Nice to meet YA is a new blog series aimed at introducing YA authors to the community.
Rachel Russell talks roleplay chat rooms, the cathartic power of writing, disappointment in publishing, and perseverance. She gives us a glimpse of RELIC THIEF, her new YA epic fantasy.
Name or pseudonym? Where are you from?
Sup, my name is Rachel Russell. I'm originally from Mississippi, but I met a boy online in one of those old school Yahoo roleplay chat rooms (no, not that kind of roleplay, just the regular D&D type stuff). I moved to Kansas to spend some time with him and ended up never leaving and ultimately marrying him.
When did you start writing? Why do you write?
I hate to say this because it's kind of the generic, cliché answer every writer seems to give, but I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil in my grubby little kid hands. But it wasn't until I discovered play-by-post roleplay in online chatrooms and forums that my writing truly took off. I know some people have misconceptions about this stuff, so I'll go ahead and clear it up right now. Roleplay, by and large in these spaces, was collaborative writing of a story. You controlled a singular character you had created with an elaborate backstory and goals and then interacted with other people's characters in various settings. If you enjoyed the other person's writing, you often teamed up with them and forged a storyline together. I did this for many years, because of how instantly gratifying it was to both write my own words and also read a story from someone else.
As far as why I write, it's cathartic. And also pretty much the only thing I'm half-decent at. Writing helps me clear my head of all the ideas I get and is also a great escape from the stress and drama that comes with adulting. It's also an excellent excuse for procrastinating on doing housework. Have I mentioned I'm terribad at being an adult?
Were you ever agented / published before? If you're currently seeking representation, would you like to tell us a little bit about your WIP?
I was almost published with Harvester. I signed with a small press called Entranced Publishing. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those small presses you hear horror stories about. I won't go into all the nasty details, but you can find an article about the publisher's terrible treatment of authors and ultimate death on Writer Beware.
While my terrible experience with Entranced Publishing as an author and another small press as an editorial assistant/Submissions Coordinator left me demoralized for a long time, I finally fought past the depression and cynicism to start writing and querying again. I'm currently working on a YA dark epic fantasy titled Relic Thief. It's about seventeen-year-old Juliette de Chesne who is a resistance fighter with a wit as sharp as her rapier. She steals magic items to help arm and fund the effort to free her people from a rival kingdom. It's also about monsters, and war, and dead gods, and damaged magic. I even have a map I drew of the continent the story takes place.
I'll be querying Relic Thief once it's finished. I do have a query letter I've written, but it's still a WIP just like the novel. Also, writing query letters is maddeningly hard.
Seventeen-year-old Juliette de Chesne is a resistance fighter with a wit as sharp as her rapier and nothing left to lose after a strange illness devastates her people. To help fund the effort to free her home city from occupation by a rival kingdom, she steals magic items from tombs.
When Juliette ventures into the ruins of an ancient city, she avails herself of a hidden treasure hoard. But the relics turn out to belong to Fellrin, a presumed dead sorcerer who was exiled and had his powers sealed after a spell went horribly wrong. Fellrin catches Juliette and offers her a deal: if she breaks the seal on his powers, he'll lend his magic to the resistance. The catch? To break the seal requires stealing a relic from the only other sorcerer left alive, and his powers are still intact.
As Juliette attempts the most difficult heist of her life, she falls for Fellrin. Though he is as humorless and stoic as the shriveled up corpses Juliette steals from, he’s also irritatingly sexy and noble. He wants his powers restored so he can resume research into healing magic.
However, when Juliette discovers Fellrin's last experiment caused the very illness which killed thousands of her people, she must choose: take revenge on the man she’s fallen for, or use his magic to free her kingdom and hope history does not repeat itself.
Tell us a little bit about your current writing dreams
I have several writing dreams. The first one is probably the most obvious, to find representation with a literary agent. The second dream is also probably obvious, it's to be traditionally published. If we get even more specific, another dream I have is to be traditionally published with Tor. That may seem silly to some people. But as a pre-teen that had just discovered a love for epic fantasies, I always looked for the Tor logo on binders to know it'd be a great story. Most of the first epic fantasies I first read were published by them. So, I don't know, in a way it feels like I would've finally come full circle if I was able to publish a book with them and reach someone else like me at that age; someone that never fit in at school, that got bullied a lot, was always the quiet kid in the back, desperately needed the escape of a good fantasy world to be lost in.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on Twitter. I ramble a lot on there.