I’m excited to introduce my July guest, women’s fiction author Rachel Linden. I enjoyed her second novel, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, and so her upcoming book, The Enlightenment of Bees, is at the top of my most-anticipated list for 2019… especially considering the main character is a baker! Today she’s talking about the process of putting herself into her stories and why she weaves serious topics into uplifting stories.
Writing Authentically From My Life and Passions
Recently I looked back at my unpublished first novel and something caught my eye. It’s a pretty good story, but it didn’t feel like MY story. I was learning the craft of novel writing – plotting, characterization, how to increase tension, how to make the prose come alive on the page – but I really didn’t know what made a story uniquely mine yet. The story had shades of several other authors (Frank Peretti for one), but not much of ME!
It’s a delicate thing, to figure out as an author how to put my personal touch on a story, how to weave life lessons, my interests and passions, my own worldview into the story while still maintaining the integrity of the fictional world, plot and characters. My third novel will be published this month and I’m continuing to grow in my understanding of how to do this and what exactly makes a story mine!
I write clean, general market women’s fiction. Each of my novels features strong women facing big life challenges, and each has elements of my own life experiences, passions and worldview. When I start considering a new story, I ask myself what the story will contain of me. If a story idea doesn’t fit well with the books I’ve already published, I don’t pursue it! It could be a good story, but it isn’t a Rachel Linden story.
I also always include travel and food in my fiction. I lived abroad and worked for seven years with an international faith based organization, traveling to more than fifty countries, so my stories always have an international, world-traveler flavor to them. Travel is such an integral part of my life and one I love to share in my writing! My new novel, The Enlightenment of Bees, is about an idealistic Seattle baker, who, when her entire life crumbles, sets off on an around the world humanitarian trip to find her new sweet spot in life. It takes place partly in Mumbai and Budapest.
I also love to eat and love to cook, so somehow food keeps slipping into my novels. I didn’t originally intend for it to happen, but now I’ve embraced it as part of my brand. In The Enlightenment of Bees, the main character, Mia, is a baker. I enjoyed writing about a lot of delicious pastries and also the amazing food in India! (As a side note, my editor says she has to read my manuscripts with plenty of snacks handy because she gets hungry while she reads!)
Another extremely important theme for me to put in my books are social justice issues involving women. I’ve worked in Europe with women in trauma and with refugees, and issues of social justice are very much on my heart. I am passionate about including themes of social justice in my novels because I love to share and raise awareness about these incredibly important issues. In Becoming the Talbot Sisters I write about sex trafficking in Europe from a women-centered viewpoint. Sex trafficking was something I was working against while we were living in Budapest. The Enlightenment of Bees takes place partly in a refugee camp on the border of Serbia where I volunteered during the refugee crisis in 2015.
Although these are heavy issues, I want to portray all the themes of my books in light of three key words – hope, courage and connection. So while the topic might be sobering, I want there to be a hopeful and uplifting feel to my books. I want them to entertain, inform and inspire, which is a tall order but something I am aiming for.
And finally each of my novels includes some clean, uplifting romance because I’m a romantic at heart. I have a love story with my husband that feels a bit like a Hallmark movie – moments of sheer elation, tears, and a few plot twists! I love to celebrate the messy, wonderful aspects of love in my stories and really, who doesn’t love to read about love?
Thanks for taking a little peek into my story writing process and into the ways I make each of my novels uniquely my own! How about you? What unique elements do your favorite authors put in their books? Are there specific things you look for in a story? What’s your favorite read so far this summer?
Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures in over fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her writing. She is the author of Ascension of Larks, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, and The Enlightenment of Bees. Currently Rachel lives with her family in Seattle, WA where she enjoys creating stories about hope, courage and connection with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.