Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Student Interview with Rachel Hawthorne!

As part of career day at Blendon (see Linda Gerber Interview!), our 8th graders were to shadow people in different jobs and ask them questions. One of my 8th graders is a huge Rachel Hawthorne fan, and Ms. Hawthorne very graciously granted this student an e mail interview. Authors are wonderful people. My student (and I!) were thrilled.

Sarah:I have thought of many story ideas. It’s just hard to put them on paper and keep them going. What should I do if I get caught in my story?

Rachel Hawthorne: It’s easy to get distracted by other story ideas so I work on only one story at a time. I do keep a file called “ideas” where I’ll jot down notes for other stories but I only work on the one story. What you might consider doing is setting yourself a deadline for when the story needs to be finished—say three or four months—and try to meet that deadline.

Sarah: What made you want to be an author?

Rachel Hawthorne: I’ve always wanted to be an author. I’ve always written—stories, journals, letters.

Sarah: Is it a hard process to get in manuscripts and see if your books
can be published?

Rachel Hawthorne: Getting published depends on a lot of factors coming together: you need to have the right manuscript on the right editor’s desk at the right time. Sometimes an editor will turn down a story because she just bought one that had the same theme. Or maybe the story sounds too much like another one they just bought or maybe the subject isn’t right for the time. A few years ago, no one was buying vampires. Now everyone is looking for vampire books. Timing is everything.

I advise you to finish your story and then begin researching to find yourself an agent. Once you’ve sold your first manuscript, you can usually sell on proposal, which means that you tell your editor the idea before you write it. If she likes it, she’ll go ahead and give you a contract with a deadline. You then write your story.

Sarah: In all of your books the girls are from Texas. Why is that so?

Rachel Hawthorne: The girls are from Texas because I live in Texas and it’s easier to write about what I know.

Sarah: As an author is there any certain message that you want to get through to your readers?

Rachel Hawthorne: I don’t really strive to tell messages. I just like to write a fun story. And while I’m the author, my characters usually take over and determine what happens in the story. (Makes me sound psycho I know.)

Sarah: Is there any special education you need to become an author?

Rachel Hawthorne: Not really—but that said, education does broaden your horizons which helps in writing, gives you a larger canvas to work with because it can open your mind to possibilities. I do recommend English and grammar classes.

Sarah: Out of all of the books that you have written, which is your favorite? Any favorite characters?

My favorite is the one I’m writing right now—Suite Dreams. It’s almost finished. Favorite character is a toughie. I’ve loved all the heroes in the books. Why write about someone you don’t love?

Sarah: You do so well with characterization, distinctly making each character different in there own way. Any tips on doing so?

Rachel Hawthorne: Thank you. I have a degree in psychology which I think helps with my character development. I also have a vivid imagination so I can very clearly picture the characters in my mind: how they sound, how they act, how they think. I do a lot of people watching. Some authors I know will cut out pictures from magazines so they can see their characters. I also try to give each character a small habit or character trait that’s unique to that character. Dani had her chocolate chip ice cream; Dawn has her Life is Good hat; Ashleigh loved scary things. I try to figure out what my characters love, what they fear. Who are they? If they were sitting in my living room, how would they sit? Basically, just see them as people.

Thank you for the wonderful questions and for enjoying my stories so much!

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