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Interview with Rachel D Russell

Hi, Rachel! Congratulations on your new book, It’s Your Love. I have enjoyed learning from your through your answers, and I know many other writers will as well. Thank you for putting so much time and thought into them. Let’s jump right in.

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or something in between? Please tell us about your process.
I’m a plotter. I love a plan and I need to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there—at least as much as possible. I’m not inflexible, but rewriting and rewriting and rewriting…nope. I don’t have time for that. I’ve had to do that with stories that weren’t well plotted and it was painful.

I write romance, and creatively, my stories generally start with an idea of who my characters are, their meet cute, and an idea of the overarching story. From there, I dig into the hero and heroine—picking one moment in their early life development that underpins the person each character is as the story opens.

This is something I learned from Susan May Warren—her Story Equation. Once I mine from each character his and her lie, wound, fear, etc., I work through the plot points of the story to create the framework of the structure, though I don’t necessarily work in chronological order. For example, I know where the story is ending and some form of the black moment, because I know the root of what drives the characters and what will shake them to the core. The plotting may organically change a bit while I’m writing the story, but I’m hoping as I continue to develop as a writer that I’ll grow more skilled in seeing the nuances of the story from the very beginning.

I read that you have had several jobs, all of them active and time/brain-consuming. How do you balance writing time with all your other responsibilities?
This was a huge struggle for me during my first two novels, which were written in one year’s time. I tend toward going all-in on things, and it isn’t possible to be all-in on all-things, all the time. It exacerbated health issues.

I work full time for the federal government. I’m still a work-in-progress when it comes to managing it all, but I have learned to set limits. It’s hard to be asked to join other writing opportunities and need to decline, but I’m not in a place in life where I can write more than one book at a time, work full time, be with my family, enjoy my hobbies, and take care of my health. FOMO—fear of missing out—is real. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, especially when I see peers cranking out several amazing books per year while also working full time. I’ve had to accept who I am and where I am in this journey. Some days that’s easier than others, but I do think we manage it more than balance it. There’s an ebb and flow. Different seasons.

This also is where plotting comes into play for me. If I can plot well from the start, I don’t end up deleting tens of thousands of words in a rewrite.

It’s been a spiritual growth process for me. Surrendering my writing to the Lord and allowing it to be my offering to Him.

My tips thus far are (I’m still growing): set boundaries on your time, be willing and able to say “no,” and don’t fall into the comparison trap.

How does your faith and life-experience play into your storytelling?
My faith and life experience are integral to my storytelling. In the same way each is woven into the fabric of who I am, there’s a little piece of me in every character I write. The old adage to “write what you know” has so much validity. When I write what comes from my heart, it flows better. The story is better.

What is your writing routine?
I write in the margins of the day. I don’t set word count goals—that’s on the long-term plan for me, but right now, I write whenever I can and I dedicate an hour or two per night during the week to it, then usually write all day Saturday. Sunday afternoons, I try to keep it low-key. I’ll write if I have to but my goal is to have Sunday as an “off” day for mental rest and spiritual growth.

Any quirky habits or must-have snacks that keep you going?
I need silence or classical music. The sound of a television or conversations in another room boggle my brain and discombobulate my creativity. My husband even had to get a silent mouse because even his mouse clicks from the other desk in the office space would interrupt my focus.

Would you like to tell us about the role My Book Therapy or ACFW have played in your writing career?
My Book Therapy’s Novel Academy upleveled my writing skills so much faster than I could have on my own—my local craft group could tell a huge difference in my growth trajectory. Having access to so much talent and teaching excellence on topics from the most basic to advanced—and being able to pull up a variety of lessons any time I need to review a topic—it’s like having a mentor on call, round the clock.

Through ACFW, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with an amazing group of authors and learn through conference and online workshops. I’m grateful for the willingness members have to support other authors. Writing can be solitary and challenging; I appreciate being among a community of believers who strive to encourage each other and glorify God.

What do you see as most significant to your writing/publication journey?
The support of my husband and children is the most significant to my writing and publication journey. I could not do what I do without their willingness to give me that time, the quiet when I need it, their willingness to share my life with this work.

Being one of Sunrise Publishing’s first three authors also set me up with an incredible mentorship. Partners Susan May Warren and Lindsay Harrel created their business to pair new-to-market authors with experienced authors and launch books to an existing audience of readers. Having the opportunity to work closely with an industry great, learning one-on-one, being able to ask questions and see how to work through story problems—it fast-tracked my writing. We definitely were in our own crucible; our timelines were challenging that first year. That mentorship made all the difference.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing, or publishing career?
My debut novel, Still the One, won the 2022 Cascade Award for published contemporary fiction from Oregon Christian Writers (now called Cascade Christian Writers). They announce the winner by reading the first line, so my husband and I knew before anyone else in the room. I was so overwhelmed—I cried. I did. It was a sweet moment for me, the culmination of so much sacrifice, tears, time away from family.

Who, or what, spurs you to write?
I’ve been a storyteller since an early age—I’d make up verbal stories. Once I knew how to put words together on a piece of paper, I wrote them down. My parents had an old manual typewriter, which I own now, that I clicked away on. I wrote all through high school short stories and poems. In middle school, several friends and I had our own “publishing company.” We bound our own books. It was a lot of work and somewhat short lived, but I found the sweetest note recently, written by my kindergarten teacher to my then-twelve-year-old self, congratulating me on my writing and publishing success and letting me know it was no surprise to her.

But, in the pre-internet world, I never thought I could be a published writer. I pursued a “practical” degree in biology and chemistry. I’d tell my children stories, making up the characters and plot on the fly at bedtime. I’d write poems for my husband. Share story ideas with coworkers.

About—oh, I don’t know—maybe eight years ago now? I was going through a goal setting program and it asked, “If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?”

My absolute, immediate answer was, “Writing. I’d be a writer.”

The next question was, “What are you doing to work toward that goal.”

At the time, I wasn’t doing anything. So, I set about writing and learning. I joined Oregon Christian Writers and a local Christian writing group. I started attending workshops and reading in the genre. I hadn’t had much time to read for myself when my children were younger, even though I’d been an avid reader my whole life.

Among my author searches, I discovered Susan May Warren and became a superfan of her writing—that led me to My Book Therapy’s Novel Academy, which put my growth trajectory on a much faster track.

I write because I have stories to tell. Because God uses the stories and process to grow me. As my characters grow spiritually, so do I. There have been a few times when I thought I needed to walk away…and realized, I can’t. I have to write.

If you could have tea with any author, alive or dead, who would it be? What would you ask him or her?
I’ve had the incredible honor of sitting down with so many fantastic authors—writers whose books I’ve read and cherished. If I had to pick one author to have tea with, it would be Pepper Basham. We’ve met, briefly, in person, at ACFW, but I’d love to sit down with her for tea. She’s another author whose writing resonates with me and I binged everything she’d written to date when I was getting into writing. She’s a must-buy author for me. I’d love to discuss how to stay centered while working a day job and writing—as previously stated, this is still something I struggle with. I’d love to discuss her experiences writing contemporary versus historical (she’s done both).

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
Every author has a unique voice. My storytelling style is a reflection of me. There’s humor and poignancy, fun and a bit of adventure. I love animals, small-town life, and rural/remote locations. Beaches or mountains or high desert. I hope my storytelling touches the heart of readers in a relatable way—that readers can identify with my characters and their struggles. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Dig into faith with them.

How did you choose your genre? Do you write more than one genre?
I’ve always been a romantic and stories for me are always about relationships. I love stories with action, danger’s fine, too—but I want it to have romance and I absolutely need a satisfying, HEA ending. I might add in some suspense and action, but I’m truly a romance writer.

Tell us a funny story of something that happened to you as an author.
I get confused with Rachel Renee Russell, author of the middle grade books, The Dork Diaries. I’ve had libraries tag me on social media, I’ve received her fan mail. I’ve had bookstagrammers tag me. We don’t look the same, don’t write the same genre, and don’t have the same middle name—I thought using my middle initial as an author would help prevent that…it hasn’t. Maybe some day I’ll meet her and we’ll get to have a good laugh about it.

What book(s) are you reading right now? Or, recently that you enjoyed?
I’m currently reading Jen Turano’s To Spark a Match. While I write contemporary, I have a few favorite historical romance writers that I adore—she’s one of them. I love stepping back in time to a world of horse carriages, bustles, and ballroom dancing. I love Jen Turano’s wit and humor. To Spark a Match had me laughing from the first scene, reading it aloud to my husband so he could enjoy it, too. Her storytelling is engaging and her characters are always delightful in the most imperfect, hilarious, and relatable ways.

What advice would you give to new authors, or authors who are not new, but have struggled to keep at it in the face of obstacles?
What really helped me was learning from authors who were—and are—outstanding authors.

Our writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Build a network of support—other authors who get it, who can pray for you, encourage you, and let you know you are seen and heard and loved. Hard things are happening all around us—in the past two years, three of my family members have died. Having others who walked with me, prayed for me, and encouraged me kept me moving forward. In turn, God has used the hard things in my life to shape me and shape my stories.

Sometimes romance gets waved off as being “fluffy” or “easy.” I don’t think anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship would consider that easy. There’s so much pain and ugliness in the world, I’m 100% okay with a happy ending. I don’t think there’s any illusion that a happy ending translates to “and they never had any other problems ever.” But it focuses on overcoming. Giving a relationship the commitment, loyalty, and tenacity to stick with it. What I love about romance stories is that we can really dig in and go through the hard things and find the beauty in life still. It’s a reflection of God’s love for us.

Finish this statement: "Every author should (or should know) ____________."
Every author should know it takes consistency. Consistent prayer. Consistent learning. Consistent work.

What message do you hope readers take away from, It's Your Love?
There are two fear-related themes in It’s Your Love. Fear of loss through abandonment—how we cling to pieces of our lives and those clinging, fisted hands can’t also be open to what God has for us. Fear of loss through tragedy—how do we deeply trust God, knowing that this world, and that which is in it, is ephemeral. How we hold on to the illusion of control. I want readers to delve into the Word. To lean into God’s grace. To hold fast to Him in the storm and know He is good, even when he allows suffering. Both Grayson and Beth grow to embrace these truths.
Terri Thompson is an author, foodie, nature lover and philanthropist. She loves walks along the beach at sunset, dancing in the living room with her grandchildren, the beauty of flavors expertly combined, and the joy of words creatively knit together to bring truth to life. She blogs about writing, life and inspiration at To learn about the non-profits supported by the H. G. Clay Foundation go to

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