Rachel Morgan is the best-selling author of the Creepy Hollow series, a YA fantasy. I read some of her books last year (I haven’t caught up yet because she’s so darn prolific, I can’t keep up!) and thoroughly enjoyed them. When I did a workshop with some Grade 7’s I even met one of her fans, who gushed on and on about how much she loved the Creepy Hollow series.
I asked Rachel a few things about writing, her journey in independent publishing and other things.
Was there a single moment of glorious idea-birthing or did the Creepy Hollow series idea emerge slowly?
It began with the name itself, “Creepy Hollow,” which just popped into my head one day, and the rest of the world and story slowly filled itself in after that over several months.
How many books will there be in the Creepy Hollow series once it’s done? Have you plotted them all or are they just ideas in your head?
There will be nine books in total. Essentially three trilogies that follow on from each other, each trilogy told from the point of view of a different character. I’ve never been particularly good at plotting, not matter how many times I’ve tried, so I usually just have a skeleton idea of the main points, and the rest of the details fill themselves in as I go.
Do you have a favourite book in the series so far? Which has been the most popular with readers?
My favourite so far has been The Faerie Prince (Creepy Hollow book two), and, based on a recent giveaway I held where people simply had to tell me their favourite Creepy Hollow book in order to enter, The Faerie Prince is also the favourite of many of my readers! There’s a lot of character and relationship development in that book which I really enjoyed writing (and my readers obviously really enjoyed reading!).
Do you have a favourite character in your series? And if it’s not the same person, which of your characters is most like you?
I’m not sure I can choose between Violet and Calla! (Vi is the main character of the first three books, and Calla is the main character of the second three books.) Or, wait, it could be Filigree, Violet’s shapeshifter pet 😉 The character who is most like me is Sarah, from The Trouble with Flying, the first book in my contemporary romance series.
Your books deal with the Fae in an interesting way, taking an ancient world and re-imagining it in modern times. I haven’t read a lot of books about the Fae but I found it fascinating how you blended these worlds. The magical ‘technology’ or devices are interesting too. How did you go about building the world and magic systems of your novels?
My fae world came together as a mix of research and imagination. I looked up a lot of traditional Fae lore, and then I picked the bits I wanted to use from that and made up the rest of it! I decided that, just as the human world has advanced in terms of technology, so has the Fae world. Why shouldn’t they have their own version of cell phones and so on?
I’ve seen a few readers get very upset when they get to the end of book two. Do you enjoy torturing your readers? (Personally I loved it because I was so curious to see how you resolved all that)
Ah, the good old cliffhanger … there was an even worse one at the end of book four 😉 Which I suppose means I do enjoy torturing my readers! No, I’m kidding. It isn’t reader-torture that I enjoy, it’s plot twists. Those great big ones that come out of nowhere and knock you down (but do, of course, actually make sense when you look back at the story). Usually, plot twists happen somewhere WITHIN a book, but when it comes to a series, some of those plot twists just seem to sit so well at the END of a book instead 😉
You have very enthusiastic fans. Have there been any memorable interactions with fans that you’d like to share? and have you discovered any fan fiction or fan art (if you have please share the link so that I can point readers to it) set in Creepy Hollow?
There are so many great interactions I’ve had with fans that I can’t possibly pick out any! I have readers who are active on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Probably my favourite kind of interaction is when people tweet (or post elsewhere) their reactions while they’re reading one of my books. It’s great to see that in-the-moment reaction to something specific that I’ve written!
The YA market seems to have some incredible traction at the moment. How can authors tap into that without becoming inauthentic and imitative?
Honestly … I think the only way to be authentic is if it’s something you truly want to write. You could also say that erotic romance does very well (because it does), but there’s no way I could write that genre because it just isn’t me. It isn’t something I’ve ever wanted to write, and there’s no story tugging at my heart that could possibly work within that genre. So … in order to tap into the YA market, I’d say you have to first have a YA story on your heart that you want to tell!
Do you feel any pressure or responsibility when it comes to content in YA books? Your readers range from 13 year old school girls to 40 year old housewives – do you have them in mind when you write or do you just write whatever you want to read?
I try to forget about reader expectations or what’s ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ when I’m writing. I consider my books to be quite tame with regards to language, violence and sex, but that isn’t because I’m worried that young teens are going to be reading it (I know most teens out there have already read and seen far worse in other books and movies!). The reason my content is mainly ‘clean’ is because that’s what I’M comfortable with writing.
You’ve had major success with self-publishing – in part because of your super-ridiculous-ninja-marketing skills and in part because your books are so well written. Tell us the story of how you made the decision to go the self-published route… Were you scared? Who did you get advice from? Did you do anything that failed?
My very first goal years ago was to land myself a traditional publishing deal, but as I was working on my first book, I watched those other writers who were venturing into the self-publishing/digital publishing world. Some people, like Amanda Hocking, were beginning to do really well, and I started to wonder if it could be a viable route for me. Fast forward another few months, and after reading some self-published work that was just as good as anything traditionally published, and after assisting another author with cover design and ebook formatting (because I was curious and wanted to know how to do it), and after watching the book release process of several other authors I’d met online, I eventually decided to test out self-publishing for myself. I don’t remember being scared, just excited! And I don’t think anything has really failed, other than perhaps a book promo here and there that didn’t have the desired effect on sales or downloads. But it’s all about experimenting and learning, so I honestly don’t think I can look back at anything and call it a major FAIL!
Did you ever submit your books to publishers?
Nope. I chose the independent route first!
You’re a full-time writer – and the envy of every day-job-carrying writer on the planet. How do you make sure you stay disciplined enough to actually write and not waste copious amounts of time on the rabbit-hole infested Internet?
There are several things that keep my at my desk working instead of lying on my bed reading a book or lounging in front of the TV all day: I think of my friends and family working AT WORK and I feel guilty if I’m not doing anything! I know that my readers are always waiting for the next book (and they like to remind me of this on social media!), and I’m always excited for them to know how the story continues, so that keeps me continually working on the next book. And finally (this was far more of a motivating factor in the beginning when I only had one or two books out, but is still important), I only make an income when I have a book to sell, so if I laze around instead of writing, I eventually won’t be able to pay any bills! Oh, and one more thing that keeps me disciplined: I set deadlines. I decide exactly when I want the next book to be out, and I work backwards from that. If I didn’t have any deadline to work towards, I would take forever to finish a book!
Relating to the previous question: you’re quite a prolific writer. Dumb question, but how do you get out all those words and make them sound so good???
Um … I don’t sleep?! Okay, seriously, here’s how it works: The first half or so of a novel gets written very comfortably and slowly. Then, as I realise my self-imposed deadline is fast approaching and I’m nowhere near finished, I pretty much stop having a life and I write, write, write all hours of the day (and many hours of the night too), and a little while after my deadline goes flying past me, I find myself finished (and completely exhausted!). As for how all those words come out sounding GOOD, well … I’m not sure. Perhaps that’s just practice!
Editing is one of the most underrated tools of a writer and self-published books are often criticised for not having enough editing. You’ve obviously found a fantastic editor because your books don’t have that problem at all. Tell us a little bit about how you found your editor, what your relationship with her is, and how you view the importance of a good editor.
Both editors that I’ve worked with are people I’ve met through the online writer-blogger community, which I was a big part of for several years before full-time writing began swallowing more and more of my time. They both knew about Creepy Hollow from the start, so they were familiar with my fantasy world and with my writing style, which helped a lot. The importance of a good editor cannot be overstated. As the author having spent so much time so close to your story, there are always mistakes or plot holes you’ll miss, or a bad writing habit you didn’t realise you have. An editor’s comments and feedback can help not only with the current book they’re working on with you, but also when it comes time for you to write your next book. Those helpful comments will be in the back of your mind, and hopefully your next first draft will be better than the previous one, and so you’ll continually improve.
You seem to be a very creative person. What other creative outlets let you release your creative juices or fill up the creative well?
Graphic design (I can spend hours on photo manipulations in Photoshop) and anything craft related, like beading, card-making, scrapbooking, polymer clay … that sort of thing.
Why do you think people are so obsessed with stories?
That is a very interesting question, and one I’ve actually been thinking about recently. While we were overseas, every time I saw a cool, old building, I’d stop and get my cell phone map out so I could find out what the building was and why or if it was important. I quickly recognised that all these buildings around me meant nothing without the story attached. Without knowing its history, the Colosseum would be nothing more than a bunch of crumbling stones held together in a rather impressive structure. But when you know what happened there, the place comes alive in your mind.
Looking back at the beginning of civilisation, before anything was written down, information was passed on in the form of stories. Even now, whenever people get together, the information they exchange generally takes the form of a narrative. Facts in a textbook that need to be remembered are far more easily recalled when put into the form of a story with characters and context that we can relate to. I’m not sure I’m really answering the question here, other than to say that stories themselves are a fundamental part of human nature and have always been essential to social interaction and, ultimately, the development and continuation of human society. I think it’s more than simply ‘loving’ them or being ‘obsessed’ with them, but rather that we NEED stories.
Whether relating to the book’s content, your writing style, your choice to self-publish, how do you deal with criticism?
Dealing with criticism is something that takes a bit of time and practice. In the beginning, it hurts a lot! That first one-star review is REALLY going to sting! But the longer I’m part of this publishing world, the more I realise that people and their tastes are all different, and everyone’s experience of my book is subjective. Across all the reviews of my books, there are so many contradictory comments that you’d think all these people were reading something different! I’ve learned that it isn’t possible to make everyone happy, and that if someone doesn’t like my story or the way that I write, it isn’t something I need to be upset about. That person simply isn’t part of my target audience. If someone doesn’t like the fact that I’m self-published, well that really doesn’t bother me! I’m happy with my choice, and I would undoubtedly choose it again. The one thing to remember is to NOT RESPOND to any public negative review or comment from a reader. That is unprofessional and will most likely land you in a mess. Just walk away!
When you need to take a break from writing you…
Read, play around on Photoshop, watch movies or TV series, go shopping, gym, bake …
Advice to any budding writers?
Read a lot and write a lot. The reading a lot helps you see how other authors who are good at their craft go about telling stories, and the writing a lot helps you find your own voice.
You can find out where to follow Rachel on social media here.
And you can read more about her books and where to find them, here.