Long and Short Reviews welcomes Rachael Johns, whose debut novel, One Perfect Night, debuted last month with Carina Press. I asked her to tell us a little bit about her book.
"One Perfect Night is about voice talent Peppa Grant and her aloof but extremely sexy and infamous boss, Cameron McCormac. There’s a mix up of identity and a very steamy one night stand, but at the heart of this story is their issues. Peppa has been hurt almost irreparably before and Cameron has suffered a great loss that now affects his ability to get a good night’s sleep. Until he meets Peppa, he hasn’t stayed the night with a woman in a very long time. I have night terrors myself and I wanted to explore how these episodes could affect a sexy, successful hero!"
This book actually went through revisions with Mills and Boon before being contracted by Carina, Rachael told me. M&B liked her voice and parts of the story, but wanted her to take out the Christmas element, the family elements, and the boss/employee storyline.
"Basically, rewrite the story," Rachael said, "which I happily did, but I don’t think the passion stayed between the pages. My heart wasn’t in that story and the editors could tell. In the end, I followed my gut, went back to the original version and sent it off to Carina. I’m so pleased they loved it."
She's currently working on a book with the working title of Hollywood Heartbreak, according to Rachael, "because it’s set in Hollywood and the characters get heartbroken! Simple, right?"
The titles used to be really easy for Rachael. In fact, they used to just pop into her head and the story would often come after. Since she's started planning her plot, conflict, and characters more, she finds the titles a lot harder. In fact, One Perfect Night, changed its name numerous times as it went through submissions and revisions.
Hollywood Heartbreak is about an Aussie cultural anthropologist who goes to LA to collect her dead and estranged sister’s Oscar Award. There she meets her sister’s lover who immediately suspects the worst of her and makes it his business to tell her!
"I’m having fun writing about a place I’ve never been before," Rachael said, "and am hoping like hell there won’t be too many mistakes in terms of culture and setting."
Rachael told me that the reason she started writing was actually a funny, sad story.
"I liked this boy for four years in high school, before he finally felt sorry for me and asked me to the ball. After that we dated (well as much as you do in high school) for five months and then we broke up," she explained. "I dumped him in some weird hormonal swing and regretted it ten seconds later. I spent the next five years pining after him until I finally met my now hubby. I read Brigit Jones Diary by Helen Fielding just after I broke up with the boy and thought, hey, I can do that! So, instead of therapy, I wrote our story – rewriting the ending, so we did get together but then he died. I was eighteen!! Hopefully my stories have improved since then and are a little less morbid."
Even though it's been around fourteen years since she broke up with her high school sweetheart, she didn't get serious about writing commercial fiction until 2006, when a challenge with one of her friends from university resulted in both of them trying to write an M&B. Her friend never made it past the first chapter, but Rachael fell totally in love with romance."
She doesn't suffer from traditional writer's block, she told me. Her block is time. She has three sons under seven and a supermarket business, so she struggles to fit her writing in.
"I swear if there were more hours in the day, I’d be a very busy writer," she said.
"Who is your favorite author and why?" I wondered.
"That question is unfair! There are SO many. I’m a big Jenny Crusie fan, I LOVE British writer’s Lisa Jewell and Dorothy Koomson, but my author of the moment would have to be Susan Wiggs. I heard her at the 2011 Romance Writers of Australia conference and started reading her books just before this. She packs such emotional punch in a gripping plot that keeps you turning the pages until the early hours of the morning. I want to write a story that makes people stay up longer than they should," she said with a smile.
She told me that she thinks her family takes her writing more seriously that she does; that she continually has to remind herself that she's a writer, that it's not just a hobby.
"Like I couldn’t work out what occupation to put on our recent census form," she told me. "Duh! In the end I went with ‘Washerwoman’ – it was only the other day I realised I should have put ‘Writer’. I think maybe this is because I have always written, so it’s just part of who I am!"
I asked her to describe her writing space.
"Besides a mess, you mean? It’s a tiny, corner desk stuck in the corner (surprise surprise) of our dining room. It’s littered with papers, toys, books, more books, trolls (I used to collect them) and of course my computer. It also has the Doubt Demon and the Minxy Meercats – my faithful writing mascots. You can usually find a couple of empty glasses with Diet Coke stain in the bottom." She added with a smile, "And there’s a lot of pink."
"What is your work schedule like when you are writing?" I asked.
"You’re supposed to have a schedule? Oh dear! Well, I guess I kinda have one. It often gets interrupted but my writing generally happens like this. After getting the school-aged kids off to school, I do a few household chores and then put on Playschool for the littlies. They watch an hour of TV where I write (and check emails, blogs, etc). The idea is that I have a head start on the evening when the majority of my writing gets done. Throughout the day, my story is always on my mind, so in that way I’m always writing!"
She has dreams of when her kids are over, she'll have time to pamper other hobbies, but right now she doesn't have time to do anything else. Some of the hobbies she's interested in is scrapping, reading, baking cakes, and she has a deep desire to learn to quilt one day.
On a personal note, I asked Rachael if she wanted a dog.
"I did and then I got one. An Old English Sheepdog GIANT of a dog. I blame my mum who let me have every animal under the sun when I was a child but not a dog. Hubby couldn’t say no and so I got the dog I’d always dreamed of having. But let me tell you a BIG, SHAGGY, HIGH-MAINTENENCE dog is probably not the best-dog for a first timer and someone who isn’t really sure if they’re a dog person or not. Still, we love him lots, despite how often he lets off at my feet when I’m trying to write."
Even though she always wanted a dog, she admitted that her favorite animals are cats. Growing up she had pictures of kittens plastered all over her bedroom wall. And, even though she has a massive dog now, she still thinks that cats make so much more sense.
"They CLEAN themselves for a start!!" she said. "At this point I must share a quote from a key ring that I think sums cats up perfectly. 'Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should just sit back and get used to the idea.'
Rachael hates how she looks in pictures, she told me, saying. "Doesn't everyone? I remember telling my wedding photographer that he MUST make me look good and I mustn’t have the double chin that always seemed to miraculously appear from NOWHERE when I was in a photo. He told me to point my shoulders back and stick my chin out. I try but I just feel awkward. Recently a friend took a photo of us both with her arm stretched out holding the camera. It was probably the best photo I’ve ever seen of me but she hated her image. Thank God for Photoshop. It’s actually the image with this interview."
Finally, I asked Rachael, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"It’s not very original but READ!! And then read some more. A lot of the genre you want to write in but also other stuff to study the craft. If you really love a book, pick it to pieces to try and work out why and do the same for books you want to throw at the wall! Then have faith in yourself and your dream!!"
About the Author: Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer by night. She rarely sleeps. Rachael received The Call from Angela James telling her Carina wanted to publish her book on April Fools Day and, when she told her friends, half of them wondered if it was a big joke. Luckily it wasn’t. As an active member of Romance Writers of Australia, Rachael has finaled and placed in a number of romance writing contests. Each success is uplifting and publication is her dream but even if none of this happened, she’d still write. It’s a much better option than ironing, which she refuses to partake in. Ever. Keep up with Rachael on her blog.