Rachel Graven: Active duty
Welcome back! I’ve been itching to get back to weekly posts, and the Rising Writer post is the first for the New Year! In December, I held a vote for everyone to decide on the official format for my interviews. The options were Q-A or article format. The vote carried over into the Author’s Tale Facebook group, and the Q-A format won.
Now, today I’m proud to kick off the new year with Rachel Graven, who has agreed to a virtual interview with me. She is active duty military, and sometimes she has to publish articles without her name, however, she does use her name in her personal writing.
Thank you, Rachel, for agreeing to an interview.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I am a full-time active duty Sailor so that takes up the majority of my time. I am about to add grad student, youth group leader, substitute teacher and finally full-time wife to that list of titles as well. I find myself writing in between everything else.
How will you manage so many jobs?
I don’t know how I do it, I just do. I always have. In college, the first time around I was a full time student, worked as an office manager in the morning, and worked at a bar at night. Once I graduated, I was a substitute teacher, a waitress, and an assistant to a wedding coordinator at the same time as I worked with the church youth group. Since I’ve been in the Navy, I’ve managed to balance full-time work, part-time freelance for the magazine, a long distance marriage, and going back for a 2nd bachelor’s degree. I thrive on being busy. I don’t know what to do when I have too much time off!
When did you start writing?
I can remember writing silly poems and stories for my Nana when I was in elementary school. She had all of those bound together in a little book for me a few years ago and I had to laugh at them. I’m happy to say my writing style has certainly matured since I was a child! But even outside of writing fiction I always kept a journal or a diary of some sort. It was my way of getting all the chaos in my head out in a semi-organized way. And I’ve always had an easier time writing out what I’m thinking rather than just trying to say it on the fly.
Between poetry and long-form writing, what do you prefer? Why?
Long-form. I don’t think I’ve written a poem since high school assignments required it. I just don’t feel like I can express what I want to the right way when I’m trying to write poetry. It all ends up sounding like something Dr. Seuss would write!
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I currently have a couple projects going. I have four articles due in the next month for Military Spouse Magazine. Those are freelance paid pieces so it’s more about doing research and making sure the advice I’m giving out or opinions I’m expressing are well thought out.
On top of that I’m trying very hard to get a book out of my head. I started it years ago as a short story style outline. Now, it’s trying to get it fleshed out into a novel instead of a couple pages that are causing me stress. I am not much for traditional outlines so I end up writing out of order as scenes come to me rather than telling the story from beginning to end.
And because my family always jokes that only I could have gone on some of the awful dates I did before I was married, I’ve started toying around with the idea of writing a book on that. The problem I’m having there is sometimes it’s just no fun to relive bad dates!
How did you get into writing for a magazine?
Pure dumb luck! I was in A-school after boot camp and had followed the magazine on Facebook for a while. They posted that they were looking for writers and I replied back that I would be interested. To be honest, the first attempt to write for them didn’t go well. Due to bad staffing at the time, my article appeared rather paraphrased by someone else. I was appalled. But I still had one of their writers on my Facebook page so a year later, when she was talking about plagiarism she witnessed, I finally spoke up. Turned out that the staff at the time I submitted my piece was in a bit of hot water for a few things, including ethics, and she was now on the editing staff. She was apologetic about what happened and asked me to resubmit my article to her, and that she really wanted me writing for them. Since then, I’ve written about 60 articles for their digital content and had two into print with a third scheduled for February.
What inspires your writing?
Depends on the day! Usually, it’s something that actually happened to me. Even my novel is drawn from real life in some parts. Of course, in fiction, I can kill off the people I didn’t like in real life so that’s always fun! I’m in awe of people who can create entirely magical worlds of their own but I just don’t have that kind of creative mind when I start writing.
What’s your favorite part about writing a novel?
Being able to kill off my exes! Ok, I’m half kidding on that one. It’s being able to get emotions out in a productive way. Re-write history in a way I hoped it would have gone or express anger in ways I can’t actually do because I’m too ladylike for that. My characters can live a life that maybe I can’t.
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
In the novel, the Mia is half of a couple that just can’t get it together. It’s their love story, or what could be a love story if fate just let things work. She’s reflecting back on her life–their life–and how everything that happened shaped the family she has now.
What does your character mean to you?
Characters are all personal. They have traits of my friends and family and myself. They are a piece of me and when they don’t do what I want them to (because sometimes a story doesn’t play out the way you originally think it will) it’s hard to let go.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
You know, right now my support comes from friends and family and an amazing editor at the magazine. She’s the one who really pushed me to write as a job rather than just a hobby. She encourages creative pieces for the magazine and keeps telling me the novel needs to be written because it’s a book she wants to read. I got lucky when I met her.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
Overthinking! I get so wrapped up in what I think should be happening and how I should be writing that I forget to just write. Sometimes, I just have to step away from the computer and come back when I’m not thinking about the tiny details in order to actually be able to make progress.
Where are you from?
I’m a Navy brat, so I moved around a lot growing up. Then, once I was done with college, I enlisted and moved around a bit more. I’ve been in Virginia longer than anywhere else so I could say I’m from here, but that never quite sounds right either.
Which authors inspire you?
Steve Kluger. While my writing style is nothing like his, the way I feel about his books is how I hope someone feels about my books one day. I shouldn’t be allowed to read his novels in public because I literally laugh out loud in a very unladylike fashion and have no shame about crying when the characters are feeling a great loss. I think my biggest fan-girl moment was this past summer. I wrote a “summer reading list” for the magazine and of course included one of Klugers’ books on it. I decided to toot my own horn and email him the review because what’s the worst that could happen? He actually emailed me back! I couldn’t believe it.
What genre do you enjoy most, and what draws you to the genre you write?
I am a fan of the sappiest, dirtiest, mushiest romance I can find. I’m pretty sure I started reading Harlequin romance novels before I even knew what half the love scenes were about. As I’ve gotten older, I just love these books. I have always been a fan of the love story and even though these books follow a very traditional story arc, there is just something heartwarming about them. Gives the readers hope and a reason not to give up on finding their own Prince Charming-Enough. That’s probably why I am currently trying to write my own Nicholas Sparks-type novel. Love is such a universal theme. Something anyone can understand.
Are you reading any books right now? If so, what are you reading? If not, why?
I am finally reading Go Set A Watchman. I bought it over the summer but have put off reading it because once you read a book for the first time, you will never have that first reaction to things in the story again. I just wasn’t ready to give up the magic of the book.
When do you usually write? How often? Do you have a word goal or page goal when you write?
I write when I have time. Which is probably not the best way to do things if I want to be a real writer. I should probably make a set time to write each day in order to make some real progress on this book. But between work and church and softball and life, I just don’t always have the drive to sit and write for fun. When I’m writing for the magazine, I have to turn off any other distractions and dig my heels in to get the articles knocked out.
There are days that I can sit at the computer for hours and really get into what I’m writing, but I never set goals for myself. I don’t say that I need to write a certain number of pages or words, I just let the story come as it wants and then I walk away without re-reading or editing right away. Keeps me from chopping my story to bits.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do it! Whatever it is just take the risk and try. Apply for the schools you don’t think you’ll get into. Take the classes that interest you. Try new things. Just do it. Take the risks!
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?
To see my writing on a regular basis you can check out Military Spouse Magazine. On the website, you can search by author and find all the articles I’ve written for them in the past year and a half. And if you pick up the printed magazine monthly, you just might see a familiar face now and again.
BONUS QUESTION: What is your ideal love story?
My ideal love story is my love story. I didn’t meet my husband in any sort of traditional manner and while I could type the whole story out again, you can read it here.
Rachel, thank you so much for taking time for an interview. And thank you for your service to our country. We’re blessed to have people like you!
Thank you to those who took the time to read. Learning about fellow writers also helps us learn about the large community we have, not just in An Author’s Tale, but in the world of writers. We write stories, but we also have our own. Hopefully, some of you read all these questions and answers so you can have a story, a real one, in which you can relate.
Have a wonderful day!
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