Rachel Van Dyken is The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor. She keeps her home in Idaho with her husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill.
Loren Kleinman (LK): Talk about how you started writing stories. What was the first story you wrote? What was it about?
Rachel Van Dyken (RVD): I was a school counselor and used my time in between seeing kids to write in order to relieve the stress. I was in charge of over 700 kids so it got pretty stressful at times…and a lot of them had such serious emotional issues that the writing really helped me deal and not take things home with me. The first book I wrote was Every Girl Does It, it’s a romantic comedy (chick lit) type of book about a girl who turned down the school nerd in high school, only to run into him nine years later and fall hard.
LK: Tell us about the conversations you have with your characters on and off the page?
RVD: [Laughs]. The conversations get pretty ridiculous. I swear there is constant dialogue in my head…I’m always writing things down or laughing out loud with things my characters say. They are a very real part of my every day life, which makes it so much more fun when I’m able to share their stories.
RVD: This is such a hard question! It changes depending on what I’m writing. Right now, my favorite literary boyfriend is Tex Campisi from the Eagle Elite series, I love that he’s willing to do anything to save those he love even if it means he has to be the bad guy.
LK: Can you tell writers and readers about your success as a #1 NYT Bestselling author? How did you get there? What’s the secret? Is there one? Or is just luck?
RVD: Hitting #1 was incredible…it’s something that rarely happens in a person’s lifetime so for me it was an experience that I still feel so humbled and grateful for. I honestly don’t know how I got there other than I prayed a lot and I believed in the book. I wish there was a secret or magic formula so I could recreate that success every single book release, but the truth of the matter is, there is no magic pill. Just like working out or eating well in order to stay healthy, there is no shortcut. With the NYT sometimes you hit it just right, other times there’s tons of competition or similar releases, it really just depends on the market. My advice to authors is always to keep writing and believe in what you write, put the best book you have out there and then keep writing. That’s the secret to me, always write, don’t give up, and keep moving forward.
RVD: I’m a total pantzer. I don’t outline, I don’t sit down and plan out an entire story, a lot of times I know what I want to happen but even then things change. I have a tendency to believe that when you plan what happens with your characters you take away their choices…it makes things less realistic. They need to react in the moment otherwise it’s just this planned out story that readers are going to see coming a mile away.
LK: Do you believe in the concept that fiction show us what it’s like to be human being? Does it take us through our mortality?
RVD: Absolutely! Fiction helps us see parts of ourselves that we don’t see on a regular basis. It helps us think, teaches us lessons, and at the end of the day helps us become better human beings.
LK: Why historical fiction? Would you ever write New Adult Historical Romance? Why?
LK: What are the pros of being a hybrid author? Do you consider yourself indie regardless of publishing medium?
RVD: Being a hybrid gives the author a type of freedom you don’t typically get with traditional publishing. You get to pick your own release dates, cover art, price points, and the marketing plan also falls into your hands. I still consider myself indie even though I’m published traditionally as well. The majority of my books are indie and will stay that way.
LK: Respond to this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love: “Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.”
RVD: Ah, isn’t the typical story for every female character out there? We always go into relationships thinking, “This is going to be the one,” And you justify your actions or someone elses actions in order to stick it out. Women tend to be more romantic so we take what we see in the movies and in books and project that into our own lives and in our own relationships creating a type of fantasy world that doesn’t always fit into reality. I think it’s good to have high standards and be optimistic within relationships but you should also know that nobody is perfect—not even the book boyfriends you read about.
LK: Is it safe to say you have more books in the works?
RVD: Absolutely! I have four more releases this year plus a few backlist titles re-releasing…in January I have another release and during the Spring I’ll be debuting a brand new contemporary romance series.