Author, Author! — Rachel McMillan

22 Apr

4129I am so excited to have Rachel McMillan here at the blog today. Rachel is a fresh, new voice in Inspirational fiction. Her historical mystery series is so much fun! Thanks Rachel for sharing with us today!


By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been writers. When did you first realize that you were a writer?

Rachel McMillan — I always loved reading and making up stories in my head. One year, my brother Jared gave me a diary for Christmas and I wrote all the time. That’s when I knew. Even if I never publish another book, I will always write stories. I enjoy it so much.

BTB — Was there someone who encouraged you in your writing journey — a parent, teacher, friend, etc.?

51-vU9APljL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Rachel — My family was always encouraging. My parents told me I could do anything I set my mind to. But, I was too scared to show anyone my writing! I wrote novel upon novel but it stayed hidden. It was my friend (and fellow writer) Allison Pittman who first really pushed me off the ledge and helped me polish a query for a literary agent. Without her, this never would have happened. I would still be writing silently on my own, too afraid to show anyone.

BTB — What does a typical writing day look like?

Rachel — I write around my career. And it is busy. It is not something that would be feasible for everyone but I don’t have a husband or family who relies on me which makes it easier. During holidays and weekends I devote my entire day to writing. During the week, I will write or plot on the subway commute on the way to work, work at my desk at lunch and then spend two or three hours in the evening. Currently, I am editing my second full Herringford and Watts novel while writing the third. So, I have to break up my time. While my editor was working with the second novel, I made sure I seized the moment to go to the library and archives every opportunity I had to make sure all my research was done. Writing historical fiction means a lot of research.

51QOqpu0beL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_BTB The Bachelor Girlʼs Guide to Murder can be categorized as historical mystery fiction. What attracted you to this genre?

Rachel — I am a long time Sherlock Holmes fan, and I love reading detective fiction. I took an entire semester on it in University. But, I was actually writing straight historical romance. It was my agent’s idea to try a female Sherlock Holmes and once I had that idea, Jem and Merinda were born.

BTB — Does writing mystery fiction present any special challenges?

Rachel — It does! Because I am not a natural mystery writer and I am not as smart as Merinda. So, it takes a lot of outlining and a lot of tripping into a scene, unraveling it and trying it again. Luckily, my girls are just learning how to be detectives — as I am learning how to write detectives — so there are several tongue-in-cheek nods to their stumbling into a solution. They keep getting better, though, as the series goes on and I keep learning how to write this fun genre.

BTB —  Why Toronto in the early 1900s? What types of research did you do for this novel?

519w9Cdm4bL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_RachelWhen I got the idea for a female Sherlock, I thought how fortunate would I be to be able to write in the city I live in. Immediately, to counter Sherlock Holmes, I thought of the Victorian period in Toronto: but, some of my favourite books about William Murdoch ( a detective with the Toronto Constabulary ) and a popular TV series here in Canada is set in Victorian Toronto. Edwardian Toronto seemed a fresher fit. I spent hours and hours at the archives learning about all that the city held to offer in that time period. Also, studying photographs. A lot of the research was very minute. For example, did men wear wedding rings, while some of it was much broader focusing on Immigration and Women’s roles in Toronto when it was a city on the brink of a more modern era. And while I researched, I tripped upon things that somehow evaded my history textbooks as a kid: like the Female Refuges Act that inspired the Morality Squad. For a historical writer, it isn’t just getting facts right, it is getting the cadence and voice of the time period right and I hope I have been able to do that with the Herringford and Watts series.

BTB — Merinda and Jem are independent women in a world that still treats women as second class. Can you tell us who or what inspired your creation of them?

Rachel — I have always felt a little out of place because I couldn’t imagine myself fitting into the traditional domestic role championed by my experiences as a small town minister’s kid. I channel some of my insecurities into Jem and Merinda, but also some of my strengths. At the end of the day, the series was created to validate women and men who may feel like they colour outside the lines.

BTB — What motivated you to publish with a Christian publisher rather than going the general market route?

RachelWhen I was 10 years old, I read Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene and I decided I wanted to write Inspirational Fiction. I became obsessed with the industry, the authors, the Christy awards, etc. But, I also wanted to change it and offer a different perspective on women’s roles in faith-based fiction. The Herringford and Watts series allows me to posit religious questions in a more thematic way. For example, most of the relationships in the book reflect some challenge or pursuit I have had in my own faith walk. At the same time, the series is accessible for readers of a non-faith background. I also enjoy being able to write a clean and non-violent look at mystery fiction. This series may not be as blatantly Christian as some others of its ilk, but the Christianity is sewn in. The verse that inspired the Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is Proverbs 31:8-9.

BTB — What is next up for Merinda, Jem and Rachel? Any new adventures?

51zjjUoH9PL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_RachelMy lady detectives have a busy schedule. An e-novella Of Dubious and Questionable Memory takes the girls to Concord, Massachusetts and Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House! In August, the second full length adventure A Lesson in Love and Murder finds Jem and Merinda pitted against anarchist bombers in Chicago — and stumbling into an assassination attempt on Theodore Roosevelt ( the research for that was amazingly fun!). Then, we have another novella A Conductor of Light that takes place backstage at a production of The Two Gentleman of Verona and, after that, the final Herringford and Watts book (for now) The White Feather Murders which sees the girls pursuing a serial killer just as Canada heads to war in later Summer 1914. I have a fun idea for a new series set in 1930s Boston (which is my favourite US city to visit).

BTB — Please share with my readers anything not covered by these questions — personal life, hobbies, other interests.

RachelI am a bachelor girl like my girls living in Toronto, Ontario but I am from a small town. I work in Educational Publishing and I love to travel. I also really, really love baseball. I am a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan and throughout the season, you’ll see me catching as many games as I can.

Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel. Readers, be sure to check out Rachel’s Herringford and Watts series. You’ll love it!

Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

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