Monday, March 17, 2014

HARVESTER -- An interview with Rachel Russell

Update: unfortunately, my friend Rachel's book is no longer available for purchase due to her publisher going under, but I'd like you to still show her support and follow her on Twitter, where you'll hear more about her future writing projects (if I'm not mistaken, she's currently working on something new). I don't know exactly what will happen to HARVESTER, but I think Rachel will pitch it to agents, so hopefully in the near future we'll see it published again. The story is great, it is ready and polished and edited, and it certainly deserves a home that will take care of it and make it available again. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that very soon I'll have positive news to announce here about her and her book(s).

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I have the pleasure to announce the release of HARVESTER, Rachel Russell's debut YA novel. I love interviewing authors and getting to know more about their writing habits, but this interview in particular makes me really happy and proud. Rachel is a dear friend on Twitter, and she's always been there for me. She's a hard-worker and one of the most creative writers I've ever met-- you can't imagine how descriptive her writing is, and how it sucks you into the magical, magical worlds she creates. It was great to see HARVESTER go from an idea to a deal with Entranced Publishing.

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"Hey! My name is Rachel Russell and I’m twenty-nine years old. I’ll be hitting the big thirty (ugh!) later this year in October. I live in Kansas, but I grew up in Mississippi. So I basically traded hurricanes for tornadoes. Yay! Most of the stories I write about either fall into the high fantasy or horror genres; sometimes a combination of both."

When and why did you start writing?

I feel like every single writer answers this question basically the same and I’m really no different. I started writing online when I got into play-by-post and text chat roleplay. Since some people may not know what that is, it’s where you make up a character (I enjoyed playing characters with tragic backstories or Machiavellian villains) and describe their actions, thoughts, and their dialogue. It’s sort of like collaboratively writing a novel with a bunch of other people where you only get to control your character and nothing else.

Is writing ever scary, or is it always a bliss?

It’s never scary for me. Frustrating when I have a problem fixing a plot hole or get stuck in the story? Definitely.

Were you always a huge fan of fantasy? What is it about fantasy that makes you love it?

Yes. Always. It’s the genre I always, always come back to no matter what. I think what I love about fantasy so much is discovering this whole new unique world filled with magic and awesome races. So many epic things can happen in fantasy. There are no limits to what you can do in fantasy and I think that’s what I love most about it.

What inspires your writing?

Anything and everything. I’ve had ideas come to me when listening to a song, or even when watching an anime. I’ve also had ideas from dreams that I manage to remember after waking up. My story ideas usually brew for quite some time inside my head, where I cherry pick all these different inspirations and mesh them together until I have something new and unique and original that’s of my own creation.

Tell us a little about your writing habit: do you write daily? Do you write full-time? Do you plot?

My writing habit fluctuates, honestly. I’ll get on a kick where I’ll write daily. This is generally when I have an awesome novel idea and I’m plowing ahead with the story after plotting it all out. If I haven’t plotted or don’t really have an idea that thrills me, I fall off the bandwagon pretty easily.

Tell us a little about HARVESTER.

It’s set in a world where there are mages who live in secret in these massive underground cities. A sixteen-year-old girl named Catalina is the protagonist of the story. She ventures to the surface world, even though it’s illegal, and ends up having a run-in with a serial killer who has been murdering faeries for dark rituals. Catalina ends up getting framed for these murders and has to clear her name and stop the killer. There’s also a sexy love interest involved, who has a worrying connection to the serial murders.

Where did the inspiration to write HARVESTER come from?

It came from a love of magic, mages, and faeries. I love creating magic systems, so I spent a lot of time making up a completely unique magic system and giving it rules for how it works. The faeries were inspired from Sidhe faery lore and also Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And the mages of course are just humans who are born with the ability to use magic.

What audience is likely to enjoy HARVESTER the most?

If you like dark fantasy, magic, or romance, HARVESTER may be right up your alley. 

What was the publication process like? Did you query agents, too?

I did query agents for a time. I got plenty of requests and tons of R&Rs, but none of it ever quite panned out. While it was frustrating and depressing, I’m still thankful to all those agents who took the time to give me feedback and help me improve the book as much as possible. It changed a LOT from the original version.

Are you still open to getting an agent?

Yup! I’m working on a YA high fantasy and a YA horror that I intend to query later this year.

Are you interested in working as an agent or editor in the future?

I already work as an editor! I do both freelance work and also help out with titles at Month9Books. I have zero interest in being an agent though.

Do you think this generation of YA writers will be known for/as something? Are we making literary history?

That’s a hard one to answer. If we are known for anything, I hope it’s for writing bravely and tackling hard subjects and improving the representation of diverse ethnicities and LGBT characters.

Do you want to be remembered through your writing?

Of course! Who doesn’t? 

What would you say to someone struggling to get published that you wish you'd heard before you went on the same quest?

It isn’t a race. Chill the hell out and take your own time. Don’t worry about how fast a friend is writing or if this person with a crappy attitude landed a rockstar agent. Just keep your head down and do your best and have fun with the process.

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Sixteen-year-old Catalina has never seen the sky. As a mage, it’s illegal for her to leave the underground city she lives in. The sun and moon are only fantastical stories of a land far away. So when Catalina stumbles upon a tunnel leading to the surface, she can’t resist the temptation to see the surface world.

But instead of enjoying a night beneath the stars for the first time, Catalina emerges upon the scene of a savage murderer harvesting faery body parts. She's nearly his next victim, but is rescued by a grim boy named Will who has a troubling connection to the killer.

Even more disquieting is Catalina’s criminal status upon returning home. Someone with political clout has framed her for the vicious slayings. Now on the run from the law, Catalina must uncover Will’s tie to the serial killing of faeries, as well as stop a bloodthirsty murderer to prove her innocence, or face a death sentence.

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Information about the book:

Title: Harvester
Author: Rachel Russell
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: 17th March 2014

Excerpt

The last person caught smuggling medicine had disappeared, never to be heard from again, after Marshals whisked him away for interrogation. It wasn’t a reassuring thought to have as Catalina stood in line and gnawed on the inside of her cheek. With each step she took toward the Arch, the glass vial hidden within the inside pocket of her vest grew heavier. She’d trafficked medicine into the city before, but it always felt like the first time. She supposed there were just some things you never got used to. Knowing the Arch wasn’t designed to detect her precious cargo didn’t stop her palms from sweating or her stomach from flip-flopping.

“Next.” A scowling guard dressed in a black trench coat with a stiff, upturned collar waved her through with an exaggerated wave of his arm, as if she’d been dawdling.

Catalina sucked in a breath and stepped beneath the Arch. It wailed, shrill and loud, like a cat in pain. She startled, her eyes widening. 

“Hands in the air!”

Oh no. No, no, no, Catalina thought. She held up shaking hands. My luck cannot be this crappy. She’d passed through the Arch dozens of times with the medicine on her and the alarm had never gone off before. Maybe it was a malfunction.

Another guard stepped over and passed a plain, black rod over her, starting at her head and traveling down. It glowed white when it neared her vest pocket. 

Catalina’s stomach bottomed out. They’d updated their equipment. For once, the law was a step ahead of her. 

The guard flipped open her vest and reached into the inside pocket, plucking out the vial. He held it up before his face, arching an eyebrow. Within the glass vial swirled clear liquid filled with glittering particles. The guard pulled out the stopper and sniffed. 

Catalina caught a faint waft of honeysuckle flowers. 

“It’s faery elixir, all right.” The guard put the stopper back on. “Take her to the interrogation room. The Marshal will want to speak with her.” 
The other guard stepped behind Catalina and twisted her arms behind her back. She needed to get out of there. If she could buck her head back hard enough to break the guard’s nose, maybe— 

Then metal pinched the tender skin of her wrists. She tried to wriggle her fingers. Her knuckles hit cool iron. He’d encased her hands in mitten handcuffs, the only sure way to keep a mage from weaving a spell. Catalina sighed. Now it really was too late. 

“Come on.” The guard grabbed Catalina by the elbow and led her through a blue door off to the right. 

Their booted steps echoed down a hallway with overhead lights so bright they whitewashed the walls and floor. Catalina squinted beneath the harsh glare. The guard led her to the end of the hallway and stopped in front of a dull door with black paint curling at the edges. Again, she was struck with the near-overpowering drive to bolt. She’d heard horror stories of Marshals using magic to strangle hearts near to bursting point till they got what information they wanted. 

The hinges on the door whined as the guard opened it. An empty room with a table and two chairs lay beyond. A cold chill rushed down Catalina’s spine. Odd how such a sparse room could feel so menacing.
The guard shoved her into the room. “A Marshal will be with you shortly.” 

Catalina stumbled into the room and whirled to face the guard, only to be met by the door slamming shut. A click came from the other side of the door as he locked it. 

She turned and strode to the table. “Great. What the hell am I supposed to do now?”


You can add Harvester to your to-read list on Goodreads:

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About the author:

Rachel is a YA author who likes dirty martinis and pickles on her pizza. Her stories tend to be either horror or fantasy, or a strange amalgamation of both genres. She works at Month9Books, LLC as both the Submissions Coordinator and an Editorial Assistant. When not reading or writing, Rachel is marathoning anime, becoming one with Twitter (@RachelxRussell), or playing make-believe with her two daughters.

You can find her at: