A Chat with Rachel Harris

Sep 15, 2012

Lisa: So. Great minds apparently think alike. And great minds gravitate toward Italy…

Rachel: Well, is there really a better place to gravitate??? It’s gorgeous. The accents are beautiful. The food is delicious. The history is fabulous. Seriously, I don’t think it can get much better (*grin*)

Lisa: Agreed! I went medieval for the backdrop of my story. But you went with a couple hundred years later…why?

Rachel: I’ve had this borderline-obsession with the Renaissance since freshman year of high school when I first discovered Shakespeare and shortly after, found a book on Renaissance art. That obsession only grew a few years later when I was in college and my family and I took a whirlwind trip through Europe. Everything we saw was historic and beautiful, but my favorite stop on the tour was Florence. To this day, I don’t know if the tour guide wanted to surprise us, or if she was just as surprised as we were, but while we were there an impromptu Renaissance-inspired parade broke out in the square. The memory of that city has these soft edges laced with pixie dust, and if I had to guess, I’d say the idea for My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century was birthed right there.

Lisa: How cool! Love it when those “marked” days happen in life. Was it as hard for you as it was for me, getting it in your brain that the 16th century is 1500-1599? I always thought that would be the “15th Century.”

Rachel: It’s so tempting to scoff and say that was all you, but….YES!!! Man, I totally thought I had it nailed down going in—I hear the expression “twenty-first century” to describe the present all the time and never have an issue, so why should this be any different? But yeah dude, it totally is. Whenever I would be researching a detail or fact about culture, dress, food, or whatnot, it was like my brain would just cramp and I’d have to stop, think, go through the whole thought process, give myself a pep talk, nod, and then write it down. Sigh….

Lisa: I really appreciate your attention to historical detail. I was wowed! So when you discovered WATERFALL after you wrote your book, what’d you think?

Rachel: I actually saved the comment you wrote on my blog the day my book was announced! You said you wrote a time travel series that took contemporary girls back to 14th century Italy, so obviously, we needed to hang out =). I had just found out about WATERFALL, but was scared to read it before my edits were done (I was terrified of getting our worlds confused or accidentally stealing an idea or something), so I waited until I sent my edits back to my editor. But as soon as I could, I opened WATERFALL on my Kindle, and ended up inhaling it, CASCADE, and TORRENT all in one weekend LOL. Along with being swept away in your story world, I remember my jaw dropping and thinking, “I’m SO glad you knew I waited to read this after I wrote mine!” We have very similar instincts for humor, which actually is one of the reasons I bonded so quickly with the book, and Gabi and Cat could totally be BFFs. And well, you know how to write some swoon-worthy men, girlfriend =)

Lisa: You’re so sweet! And it IS funny how authors get on similar tracks. I’m reading a book right now and thinking I need to write her and say, “Hey, my book’s already with my editor, but I wanted you to know I did this and this like you did! Sorry! It wasn’t intentional!” How would you say MY SUPER SWEET 16th CENTURY differs from WATERFALL?

Rachel: You know, they’re actually completely different and totally similar, all at the same time. That makes like zero sense, I know, but it’s so true!

Lisa: No, I agree.

Rachel: Gabi and Cat are similar in personality and witticisms. Both books involve traveling through time and have the beautiful setting of Italy. And all our boys have awesome accents. But the two hundred years between WATERFALL and MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY brought about a lot of change—it’s a different world, a different era, and as a result, our books focus on different elements in history. One of the things I love the most about the River of Time series is the chance to live vicariously through Gabi and Lia in battle. These girls are fierce! And Marcello and Luca (and Lord Greco!) are warriors who fight for their women and their country. I had a very strong vision of what I wanted MSSSC to be going in. I knew that I could go darker, or delve into the hardships—the Renaissance certainly had them—but the story screaming and demanding to be told in my head was lighter. Don’t get me wrong; Super Sweet has a huge (and hopefully surprising) conflict at the heart of it, but it’s primarily filled with humor, cultural missteps, dresses, a ball, and a really cute boy (ha). Life and rules are different in our two story worlds. When I sat down and thought about all the scenarios I could put Cat in and all the mistakes she had to make to fulfill her character arc, the answer ended up leading to a tale completely different from Gabi’s journey…but hopefully one that’s equally entertaining.

Lisa: I’d say you accomplished that. But I do think Cat and Gabi would be BFFs. What do you see as their similarities?

Rachel: Both girls are loyal and strong. They’re smart and think things through. They’re witty and use their modern-day knowledge to solve problems. And watching the world of the past through their twenty-first century eyes definitely provides a fun ride.

Lisa: I really do want my readers to know that they can read your book and still get a fresh story–that it’s not too much like WATERFALL–just a similar concept. For instance, our heroines come from different lifestyles. Gabi spends her summers on dusty archeological digs, and Cat spends her summers on Hollywood sets. Gabi can wield a sword and seems to have a superhero power of getting Marcello to fall in love with her…What are some of your favorite things about Cat?

Rachel: I love how quick Cat thinks on her feet, how funny she is—which is really crazy, because I don’t think I’m funny at all, so I don’t know where she comes from—and how underneath it all, she’s just a girl wanting to feel loved for who she is. Her upbringing was challenging and the world she lives in doesn’t exactly encourage opening up to others, but it doesn’t stop her from longing to do so. I love how close she is with her father, how protective she is of him, and how she completely throws herself into the experience she’s been given. Oh, and I love that’s she an artist with a true artist’s soul. I can’t even draw a straight line, so being someone who can was fun for a few months LOL.

Lisa: I love that aspect of writing–getting to be everything I want to be in my character!! Will your book be avail in bookstores or primarily online? If you could include a few links, that’d be grand.

Rachel: It’s already available online and it will be in bookstores by the 18th. My amazingly supportive husband is actually taking the day off work so we can hop around from store to store and take pictures LOL. Can you tell I’m an excited, newbie author? We actually homeschool our daughters, and I think they might be more excited than even I am. They’ve been the best publicists I could ever ask for—they tell EVERYONE they meet about my book, when and where they can get it, and provide listeners with a complete synopsis, whether they ask for it or not (and they’re 6 and 7)—so sharing that day with them and my husband is going to be such a blessing.

Lisa: Love that about kids. Just wait until all their friends think you’re famous. And rich. That cracks me up, every time!

Rachel: Thank you so much for having me here today, Lisa, and for the encouragement, support, and inspiration you’ve given me through this journey. It’s been a crazy, unbelievable, surreal year, filled with unexpected blessings and opportunities, but I can definitely say your friendship has been one of the biggest highlights for me. You are made of awesome, girl.

Lisa: Can’t wait until our paths cross in person!

For readers who want to nab a copy of Rachel’s book today, check out Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million and Indie Bound. Or call your local bookstore and ask them to save you a copy/order a copy of MY SUPER SWEET 16TH CENTURY. For my Christian readers, know that it’s not a Christian book, but it’s a light, very clean, teen read with a lovely “blended family” theme of acceptance and adjustment.

Rachel and her publisher have donated a copy to give away! Put your name in the hat below, if interested…To be in the running, name a piece of famous Renaissance art you’d like to see in Italy in the comments and say “I did it” in the Rafflecopter form!


a Rafflecopter giveaway