Q. “Where did you get the inspiration for your heroine, Rachel?”
A. “There is so much of the young me in Rachel. I was bullied extensively for my curvy body and I was as shocked as she is to learn that not the whole world thinks that skinny is the ideal. I was also considered an oddity for my positivity and for my refusal to curse all the time. But even though I grew up as a quiet, imaginative wallflower, I changed myself into a punk by fifteen, and into a confident woman by nineteen. So when I sat down to write Rachel, I wrote her as having been transformed already, a transformation I was going to show via flashbacks. But then I realized that starting with a transformed heroine is not as powerful as illustrating how she changes and grows before the reader’s eyes. So Rachel starts out as being shy and insecure, which I’d based on similar types, but it mostly came out of my imagination.”
Q. “Does this have anything to do with writing Travel Secrets in the first person?”
A. “Absolutely! Even though first person perspective is limiting, I had to write the book that way. It was imperative to show the reader what it’s like to be inside an active, questioning mind.”
Q. “Why is it limiting?”
A. “Because I can never show anything that didn’t happen to Rachel. I can never show any conversation or event that she’s not directly involved in. For example, if I want to show Chantal and Kevin conspiring against her, I can’t, because that would have to be written in the third person, and I wanted consistency. Still, I love writing the book this way. I think that affording a glimpse into someone’s thought process is one of the best gifts an author can offer his readers.”
Q. “What other gifts, as you put it, can an author offer his readers?”
A. “To me, a huge value is to write a contemporary novel, showing what characters are doing in our time, and how do they deal with problems we as human beings in the 21st century confront. Also, I mostly write about problems of choice, meaning I steer clear of accidents, diseases, tragedies, etc., and if they’re there, they’re not something that happens to the main characters or that shapes the plot. To write about what a character chooses to do, especially in a difficult situation, is what literature is all about. To show us what a hero chooses to do is to take an abstraction like courage and make it directly perceivable to the reader. Take Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables for example. Jean Valjean encounters kindness for the first time in his life after stealing the bishop’s silverware. He is caught and brought back to the bishop’s house, but the bishop not only refuses to condemn him, he also gives him his precious candlesticks. This one act elucidates to us, the readers, and to Valjean that different kinds of people exist, some with incredible good and benevolence in them. That is the moment in which Valjean changes by understanding what good is, and when he himself changes into a good man. And just to be clear, I’m not comparing myself to one of the greatest writers in history, but rather using his great story as an example because it is widely familiar to people today.”
Q. “Can you give us an example of how this happens to Rachel?”
A. “Rachel encounters many tough situations, all brought on by her choices, all of which follow the inciting incident designed to create tension: her bet with her boss, Ryan Brooks, to find a scoop about Rio or be fired. We see her struggle, lose her nerve, shed some tears, but conquer her inhibitions and make the hard choice every, single time. She shapes herself into a different person in book one and this resolution will be tested in book two.”
— Stay tuned for part 3 of the interview with Shar Lemond