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Everyday Lives, Everyday Values Interview With Rachel Ann Nunes

Program originally aired on KSL Radio on January 8, 2006.

Host: Doug Wright

Doug: And welcome to the program; it's great to have you along today. We have a very special book and a very special author to chat with. The title of the book is Chasing Yesterday, which is a novel, and Rachel Ann--and I never would have gotten this correctly had you not guided me here—it's Nunes.

Rachel: Nunes.

Doug: I got that. That's Portuguese, you were telling me.

Rachel: Yes, it's Portuguese.

Doug: Very interesting. I cannot believe with all of these books to your credit, Rachel, that--do you prefer Rachel Ann?

Rachel: Rachel.

Doug: Rachel, I cannot believe that we have not chatted before. How many books have you authored now?

Rachel: Yes, this is my twenty-third book.

Doug: Twenty-third book and the fourth with Deseret Book.

Rachel: Yes.

Doug: That is just amazing. I'd like our listeners to get to know you a little bit better before we talk about the various books but particularly this one, Chasing Yesterday. Take us back. Where did this gift come from? Where did this love of writing come from?

Rachel: You know what, I knew that I was going to be a writer from the time I was in fifth grade. I think maybe I was born knowing it, but that was when it really centralized in my mind that I wanted to be an author. I loved reading. I still love reading; I read avidly. And so that for me was just a natural thing for me to want to do, is to read. And my parents are both very literary people.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And my mom taught me to read when I was four; my father was continually correcting my verbs. He was a French professor at BYU.

Doug: Wow.

Rachel: So you can imagine how that went.

Doug: Oh, yeah.

Rachel: And so, it was a natural process for me. I just knew. And as soon as I got old enough I started writing. I was seventeen when I wrote my first novel.

Doug: Really?

Rachel: Yes.

Doug: Oh, that, see that kind of thing, for those of us who like to think that buried somewhere deep down inside of us is something wonderful, and then to find out you wrote your first novel at seventeen. That is humbling to say the least. Did you have a particular--above and beyond parents--was there that golden teacher in the fifth grade or somebody who went, "Wow. You've got a gift."

Rachel: Well, you know what, I have always written and read a lot, like I said before, and I remember a teacher when I was in, I believe it was the second grade, she would have contests for who could read the most books.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And I would win the contests, you know, and then later on I had a teacher in fifth grade who said, "This is a great story." But no one really who was a, you know, a mentor or anything like that. Mainly it was the books I read, the authors I read who were my mentors.

Doug: Yeah. Who did you like to read?

Rachel: Oh, everything. And I have to confess that I mainly grew up on fantasy. I loved fantasy.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: I read it avidly, everything, and to this day I still read fantasy. I read it to my children; my children all love it; and we have a lot of fun together reading, so.

Doug: Is there a favorite author?

Rachel: Right now I have a lot of favorite authors in different genres. In fantasy we love to read Tamora Pierce and Gail Carson Levine.

Doug: Uh-huh.

Rachel: And other books, we like Louis Sachar.

Doug: Sure.

Rachel: Those are the books I read with my children. And for myself, for women's fiction, I read Anna Quindlen, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve—and it's funny they're all A's. (Rachel's later note: "After this interview, I started to read a few more books by these women and was shocked at the content of their later books. I no longer feel I can buy them for my personal library.")

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: But I read a lot. So those are just some of the authors I'm reading now, you know, that have affected me.

Doug: Take us back to that first novel. What was it about?

Rachel: It was a fantasy novel.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: It was, of course, that's what I was reading. And, oh, it was just fun. I've created a whole world with different rules and characters and talents that they had, magic talents, and I read it now and I laugh because it's really funny.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: You know, I have progressed as a writer to the point where that would be embarrassing to have anybody read it at this point. But there are some good ideas there.

Doug: So when were you first published?

Rachel: My first book came out in 1996, and that was also the year I had my fourth child. So I had a book and a baby in one year, and it was very rewarding. And since then I've never looked back. It's just, I love writing and I love my children and I love my readers. I just, you know, it's a good life.

Doug: Well, you've got six kids.

Rachel: Yes.

Doug: And, you know, your husband T.J. that undoubtedly takes a little care and feeding.

Rachel: Yeah.

Doug: How in the world do you find the time to write?

Rachel: You know, one of my books is dedicated to my husband, and it says, "For all the pajama evening gowns and corn dog dinners." You know, he really is, my husband is the staple and the reason I am able to write because he is my support. For instance, he has spent three months working on a wonderful new website for me, which just debuted, and that's my name, RachelAnnNunes.com. And if I didn't have him I don't think I could have done it because my kids do take a lot of time, and he helps me in the house with the children. It's not an easy thing to do to be an author.

Doug: Oh, you know, I so admire those that can write. I chatted with somebody once and I've read people who have said something similar to this that they, it goes something to this effect that, "I hate to write but I am so glad to have written." Do you enjoy the process?

Rachel: I love the process. I love it. I love sitting at the computer and having the words flow. And it's really odd when your characters are more real to you than your new next door neighbors.

Doug: Yeah, right.

Rachel: But that happens a lot, and so you just, no, there's nothing that equals the process of sitting there and having the inspiration come, having your muse whisper in your ear. There's nothing like it.

Doug: I was going to ask about that. I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald that said, "You almost have to," you know, even as strange as his life ended up being with Zelda and everything, he said that, "You just have to sit down, whether you're in the mood or not or whatever and just write."

Rachel: And write. Right.

Doug: Even if it ends up being junk and it ends up being, you know, put in the round file.

Rachel: Right, because if you're not there then the muse won't come. And so there are some days when you're just sitting there and every word is like slogging through mud, you know.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: But then there are the other days that make it all worth it where it's coming so fast you can barely type to keep up.

Doug: Yeah. Do you find that there is a certain environment and a certain situation under which that is more likely to occur? You know, I envision this kind of beautiful library with a great big window that is a pastoral scene outside, it's lightly snowing, you know, it's just that perfect day, a fire in the fireplace, and then I will achieve brilliance.

Rachel: Well, see, and my dream is sitting on top of a cliff with the flowing white dress and the chocolates and the bonbons there.

Doug: That isn't really the way it happens?

Rachel: Oh, no. Usually, you know, you're crawling to the computer because you're too sick or whatever or your kids are on your lap—my daughter's almost always on my lap.

Doug: While you're writing?

Rachel: Yes. And so you cannot—she's two, you know, she's got no one else at home and I'm her only—so yes. And so my idea is there's no perfect thing to write, you know, you'll go in there, the desk will be a mess, but you can't waste time cleaning it up, you've got to get to the writing. You turn it on, ignore the email, and just get those words out. And you can always go back and fix it.

Doug: Oh, see, even when I have a, certainly not a novel to write, but a task I need to do and write, I sit down and I clean the desk and I clean out the email and do all that stuff first, empty the trash, you know. And then I get real thirsty.

Rachel: Yeah.

Doug: But you can't do that, huh?

Rachel: And you can whittle away all of your two hours or whatever it is you have at the computer. And I find if I focus I can get my writing goal done in two hours, two to three hours. Sometimes, though, if I have interruptions it'll take me all day. But I just set a goal and just do it. And, you know, my children are always first, so.

Doug: I'm very anxious to talk about Chasing Yesterday, the new novel that we are here to discuss. When we come back from this brief break we will do exactly that with our guest, Rachel Ann Nunes.

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Doug: Now, twenty-some-odd books, what was the exact number? Twenty-four?

Rachel: Twenty-three. This is the twenty-third.

Doug: This is the twenty-third. Is this, now we talked about....

Rachel: This is actually the twenty-first novel. I did two picture books, so it's twenty-three books. Does that make sense?

Doug: It makes sense. And I want to talk about one of the picture books, too, in a moment.

Rachel: The Secret of the King, yeah.

Doug: Yeah, because I've heard some really good things about that. But Chasing Yesterday, while not a series but yet is kind of series.

Rachel: Yeah.

Doug: Explain that to us.

Rachel: Okay. Chasing Yesterday is the third in a series about the Huntington family. Now, I say series loosely because a lot of times series will follow the same characters all the time.

Doug: Right.

Rachel: In this series we have four different siblings, so each book is about a different sibling from their point of view. So if you are a reader that picks up the fourth one or the third one or whichever one first you're not going to feel like, "Oh, I've missed something. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where I'm at."

Doug: Right.

Rachel: And so that's what I did this for, I picked it out where you could just pick up wherever and read it.

Doug: Right.

Rachel: But yet, if you're a reader who loves to read and they're following all these novels it's really neat to pick it up and say, "Oh, that's the sister that was the main character in that novel. That's happened since in her life."

Doug: Right.

Rachel: Because you see a little slice of that.

Doug: Let's talk about this book. Where does it take us? Tell us, first of all tell us a little bit about the family overall.

Rachel: Okay. Well, the family is, there are four siblings: Kerrianne is the oldest, then we have Amanda, Mitch, and Tyler. And Chasing Yesterday is Tyler's book, who is the youngest. But this is not just his book. There is a family friend named Savvy Hergarter, and so she's in it, too. And we know, because Savvy and Tyler have dated before but they have separated. Their relationship has gone awry.

Doug: Right.

Rachel: And he is here in Utah working as a journalist—he's engaged—while she's in California pursuing her dream as an astronomer. And you'll notice the book has stars and stuff on the front cover.

Doug: I noticed on the front, sure.

Rachel: That is because that is really important to her and to the story because that's her past. And in the opening chapter Tyler loses his job and he fights with his girlfriend and, of course, his thoughts immediately go to Savvy because she has been his friend, his constant for so many years, but she's gone now. She's in California. She opens her door—she's getting ready to go the airport to visit her family in Utah—and there's this wild-looking teenage girl whom she's never seen before, and the girl's claiming to be her half-sister. Now, since Savvy was adopted at age two by her step-father she knows it's very possible.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And as this story—that's when things begin to get difficult.

Doug: How much of you, or those around you, are in your characters?

Rachel: You know, in some books there are more similarities than others. For instance, in the very first book in this series, Winter Fire, I know a situation very similar to the children who were adopted in that book and the life that they led. And it was very similar and very sad, you know, and I wanted them to have a happy ending. And luckily, much later, after my book was published, the other one had a happy ending, too, so I was very happy about that.

Doug: Back to that doorstep scene, and again without giving away too much . . .

Rachel: Yes.

Doug:  . . .kind of, generally, where do we go? That's an interesting premise to kind of launch from.

Rachel: Well, think of it. Someone appears on your doorstep, "I'm your half-sister." And she's never met her father before, since she was two, she doesn't remember that. She only knows that he's never tried to contact her, and so why would he want to see her now? And so Tyler comes and he's helping her and they're trying to find out why this child has run away. What is in her life that is so horrible that she can't face? What is it about this father? And so they have to find out not only where she's from—because she won't tell them because she doesn't want to go back—and she has to confront her father for the first time in all these years.

Doug: Wow. Where do you tap into that? How do you kind of get yourself in that place?

Rachel: Oh, you know, you have to kind of imagine, what would it be if it were me, you know, if this happened in my life?

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And one of the things I think are very interesting is that, you know, you talk about romance, and you have a lot of the national romance and they're all, oh, beating hearts and....

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And I don't write that way. I mean, you've got to have the romance, the romance is wonderful, it's in almost everything, you know, from Star Wars to you name it, it's in there. But I also think you need to have a really good plot, something that's going to be meaty and give the readers something to read and something to muse over, to think about long after the book's over. So that's what I try and do, and I just put myself in there.

Doug: Yeah. With this having the Deseret Book imprint on it, is there a clear Mormon hook in here or is it incidental?

Rachel: Do you know what, in this respect the characters are LDS, and when she does meet her father there is some very important LDS values going on there, you know, as he has been a member in the past but has fallen away and how he's searching for his spirituality and wondering as he faces a possibility of moving onto the next life, what's going to be there? And so there is a little bit of that, it is not the focus. The focus of the story really is her relationship with her father and learning to trust Tyler again. He's finally said, "Maybe I was wrong all this time. She is the woman for me." And she's going, "What? I don't want to go through this pain again."

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And, you know, "I've got to focus on my sister now." There's a lot of different, I like to have a lot of different subplots.

Doug: Yeah. Having never written a novel or anything or kind of gone into this area, is it difficult to kind of get yourself in the guys mentality here?

Rachel: Yeah, you know, it's funny you would mention that because when I read books that are about women written by men generally I think, "That's not right. A woman wouldn't think that way."

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: There have been a few exceptions. I'm reading one now that actually seems to be an exception. I can't remember the name of it.

Doug: Right.

Rachel: I have to kind of think, and, you know, I think in these romance novels, or women's fiction that is romantic, we try and give the idea of what we think the men are but also our dream of what they should be.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: Does that make sense?

Doug: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

Rachel: But yet we want it to be realistic, I mean, a lot of times in some of my novels I've had CEO presidents and that sort of thing of companies, and my brother-in-law said to me one day, "Why don't you have some ordinary men?" So in this series I've made sure to have, you know, men in ordinary jobs.

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: You know, a journalist, a mail man, an appliance repairman.

Doug: Sure.

Rachel: A zoologist. And so I really try and think, "How would my husband react to this?"

Doug: Do you use him as a sounding board, by the way?

Rachel: Oh, often.

Doug: So you go, "T.J. Does this work?"

Rachel: "T.J. would you do this?" But I have to admit, my husband's a really good guy, and so he would come home and start cleaning and doing that sort of thing where other guys would turn on the TV or get the newspaper so I lucked out there. So I have to be careful.

Doug: Well, this is exciting. And for those who are going to pick up Chasing Yesterday the cool thing is that there are three books ahead of it, too.

Rachel: Yeah. Well, two books actually.

Doug: Two books, and this is the third.

Rachel: Yeah, and actually the one of the fourth sibling will be released later on this year. I've already finished it, so.

Doug: Oh, you've finished it?

Rachel: Yeah. I'm finished.

Doug: Wow. Now are you one of those authors who believes it's bad luck to tell me what the title is before it actually comes out?

Rachel: I don't. The next one's called By Morning Light.

Doug: All right. Now, is that a for sure because sometimes editors can override?

Rachel: You know, I think they're going to keep that one.

Doug: All right.

Rachel: But you never know. You never know until it's printed.

Doug: Absolutely.

Rachel: This was the only one I couldn't come up with a title, but it's perfect because throughout the whole book Tyler's chasing what they had, the relationship they had yesterday.

Doug: Yeah. The other books, I mean, so many to your credit now, and many of them novels, there are the picture books. And while we're on that topic I was reading where the Governor's Commission on Literacy, that they have, in their "read with a child for twenty minutes a day" program, your book was chosen. That is very cool. And this is The Secret of the King. Quickly tell us about that.

Rachel: Okay, The Secret of the King is a story about Javan and Lia, and they want more than anything to be knights in the king's army. And so they, this is a, kind of an allegorical story about how they go to try to be knights and then they learn in the end that the service that they can do in their individual talents is what the king needs at that moment instead of them fighting in the army. And there are a few secrets, and I'm not going to tell you about the secrets, but I will tell you that if you look at the fifth illustration you're going to see my face there holding up a lantern with my mouth wide open.

Doug: That's you.

Rachel: And so I'm actually, and the artist is the doctor in the story, so there's a few little cameos, but the story is so wonderful, with the paintings they just work so well. And when I read this aloud everybody always on the second to last page goes, "Huh!" because they learn the secret.

Doug: Oh, that's cool.

Rachel: And I'm not going to tell it to you, so.

Doug: I've got to go get it.

Rachel: You'll have to read it now.

Doug: That's right. The Secret of the King is what we just talked about. Again, chosen by the Governor's Commission on Literacy. Very quickly, we only have a couple of seconds left, tell us about some of the other books, quickly, the gamut from what to what?

Rachel: Well my first book was Ariana: The Making of a Queen, and that became a whole series and there's four books under that title but seven books in the series. And that is really a lot of times what people will know me by, "Oh, she's the author of the Ariana series."

Doug: Yeah.

Rachel: And I also wrote Where I Belong, A Greater Love, To Love and to Promise, and oh, there's just a whole bunch of books. And they're all contemporary with LDS characters.

Doug: Are most of them still in print and available?

Rachel: Most of them are still in print and available.

Doug: That is great. Now tell everybody what your website is again.

Rachel: My website is just my name, you can get to it by going to RachelAnnNunes.com or RachelNunes.com, either way will get you there. Just make sure you spell the name right.

Doug: That's right.

Rachel: N-U-N-E-S. And there you can read sample chapters, I have a published author spotlight, an aspiring author spotlight, motherhood tips, pictures, a way to win free books. I mean, there's just a lot of things that are available for people.

Doug: Oh, that's great. Rachel, this has been so much fun. I wish you the very, very best with Chasing Yesterday. We're anxious to have the next one, which is already done but not published yet.

Rachel: Not yet.

Doug: We wish you the very best.

Rachel: Thank you so much for having me here.

Doug: Thank you for joining us on Everyday Lives, Everyday Values.