(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Rachel was written by Rachel Brune.)
Kelly stood near the hearth of the study staring at the fire. This time she wanted to make sure the room was toasty warm for her visitor—unlike the first guest she had in this room. That had been a mistake, and Kelly felt bad that she hadn’t thought of the temperature until she realized Sharon was shivering. She wanted her guest comfortable and even had some hot tea ready if Rachel wanted it when she arrived.
Glimpsing around the room—still left in that final moment before everything collapsed here in Elddon—Kelly contemplated cleaning up, straightening things, and dusting things off, but she shook her head. On rare occasions, Conrad came here and stood in the shadows as he always used to do. He’d stare at the desk, and if he stared long enough, he would be able to imagine his wife sitting there, working on documents for the kingdom. Sometimes he smiled at the memories. Sometimes he shed tears, but he was always alone, and he always remembered. Kelly wouldn’t take that from him by cleaning the room and disturbing memories.
The door creaked open, and Kelly glanced to it then saw her visitor peering in. She snapped out of all her thoughts and smiled. “Rachel, welcome! I trust you’re doing well today.”
“Pretty good,” Rachel replied. She smiled widely, focussing on Kelly, and trying to leave behind the chaos of the outer world for a moment. “Sorry I’m so early.”
“It’s perfectly fine. At least I was here!” Kelly smiled then motioned to the room. “Feel free to explore if you’d like. I’m going to sit by the hearth.” She then moved to a chair near the fireplace and watched to see what Rachel would do. While she waited, she asked her first question, “So tell me a bit about yourself—what it is that you do in the Real World, and how it fits into you being a writer.”
Rachel thought for a moment, taking in the room, using the excuse of studying the space to avoid answering the question. She had somehow expected a study to be…neater. Unfair, of course. Her desk at home was several piles of disorganized mayhem. “I’m…well…I do a lot of stuff. I guess if you were to label me, you’d call me a mom, a military Reservist, someone who always tries to do too much at once. Which is why I currently have two novel-length works in progress, and a bunch of shorter things.” She looked around. “So…should I sit?”
“You may sit if you’d like.” Kelly nodded with a warm smile then motioned to the tea cups on the table. “And there’s some tea if you’d like. Sorry, but they don’t have coffee here.” She gave her an apologetic look as she poured tea into both cups then took one in her own hands and sat back in her chair. She smiled as Rachel came to sit across from her then tilted her head. “So when did you start writing? Recently or have you always been writing?”
Rachel sipped from the cup. The tea was delicious, and with the roaring fire she could almost sink back in the chair and fall fast asleep. She shook herself. “Sorry.” She sipped again and put the cup back on the table. “New mom sleep deprivation.” From a bag slung around her body, she pulled out a small knitted project on four needles, pointed at each end. “I hope you don’t mind if I brought a project I’m working on. I tend to fidget if my hands aren’t busy.” She pulled out a fifth needle and started to work. “I guess I’ve always been writing, pretty much from the time I started to read. Once I realized that letters made words, and words made stories, I wanted to fit them together myself to make my own. Stories, that is.”
Kelly watched her hands work, amazed at the ease and swiftness that she worked, but then she lifted her gaze to Rachel’s face once more. She wanted to focus on the writing aspect of Rachel, but Rachel had said something she couldn’t ignore and wanted to address. “You’ve had a baby recently? Your first?” She smiled, thinking back to her best friend’s new little girl she had finally be able to meet a few days ago.
“Yes!” Rachel paused, thinking of LauraJean. “It seems like just yesterday we brought her home, but actually she just passed the six month mark. We named her Laura after my grandmother, and Jean after my husband’s grandmother. And Rose, because we like the flower.” She grinned. “She’s put a little bit of a crimp in my writing schedule, but she’s also given me some amazing experiences to draw from.”
A wide smile blossomed on Kelly’s face. “She sounds adorable! I truly admire you for still writing even after having a baby. I hear it is very difficult and a lot of women give up on it, but I’m glad you’re still writing!” She then sat back in her seat, considered her next question then lifted her brows as she looked across the way at Rachel. “So how do you do it? I mean, how do you manage to write while still caring for the little one?” While listening, she lifted her teacup to her lips and took a sip.
“A very understanding husband, and a writers’ group,” Rachel replied. “The one encourages me in my writing, and the other gives me accountability.” She stopped to stretch her fingers, and picked up her cup before continuing. “I try to have my tablet in close proximity during the day, too, so that when I have a few minutes I can just open it up, pull my WIP from the cloud, and get in a few sentences.” She sipped some tea. “I’ve also had to give myself permission not to feel guilty if I go a whole day without writing. I’ve had to face the reality that sometimes I have to choose another project over writing, or things come up with my Reserve unit, or sometimes LJ just has a fussy day. And so that whole ‘write X number of words a day’ advice doesn’t really help me. But ‘do what you can and don’t give up’, that’s the advice I try to keep reminding myself.”
“That is very good advice. Thank you for sharing it with me. I’m sure it will be very helpful for writing mothers everywhere.” Kelly nodded with a smile, but then she finally set aside her tea and leaned forward. “So tell me about your stories. You say you have two novels you’re working on. What are they about?”
“The first one, Steel-Toed Blues, is an urban fantasy.” Rachel searched for words. She was still perfecting her elevator pitch. “It’s a bit of a blend of electric blues, American Fae meddling, travels through the deep South, and a couple of characters trying to reconnect after leaving the military. And one of them is an untapped Magician. The other book… well, it’s not really a novel. I mean, it’s going to be written as a narrative, but it’s a nonfiction account of a friend’s struggle with leaving an abusive relationship. I’m working on the first chapter, but it’s really hard to write, especially knowing that what I’m putting on paper is something she had to live through.”
“That has got to be hard.” Kelly gave a sympathetic nod, thinking back to the time when a friend asked her to ghostwrite her life story, but Kelly found she couldn’t do it. She really admired Rachel for doing what she could not. “So, which story do you want to focus on in this interview? Unfortunately we only have time to focus on one of them.”
“Let’s do the first one.” Rachel smiled. “I’m a little farther along with that one. The second one, I’m still trying to figure out.”
Kelly nodded with a smile. “Okay, sounds good to me! So what inspired this story?”
“A couple of things.” Rachel thought back to that November, when sitting down to write without a plan or a plot seemed like a good idea. “I love the urban fantasy genre, and I really wanted to do something that involved the idea of American Fae. I figured, America is a land of immigrants, in constant tension with each other, and with the original people. Wouldn’t there be some sort of parallel with the Fae as well? I had this vision of a blues bar, and some live music, and an audience filled with humans and Fae, caught up in the smoke and vibe, feeding off each other, late into the night.”
It sounded interesting, so Kelly nodded, leaning forward as she got into the conversation. “And who are the characters in the story? What conflicts do they face?”
“The main characters are Rose Allen Lee, her Basset hound, Frank, and her old Army buddy-turned-friend with benefits, Jimmy Dee,” Rachel recited. She’d turned these characters over in her mind for months and months, getting to know them, but still learning as she wrote. “Rose is a blues guitarist down to her last dollar, and she’s recently been offered a gig traveling with a breakout blues singer. She’s trying not to mess up this tour, in the hopes that it will lead to steadier work, but the Fae have other ideas.” She thought for a moment. Here comes the part where the author reveals part of herself in her character. “Jimmy Dee is her friend who has the steady job, who has done well for himself in his post-Army transition. And he worries about her. He worries because he’s lost his fair share of friends, and he’s worried that Rose is going to fall victim to the same voices that others have heard.” She smiles, trying to bring it back to a lighter note. “Also, he’s worried because he keeps hearing Frank talk to him.”
“Frank…the Basset hound is talking to him?” Kelly cocked her head to a side as she furrowed her brows.
“Well, you know that dogs and humans have always had close friendships.” Rachel laughed. “At least, that’s what my two think every time they hog the bed.” She picked up her tea and finished it up. “But in this case, Jimmy Dee and Frank are affected by the intersection of Magic that Rose begins to wield.” Rachel realized she probably wasn’t making any more sense. “Okay, so in this universe, the people who are considered Magicians are those who serve as a Bridge or intersection between the Fae and the human worlds. This intersection can affect those around the Magician, imbuing them with certain Magical side effects. Such as Frank and Jimmy’s newfound ability to communicate.”
“Wow, that’s cool! Wish I could hear my Doberman, or my cats, talk with me…or maybe not. Maybe it’s a good thing I can’t hear them talk. Probably wouldn’t want to hear what they have to say.” Kelly laughed but then thought of someone else she had interviewed who had a talking cat. This hound and that cat should meet–would be a fun crossover.
Shaking her head with a smile, Kelly then lifted her gaze back at Rachel. “So, is there a main antagonist in the story? Or is it mainly Rose trying to find her way around? Or what exactly?”
“There are two forces working on Rose.” Rachel picked up her knitting and started working again. She knitted two stitches, then looped one over the other. As she spoke, the sock she made started to emerge from the needle, finished. “The first is the Fae world in the character of Electric Sally. Sally is an old, old Fae, who has chosen Rose as the most likely latent Magician to come into her powers and not get killed.” As Rachel reached the end of the row, she pulled the yarn through the final loop, wrapped the remaining yarn around the sock, and stashed the project back in her bag. “Montaigne — that’s the guy who’s trying to kill Rose — has a history of doing that to any Magicians who pop up. He enjoys having the monopoly on Influence and Magic.”
“Ah, sounds like quite a power struggle.” Kelly nodded, just imagining how it could all play out. “So are you in the process of writing this, or have you completed it and are revising it?”
“Still writing,” Rachel admitted. “I got stuck for the longest time, and just recently got the characters to start talking to me again. I’m about three-quarters of the way through at this point, and hope to finish this summer. Then, it’s on to revisions!”
Kelly laughed. “Oh yes, the fun of that—and it really can be fun.” She then sat back in her chair, tucked a foot under herself to get comfortable and tilted her head. “Have you published anything before?”
“A few things—my novel, Cold Run, came out last year from Untold Press,” Rachel said. “And before that, I published Soft Target. I’ve also had a bunch of short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. I’ve also garnered my fair share of rejection letters…”
“Well, congrats on getting some stuff published though! That is quite an accomplishment, and it think every publication really outweighs all the rejection letters.” Kelly gave her a smile of encouragement. “So, when do you think this current novel will be ready to be published?”
“With luck, by this fall.” Rachel grinned. “That is, if the Fae cooperate, and we all know how reliable they are.”
This caused Kelly to laugh out loud. “Oh yes, don’t we all?” Then she shook her head because she knew their time was up, and she sighed. It wasn’t fair. Time here always seemed to pass quicker than in the Real World, but she had a schedule to keep.
Casting her gaze to Rachel, she gave her an apologetic look as she shifted in her seat, preparing to rise to her feet. “I’m really sorry to cut this short, but our time is up.” She frowned but stood then offered Rachel a warm smile. “Your story sounds exciting. You will let me know when you finish it and publish it right?” She raised her brows. “I’d love to tell others about it when it’s out.”
“Of course!” Rachel stood. She would have loved to be able to spend time in the study alone, exploring further, but the Real World was calling. And so was her novel. “Thanks for inviting me by. I’ve had a great time. And thanks for the tea!”
“No problem at all!” Kelly beamed then led the way to the door. When she opened it, there was a portal to the Real World. “Maybe we can do it again sometime, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting one of your characters!”
Rachel stepped out, then turned back. “Any time. Ciao!” With regret, she waited until the door closed and headed back to reality.
Rachel Brune’s story ’Steel-Toed Blues’ has no release date set yet, but you can follow her online here:
Blog/Website/Friday Writing Prompts: http://www.infamous-scribbler.com