I am so excited to share with you my interview with fellow Spark Press author, Rachael Sparks! She is here to talk about her debut novel Resistant, to be released October 16, 2018. Mark your calendars, you won’t want to miss this one!
Tell us about your novel
Resistant, imagines a world post-antibiotics, which is truly almost upon us. The main character is a woman who has lost her mother to an infection and is getting by with her father but discovers she might hold the cure in her own blood. Because of that, she’s a target of several groups that would like to control that cure. She’s unsure whom to trust and still trying to protect her friends and family while she determines the real answer, and the adventure takes off from there. It’s a little bit sci-fi, adventure, action and romance, so I think it’s going to appeal to many readers.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the publicity steps for Resistant, which releases in mid October. I’m also finishing a work in progress that I love working on. It’s set in 1700s Maine and the present day, with just a dash of science, a pinch of witch, and romance threading through two stories. The two main characters are distant relatives and I’ve really come to adore learning about them—and about lighthouses, Maine, and medicine in colonial Americas.
What advice would you give to your younger writing self?
I’m certain I was quite a terrible writer in my youth, but I was just writing fun tales for myself. Later in my early 30s, better stories came to me but I wasn’t confident enough to write them. If I could advise younger Rachael, I would say to start practicing and writing down those tales stuck in my brain. It took the confidence of age for me to begin writing seriously, but also the experiences and exposure to different styles of writing. It even took exposure to some poor, yet published, writing that gave me a sense of “Well. If they can, I can.” So maybe I would just buy her a drink, wink, and tell her she’s capable of more than she knows.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?
Very, very secretively, yes. As a kid, I read nonstop. I daydreamed in full, detailed stories that I would revise constantly, as if daydreams needed to have a proper plot. I never actually dreamed it could be a career, though. Michael Crichton was a god to me, and he seemed omniscient in a way I didn’t think I was capable of achieving. But over time I came to see I was an autodidact with obsessive research tendencies.
At some point I realized I’d accrued a lot of these stories, along with a fairly unique knowledge set, and that I could weave many into a full novel, the type I wished someone was writing and publishing: a meal with all my favorite flavors of science, action, thrills, mystery, romance, danger. It had been simmering, then two events made Resistant happen. One, a dream of Rory and Navy in a certain scene that happens at the climax of the novel. And two, my husband and I had a dare between us for who could finish the first step towards our most secret aspiration—either he would finish a small piece of furniture, or I would finish the first five chapters of a novel. We had three months. I finished Resistant nine months later.
Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?
Well, Rory is my main character, so I do adore her. But I think I favor Navy, her co-hero, because I find him difficult to get to know. There’s a lot more to learn about him if one could pry his brain open. Fortunately, that’s my task.
Where do you do most of your writing?
Wherever I can find a quiet moment! Family, work, and trying to have a healthy life can both slow you down and feed your imagination. But usually from nine to midnight, and if I can beat everyone awake, during the blue hours of the morning. I love that color of light and the sense that everyone is dreaming on pillows while I’m dreaming on [digital] paper.
What inspires you?
Learning new information, exercise and music inspire me. I read as many scientific and history articles as fiction work, and am constantly saving them to bookmarks so they can inspire a new plot twist. I have a playlist that is curated to the mood of each WIP. It’s the soundtrack to the movie playing in my mind. If I’m stuck, for me, a hike or a long walk to said soundtrack usually bubbles up a new twist or motivates a stuck character. And when I want historical perspective, I love to dig through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection– if you haven’t been, go, and I advise putting your vacation responder on.
What else would you like your readers to know about you?
I’d probably want my readers to know that I appreciate them. If we ever meet, I hope they’ll say hello, let me buy them a beer, or even cook them some pasta. For reassurance, I would also want them to know I used to cook professionally. It’ll be good.
Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?
Once I sit to write, the pantser takes over. When I am unable to actually type, I try to record my disparate thoughts and needles of “this character is too likeable and needs faults” or “don’t forget to take that gun off the wall soon”. Thank goodness for Google Keep (tm?), while I continue the search for a plot-mapping app that I like.
What are you reading right now?
I’m ashamed to admit how many books. I’m reading Eliot Peper – 2 of his. Just finished Adrienne Young’s Sky in the Deep. Kelli Clare’s Hidden. Andrew Mayne’s Looking Glass. James Scott’s The Kept. The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry. And re-reading Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, That’s the fiction stuff. Maryn McKenna’s Big Chicken is in progress too. As you might imagine, everything moves pretty slowly with that many going on. It’s a recent problem I’ve developed that I’m not sure how to treat.
If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
AJ, a character who will have a larger role in the sequel, is a fishing captain of her own vessel. I’d love to go on a fishing trip with her off the coast of Woods Hole, MA. Maybe swing into Martha’s Vineyard for a homebrew and pizza at the Offshore Ale Co.
What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?
Rory is in her twenties, so I imagine there are hundreds of talented actors [actresses? Not sure the preferred parlance these days] who could play her. It seems more fun to find an unknown actor with untapped talent! I’m certainly unknown so far. On the other hand, I think Jennifer Lawrence and I share the commonality of a well-educated pirate’s vocabulary and a fondness for a pint.
What are your top 3 favorite books?
So hard to narrow down! I guess I’d say the ones that haunt me most: The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. Wuthering Heights. Jurassic Park.
But if we’re being honest, I confess to rereading Daddy Long Legs. Though fiction, it’s this historical, literal progression of a poor, uneducated orphan from child to a young woman, told through the letters she writes to her benefactor. While it’s outdated and of course today the story would never be so patriarchal, I still like reading how Jerusha overcomes her insecurities through education and faith in her natural skills. Her college education, her social education, are all relayed through such an honest lens, and her destiny is to be a writer. I daydream of writing the modern adaptation.
Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?
Music on. That’s all. When I write, I think it’s wise to read a bit of my last writing as well as a random chapter somewhere else. The former refreshes me of where I was headed, and the latter both cuts editing time in the final product and keeps the mood consistent in the overall story.
What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?
I love to cook with my daughter, and to feed my family and friends. Pasta occupies a steady 1/8thof my daily thoughts. My dogs appreciate a walk, though I don’t always appreciate their addition to mine. I like to have a glass of anything with my husband, who is charming and hilarious and challenges me. I treasure time with my mother, who at 74 is spry and brilliant, especially when she gets sassy. She leads our hiking adventures. I garden for beauty and food, and try to learn what is edible that we all ignore [latest: look for a plant called lamb’s quarters, it’s a weed but the wilder, nuttier version of spinach]. Ask me on Twitter for my fresh Caesar dressing recipe, or anything about pasta.
Here is more about Resistant
In the final battle with drug-resistant bacteria, one woman’s blood holds a secret weapon. Rory and her father have survived the antibiotic crisis that has killed millions, including Rory’s mother—but ingenuity and perseverance aren’t their only advantages. When a stoic and scarred young military veteran enters their quiet life, Rory is drawn to him against her better judgment . . . until he exposes the secrets her mother and father kept from her, including the fact that her own blood may hold the cure the world needs. Now she is the target of groups fighting to reach it first. When the government comes after Rory, aiming to use her for a cure it can sell to the highest bidder, she’s forced to flee with her father and their new protector. But can she find the new path of human evolution before the government finds her?
Here is more about Rachael:
Rachael Sparks was born in Waco, Texas. She graduated with a degree in microbiology from Texas A&M University and her first college job was ghostwriting a nonfiction science book. After a decade-long career in Austin, Texas, as a transplant specialist, she joined a startup fighting healthcare-acquired infections. After relocating with her husband, young daughter, and mother to Asheville, North Carolina, she finally put her first novel onto the page. In her free time she serves on the board of the Asheville Museum of Science and loves to cook, brew, garden, and spend time with friends and family in between obsessively researching new science concepts, history, or new recipes.
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