Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Rachel Anne Cox, and I am 38 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but I have lived in Utah for the past 13 years.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was told once that my life should be a Lifetime movie. But we won’t get into that here. The short version is that I lived the first 25 years of my life in Louisiana. I moved to Utah to escape an abusive relationship and start a new life. I studied theatre for two years, then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing in 2010 and a master’s in English in 2012. I now teach English at Weber State University and happily write my books with most of my free time. I have four sisters, and 24 fantastic nieces and nephews who all hold my heart in their hands. And I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
The absolute latest news is that my debut novel A Light from the Ashes will be released on September 30 of this year.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing in some form or another my whole life. I think the first thing I ever wrote was a play when I was about 8 years old. After that, I wrote a family newspaper weekly. I’ve kept a consistent life journal since I was 15. Poetry, short stories, and finally novels…it has all been an outpouring of feelings and ideas that I never could silence. I didn’t ever feel like I had a choice about writing. It’s just something that naturally happened, like breathing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Although I played around with writing stories all through high school, I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I was in college. I had gone to study theatre, and I truly thought I wanted to be a musical theatre actress. When life took me down another path and I began studying English, I took my first fiction writing class in 2008. That same year, I started my first real novel, and I entered one of my short stories in my university’s annual fiction writing contest. When my story won first place and I had a public reading, I thought, “This is it. Now I am a writer.” I never looked back after that, but just jumped in head and heart first.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As I said, I started writing my first novel (as yet unpublished) as an adult during college. I didn’t finish it until I graduated with my master’s degree. I had been reading about and studying Boston marriages and romantic friendships of the late 19th and early 20th century for a few years. They fascinated me. In 2008, I rediscovered my love of Sarah Orne Jewett’s writing and started reading about her life. She too lived in a Boston marriage with Annie Adams Fields. I was drawn to the idea that these relationships between women were normalized and encouraged in society for many years. No one thought anything of them until about the time of the suffrage movement around 1910 in the United States. I thought, “What if there was a story about one of these established relationships and what those women would go through after society’s shift in ideology?” So, I was inspired by the relationship between Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields, but my characters were fictional.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title of that first book is Loving Silence. I took it from a line from a Sarah Orne Jewett poem “Verses,” “Each is so sure of all the friendship sweet,/The loving silence gives no thought of pain.”
The title of my debut novel A Light from the Ashes was born out of the story itself. Light, fire, and rebirth were recurring metaphors throughout the story. I wanted to reflect that, and I also wanted the title to represent the hope that is inherent in the story.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My style could be termed literary. I love words and crafting beautiful sentences, almost like painting a picture. My current challenge is jumping between genres. My new release is dystopian fiction, but my other projects are all historical fiction. It is interesting how an author can be pigeon holed sometimes into a particular genre, but I am determined to write whatever stories come to me in whatever genre. Another challenge is willing myself to stop researching after a while and actually begin writing chapters. Research for my novels is always so fascinating and compelling to me that I could easily drown in it. But there comes a time when you have to say, “I know enough about the setting and my characters’ lives. Now it’s time to get on with the story.”
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most writers draw from their own life experiences in some way or another. All of my characters contain pieces of me, pieces of people I have known, or snippets of real dialogue from my life here or there. But are any of them a direct representation of people in my life or an exact retelling of an event? No. The joy for me is in the piecing together, in the creation of entirely new stories out of the old.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I haven’t up to this point. However, I am planning a research trip to New York and Massachusetts next year. The subject of my current project lived most of her life in New York, and there is a collection of her papers at Harvard that I need to dive into.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
For A Light from the Ashes, my publisher introduced me to a wonderful cover designer, Judith Nicholas of Judith S. Design and Creativity.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Mostly the idea of hope and never giving up the fight as long as there is breath in your body. Dystopian novels are inherently dark and sound an alarm of warning. But I firmly believe that dystopian authors write these stories not to embrace the darkness, but to fight it and help people and society find a different path, a brighter path.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, is a fantastic newer author. That is the best book I have read in the last couple of years. I couldn’t put it down. Another is Kate Mulgrew, the actress. She has written two memoirs and is currently writing a novel, I believe. She is a fantastic story teller.
It is nearly impossible to choose just one favorite author when I read well over 30 books a year. But some of my favorites are Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, Virginia Woolf, John Steinbeck, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Gaskell, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Margaret Atwood, and Edith Wharton. The connecting tie between all of them is the beauty of their language, and their ability to pull me into the worlds they create completely, without reservation.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Again, how to name just one? I have what I lovingly term my committee, a few solid, ever-supportive friends and advisors. They have listened to more than their fair share of story-boarding sessions, manic ramblings about characters as if they are real people, and despair when I had to say goodbye to those characters.
My professors in college have always been kind, supportive, and encouraging of this crazy dream.
And the wonderful lady to whom A Light from the Ashes is dedicated, my high school English teacher. She believed in me not just as a writer, but at a time when I was in desperate need of support and encouragement, she strengthened me and believed in me as a human being. She made me believe I could do and be more than I was. She saw potential in me and nurtured it.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. 100%. I do have a “day job” for now as well. But so much of my energy and goals are about the writing. And I write every single day, just like a job. It is the career I nurture.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t believe I would. I worked on this book for three solid years. Rewrite after rewrite. Editing upon editing. And through that process, I think it has become the best story it could be.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Absolutely. I feel like I am constantly learning. One thing that comes to mind from this specific book is that I learned to let my characters tell me their stories and stop controlling them. Basically, I learned to let go of control. I made a plan in the beginning, but kept myself open to inspiration and changes along the way. This created a more organic and realistic story.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Funny story: I always cast my stories with actors and actresses in my mind, as it helps me picture my characters as real people. This particular book is an ensemble cast. If I had my ideal wish, the characters would be played by: Sam Worthington as my main character Sam, Jessica Chastain as Sophie, Essie Davis as Jesse, Morgan Freeman as Zacharias to name a few.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Two pieces of advice come to mind. One, write about something you are passionate about. If you aren’t passionate about your subject, no amount of willpower will get you through the tough spots.
Two, show up to write every single day. Don’t wait for the inspiration to strike you. If you write consistently every day, the inspiration will come to you.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
First, thanks for reading. Also, never stop reading. Books and reading represent some of the best that is in humanity.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Several: Wuthering Heights, The Library Book, Maude Adams: Idol of American Theater, Peter Pan, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I feel like it was probably either Who’s a Pest or The Pokey Little Puppy. But the first books that made a real impact on me were the Anne books by Lucy Maude Montgomery. The first book two books that made me cry were Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside from that series.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh every single day at so many things. I cry over films, when I’m happy, and when I miss people I love.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are lots, but right now, it would probably be Maude Adams. I am currently writing about her, and she is the most fascinating enigma of a person I’ve ever come across, and a truly beautiful and kind human being.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I play the piano, sing, dabble at painting and photography. I also love taking nature walks every day.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love classic movies from the 30s to the 60s and any and all British television and film. Some favorite shows include: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Gentleman Jack, Call the Midwife, Frasier, Will and Grace, Friends, and Grey’s Anatomy.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: Chocolate or Cajun food from back home. I’m quite fond of sushi, Indian, and Italian food.
My favorite colors are purple and blue.
I have eclectic tastes when it comes to music. Broadway musicals, indie folk, 40s music, 70s and 80s music, film scores, and lots more.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Do I have to imagine a future where I don’t write? That just sounds sad. But if I weren’t writing, I would probably go back to doing musical theatre in some capacity or another. I would most likely continue teaching as well.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I want to spend my last hours with family and friends, soaking in all the love this world has to offer.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“She loved completely, lived fearlessly, and gave selflessly.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Absolutely! My website is: https://rachelannecoxwriter.com. Readers can also follow me on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/rachel_anne_cox_writer/ or on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/rachelannecoxwriter/.
Amazon Authors page USA https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Anne-Cox/e/B07XWJWK7Z?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_6&qid=1568451812&sr=1-6