My week of awesome author interviews continues!
I’m bouncing up and down a little bit right now because Rachel McMillan is here today! She’s seriously one of the coolest people I sorta know. And she’s from Canada. So there’s that. 😉
Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.
Alright, my friend – let’s start you out with our usual “fast four” questions!
Rachel: This is so hard! I love apples in fall but I love love love love love love clementines at Christmastime
Carrie: Oranges are indeed very Christmasy 🙂
Rachel: Winter! Pretty snow! Christmas! Pretty snow (note: the snow currently covering the ground in April is not my favourite. Like, we get it snow. You came. You conquered. You can leave now.)
Carrie: I knew you were one of my faves! Yay for Winter and Snow! Of course, I’m one of those people who enjoys snow anytime during the year since we get so pathetically little of it here.
Rachel: I LOVE BOTH but I do prefer dogs. I would like to get a basset hound: one of those big floppy ears creatures! I would name it Toby (anyone else remember The Great Mouse Detective?)
Carrie: A) Of COURSE I remember The Great Mouse Detective and B) it does not surprise me at all that you would reference it 🙂 Oh… and C) Zuzu approves your answer!
Rachel: I do love really super strong coffee from Starbucks but I find it can sometimes make me anxious and jittery so tea is what I drink the most. I love tea. I love the preparation of it (I make loose leaf tea) and the smell 🙂 It is relaxing.
Carrie: Well, then here’s a cup of tea for you as we pull up our chairs and settle in for the questions that “mostly” matter.
Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Rachel: Amazing Metabolism Girl: Can Eat All the Movie Popcorn She Wants without Gaining a Single Pound
Carrie: Oh wouldn’t that be marvelous!?!
You are – if memory serves – the first Canadian author I’ve interviewed on my blog! Tell your neighbors to the south something you love about your country.
Rachel: This is so hard! One of the things I love is the sheer geographical beauty of it. I have traveled quite extensively across Canada and the beauty and grandeur of the rockies in British Columbia is just as magnificent as the gorgeous light-houses and craggy rock-rimmed ocean in Nova Scotia. My hometown of Orillia is your typical lake and pine tree with canoes and loons look from a postcard. There are so many different kinds of beauty in Canada.
I love that Canada is a mosaic. We welcome all cultures and no one is forced to assimilate, rather they sew up an amazingly multicultural patchwork quilt. This is something I pursue in the Herringford and Watts series with the attention paid to immigration in the early 20th Century.
Finally, we do apologize a lot. And we are laughably kind. And we so badly want to produce pop culture that is as quality as our big brother America and maybe we don’t succeed: but if you come visit, you will feel at home. Canadian stereotypes may be laughable but they’re also wonderfully true.
Carrie: “I love that Canada is a mosaic… they sew up an amazingly multicultural patchwork quilt.” I adore this answer!
Your DEBUT NOVEL (ahhhhh!!!!!) The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder follows besties Merinda and Jem as they launch a “consulting detective business” in 1910 Toronto. Merinda is the smart, sarcastic, Sherlock-Holmes-loving, more-comfortable-in-trousers-than-dresses half of the duo. Jem is definitely the more girly, the more romantic, lavender-scented, unwillingly-along-for-the-ride half. Which of the two friends do you most closely resemble?
Rachel: I am half and half. I think a lot of women are. I am a hopeless romantic but I also have a fierce independent streak. A lot of readers have trouble understanding Merinda in the first book because she comes off as prickly. She very much is inspired by Sherlock Holmes so she has those social oddities but she is fiercely loyal. I think readers will find her development –and her devotion to Jem—one of the most beautiful aspects of the series. I love that friendship.
Carrie: I think one of the greatest things about Merinda is her independent streak, prickly though it may be at times. Watching her develop over the series is something I’m very much looking forward to – particularly as her friendship with Jem evolves via the natural course of life.
Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray. All the bubble hearts for Ray! What did your writing process look like for he-will-forever-be-in-my-book-boyfriend-collection Ray?
Rachel: Ray came out of NOWHERE. He wasn’t in my initial outline but then I got an idea about a reporter who writes up the girl’s adventures. The more I thought about him the more he represented Toronto on the brink of something new: a poor immigrant who is trying so hard to learn English and give a voice to new Canadians who have trouble scraping by in a new life that held such promise. He also became the perfect fit for Jem’s character development: a man who would shake her world so completely. He’s the opposite of her childhood ideals and their relationship takes some challenging turns over the course of the series so stay tuned. But, he is such a romantic. I love that about him. He writes bad poetry, he really falls for Jem the first time he sees her and I think that at core that is what makes their relationship work. They’re equals. They’re both helplessly ( if a little brainlessly) in love.
Carrie: (please hear the whine in my voice, here) Oh Raaaaachelllll….. that phrase – “their relationship takes some challenging turns over the course of the series” makes my hopelessly-romantic heart hurt just a little. But I trust you. I think. 🙂
I have to say that this series of books – the Herringford and Watts Mysteries – have some of my very favorite cover and interior page designs EVER! And your footnotes add this whole other level of enjoyment to my reading experience. What kind of input did you have in the art design process?
Rachel: I really have to thank Harvest House for this. And my editor. When my agent and I signed with Harvest we negotiated having input on the final cover design. I really didn’t want the usual “model on the front” cover because a.) I knew this series could potentially sell into the general fiction market beyond the CBA and b.) because a crafty design could help us brand the series in an easy way. When my editor first sent her idea for cover designs from already existing books I was blown away as we were both on the same page. Finally, when I saw the first cover I was floored. It was so brilliant. It was in galley form on my last edits that I saw the interior design and I was so chuffed! Isn’t it perfect? They knocked it out of the park! I give them prominent symbols from the stories to incorporate into the covers but their amazing designer takes it from there. Also, I adore Merinda’s little deerstalker!
Carrie: English to English translation for my American readers – “I was so chuffed” apparently means that Rachel was very pleased 🙂
What do you most want readers to take away when from The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?
Rachel: In this series I really hope that readers take time to realize that while the spiritual message is intentionally thematic and subtle in order to hopefully make for an accessible read to both Christian and non- Christian readers, the Christian themes are very much there. You just have to look for them. Francis of Assissi famously said “Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words.” The advocacy of my four main characters for the less fortunate and my (hopefully) clear idea that God uses Marys and Marthas but also Deborahs and Esthers are two ways I weave Christian themes into my murder mysteries. Finally, the Sherlock and Watson relationship is, I think, an amazing reflection of our faith challenges. We, like Watson, see through a glass dimly while all-knowing God already holds the key to the mysteries of life and the universe. Watson’s faith in his friend Holmes’ deductive powers (even before he sees the final resolution) will hopefully encourage those moments where we trust in God’s command but don’t quite understand how He has the path that lies ahead.
Carrie: I love, love, LOVE this! A “sermon” need not be included for a book to be Christian fiction… nor is said truth necessarily omitted just because it’s not glaringly obvious.
Rachel THANK YOU for hanging out with me today! Did I already mention that I think you’re just the coolest person I know? I think I did… which is why I’m NOT the coolest person anyone knows haha!
Buy The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
Other/Upcoming Books in the Herringford and Watts Mysteries
What about you? Tell me something you learned about Rachel or her books!