Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends and Fiction with Rachel McMillan (Sunday Bonus Episode)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Writer, social media guru, and literary agent, Rachel McMillan joins the Friends & Fiction authors to discuss her new book, The London Restoration. https://www.rachelmcmillan.net/

Welcome to Friends and fiction. Five best selling authors, Endless Stories, Friends and Fiction is a Facebook live program with five best selling novelist whose common love of reading, writing an independent bookstores found them together with jets, author interviews and fascinating insider talk about publishing and writing. Thes friends discuss the books they've written, the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Best selling novelist Mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, Harvey Patty Callahan, Henry and Mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books. To their credit at the Start of the Pandemic, they got together for a virtual happy hour to talk about their books, their favorite bookstores writing, reading and publishing in this new, uncharted territory. They're still talking, and they've added fascinating discussions with other bestselling novelists, so join them live on their friends and fiction Facebook Group page every Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern or listening view later at your leisure on their podcast or on their website at www dot friends and fiction dot com. Hello, everyone here we are with our brand new inaugural Behind the book bonus episodes E. I know we're so excited we'll be doing these about once a month, and tonight we are kicking it off with the fabulous amazing Rachel McMillan. But we are still friends and fiction. I am Patty Callahan, Henry and I'm your host this evening, and my latest novel is becoming Mrs Lewis. I'm Mary Kay Andrews, and my latest book is Hello, Summer, Um, Mary Alice Munro, and my latest novel is on Ocean Boulevard. I'm Christine Harmel, and my latest novel is the book of last name I'm Christi Woodson Harvey, and my latest book is Feels Like Falling five best selling authors and list stories. We are so thrilled about our new bonus episodes, where we meet new authors and focus on the art and craft of writing. As you can see, there are more than five of us, and we want you to read meat. Rachel McMillan, A Tongue Twister. Her latest book is London Restoration and just came out last week, and we're still supporting our Bookstore of the Week, which is Page and Palate and Fair Hope, Alabama. And if you click the link in our friends and fiction Facebook page. You'll find a link toe all of our books, including Rachel's Newest for 10% off. Rachel and...

I met on a street in New Orleans, which sounds way sexier than it waas way. Oh, I know way. But it wasn't a fun New Orleans party. It was. It was a dorky library convention, and it was a least 69,000 and 354 degrees way bonded immediately, not only because we were sharing a published sure and loved books that we because we're both madly in love with the same man. Endeavor. PBS show Endeavor. John Evans, My Boyfriend No, no, no. I called Jets. He's my Gordon in my novel, so don picture everywhere. We take one more in a bad mood. We text each other photos of Sean Evans, but it will always put you in a better mood. But the more I came to know Rachel, the more I admire her. Not only is she one of the most prolific writers I know, but she is one of the most avid readers I know, and she is a literary agent. She is the author of the Herring, Furred and Watts mysteries. The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries, the three quarter time Siri's and her newest London restoration. She is also the author of a nonfiction book called Dream Plan Go. A Travel Guide to inspire Independent Adventure. She is also vaguely obsessed, which is an understatement with Hallmark movies, and she has written a very merry holiday movie guide. Oh, it just came yesterday. I don't know, really. Oh, so Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada. Since we're focusing on the art and traffic writing, we'll be talking about that. But first, Rachel, I want you to tell us about your new book. I heard about it when it was just the inkling of an idea. You and I were both in London. I was there for becoming Mrs Lewis, and we met for breakfast and you whispered this book idea and I was enchanted. So tell us everything now. It's a really thing in the world thing. Gorgeous. Cover the London restaurant, and it really is amazing for me because it's my departure from the mystery genre and historical mysteries, and I guess I can add a bit of ah, publishing tip. Here is perspective writers. You may not get into the publishing door in the genre that you set out to write off. You take an opportunity, you spend the time. If you're me, you put everything your passion into historical mysteries, which I did for eight books waiting for the moment where I would have the opportunity to pitch historical romance.

Which is the genre I've written in my teddy book journals since I was a little kid or my teddy bear journals. Um, Patty. Besides, my mom was the first person to hear that I was in one and again, authors. You know this. I was not contract ID at the time. I hadn't. I was waiting to pitch a proposal, but I knew that spending 10 days of research on the Christopher Wren churches in London and at Bletchley Park, where the code breakers and spies were, would inform a proposal that I hoped that my publisher wouldn't say no to. So the London restoration is basically a two fold restoration. One is it set just after World War two, and Diana Somerville, an architectural historian, is returning from four years at Bletchley Park, having signed the Official Secrets Act and reuniting with her husband, Brent, whom she's madly in love with but whom she cannot tell where she's been. And he is returning from a stretcher bearer at the front and together they're trying to get to know each other, while Diana is commissioned by an M I six agent to use her knowledge of the Christopher Wren churches to zone in on a Soviet agent called Eternity. So you get a deep dive into these days, beautiful churches bombed in blitzed and the way that they established the grading system in London the way that Postwar London evolved in this resiliency of these amazing people, but also the potential to see the beauty of these structures that we see as they were rebuilt nowadays. So it's very atmospheric, steeped in a lot of history, but it's a romance and a married romance. It starts. We're usually the movie credits would roll with the sepia tones and the music swelling. We're catching up with people who need to fall in love again and again and again because they've become strangers to each other. So that's that's my newest book, E Amazing e Love, How you not only just told us about the book. But how you finally got to write the book you wanted by persevering through other books? I think all of us have been there. All of us have done what I'd love, that we have so many questions for you, so the most I get to go first. So you and I have talked a lot about this about how reading isn't just for the pleasure of reading, which it is, but how it also connects us with others. And you are so active on social media talking about what you've read and how reading, not on Lee is a creative battery power but also connects us with others, which is part of why we started this show. But I want you to talk to us about that and how that works for you and how it's helped you in your career, since we're talking about you know, the art and craft of this career well, first of all, if you're going to pursue publishing, you need to have a genuine sense of...

...reading love because without it you will not survive. There is no way in the world to make authentic connections in the writing reading, library and bookstore community without a genuine love of reading. And that means reading widely. And it means reading often. And it means building in reading into your writing and pursuit of publication. If you think you're reading enough, you're not. If you can read more, read even more than that. But what's more, learn how to love books written by other people so much that if you start to feel that an internal editor is happening or you're feeling competitive, then you stop writing until you learn how to read again with a deep love. Because reading is what informs our world and our world. Onley works when we love on each other's books without expecting anything in return. Just a natural love of reading. Once you have that, you're ready to be a part of this community that Onley works. When we elevate each other, we elevate other authors. We spend time endorsing debut writers. If we're Christine Harmel, you text Rachel McMellon when she just lost her mind over a book of lost names. You get to that point, but here's a bonus when you're pursuing publication, when you're at a writer's conference, when you want an agent or an editor. You need to know the market because whatever you're writing is two or three years behind what's being signed. So you need to be attentive enough to see where the trends are going, and that's easy to find. If you read widely, you stop it. You're bookstores. You ask your librarians and you follow the trends, and that kind of goes back. Thio. Sometimes you get in the door, you establish yourself in whatever way you can. You use your traditional publishing books even if they're in historical mystery to start helping others. And then when you publish the book of your heart, people will write your editor and say, This is the book that I know Rachel's been wanting to read. They went to my editor and asked to endorse it, and that Onley happens when you're a reader first. So every writer, please the community Onley works if we love on each other's books and craft. I kind of Children's what a great answer was really good. Uh, Mary Kay, I know you wanna Rachel. You're an author and an agent. You know, um, the world wants us to think that cove it is a death knell to the publishing business. A reader named Katherine...

...still well says that readers from all over now have an opportunity to meet the authors and hear them speak about their books. Is the book industry booming? She says. I imagine libraries and shops are having difficulty keeping up with the demand. Some of us are going to be in semi isolation for a long time, so there's it's kind of a two part question. One part of the world thinks books or dead and the other part of the world says we can't get our hands on enough books, which, which, which is the reality, Do you think? Well, I would put it through this lens about a decade or so ago, the Kindle came out at the time of recession in Canada, in the U. S. All over the world. And I remember I was working in educational publishing at the time. My entire life has been publishing. I have graduate credits in publishing, so I come from that. But I remember people saying the Kindle is that's it for books and yet more. We see people wanting print books, but I would also take a moment to remember this, that your perspective of something informs how you engage with it. So if you're a perspective author and you've decided that the book industry is dead, you carry that and you pass that on to other people. Or if you're a writer in the writer community, then you're not paying attention to seeing the successful things that are happening like this. For example, you've got together you wanted to support indie bookstores. If we have the savvy, we can snatch this moment to be the moment where we redefine how we engage with people who may never have been able to make a book signing in person or never been able to go to a writer's conference because they can't afford the airfare. Let's embrace it and not focus on that. There's always challenges in book publishing, and there's always rumbles. But also remember this. Remember how excited I was? I dio to get a haircut after not getting one a in a bookstore, that first moment at a library that's gonna happen for a lot of us. Ah, lot sooner then TV shows will be filming and movies will be filming and theater breaks my heart cause I'm a huge theater nerd will be happening on stage. We're a the moment Where are fresh content can break any covert barrier. We can get a book tomorrow on our phone, so I would say not to focus on that. As for books thriving, I just think that you should go to Twitter someday. Ignore all the politics and the cat GIFs and through Publishers Weekly or through publishers lunch. Or on Tuesdays, when all the new releases come out and follow people who are sharing their excitement and internalize that you have enough negativity from, ah, global pandemic.

Ah, hurricane murder, Hornets an economy just murder. Everything s so put your blinders on to the power of books to prevail. And the more we get through this, the more we're going to keep being innovative. So a bit of a ramble. But I hope that touched on some of those points. E Christie Woodson. Harvey. Yeah, well, and it leads into my I really have, like, 11 questions for you, but it's one question, Um, yeah, but I do think that you really touched on something that you know, our ability thio transition during this time, and our ability to kind of keep on our toes really is sort of defining. You know how we move forward and it's just it's gonna be a really interesting time. So as both an author and a literary agent, what do you think is the new normal and publishing? Do you think that people are gonna be reading differently? Do you think contracts are going to be different? What do we need to know that you're seeing from the author and the agent side? C 11 questions. Love it. I love it. So I would say that we were starting to see a shift even before the pandemic. It's just the pandemic exacerbated some of the things that were happening. I will say positively that I was able to find contracts for clients over the pandemic. Many people were resigned. Many people made the New York Times best seller list. But I would also say that some places were already worried about the decline of bricks and mortar stores or the gigantic leviathan that is Amazon. That's was something that was different because when Amazon started prioritizing shipping of non books, people went to book depository people went to books. A million people focused on their indie bookstores. So at the risk of turning the conversation positive, I want authors know that the new normal is whatever we make it. You, Rod. Yeah. And what we have this week shout out to Fiona Davis? Yeah. Fantastic New York Times, right? Yeah. Look, the Lions of Fifth Avenue. Look at the book of lost Names. Look at the library and books centered books that will be the imprint of authors throughout this pandemic. I think that's a magical kismet. We are readers. We will make it happen. We will survive. We've got all the tools. 20 years ago, we couldn't be having this amazing zoom call where I'm in another country. Um, so I'm pretty That won't let us in the Oh, you know, to be honest yet, we'll get there, Kristie, you got to see if...

...you can even get in. You know we can't get in your way. Um, but I have to tell you question, ask her, Catherine, that, you know, I was really excited this year because what author doesn't dream of three releases in one year, and I waited my whole life for this moment and it turned out to be 2020 on one of them is called Dream Plan and go not dream plan and stay in your apartment and read on nothing. Just remind plan. What? Drink, Drink A That you should have written a drink. A drink A s you have to dio is rewire your brain to think of how it could be an opportunity, I decided with that book that yes, it published on May 6 when you know, you couldn't even go to a coffee shop and sit down in Toronto that books can have a marathon appeal and that as things open up, more people are gonna be itching to travel. So how can I think, Squire? That story we tend to think. And I'm hoping this is reflected in the publishing world where often and, you know, this is writers. They often dictate the success of a book within a few weeks, whereas usually it takes a trickle. It takes word of mouth. You know, I caught the end of the episode just before this one where someone was saying that they heard about this through a coffee shop. Consider how powerful that. So you can look at it in two ways, and I decided to try and do whatever I could to engage with people online through books and book. Love and London Restoration so far has been by far my most successful fiction book at an enterprise to date. So I'm just gonna, like, grab onto that. Sorry. You got Sonny mixed sunshine here on your If you were looking for the dark and dirty world of No, no, no eggs. This is exactly what we're looking for because I do think so many people feel so daunted. And sometimes I think those writers we look for an excuse to feel daunted. I mean, like, can't pitch now. We're in a pandemic. No one's. But, you know, I mean, we look for those excuses to, like, not have to put ourself out there, So no, this is exactly why we wanted you, Rachel. So that you could tell us what we needed to hear. And I think also for the young authors who are trying to get published, this kind of belief that it can happen, I'll just have to, you know, just can do is really inspiring. Yeah, and most importantly, look at how this summer has shown a much needed spotlight on own voices and black authors, all of the publishing companies who are taking off their...

...usual unsolicited manuscript and actually spending the time that we should have spent time on years ago, bry, and find ah, wonderful space for every last bit of inclusivity. If that's the new normal, then hey, I'm or that new normal were in absolutely good one. Okay, Christine Harmel, what you got? Well, my first question is, Rachel, can we be best friends? Because I need something like sunshine in my life. I mean, seriously, I love your optimism. And I love how supportive you are of other of other writers. And if people at sort of all places in the journey. So, um, you know, official invitation extended for best friendship, You know, if if that interests you but s Oh, you know, I looked at your list of novels and nonfiction and it's overwhelming. You had How many books out last year? Was it four? Oh, it's been a lot. Oh, my God! But but like last year alone or within the last year, i e. It's it's mind boggling. Um, so on your social media. Also, you talk about books as if you read one a day how on the world, right? So much and read so much and represent clients. I mean, do you sleep? How do you do it? And do you outline? Do you free, right? Like, just kind of take us through the nuts and bolts of what you dio Well, I think that I was very intentional in my pursuit of the publishing business. I always wanted to be published. So what I did and I don't know if this is everybody's path is that I spent four years just making connections as a blogger and what I call I call myself a book gusher because I just gushing about books and reading Agent blog's and I got my agent. And my first book was signed in 2016. And at this time, I was still working full time for an educational publisher in Canada. Um, and from there, I got ah, look at the industry and I would read on the subway commute, and I would write at lunchtime, and I think that, you know, I'm going to say it. Sometimes you sacrificed vacations sometimes like me. You're working on London Restoration Line edits through Christmas and New Year's I all the time because I believe that you have to want it five times more than anyone else and work five times is hard and you have to have the marathon and Stephen Leacock, sick Canadian writer. And he said, I'm a great believer in luck. I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. S o. I have given up a lot for writing, but it's what I always wanted to dio. I will say that I am blessed in that I am...

...a fast reader. It depends if I'm reading a 1500 page tome on the work of Christopher Wren. It takes a little bit longer and I said, I'm a bit. But when I lose myself in a story and that's why chunk time out for reading. Because when you're in this world, we talk about blurb ing and endorsing. Just having a name like Patties or Sue Meissner is on the front or Kristin, having a name just helps elevate you to readers, so it's just so important to keep reading. I do outline, but I also leave myself room for rabbit holes. I also really rely on the fact that I've had some amazing editors. I don't know about you, but often my books come alive in the developmental edit stage. First draft is terrible, and when you look at it, this teamwork and that you just have to get it out there and you have a chance to refine it and to go over it. That's really helped. So a lot of it has been just a lot of hard work. There has been kismet moments and connections which have been wonderful, but it's just a lot of hard work and a lot of time. And I think all of you would say that there will be moments where someone is lifted. You know, the In the 19 thirties Hollywood movie, a star is born in someone's on Broadway in an understudy role, and then suddenly they're the biggest star in the world there. There are moments where that happens that for a lot of us, it's just years and years of work, so that zone around about. But I hope that answers that a little bit absolutely well, and I think the thing is Rachel, that a lot of people, including us, sometimes think that there's a secret we don't know, like there's there's a secret. Everybody else No, no, across the line, Yeah, yeah, And I think the secret is that there is no secret other than hard work. I think you nailed it hard work. I remember when we were in college, the gene of the first freshman gathering said, Everyone look to your right, even look to your left 11 of you or two of you won't be here in four years was so depressing, but it actually sort of that way. If you're in the race for writing a book, to getting publishing, have to work hard, really want it, how much do you want it? And there are so few slots, so you not only have to think just about yourself in your career, but it's like any job interview. It's like any corporate meeting. You have to be a team player because if it comes down to a pub aboard, which is where they make the final decision about a book, it's between you and one other author, and you both have kind of the same sales the same scope. Are they going to go with the one who goes above and beyond and supports other people and keeps an eye on the industry? Or are they going to go with the one that Oh, maybe if we give them a pretty cover, they'll skyrocket. Publishers at...

...the end of the day are not just this magical unicorn. We pursue their people and they want good people on a team. And so I think that that goes so hand in hand, it's the hard work. But it's also being approachable and wonderful and someone that people want to have around. I love that. Okay, Mary. Alice, I know you have a question once from the Yeah, this is a reader question, and this is from Anne Young, and she wants to know, Can you offer advice to new authors regarding self publishing versus trying to find an agent or an established publisher? So I think that, you know, a lot of us are asked that question, but I think you have your foot in both camps s I'm really Yes, I'm really I've actually self published a couple of books, too, so I'm really interested in your answer on this one. Well, I would say first off all that. The stigma around self publishing that pervaded the industry for a very long time is gone, and also that if you have any kind of ego about Oh, but it's not traditionally published. Remember most of your readers browsing Amazon with a good cover and description are not going to know the publisher name. That's something we know. We know imprints they're not going to know. So remember that it's accessible. But also remember that you can want different things, and that's legitimate. If you just really want to get your story in front of people on your own timeline, without the business aspect, without an editor saying, Please do this or this is isn't the book that's going to get you in the door. Self publishing is a great idea. I self published novellas, contemporary romances set in Vienna because I know that I couldn't pitch those to a traditional publisher at this point and have them take them. And it reminds me of the joy I used to have writing stories in my notebook with no one else around, and I want to keep that joy So I published them, and it's almost like if you wanna look over my shoulder, that's fine. But I would also provide a bit of caution here. And that's what if you want to self publish but also traditionally publish, remember that the moment you self publish, you have a sales track record and the sales people at a publishing committee board, which is the final decision, are the ones who are going to say, Oh, they have a book out, Let's see the sales And that can be a little daunting to them, even if it is from an independently published project. So I would keep that in mind also know that it's all legitimate. But if you're going to do it, pay the up front costs for a good editor, a good cover and know that you can get to a point. Where can I? Gosh, look at me. I'm so lame opening of my life. But my publisher now includes my three quarter...

...time Siris in my books, which are fantastic because you can cross over readers. But what I would say is that they're two different things. If you just want to publish to get your story out fast. That's a legitimate thing. If you want to pound the pavement with no guarantee of publishing, that takes a different type of love of story because, you know, as we've talked about so many of us, Mrs Lewis, for example, I mean Joy is a book of your heart, all the books or books of your heart in one way. But the Passion Project takes years of research, takes kismet, takes everything aligning, so they're both legitimate. You pocket money once you self published, because after you pay for your cover and your editor please do that, you automatically get those royalties. But I would say read traditional author, blog's and writing spaces and do the same for self publishing. But know that there's not the stigma there once was that Oh, it's us versus them. There's a lot of hybrid authors, absolutely a dancer. Yeah, I like the word hybrid authors E. I have never heard that before, but it's perfectly like that a lot. I haven't tried it yet, but there have been books I've gotten the rights back to, and I've thought about it going on and send them out into the world. Okay, just real quick. I were running, of course, other 10 yeah. One more asked me to ask that one next question. Mary Alice, if you will. All right from Anissa Joy Armstrong High Anissa. I'm sure this will be another great event. Which job do you find The harder job being an agent or a writer? They're both really challenging. I've only been doing the agent role for about two years now. Um, I would say that they both require a lot of instinct in different ways. As a writer, as I said, I'm watching trends and is an agent that works really well. But as an agent, you also have to be able to decide if you're the right person to sell the book, even if you like the traction. Even if you like the person's platform and social media numbers, you like the concept at the end of the day. Can you love it enough that you will fight for it? And that can be hard. That instinct can be hard, whether you're writing a book or choosing to represent one. The thing I would say that's hardest about being an agent is having to deliver bad news having to be the front line for conflict because you have to be the liaison and having to tell a writer that they've been passed on a rejected. And I guess because I am a writer, I know what it's like from that side. I do find that I'm learning more about the legal aspect. I work for a great guy named Bill Jensen who's been doing this for 40 years, so he teaches me a lot right now. I would say that they're both equally hard because I just the time balance just in life.

Sometimes everything comes at once. I'm having a few weeks where that hard boys are amazing, like delivering amazing news to a client or to publishers want your book that's in the brain store off. They're both awesome. But I would say that writing, because it's my passion. That's the one that I I find more challenging sometimes because it requires me to be more vulnerable, right you have. Yeah, I get that. I get that now on to what everyone is waiting for, including me. Give us a Rachel McMillan writing tip. All right, well, you've seen the motif of how I speak about the publishing industry, So I'm going to give you a writing tip that I hope translates into your life. And that is a quote. Allow me to quote myself. When does that ever happen from my gun and go book that the greatest skill you can learn in life is how to be happy for other people, And the single greatest thing you could do is a writer is realized that success for one of us means success for all of us. When a book like The Nightingale becomes so popular, it elevates the world so that other people book of lost names room on the roof Family can find their reader When Lisa Wind Gate, who spent many years pounding the pavement if that was not an overnight success story before we were yours, that means that sold on a Monday finds readers it might not have found before. Success for someone is success for all of us. And then there is no room to be like, Oh, I'm not a good enough writer or their publication is gonna surpass mine. Or why aren't my sales like there's the more doors we can open through people who paved the way Because none of us are a pioneer. It's all been done before. Northrop Frye used to say that there's only like, two original story is the Bible and King Lear I don't agree with, but he's kind of onto something. How people king, How could we make it the best in our voice? And so the greatest skill is to learn how to be happy for other people. And if it's genuine, that means you can go anywhere and meet lots of amazing people and read lots of amazing books so that my heart is is a writer. Oh, I love that. Wow, That's a different direction than we usually hear, You know what a tip that was great. No, I'm gonna write that. I'm gonna listen again. And I think I wanted you to be my BFF to e forgot what she just said. I'm happy for you. We could both be best friends with So you guys I was...

...first. Okay. With your prolific reading. I know you have a load of books suggestions, so I'm going to flip it and ask you to tell us. But only one Onley one I know. Please follow me on social media. You get like 13 a day. I actually spent time on this because I wanted it to touch on everything that I think is wonderful about all of you and friends and fiction. And I chose Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society. You know, debut during a time when the world was shutting down. I was supposed to go with the launch because Natalie is a Canadian just like me, who went to research in England just like me and spent time at shot in house, unraveling this post war society of people who love books. It made me revisit the source material of Jane Austen in a new way, but added bonus for every bookstore watching. Natalie comes from a background as an indie bookseller. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter thinks book is huge. And for all of you ladies who likes, um, Richard Armitage, he recorded the audio book. So you just get to listen to his beautiful voice within society. Postwar Canadian author who loves books and booksellers and supports indie books stores because that's her heart. That's my heart, too. So read it. Wow, you like kid on everything we represent that was a good one. That's about stars. And for all of you listeners out there, um, Rachel will definitely stop by the page. She's guest, and she will try to answer some of the questions we didn't get to. And she will tap in and join you on the Facebook page. And, Rachel, I'm so excited for London restoration and for you. And I'm so happy you came to talk to us. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you. This is surreal. I appreciate all of you and thank you for what you're doing for books and authors. All of you support authors in the way that I just dream to keep being able to do so. Thank you so much for having me. You're a wonderful book. The London Restoration. Really? Looking forward. Your awesome Lots of success. So that is a wrap our very first behind the book bonus episode. You can mine Rachel's new book at 10% off at a bookstore, the week page and pellet on our Facebook page. And that's it. Thank you, Rachel. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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