Dont let circumstances that you cant control, control your happiness.

Rachel Walkley Interview Published on: 17, Apr 2019

Growing up in East Anglia, which is your favorite childhood memory? What were your childhood dreams?

My main memories are around visiting my family in The Fens and exploring the vast flat farmlands, dykes and cuts that drain the land. We’d dam the little streams, put jam jars in the water to catch minnows and go for walks along the edges of the fields. Some might find the landscape bleak and dull, I loved the openness.

I always wanted to be a writer. At the age of eight I wrote poetry. By eleven, short stories. But when it came to a career and prospects becoming an information scientist seemed more likely to lead to success, and it was for eighteen years my primary career.

Once a librarian and caretaker of books, what inspired you to start writing your own books?

My career took a break for kids and I slotted the writing around childcare, usually in the evenings. When they went to school, I carried on and the word count kept piling on, and after four years I took the plunge and decided to publish.

Apart from sharing your writing, you also share your drawings on your Instagram profile. What do you enjoy doing more - writing or drawing? How often do you draw?

I enjoy both for different reasons. When I write, I’m focussed and don’t like distractions. It can be tiring and not always fruitful. With drawing, I listen to music, relax and don’t fret about quality. It’s purely for pleasure. I go through stages of drawing for two or three weeks, then switch back to writing for a month or two.

What inspired the story of "The Women of Heachley Hall?" Why did you choose the romance genre?

Heachley Hall was inspired by my memories of Norfolk, old houses, which I love to visit, and the idea of a plot twist, which I won’t reveal. The love element is core to the storyline, so naturally the book fell into the Romance genre, but I didn’t set out for it to be Romance. I prefer to consider it a Women’s Fiction Mystery with a dash of Magical Realism.

Do you share your family secrets in your books? What elements do you use to make your books interesting for your readers?

There are no family secrets in my books, only hints of things that relate to my life. So the descriptions of walking along Hunstanton beach are based on my own, as is the flute playing in my second book. Injecting something genuine into a novel helps ground it in reality, which is especially important as I write magical elements, and these surprises are what I hope will interest the reader.

Your book, "The Last Thing She Said" has a beautiful cover. Who designs your book covers? Being an artist yourself, what do you think makes a good cover?

My covers are designed by More Visual who are based in the UK. I’m very pleased with both covers and I worked with the same person to create them. I usually collect images into a Pinterest board to help stimulate the creative process, describe the book’s themes and colours (Autumn features heavily in the first, hence the hue of orange), and I also do a few mock-ups of what I think might work. Both of my covers have elements of these mock-ups that I drew. However, it’s essential to use a professional designer and I would always recommend this as it’s very easy to overlook the need for good software kit, stock images and the skills of an artist.

What was the biggest challenge in telling the story through each of the sisters POVs throughout different periods of time in "The Last Thing She Said?"

The biggest challenge was keeping the plot and its twists and turns flowing while maintaining the sisters’ distinct characterisations. One sister’s story covered several years, another a few months, the third only a few days, so by the time they merged together into what amounted to almost a twenty-four hour period, all three of them had to be well-established with their own voices and role in the story.

What fears you had while publishing your first novel The Women of Heachley Hall? How did you overcome your fears?

The biggest fear, which is probably the same for all authors, is that your book will sink without trace as Amazon is a huge bookshop and I’m just one of millions trying to get noticed. It’s been tough marketing the book without spoiling the twist. I tried to reach out to book bloggers for reviews and I was very lucky to find an enthusiastic bunch who really liked the story and helped give it an all important boost at the beginning. I contacted local bookshops for support, reading groups and friends and family. All of which created a lift that I could then build on with advertising.

The Last Thing She Said is a fantastic blend of mystery, family drama, and a bit of paranormal. How did you balance all the elements in the book so perfectly?

The key to writing Magical Realism is the realistic elements. The characters have to be believable and grounded in normal day to day things that we relate to – death, love and the stresses of a working life. Over that I layer the mystery which is steeped in a bit of magic. With The Last Thing She Said I never question why one of the sisters has an unusual gift, the same with Heachley Hall and the unnatural events that surround the house. Weird stuff happens and the purpose of the books was never to explain why.

Are your characters inspired by real-life people or are they all purely from your imagination? Who inspired the characters of Rose’s granddaughters, Rebecca, Leia, and Naomi?

Oh, they’ve all got a bit of me. I’m a mother, like Rebecca, a scientist, although nothing like as clever as Leia, and a musician, which is Naomi’s strength, but I don’t like performing, so writing her part required me to dig deeper and find out what makes somebody good a performing. But ultimately, they are unique. Best not to draw too much on real-life!

Among moments of mummy taxi, delving into museum archives, drawing pictures and flute playing, for how long do you wish to pen your stories?

As long as I can. I’m quite happy writing. I don’t suffer with writer’s block. My problem is keeping to just one book at a time. However, the editing and publishing side is something I find tough and less rewarding.

Who is your favorite character in the book, "The Women of Heachley Hall?" How do you come up with character names?

I’m rather fond of Ruth. She’s down to earth, somebody you can rely on. The names for the characters I don’t think about too much. Usually they’re easy to type, so short and sweet.

When are you most inspired to write? What are some things you do to motivate yourself when you're stuck in a rut?

I’m a Spring writer. I go to sleep in the Winter and struggle to keep up the word count. When I spend more time researching aspects of the book and less time writing it, I know I’ve lost momentum. At that point I go back to reading. There’s nothing like a good book to get the words flowing again.

What are you currently working on? On any normal day, what would you be doing if you weren't writing?

I’m working on another ghostly mystery set in Lincoln and the precincts of the old castle, which now contain an old prison and a courthouse. A great setting for an historical influence on a contemporary tale.

On any normal day… I don’t think I have a normal day. I sometimes bake, do some Tai-Chi, play music and draw. I also have a blog under an anonymous account where I post flash fiction and other things that take my fancy. Anything else in the day is kid-orientated and likely to keep me busy.

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