Saving Madeline - Review, Interview, and Contest
I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Rachel Ann Nunes's new book, Saving Madeline, and I loved it.
The very beginning wasn't as compelling as I was getting into the story, but soon, like many of Rachel's books, Saving Madeline gripped me and wouldn't let me go. There was such a sense of urgency throughout most of the book that I could barely put it down, no matter how late it was or how many dishes were piled in the sink.
Saving Madeline is the story of Caitlin McLoughlin, public defender, and her client Parker Hathaway, accused of kidnapping his 4-year-old daughter. It's Caitlin's job to discover the truth - is Parker a criminal, or is he acting in his daughter's best interest, protecting her from danger?
I sat down with Rachel over coffee to discuss her book. (Just kidding. It was an email conversation, and neither of us drinks coffee. The interview just sounded more exciting that way.) Anyway, here's what she had to say:
Jenn: You've had nearly 30 books published over the past 13 years. How has your experience changed over the course of your career? Has it gotten easier over the years, or are there things that are as challenging or even more so in writing your 30th published book as they were for the first?
Rachel: For me actually writing the books has become more time-consuming because as my children grow, they have become far more demanding. I've had years where it seemed like I lived in the car. This year the driving aspect is not as big an issue, but six many children always seem to need something. It was all so much easier when they were toddlers around my feet.
Over the years, I've seen publishers go from moderate to very conservative and now back to moderate again. It's sometimes hard determining your plot when you have to worry about that. However, the publishing process is easier now, working with editors and others, taking feedback. But launching a book, keeping up on the website, balancing speaking engagements with family, responding to e-mails is all just as difficult as it's always been.
Jenn: Some of the aspects of Saving Madeline are heartbreaking, and I've noticed that many of your books deal with difficult subject matter. Is it harder to write those books? Why do you choose to tell those stories?
Rachel: I tell these stories because they grab me and won't let me go until I write them. Subjects that dig deep are what people want to read about. When a reader is emotionally vested in a story, that's when it becomes hard to put down. I do experience a lot of emotion when writing certain stories, some more than others. I usually learn far, far more about my subject than I ever put in a novel. But the same rule applies to me as it does to readers. If I feel strongly about a subject, even a difficult one, I can write with a lot more feeling and realism.
Jenn: What do you think Caitlin should have done when she had the incriminating evidence in Chet Belstead's case? Do you believe that the end justifies the means, at least some of the time? If so, how do you know where to draw the line?
Rachel: I really don't know. I think that had I been in Caitlin's place, I would have quit the field long before such a thing came up. I don't know that I could survive under such daily pressure. I never used to believe that the ends could ever justify the means, but after the real-life drug case in Utah and several other stories I researched, I think that sometimes on rare occasions, it can and should. Where to draw the line in real life is a very personal decision, hopefully one made with a lot of thought and prayer.
Jenn: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading Saving Madeline?
Rachel: I want them to be aware of the challenges some children face. I want them to look around in their communities and see if they might help someone. I want them not to be so quick to judge others because they may not know the full story. Life is sometimes very gray, but we must make choices. Sometimes it's hard to know which are the right ones. We will probably make mistakes, but we can't ever give up. And of course, I want my readers to enjoy themselves, to spend a little time relaxing away from their hectic lives. I want them to fall in love right along with Caitlin.
Jenn: Why did you choose to give a secondary character a mental handicap? Did you feel it was integral to the story and the development of the main characters? Or was there some other reason?
Rachel: Caitlin is a strong woman working in difficult career. Having her care for her mentally disabled sister allows the reader and the other characters to see a part of her she doesn't normally show. Amy was present mostly for character development because only when real sacrifice is involved, can we really know where a person's values lie.
Jenn: This is probably your most-asked question of all time, but how do you find time to write two books a year while raising a family?
Rachel: I don't sleep. Just kidding. I really don't know. I basically just plug away, a little each day until the novel is finished, stopping to do whatever I need to do for my family. I don't go out a lot with friends, I don't shop, I'm not a stickler on having the house perfectly clean all the time (I assign all the housework to my kids as chores, which does wonders for their character), I don't garden, and I'm hit and miss at exercise. So mostly, I try to put writing up in priority right after my family. Saying no to things, even good things, gives me more opportunity to do what I love.
Jenn: Why did you decide to become a writer? What draws you to continue writing books? Is it the limos, the second home in Maui, getting to meet Oprah for lunch once a month? Or is there something else that compels you to keep going despite whatever challenges have surely come your way over the course of your career?
Rachel: Limos? A home in Maui? Oprah? I wish! Actually, I'm in writing because of the stories. I knew from the time I was in the fifth grade that I would be an author. I loved reading and yet I couldn't find the perfect story that I wanted to read, so I decided to write it. All these years later I'm still writing because I can't stop. It's really a part of who I am. Even if I tried to get a better paying job, the stories won't leave me alone. I'm happier when I write. I'm more relaxed. There's something unique and fulfilling about creating a story that I've never felt with anything else. Besides, there's still always that chance for Maui--right?
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Rachel. :o)
Rachel is doing a book give-away contest, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. You won't get multiple entries for multiple posts, but you can get more entries by commenting on other blog reviews. To find more reviews of Saving Madeline and get more chances to win, visit Rachel's blog at http://rachelannnunes.blogspot.com/ She is giving away at least one book, but will give away more based on how many entries she receives. The winner will be chosen after the last review is posted on September 25th.