I have written and rewrote this introduction a lot, more times than I would like to admit. That is because it is difficult to start anywhere with E. Rachael Hardcastle. Notice how I haven’t called her an author yet? This is because she does a lot more outside writing, she is interviewing authors on her YouTube channel, she helps other authors in a myriad of ways, she works with kids, edits and more. She is rarely the subject of conversation on many of her platforms, she is always on the other side asking the questions and helping, so I thought I should take the role she so often takes and uncover the person behind it all..
This is what happened.
When did you start writing and what was the experience for you?
I started writing novels at around 16 years old, but what originally sparked my interest was poetry. In school we were asked to write one inspired by Martin Luther King, and mine was chosen to be published in a book. I thought, ‘If I can write a poem and be published, I can write a novel’. I started several projects I never finished, and wrote mostly to prove I was worth something. I wanted to be somebody.
Before that had you about writing at all?
Before the poetry, I don’t remember having an interest in writing books, though I never minded my school assignments that involved creative writing.
Are there books or works you think have influenced your writing in some ways?
I think Mitch Albom’s books have influenced me greatly. They share important messages and lessons about what it means to be human. I always hoped someone would find such meaning in my writing. How something can be so memorable and mean so much to someone is really special. I have been told before that my work has a spiritual theme, though I hadn’t noticed it. I also now tend to write around the subject of our future, which is unintentional but I read a lot about our mistakes and our flaws as humans, that it’s not a shock it has leaked through to my writing. William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence was always very inspirational to me, too.
So you would hope your books do the same for others. So how does E. Rachael Hardcastle approach a new book? What do you do? What is the process?
New ideas come easily to me, but they don’t develop easily. I get ideas for books every day – it takes a lot of exploration before I settle on which needs writing. Then, it’s a matter of getting my initial draft done and the notes alongside it. I call these my writing beats. Then, once I have the basic map of the story, I read it over and over, editing and re-writing each time until the story forms itself. Then, I edit several times more for spelling, grammar, redundancies, continuity etc.
If I put my mind to it, I can write a book in about 4 months, but that excludes editing.
What is the hardest part?
The hardest part about the actual writing process is ensuring all my plots join at the end. My writing is complex – in particular, my Finding Pandora high fantasy series, and there’s a lot going on. I have to ensure I answer all the questions and resolve all the conflicts at the end of each book, without actually ending the adventure of the overall series. The hardest part about being an author is the marketing and making a name for yourself.
I have said about your writing that it is nuanced, it needs a keen reader. Do you do this intentionally? Do you want readers who won’t be passive when they read your work?
I don’t intentionally write like that, I think it’s just my style and my natural voice. When I wrote Finding Pandora, I already had the first four books planned out and I knew what was going to happen fairly early, but of course as you write a story, the characters all develop and other plots form. I wanted the books to be as exciting as possible, with depth and meaning, but I also wanted the reader to have to think about Arriette’s problems as much as she does. After all, it’s the reader’s adventure as much as the protagonists.
The depth and meaning is it the important part?
Because substance always hangs behind the passages in your work, as if concealed but, like a ghost, you can feels presence it.
Well, I will take that as a compliment. The story itself is the most important part. I think all stories need a point, or else why tell them? But I believe they are more enjoyable when they are layered and meaningful. I write high fantasy so it’s less obvious, but I’d hope to teach my readers something through Arriette. Taking chances. Believing in yourself. Trusting others. Bettering ourselves as a race and learning from mistakes. Haeylo exists only because of the mistakes we made on Earth. I also hope that through the Recruit (Arriette’s friends) I can teach unity and faith, spirituality and forgiveness. Because of the Recruit gathering the religions of the world together to pray to their god/s for a second chance, their thoughts were answered. This wouldn’t have happened had we not put aside our differences.
I by no means want to preach to my readers and I don’t intend the books to be religious in any way. In general, I just think we could all be better people if we tried.
I see. It definitely does not come across as preaching, when one reads Finding Pandora the story has tinges of philosophy and thinking about human nature (not to mention the past). Is that the story behind your series Finding Pandora? When did it start and why did you decide you would be writing a series of books of this kind? What were you hoping to achieve as a writer?
I suppose you could say they preach, but I’d hope in a good way, and this wasn’t intended. If people pick up on my messages then great but I wouldn’t want them to feel overpowered by it. The story behind Finding Pandora is finding a reason or a beginning for evil. It followed us on Earth and has now slithered to Haeylo, despite our creator trying to avoid it. I decided to write Finding Pandora because I had been reading a lot of fantasy and had some ideas of my own, and I couldn’t think of a book that followed that storyline, though I’m sure someone, at some point, has written something like it. As a writer I want what anyone does, to be recognised in my field and for my work to be enjoyed. I don’t expect fame, I don’t expect tons of success, I just want to do what I love and entertain some people along the way. I wanted to make something of myself and I think writing helps me to feel I’ve done that.
That is actually quite sweet, admirable. Thanks for sharing that. How was the world building process for Finding Pandora?
Thorough and enjoyable. There are over 16 species of ‘Supe’ on Haeylo – some good and some evil, they all sit on a scale of power and each dominate over the next. The world itself is very much like Earth, but Supes were created to protect us and prevent us from destroying another planet (our second chance). Only when we have learned our lesson will the Supe genes fade and evolution will once again rule. This is one of the story threads in book three, Infinity. A high-ranking Everlast at the top is fearful that humans will once again rule, and he’s decided he’s not ready to step down. Designing the powers and writing the Haeyloian language were a lot of fun, but time-consuming, which is to be expected when done correctly.
I have also recently designed and included a map, just for fun.
That is incredible. Seeing how magical creating worlds and entire species is. Would you say writing is, to some extent, a lovely escape?
Absolutely. I like the control creative writing gives me; I can live in a world different from this and what’s even better is I can share that escape with others. I can create chaos, but I also have the power to fix it which in this world, isn’t always the case. We are often powerless to fix what we don’t like – war, hate, hunger, for example. Arriette has this power. In some way, you could say I am like Zinnyi (the creator of Haeylo), because I created the world of Finding Pandora and all in it, and I’m a proud parent of every character. He is of course a God and I claim no comparison, but I cheer for Arriette on our good days and I consider killing her off on our bad ones. To her, I am the force that exists outside of her consciousness and understanding. Writing is powerful like that.
To the extent that writing furnishes your life with a sense of identity, meaning and mission would you say it is a spiritual activity? Not something like religion but definitely like philanthropy or meditation or something quasi-religious.
I suppose so, yes. It is certainly a part of my identity and sometimes I think I was meant to be a writer. We all have talents – I can’t sing, cook or paint, but writing fits me where it may not fit another, so I’m pleased to own the skill. It is how I relax and how I unwind, so in a way it’s also my meditation. That sounds like a fair comparison to me.
Do you think you could ever stop writing?
I can take breaks from writing and I think it’s healthy to do so. If the ideas aren’t flowing as usual, I don’t force them. Breaks and holidays help to regenerate ideas and refresh the mind. I could never stop completely, though. Writing is self-therapy for me, too, and without it I think I would be a very different person.
I see. Very true. My favourite book of yours, of the two I have read, is Forgotten Faith. What were you trying to do there?
Forgotten Faith was a way for me to use up some left-over material from the novel, The Soul Sanctuary (unavailable at the moment – my first ever book). I felt the story was capable of standing on its own so I gave it a chance and several people have now told me they enjoyed it because it’s light hearted and realistic. It’s not like my new material, so for people who like my style but not the genre, Forgotten Faith is a way for them to enjoy my work.
I would peel my skin for another Forgotten Faith or another book like it. Am I holding false hope?
This year, perhaps, but never say never. Josephine is my first protagonist, so I will always hold a place for her, but I also feel she is behind me, representing a less skilled writer and a past me. However, I do have some basic outlines for two short stories entitled, ‘Halfway Between Existence and the Skies’, about a school girl with an extraordinary gift, the consequences of which will cost her either friendship or the love of her life. Due to the other projects on my list for this year, this is likely to be a 2018 challenge, but NaNoWriMo could bring one of them to life sooner.
That is pretty cool. How do you see yourself growing as a writer in the future? What do you think are some of the things which will begin showing in your writing? Is there something you think you would have mastered pretty well by then?
I am always improving – that’s a benefit of being Indie. Changes can be made and books can grow with me as an author, but I would still like to be traditionally published at some point in my life. Seeing my book/s on the shelves of my favourite store is a dream of mine. I think I would also like to grow my following and help others more, young authors in particular which I have started to do this year by visiting a school, helping them to produce books and hopefully give them long-lasting advice and inspiration. As for what will begin to show, I would hope that my editing skills will improve. I’d like to think I know enough because I have worked very hard to study what I do, but I will never know everything. I would also love to increase the lengths of my novels and write some stand-alone books with a higher word count that hold the same, if not better quality as my current books. Mastering anything takes time, and I still consider myself new despite having been writing since 16 and published since 18. But, it is only in the past 8 months that I have pushed myself to learn and improve. I’m an introvert, so mastering how to pitch my book and discuss what I do to larger groups of people would be beneficial. I still find that awkward and embarrasing.
What should we expect from you in 2017?
Great question. I have set some personal writing-related goals I plan to meet, all of which I deem achievable if I put my mind to it. I met the goals I set in 2016 when I started to market properly, plus some, so this year’s are as follows:
However, I am also writing a book not on the list which is technically science fiction, but is intended to be quite scary and suspenseful.
That is interesting. You don’t have a particular genre, do you?
No, I like to try whatever takes my interest. I do write mostly high fantasy because the Finding Pandora series is actually 12 books long, most of which are completed but need work. Book 4 Eternity will be out this year. However, I get ideas all the time and some of them won’t leave me alone until I explore the possibilities and write a bit. This one is turning out well and I find I’m even scaring myself as I write some scenes. I will eventually settle back into fantasy, but where’s the fun in restricting yourself?
I guess there isn’t any. Lol. Rachael, thanks for doing this. You have been really amazing.
No problem at all, my pleasure. It’s been great.
For Forgotten Faith click here.
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