One of the cool things about being a book blogger is the opportunity to connect with the very people who supply those books to us voracious readers—the authors! I’ve been fortunate enough to interview many awesome writers-of-books, and today I have another one. Please welcome Rachel Neumeier to the blog! Rachel is a seasoned writer (and you can tell that by her brilliant writing skills). She’s had at least ten books published over the past six years, but today we’re talking about her latest release, Black Dog, which comes out today from Strange Chemistry. I’m right in the middle of reading it, and it’s so good, it’s actually hard to take a break to write this post! Also, if you love puppies, you need to keep reading…
You have quite a few books under your belt, including fantasy novels published by Orbit and Random House. But Black Dog is the first book that you’ve had published by Strange Chemistry. Can you tell us a bit about how that came about, switching publishers? What has your experience with Strange Chemistry been like?
My other YA editor, Michelle Frey at Knopf (Random House), has a really clear idea of what kinds of books are suitable for her line. I love working with Michelle; I love her perfectionism and her amazing editorial eye. I’m looking forward to working with her on other books in the future. But she just didn’t think BLACK DOG was quite what she wanted for the Crown imprint.
On the other hand, as you might have noticed, Amanda Rutter of Strange Chemistry likes to pick up a wide variety of titles that stretch the YA idea in all kinds of different directions. I was really pleased that BLACK DOG caught her eye, and I’ve enjoyed working with her and with the whole Strange Chemistry team – everyone is so energetic and committed. I’m looking forward to working with Strange Chemistry again in the future, too.
I’ve read some reviews that say that Black Dog is surprisingly free from some of the normal young adult tropes that seem to be everywhere these days, like love triangles and insta-love. Did you deliberately leave these things out?
Unless those tropes are particularly well handled, they aren’t necessarily my favorite elements in YA, no. Especially the angsty mooning over the sheer physical perfection of the various love interests that sometimes accompanies insta-love. I didn’t decide to reduce those elements as a deliberate choice, though. It just never occurs to me to draw out those tropes when I’m working on a story.
What is your favorite part in the writing process: first drafts, revisions, research, world-building?
I love discovering the world and the characters as I write the first three or four chapters. I love writing the intense scenes that occur to me during the writing process. Along with many, many other writers, I usually hate the middle.
My first draft is always pretty close to my final draft. I like the “bigger” revisions, where I add a chapter or seriously change a chapter. The comments and suggestions made by my most important beta readers are tremendously important in giving me a clear idea of what big changes might improve the story.
I detest the tiny, fiddly sort of revision where I need to go through an entire manuscript, tweaking one character to make her story arc more clear and coherent. It’s very difficult to know whether I’m succeeding or failing at that kind of effort. Once again, my perspicacious beta readers are crucial for judging whether that kind of revision has worked.
Speaking of world-building, did you incorporate any familiar legends or myths into the creation of your black dogs?
Not really. I was more inspired by a handful of recent urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Oh, but I did go straight back to the old conception of vampires as demon-possessed corpses to create my vampires. I’m not sure that strikes many readers today as “familiar myth,” though, because that kind of old-fashioned vampire has certainly been superseded by modern sexy vampires. In general that’s fine with me, since I enjoy modern UF and paranormals far more than horror. But I thought it would be fun to use demonic vampires myself.
When you have free time to read, what sort of books or authors do you enjoy reading the most?
I read nearly everything. About half of everything I read is fantasy. Most of the rest are science fiction, mysteries, and historicals. Last year I started reading more romances, both Regency and contemporary. I read nonfiction, but not nearly as much as genre fiction.
You asked about authors. It’s nearly impossible to pick out any, I feel I am leaving out far too many of my absolute favorite authors, but Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley and Guy Gavriel Kay definitely inspired me when I was starting to write. Lois McMaster Bujold and CJ Cherryh are auto-buy authors for me. Barbara Hambly writes both my favorite mystery series (starting with A FREE MAN OF COLOR) and my favorite UF series (starting with THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT).
Authors I discovered more recently and love include Martha Wells, Andrea K Höst, Sarah Addison Allen, and Laura Florand. Florand stands out because she writes wonderful romances and has probably just about tripled the number of romances I read, all by herself.
I understand you are a dog lover and raise and show dogs! I am a dog lover as well, but I don’t do the hard stuff that you do, I just love to cuddle them:) Can you tell us a little about your dogs and how you got into that hobby/line of work?
With pleasure! I got my first dog, a Papillon, just because I thought it would be fun and exciting to have a pet you could take everywhere, unlike a cat. And I did take him everywhere. I taught him, and my second Papillon as well, a lot of tricks. I loved showing them off.
When I moved to rural Missouri, though, I thought that if I got another dog, it had better be something that would be a little safer from hawks, owls, and snakes. Cavaliers are small, but they are much bigger than Papillons. I will always love Papillons, but Cavaliers are beautiful, sweet, and fairly easy, undemanding pets (for dogs – compared to a cat, they are a lot of trouble!). They do have heart issues and a few other serious health concerns, though. Since I have a good understanding of genetics, I thought it would be a good thing to try to establish a line of Cavaliers that was truly free of serious heart defects.
This is harder in practice than you might think, it turns out, not to mention time-consuming and expensive, but I am hoping that one of my new puppies, two days old as I write this, will be able to make a real contribution to that effort. Their grandfather on his mother’s side has just the vigor and longevity and beauty I want for my dogs, and of course I selected their father carefully. Now only time will tell – this is a very long-term project!
My dogs have actually turned out to be important to me in ways I didn’t expect. They are all pets first, breeding and show dogs way second, so they are always crowding around. Especially if I’m cooking!
My natural tendency is to turn into a hermit; they stop that from happening because not only do I show, I am always taking them to the park or hiking or whatever. I used to be shy; my dogs gave me a huge boost in overcoming that because I just felt it was natural for strangers to stop and admire them. I’m not especially shy now, but I do like to live by myself; the dogs keep the house from being too quiet.
Like a Real Writer, though, I also have a handsome, debonair, opinionated cat, named Chrestomanci.
Tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found on your website.
Wow. Um. All right, let’s see. Okay, here’s one: I am a serious grammarian and really want a tee-shirt I saw recently that says “Silently Correcting Your Grammar.” I didn’t get it because I was afraid it would make people too uncomfortable, but I could wear a shirt like that every day because it’s always true.
I have a twin brother who knows everything. I can call him up and ask, “Hey, who’s an actual historical saint who ought to be the patron saint of people threatened by werewolves?” and he’ll know. I also have a brother who knows everything about computers. I try not to bug him too often when I can’t get a picture to load on my website or whatever.
I always listen to music when I write, usually very quiet and in the background, with unobtrusive vocals and strong melody. Enya, say, or Celtic Women. I can play anything when I’m working on blog posts or whatever, though. Right now, as I write this, I’m playing Enigma’s “Return to Innocence.” When I’m cooking or driving, I like Alternative or Rock.
Thank you so much, Rachel! If you want to learn more about Rachel’s books, her dogs, and everything else, please check out the links below:
Find Black Dog: