have always encouraged us to use our gifts to bring glory to God, and that’s what I hope to do with anything I write, whether it’s Christian-based or not.
Describe Interrupted in 3 words.
Soft, poetic, sweet.
Is the next book that you want to write historical or in a different genre? What other genres would you like to explore?
Yes, I feel like I’m always drawn to historical fiction, especially the twentieth century. I don’t know if I could write something modern! I’m too old-fashioned, I wouldn’t know how to think like a twenty-first century teen!
What's on your reading list now?
A bunch of research books for upcoming novels, the poetry of Keats, Crime and Punishment, and Melanie Dickerson’s books.
What are your favorite books?
Oh, I could go on forever! My favorite book is “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. That book made me laugh, cry, and view the world differently when I closed the spine. I love it when you find a story that can do that. I also love “Jacob Have I Loved” and “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson. “Ella Enchanted” is always going to have a special place in my heart, as well as childhood favorites like “Peter Pan”, “Alice in Wonderland”, and “Anne of Green Gables.”
Many reviewers have commented on their love for the tributes to Emily Dickinson scattered throughout the book. How has Emily Dickinson and her writing impacted you and your story?
I first discovered the work of Emily Dickinson soon after my uncle passed away, and her writing spoke to me like nothing else. Something about her work really hit a chord with me. I feel like we both have a lot of the same emotions and feelings about things. We tend to be somewhat pessimistic and melancholy, a little big reclusive, but we have the same moments of happiness and sheer joy. “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” is the single most beautiful thing I have ever read, because it exactly expresses what I was feeling the first time I read it.
Would you ever see yourself doing any other professions than writing (going into publishing, perhaps)?
I would love to grow my photography business. I think that’s the only other thing that I love enough to compete with writing. But I’m really hoping I can do both, so I never have to choose!
Do you believe it's harder to write a character very similar to you or different? How are you and Allie alike?
There are benefits and challenges to both. Obviously, it’s easy to write a character who you relate to, because you know how they will react to different circumstances. But it’s also more difficult, in a way, because it can get very personal. During the writing process of Interrupted, I would often feel like I was making Allie too much like myself, and revealing too many of my own feelings in that book. You have to find a balance, so that it doesn’t become too much like a diary. I wouldn’t want people all over the world reading my diary, so I have to keep that out of my writing.
How do you react when people think that young writers can't do anything because of age? Have you experienced any similar prejudice?
Oh, I just laugh in their faces and hold up my book. Ha ha, just kidding. ;) I haven’t experienced too much prejudice because I have done something, but I definitely feel for the teenagers across the world who have this wonderful gift and passion for writing, but just haven’t gotten published yet. It’s hard to get adults to take you seriously. I struggled with that when I was first trying to get into the business.
What advice would you have for any aspiring teenage author?
Practice, practice, practice! Always be trying to improve and listen to the advice of others. It’s hard not to get offended when people have criticisms of your writing, but try to never get angry or shut them off. They might be right. Also, draw inspiration from your real life and write about things you know.
About how long did it take you to write your first draft?
Several months. Interrupted never took much editing, though, so I was lucky.
What are your favorite bible verses?
My signature verse is Galatians 6:14. It says, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Do you participate in any youth groups? (I do, that's why I'm asking!)
No, sorry! I went to a youth group for a year when I was in sixth grade, but it never really clicked for me. I’m so busy, though, that I don’t know if I would have much time anyway! I am active in our church, just not in the youth department.
Thank you Rachel! You can purchase Interrupted at your local bookseller or online and it comes highly recommended! Watch out for my review later this week or early next!