Author Interview with Rebecca Rhoads
Novelist Rebecca Rhoads resides with her husband on a centennial cherry farm near Traverse City, Michigan. She is a retired registered nurse, the mother of three daughters, and grandmother twice over. When not writing novels, she paints and writes poetry. Her favorite pastimes include spending time with family and friends, gardening, foraging for wild mushrooms, playing the ukulele, looking for pretty stones along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, and fishing with her husband.
How did you become a writer?
In truth, writing found me. Although I’d dabbled in poetry and short stories, my career path took me into critical care nursing. A disabling back injury ended that career. The injury radically changed my life, and writing gave me an outlet of self expression during a difficult recovery. I joined a poetry group, bought books on writing and plunged headlong into writing my first novel.
What inspires you to write?
People and my faith inspire me. I am fascinated by human interactions, what motivates behavior, and how God works in everyday circumstances. My nursing career gave me a front row seat to observe people in their worst moments. Beyond that, I have a very active imagination with far too many story ideas!
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Like every writer, I draw on my background in formulating characters. None will ever be so identifiable as to be a clear portrait of a friend or relative, but the elements drawn from lifelong observation give me great material to create characters who seem real. Character development sometimes surprises me, however. For example, Marigold’s mother, Martha Niemi, turned into someone far more nuanced than I had in mind. As for plot, it begins as a central notion of where I want the story to go and what the main conflict will be. I tend to write character-driven plots so the development of both go hand in hand.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
Yes! I am mildly to moderately dyslexic. It’s no exaggeration when I say I hated high school English. I could ‘read’ whole passages and have no clue what they meant. It wasn’t until I was well into my thirties that I became so frustrated at not being able to enjoy a book I made myself learn how to read. I picked up A Tale of Two Cities and something finally clicked. I saw what was happening as if I was looking at a movie. It’s also how I now write, the images flipping through my mind as I translate them to words. The biggest challenge of being dyslexic is that it makes it hard to find typos and other errors when I’m proofing a manuscript. Thank God for spell check!
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Ahh, Marigold. Mari arrives on scene damaged and angry, a twenty-something who has done all the right things, but cannot rid herself of a troubled past beginning with a broken relationship with her father. She is strong, smart, educated—and deeply disappointed in life and, by extension, in God. My favorite trait is her inner moral compass. I also like her sassiness which helps her survive challenging circumstances. Her main weakness, bitterness towards her father, gave me a lot to work with in her character arc.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Mari’s primary antagonist comes on scene in the first chapter when he physically attacks her, and remains in the background as her accuser throughout the novel. The fallout from the altercation is the reason she flees her home and fears returning. A secondary antagonist comes on scene late in the novel and, spoiler alert, will advance the plot in a sequel. I would add that Mari is both a protagonist and antagonist in that she is often her own worst enemy.
What are your current/future projects?
I still write poetry, short stories and, as stated above, will write at least one sequel to The Rising Road. I’m also toying with a historic novel based on the circuit riders in Canada. I have a blog at rebeccarhoads.com.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I typically work four to six hours in the morning depending on how early I awaken. I often rise before five, make a cup of coffee and go to work. Typically I’ll review the previous day’s writing first then flesh out new material. I set reasonable goals and stick to them as much as possible.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to believe in the gifts God gave me, that if my heart is stirred there’s a reason. I would also say not to listen to the negative voice telling me I can’t reach my dreams and to lay aside any fear holding me back.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Figure out what turns you on and drives your need to write. Readers will quickly figure out if you are wholly invested in your manuscript. I’ve read books by otherwise excellent authors who took on projects that made me feel they weren’t connected to their work. Second, and equally important, get the tools! Read, read, read great literature, get critiqued (and listen to advice), take classes, study the craft. Third, keep at it. Writing begets better writing begets good writing and, eventually, great writing.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
At this time, the avenues are limited to my Facebook page (Rebecca Rhoads) and my blog. I will be obtaining a dedicated email address for this purpose, but as I am still developing my presence, have yet to do so.