Author Q&A: Rachel Strong

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be welcoming the lovely Rachel Strong to the blog for an author Q&A.
First of all, could you introduce yourself to readers? Tell us a little bit about you and the books that you write.
Hello, thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be on your fabulous blog!
I’m Rachel, I’m married to the lovely Greg, I have three beautiful children and one crazy doggy. I’m a self-published author, my debut novel, Complicated Love, was released last summer and my second book, That Girl, is out on the 9th of June.
I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was a little girl, but it’s not something that I ever thought about pursuing, until a few years ago. I was always very shy about my writing and I NEVER let anyone read anything I wrote, though to be honest, nobody really knew about my hobby, I wrote in secret. Then back in 2012 my hubby found the first draft of Complicated Love and talked me into doing something with it.
I’m quite a shy person and so the thought of sending off my manuscript filled me with horror. I knew if I got one rejection letter I would let it beat me and I would give up, so I went down the path of self-publishing, and the rest is history.

In which genre/genres do you write?
I write chick-lit/women’s fiction, which is the genre I like to read. I love a good complicated love story, the will they/won’t they drama.

Tell us about your most recent book, and where can we find it?
My new book, That Girl, is James and Katie’s story. It’s about falling in love with the wrong person and the fight to be together.
James has had a tough time, he’s just been released from prison and he’s desperate to move on with his life and forget about Katie, the girl he’s still in love with - the girl that put him in prison.
Katie can’t forget James, though she knows that seeing him, even for the briefest moment, could send him back to prison, but that doesn’t deter her, because she loves him so much.
The story is set in the past and present, and takes the reader right back to the beginning of their relationship.
That Girl is available on Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Kobo.
I’m currently in the process of publishing both books in paper back and they will hopefully be available from Amazon.

Are there any particular themes which you try to incorporate within your books?
With That Girl, yes. I can’t really say a lot without giving away too much of the story, but the main theme is an issue which has featured quite a bit in the media over the last couple of years. Of course the main theme in all my books is falling in love, I love a good love story, but I like to throw in a few more issues just to mix things up a bit.

How do you hope to make readers feel while reading your books?
I really like to keep readers on their toes, I like to give them a few shocks along the way and keep them gripped and in suspense right until the very end.
With That Girl, I wanted the readers to feel sorry for James and Katie, I wanted them to root for them to have their happy ending, which they really deserve, after everything they have been through, especially James, even though he has been a bit of a bad boy.

If you had to choose three words to describe your most recent book, what would they be?Okay, so to answer this question I asked a few people that have read That Girl, I thought my answers would be too biased. The three most popular words were: Gripping, un-predictable and emotional.
I have to agree with the third description, as when I was writing it I went through a few boxes of tissues.

When it comes to creating your characters, are they completely fictional or do you gather ideas from the people you know in real life?
In my first book, Complicated Love, there are two characters that are vaguely based on people I know, they have traits in them that made it hard not to. Sophie is based on a friend of mine that is a bit of a drama queen, but I took her to the extreme. And then Jenna, based on another good friend, is straight talking and honest and was what my main character, Ella, needed in a best friend.

How do you choose the settings of your books?
Both of my books are set in my home town of Blackburn, Lancashire, though in Complicated Love, the two main characters spend a weekend in London. I chose my home town because I know the area, and so I knew what I was writing about. The street where the story is set, is the street where I spent my teenage years.
I am contemplating setting a book in Puerto Pollensa, in Majorca, it’s just too beautiful not to and it’s my favourite place in the world!

Have you visited any of the areas which you’ve written about?
Well obviously I live in Blackburn, where the main chunk of both books are set, but in Complicated Love the main characters, Ella and Adam, visit London for the weekend where I have visited quite a few times.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have lots of favourite authors at the moment, especially since joining Twitter and discovering some pretty talented writers - like yourself.
I love Dorothy Koomson, I love the way she writes and her stories always have me gripped from page one. Paige Toon is another favourite, I love her YA series, Jessie Jefferson. I love Jodi Picoult and I’ve just discovered Dani Atkins, I loved fractured, it was just so un-expected!
There are so many authors I like at the moment that it’s impossible to mention them all!

Do you like to plan strategically, or do you let the characters lead the way?
When I start a new book I always sit down and write out a plan and a time line, but somehow, along the way, I always go off course and yea, I let the characters lead the way. The finished result is always nowhere near what I planned.
The ending to That Girl is so dramatically different to what I had in mind when I wrote out the plan. It all happened in a split second, to the point where I’d finished and thought, wow, where on earth did that come from?

If you could sit down and have lunch with any author, who would you choose and why?
I would LOVE to have lunch with Dorothy Koomson! I just think, from the books she’s written, she must be so interesting. I would love to know where she gets her inspiration from. She’s a fantastic author.

Is there a particular part of the writing process which you enjoy more than others?
My favourite part of the whole process is the actual writing of the story, getting my ideas down and seeing where we end up. I have so many ideas swimming around my head all the time that I’m surprised my brain hasn’t exploded!
I also love getting feed-back from people, I love their reactions and the mix in opinions on my characters.

When it comes to the cover of a book, how important do you feel they are?
For me, the cover is very important! When I’m looking at books I’m usually drawn in by the cover, it’s the first thing a reader sees of a book, and first impressions count!
I’m in love with the cover of That Girl, it’s so striking and I often find myself gazing at it.

How do you keep track of your writing progress? Do you use daily word goals? Do you aim to get a set number of chapters written?
I don’t have a set daily word count, but a good writing day would be if I got 5000 words down. With three children it’s sometimes difficult to write every day, especially in the school holidays, and so I write when I can, often at night when the kids are in bed.
In an ideal world I would love to do a chapter a day, and some weeks, when the kids are at school, I can manage it.

Tell us the top three books you’ve read so far in 2016.
This is a tough question because I have read some fantastic books this year!
I’ve just recently discovered Lucy Diamond, how I’ve missed her I’ll never know! So Summer At Shell Cottage is one. The next one would be Paige Toon’s Chasing Daisy, this is my favourite of Paige’s so far. I was ill at the beginning of the year and I read this in a day! And my third would be The Magic Touch by Kelly Florentia, another book I read in a day, it had me in stiches!

When did your love of writing first begin to blossom?
I think it was around the age of fourteen, I was on holiday in Florida and I took a note book with me and I just started writing. I can’t really remember how it came about, or what I wrote about, it just sort of happened.

How did you celebrate your most recent publication day?
I bought a new hoover! So rock and roll!
On That Girl’s release day, hubby is taking me to Manchester for cocktails and we’re going to have a small party on the Saturday.

What are your thoughts on the book-blogging community?
I LOVE book blogs and I blame all book bloggers for the amount of books I buy, I seriously think you’re all going to bankrupt me!
I’ve discovered some amazing books through blogs, and so without out them I’d be so deprived!

Which, if any, other genre would you like to try and write in?
I would love to write a crime thriller, not sure I have the skills to do so, it would be very interesting to see what I came up with though.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your writing career?
People reading my books. When I first published Complicated Love I never thought in a million years that anyone would buy it, let alone people in Australia, Canada and the US.
The feedback I’ve had has been amazing, and people asking me when the next one is coming out has been quite overwhelming and unexpected.

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, tell us a little bit about it.
At the moment I’m working on the sequel to Complicated Love. I left the story on a bit off a cliff hanger and I hadn’t really planned to do a sequel, but there has been quite a demand for one.
The story picks up two years down the line and follows the story of Adam and Ella again, with a couple of new characters introduced to mix things up a bit. 
I’ve also just planned out my fourth book, so I’m going to be quite busy over the next few months.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
To take criticism with a pinch of salt and use it constructively.

What do you class as a successful writing day?
A successful writing day would be about 5000 words or a completed chapter, which when I set my mind to it, and stay off social media, is quite achievable.

Writing in an apartment in New York City or writing in a cottage in the English countryside?
Another tough question as New York is somewhere I’m dying to go, but the English countryside is so beautiful and peaceful, so I think I would get more writing done there. New York would be too distracting as I’m too nosey!

Writing with a cup of tea or writing with a cup of coffee?
Coffee, though I drink far too much of it, but when I’m having a brain freeze getting up to make a coffee does me some good.

Writing with a sandwich or writing with a cupcake?
Cupcake, though crumbs in the keyboard are never good!

Writing with music or writing in silence?
Depends what I’m writing. Most of the time I write in silence, but if I’m writing something emotional then I’ll have some slushy love songs on in the background to help me get in the right frame of mind. I can’t write a sad scene if I’m feeling happy.

Writing outside in the sunshine or writing inside as the snow falls?
I would love to write in the sunshine, I get my best ideas when I’m on holiday, but I also love cosying up on cold days, under a blanket, with my laptop.

And lastly, if someone told you that they wanted to be a writer, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to go with their instincts and do it!
Being a writer is the best thing in the world, especially when you get such positive feedback, it really does make it all worthwhile.

Author Bio
Rachel Strong is a romance author and lives in Lancashire, England, with her husband, three children and little dog Daisy. Rachel works part time as a Health Care Assistant at her local hospital, but her real passion is writing.
Ever since she can remember, Rachel has been writing stories but didn’t really take it seriously until summer 2012 when her husband discovered one of her stories, read it and convinced her that it was good. She loves writing and creating characters, sometimes a whole day can pass her by, just sat at her laptop, typing away.
When she’s not writing, Rachel loves to read slushy romance novels, chick-lit and a good thriller. When she finds a spare moment she will be found curled up on the sofa with her nose in a book. 
Rachel’s debut novel ‘Complicated Love’ is out now with her second novel ‘That Girl’ due to be released this coming June.

You can find Rachel Strong on Facebook | Twitter |
You can find Rachel's books here.

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