Long and Short Reviews welcomes Raquel Byrnes, whose latest book Bayou Blue, the third book in the Shades of Hope series, was released August 31st. Raquel will be giving a paperback copy of this book to one randomly drawn commenter on this interview.
I asked her to tell us something about the book we wouldn't learn from the blurb.
"Riley Drake, the heroine in Bayou Blue, drives Jake crazy. Not only in the sense that she’s beautiful and smart, but she is also making decisions that defy logic in his mind. He thinks she’s the strongest person he’s ever met and that’s saying a lot in his world," she answered.
Raquel was determined to get the cuisine right for this story—it's set in the snaking waterways of Louisiana and takes place in a few local cafes and home kitchens. To make sure she got the food spot on, she sought out and ate meals that included alligator hush puppies and crawfish gumbo.
"Both of which are quite yummy, by the way," she assured me.
Raquel is working on a new Gothic romance series that she admits has been a lot of fun to write. In the series, The Noble Island Mysteries, the setting and characters are edgier and darker than some of her other works, with unexplained happenings that add to the suspense. The first book in the series, Whispers of Shadow Bay is scheduled for release in January 2013.
"How long have you been writing?" I asked.
"I’ve been writing for about a decade now. I started off with scenes scribbled in a black and white composition book when I should have been taking Biology notes. From that I took creative writing courses in college, workshops at conferences, and whatever else I could do to learn more about the craft of storytelling."
In addition to being a writer, Raquel is a homeschooling mom, so most of her day is taken up with, she said, "sugar cube pyramid projects and spelling tests. I start to write when the kids go to bed around 8:30 and write until 1:30 or so. It worked out well for me that I am a night owl."
She's a plotter, through and through, she admitted, as well as being a list maker, outline lover, and a plot block constructor. She starts out with a legal pad of paper and ends up with a filled three-ring binder.
To develop her plots and characters, she tends to use the Snow Flake method.
"One sentence to one paragraph and so on to pull the initial idea out to a complete story," she explained. "After I have an idea of what is going to happen, I try to think of the worst type of personality to deal with the situation I’ve created. If I have a circumstance that requires finesse, then my main character may end up being someone that struggles with a temper or who is terrified of being made to look foolish. Usually the plot and the characters push each other along. A plot point might tweak a character in an unexpected direction, whose reaction changes the course of the story from where I thought it was going. The two are intertwined from the beginning."
The characters are very important—they must resonate with the reader, she told me.
"As a reader myself, if I really care about the character or am just morbidly curious, I’ll go along for the ride of the entire book," she said. "To that end, I have to see some sort of change or growth in the main guy or girl. There has to be a reason for everything that happened in the story for me."
"Do you ever suffer from writer's block?" I asked. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"When writer’s block hits me, I usually go straight to movie trailers. I know that may seem strange, but I find it works wonders for me. There’s something about the drama and music thrown together to hook an audience in just a few seconds. On top of that, trailers are perfect packages of the who, what, and what will happen if…Those are the three questions I usually try to have down cold before I begin a book. When I get stuck, I try to imagine what my book’s movie trailer might look like."
She also likes to listen to movie soundtracks that have the right ambience for whatever scene she's writing.
"For instance, I love my chase scenes to have a techno drive, while my more suspenseful ones to roll along with the deep string sounds of bayou music from a scary movie," she explained. "I also have special 'romantic' music from my favorite films to inspire my writing."
She was very influenced by mystery authors Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime novels, and Dashiell Hammett. Another favorite is John Sandford .
"He takes up much too much room in my Kindle," she told me. "His Prey novels are a great mix of complex characters and powder keg situations. His dialogue gets me cracking up all the time. I’ve learned a lot from reading his cop dramas. Their cat and mouse finesse can be suited for a number of genres and he’s never disappointing."
"How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in the romance genre?" I wondered.
"Well, I think we all have something special to bring to the tables because our individual experiences color our work. For me, I started out writing action thrillers and I still have a taste for that edge of your seat feel. My romances are fast paced with lots of exciting twists and turns. I guess you can’t take the car chase out of the writer after all."
Finally, I asked, "If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?"
"I think I would be less frantic about it. I was under the impression that time was slipping away when I really should have just enjoyed the journey. Meeting with other people that have a passion for the written word has been a huge blessing whether they were fellow writers or readers. I’d stop and smell the literary roses as it were."
About the Author:
Raquel married her college sweetheart seventeen years ago and you can still find them spending time together chatting over a cup of coffee like when they were first dating. Her husband is her biggest fan and most ardent supporter. He encourages her to take time for writing as often as he can. He regularly gives her gift cards to her favorite coffee house so that she can go there to write and relax. He has been known to whip up his famous chicken quesadillas complete with guacamole and brownies for dessert.
Raquel has six children ranging from 15 to 4 years old, with her youngest two barely 9 months apart. She has said that adopting was the most amazing blessing she could have ever hoped for. She homeschools her children and finds herself working amid sugar cube pyramid projects and science fair experiments. When she isn't foraging her kitchen for project parts or giving spelling tests, she is writing or researching her novels. Raquel calls it controlled chaos and she loves it.
Find Raquel online at
Caught between revenge and redemption...
Sheriff Jake Ayers wants his parish to heal from the tragic bombing that left his town in mourning, but with Riley Drake back in town, that’s not going to happen. Jake cares for the beautiful, determined reporter, but Riley is causing no end of trouble. Most of the people want her dead. Emotions run deep in the bayou, and Jake’s are no exception. Keeping a level head and an indifferent heart is going to be as difficult as keeping Riley alive.
With her family shamed, and her faith shaken, Riley carries a heavy burden. She returns to Bayou La Foudre Parish to clear her brother’s name, but her mission is difficult. The people of the town are convinced of his guilt, and her only ally is Jake Ayers. Both frustrated and fascinated by the parish’s brooding sheriff, Riley hopes she's found someone to trust with her burden…and her heart.