Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a bit of science fiction.
How do you find time to write as a parent?
When my kids were young, naptimes and bedtime were my writing time. Now that I have pre-teens and teens, they are old enough to respect my need for writing time. I announce when I will be writing that day and then enforce only an emergency rule. It is a challenge because I love my kids and enjoy spending time with them, but I have to write if I am going to produce more books.
What inspired you to write this book?
Rumpled Rhett came from multiple inspiration sources.
First, there was the huntsman from fairytales. He appears most notably in “Snow White” and “Red Riding Hood.” I always thought he should have a story of his own. Years ago, a friend of mine started writing a story about Snow White and the huntsman, which I really enjoyed. She never finished it, but I couldn’t shake the idea that the huntsman needed his own story.
There is the billed source of inspiration, Rumpelstiltskin himself. The fairytale was always a fascinating one for me. After reading K. M. Shea’s retelling, I began brainstorming alternative stories where Rumple could be the hero of his own tale. By the way, I highly recommend K. M. Shea’s Rumpelstiltskin.
Then, there was a surprise inspiration source in Between Floors by W. R. Gingell. Athelas and the dynamic between him and Pet inspired the crisis point at the climax of Rumpled Rhett.
Oh, and finally, I was inspired by “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. The fact it has been a favorite poem of mine since childhood probably betrays a bit more of the strangeness of my interests. It is a tragedy, and I almost exclusively write happy endings (my two tragedies are short stories in The Making of a Man short story anthology, if anyone is interested).
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I absolutely loved Rhett. Writing his character was fun from the beginning to the end. After adorkable Silas in Grace by Contract and scholarly Crispin in Reclaiming Ryda, it was wonderful to get back to one of my favorite kinds of heroes, the man of action and danger. Who doesn’t daydream about a hero capable of defending her from the trials of life?
Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
It depends on the book, but most of my characters tend to hijack their own stories. In the case of Rumpled Rhett, Rhett had a moment where he insisted on burning Cat’s socks. The struggle between me and the character became a blog post for Lands Uncharted (https://www.landsuncharted.com/2021/02/writers-life-socks-must-go-rachel.html). Spoiler: he won the argument.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
The short answer is a resounding yes. First, there is my early work which I hope will never make it into print.
Then, there is an epic science fiction romance series for which I have written the first book, Diaspora (rough draft). I can’t publish the first book until I write the second.
Oh, and I have a contemporary Christian novel written and tentatively titled White Bear. It is inspired by “East of Sun West of the Moon” and is set in the early 2000s. That one might appear soon. I have to fix a plot hole and get it through editing.
Finally, I have a long-lost (not really) fourth and final novel in The Theodoric Saga that has so many issues that it will require an extensive rewrite to bring it up to my current standards. I might just start that one from scratch…or bury it with my early work, never to see the publishing light of day.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
It depends. Some characters appear in a flash of inspiration with their own distinct voice and personality. Those characters are the ones I spend the book discovering as I write. Other characters are built, piece by piece, either through the plotting or the writing process. Either way, writing them and finding their voice is a journey of delightful discovery.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I would prefer silence or listening to music that is so familiar that I can tune it out. But as a mother of three, I have to be flexible. Writing with the background noises of life going on around me is a necessity.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I usually only draft one book at a time, but I can be developing other book ideas while drafting one. Oh, and I publish and promote while writing the next novel. For example, at this moment, I am writing the next Once Upon a Duchy novel, editing a short novella for a multiple author project, plotting a different project, and promoting Rumpled Rhett. I am constantly juggling multiple projects.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
First comes inspiration. An idea, an image, or just a conversation can prompt a story idea. I immediately begin playing with it in my head to see if it is viable. Does it make sense? Does it excite me? Is it something I could make work?
Once I am confident I can make it work, I start sketching a rough high-level collection of plot points. Perhaps a few characters and interactions are added. I keep mulling as I collect ideas in a Word document, so everything is in one place.
Then, I sit down and plot out a series of points. Tensions, crises, motivations, villains, antagonists, pressures, family, settings, etc., until I get a solid framework. At this point, I know that it might change and shift as I develop it.
At the same time as this plotting/brainstorming is going on, I start collecting research and inspirational pieces.
Once I have a solid handle on the story, characters, and plot, I usually start writing. I write in chronological order. No scene hopping allowed. As I write, the story changes. Sometimes the end result looks nothing like the original plan. Other times, only some things change. Frequently the climax shifts around depending on what is needed to tie it all together into a satisfying ending.
When I finally finish the rough draft, it is time for proofing, beta readers, editors, and final polishing.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Oh, that is a tricky question. Some of my books, like The Talented Trilogy, took years and years. While others, like Rumpled Rhett, took about six months. It depends on what else is going on in my life, the time I can devote to getting words on the page, and my health. Writing while dealing with brain fog is dangerous. Characters do unexpected things, I drop words, or make little sense on those days.
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