By Brad Carlson Photography Kimberlee Miller
In 1991, a dozen years after she graduated from Boise High School, Rachel Gibson took the first step on a path that would lead her to become a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of romance novels.
“I just sat down one day and started writing,” she said. “I wrote three books that were rejected. My fourth book sold and became my first published book (Simply Irresistible, 1998). The Art of Running in Heels, due out at the end of 2017 via the Avon imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is part of her series in which the main character is a professional hockey player.
Gibson, who has published 21 novels and four novellas, sat down with EM recently at her Eagle home to talk about her work and why it fits her.
EM: What can readers expect in The Art of Running in Heels?
RG: All of my books are standalone. Even if they are part of a series, they are standalone books. You don’t have to read them in the order that I wrote them. In The Art of Running in Heels, I reintroduce characters from my very first book. Twenty years ago, they were children. Now readers can catch up with them as adults. They deal with adult issues and problems they have to resolve as they work out their love lives. Like life itself, it can be funny, stressful and heartbreaking. They have to be relatable. They have to have problems everyone has in everyday life.
EM: What makes a good character, setting and plot?
RG: Every book starts with a scene in my head. Then I figure out setting. Usually it is a small town, because readers prefer small towns. I write visually, so setting is important. But it’s more of a backdrop. In romance novels, the main focus is on the female and male protagonists as they fall in love and work out whatever issues they have until they get their “happily ever after” at the end of the book. The setting just gives a flavor and tone. In the new book, setting is the least of my problems. Character is the bigger issue – getting the characters to do what they are supposed to do.
EM: Tell us a little about your writing process.
RG: I am what they call in the business a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants. I never outline because the book is going to take a different direction, anyway. I don’t always know where the book is going, but for me it is more fresh and rewarding; I am discovering it as I write it.
EM: How did you get into writing?
RG: I was dyslexic, so I never enjoyed reading – until I picked up Gone with the Wind and read it. So I just sat down one night at a typewriter and started writing. I have been a voracious reader since. When I was in school, reading wasn’t fun. And I didn’t discover the joy in reading until I read Gone with the Wind. Until then, a book had never taken me away.
EM: Why did the romance novel intrigue you from the outset? What does the genre still offer the reader?
RG: Romance novels are the retelling of Cinderella a thousand times over. That appeals to me and always has. I never thought of myself as a romantic, but I like the roller coaster of emotions that comes with falling in love. Romance readers are loyal, and the romance structure – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy fights to get girl back – is what readers want. And that is what romance gives them.
EM: Do you consider yourself a prolific writer?
RG: Twenty years ago, it was normal for a writer to publish one book a year. Over the years, authors started writing faster. Now it’s normal to publish three to four books a year. So I am considered a very slow writer compared to that. Romance publishers and readers want more than just one book a year from their favorite authors. I find that the more you write, the harder it is to write something fresh and new that you’ve never written before.
EM: Whether you’re writing a novel or short message, what are a couple of practices that serve you well?
RG: If it’s important, I give it thought and structure. I hate abbreviations; people should spell out the words. If it is emotional or angry, save it in “drafts” for a day or two, and see if that is exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it.
EM: What is it like to write for a major publisher?
RG: I’ve always written for HarperCollins. In each contract, there are specific delivery dates for each novel. I turn a novel in to my editor, who suggests revisions to make the book stronger. I like the process of revision. I don’t like the process of copy editing for grammar and continuity; by then, I’ve seen the book so much.
EM: Why is Eagle a fit with your life and career?
RG: Living in Eagle, there are fewer distractions and it is peaceful. My editor and agent flew here from New York and thought it was nice, peaceful and beautiful.
EM: What’s ahead for you?
RG: The book I’m writing now is not romance. It’s first-person women’s fiction. Right now in my life, I feel as if I have written it all in the romance genre. I wanted to write something different and new to me. I still love the romance genre and probably will write more romance novels. It’s just that now I want to write something I’ve never written before.