Hanging out on a desert island with Rachael Stewart

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Rachael Stewart to my desert island this month. Writing, she tells me, has  been something of an addiction since she could put pen to paper and she has the stacks of hand-scrawled stories to prove it! Being a realist, however, she never thought she’d actually get published and so pursued a sensible career in business, but was always happiest when sat at her laptop tapping out a story or two.

A Welsh lass at heart, she lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children and when not glued to her laptop, is out in the countryside seeking inspiration.

Rachael, my island is a very comfortable place. Beautiful beaches, coconut palms, a forest stream with a waterfall for bathing and a handy hammock to lazy away your days reading the books you’ve chosen to take with you — when you’re not foraging for nuts, berries and perhaps casting a line into the sea to catch a fish or two for your supper.

 

What got me into writing? My absolute love of books! I’ve always been a reader and a dreamer. The classic line in the school report “could do better if she stopped daydreaming” — that was me!

It felt a natural progression to go from reading to making up my own tales and as my tastes changed so did the stories I wrote. From Enid Blyton style adventures to teen love stories, to murder mysteries, to historical and contemporary love stories. From super-hot to super-sweet. Though only my contemporary and erotic romance have crossed the publishing finish line. Who knows what the future holds though!.

Oh my goodness, your office is so tidy! What can you see out of your window? Does the view inspire you, or are you too busy writing to notice it?

I may have done a quick tidy up to make it just so 😉 Though I will confess I struggle to concentrate if I’m surrounded by chaos. A calm setting equals a calm, productive mind for me! Out of my window is a tree-lined street with gorgeous Arts & Crafts homes built in the 1930s. It is a beautiful place to live with lovely countryside walks on our doorstep and I often find inspiration or resolve niggly plot issues when I’m outside enjoying the fresh air. I feel very lucky to live where I do — even if I am craving a holiday right about now!    

I total envy you those Arts and Crafts houses. We are a big fan of the era in Fielding towers! But now it’s time for your first book choice.

The Adventures of Mr Pink-Whistle. Enid Blyton was my idol as a child. I was a member of her fan club and devoured every read but the Mr Pink-Whistle series totally inspired my first ever completed novel — emphasis on the completed…

It was hand typed on my father’s work laptop (a ginormous, quite unportable brick!) and he was so proud he took it into work and had it printed off and bound — see photographic evidence, ha!

When I look at my story now it makes me chuckle. Mr Friendly and Willow were effectively Mr Pink-Whistle and Sooty reincarnate! No marks for originality, but at least I finished it.

So yes, this little book will have a place on my hammock, and I’ll relish the time to dip my toe into my childhood again.

Well, welcome to my world! I was a member of the fan club, too. I remember the newsletters from her house called Green Hedges. Years later, working for an estate agent, a lady came into the office who actually lived there – it was only a few miles from my home!.I don’t remember Mr Pink Whistle, but the Famous Five and the Adventure books were such page turners!  And congratulations on finishing a book at such an early age. I was a great starter, but I never got beyond the first page or two.

So, what’s next?

Second Chance for Love by Susanne McCarthy. I can’t be stranded on a desert island without a Mills & Boon and this one has a very fond place in my heart. I actually mentioned it on social media many months ago when talking about a book that I could remember very little of in terms of the tale, only that it held me captive and left me with such strong feelings that I can’t let it go.

I knew the cover was orange, I was sure it had something like second chance in the title and it had a gorgeous Labrador puppy on the cover. Cue my old childhood bestie, who shared my love of Mills & Boon as a teen, sending me a photo of the exact book and following it up a few days later with it arriving in the post. She’d gifted it to me and almost thirty years on, I am desperate for the opportunity to re-read it. Your island is the perfect time!

I love those old covers — I’ve had just three of those and they are still my favourites. And that is such a sweet picture. The books fit so perfectly in that new buzz word “uplit” and I’m sure it will do exactly that on your island. Lift you up and leave you with that lovely “aaahhh” moment. 🙂 What drew you to Mills and Boon when you decided to move on from Mr Pink-Whistle?

I completely agree with you, Liz! There’s just something so special and uplifting about those old covers and I get an instant hit of the warm fuzzies when I spy one.
Hehe! Yes, Mr Pink-Whistle to Mills & Boon is quite the jump, but I did get there via Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High — remember those? Teen romances that primed me so completely for series romance as I got older. I picked up my first Mills & Boon staying at my grandparents’ overnight. The top shelves of the bedroom I stayed in had a huge collection and from that moment I was hooked. I read them every chance I got. I would snap them up in the library, buy them second-hand on the market stall, swap them among my friends. As with Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High, the fact that they were part of a series meant that the supply of stories was never-ending, as was the joy they bring. Trust the brand, trust the series, trust the author, happy reader! 

My daughter loved Sweet Valley High and the Babysitter Club. She thought her girls would enjoy them, but she said the language and lifestyle has changed so much — waiting for phone calls on a landline! – that they just didn’t get it.  But what’s your next choice?

I was a sucker for a good clinch cover in my teens and I’m sure that factored greatly into me snapping up Tempest in Time by Eugenia Riley. And boy, was I glad I did. I’m not one for re-reading books, mainly because there are too many good books out there, but this one I re-read many times. I then made my best friend read it too because it was just sooooo good.

To be honest, I haven’t read many time-travel or dual-time romances, I’m not sure why because I adored this one. Two women born into the wrong time and about to marry the wrong partners, accidentally change place (1990’s Career Girl switcheroo with 1840’s Blushing Bride) and suddenly they have matches made in heaven. I loved seeing an 1840s woman wrestle with the modern age and vice versa. I loved seeing their sudden change in personalities not only shock but enamour their partners. And I loved that the men they were with went from being so unsuited, to being their perfect matches as they settled into their new lives over a century apart. So much fun!

It’s another read I really want to delve into again, it’s been 20+ years since I read it last so I’m definitely due a re-read.

What a fabulous premise! I absolutely love the sound of that! I do love a good time travel book and that certainly hits the spot.  So tell me, Rachael, what’s the most memorable moment of your writing career to date? Obviously there are going to a lot more to come.

It has to be getting the call from the gorgeous Flo Nicoll at Mills & Boon offering me a book deal! As a lover of M&B for three decades, to get published by them and join the list of authors that I admired, loved, cherished is incredible — you included, Liz! You are an M&B legend and to call you my friend now is so very special. I still have to pinch myself occasionally to believe it’s all real and as you know from personal experience, I still fangirl all the time over the books and the authors, lol. You all rock!

I love Flo! But you’re stacking up a pretty impressive backlist of your own now, Rachael and it’s a joy to have you join our special group of present and former Romance/True Love authors. You do know that once you’re one of us,. No matter what else you go on to write, you are in for life!

You have teased us with some wonderful books – what’s next on your list?

Honor’s Splendor by Julie Garwoodthough ask me on another day and it’ll be The Lion’s Lady, or The Bride or…you get the idea!

I love Julie Garwood’s historicals and this one has such a dramatic opening that has you utterly gripped. Half-naked hero – check. Life on the line – check. Damsel in distress – well kind of… And the end of that very first chapter, just wow! The shift in the power dynamic is so powerful that you feel like the rug has been tugged from beneath your feet and you know you’re not putting this down any time soon. That’s how you close an opening chapter — writer genius!

I will also admit to going weak at the knees for Garwood’s heroes with a possessive streak that will do anything in their power to protect their woman. I also like that he can tower over her, control her even, but her heroines are fabulous at taking back the high ground and knocking the heroes to their knees. Making them smile when they are prone to scowl. Making them laugh when they would normally growl. And generally transforming them in such a way that they almost don’t recognise themselves by the end of the book and earn that HEA.   

The problem with this blog is that I keep hearing about fabulous books that I haven’t read and absolutely have to!  Forget Julie — you have me totally hooked!  I’m almost scared to ask what’s next!

What’s in your own writing future, Rachael? You’ve written at the very sexy end of the scale for Dare and although Romance/True Love is now a lot sexier in tone, we are still at the lower end of the erotic scale. Do you have a big book idea nagging at you to get on with it? Maybe one of those time travel stories that you, ahem, never read?

I would love to write a time travel romance, especially as it would satisfy two of my bookish loves — historical and contemporary — but my big book idea is far simpler. It’s based in a fictional coastal town in Scotland and the idea was sparked by my teen love of the Babysitter’s Club. A group of friends, over a decade on, finding their way in life and their elusive loves. It’s in the early stages but I’m slowly chipping away at it while writing my True Loves for Mills & Boon. And I’m always working on something truly naughty with intense emotion on the side, not necessarily a big book, but a hot one 😉 It’s great to mix up the writing (and the heat level!) every now and then.

That’s so true. We all need to branch out and try something different to keep the writing brain fresh and I love the sound of your Scottish based book. But it’s time for your fifth book and this time I can see that you’ve chosen something completely different.

Yes, Wideacres by Philippa Gregory. I remember reading this and feeling so incredibly unsettled, disgusted even, but could I put it down — nope! How Philippa Gregory kept me reading about a heroine that can only be described as a sociopath is beyond me. But I read it. Devoured it and then went looking for more.

Maybe it’s the motivational drivers for the heroine’s behaviour, the time in which Beatrice is born putting her at a serious disadvantage before she could even demonstrate her intelligence and her many talents that put her well above her male counterparts, but oh my god, the woman is evil. And still…a very strange part of me wanted her to succeed — eek!!

See, I even feel uncomfortable writing that. Maybe I should take one of her others to the island instead, like The Other Boleyn Girl. Just as captivating but a teeny bit less irksome…though I truly do mean teeny since most of Gregory’s reads freak me out on some level. It’s her writer superpower as far as I’m concerned because I will just keep reading and reading and…

Mmm… Well I think I’ll take a pass on that one! But tell us about your latest book.

I am lucky enough to be part of the awesome Billion-Dollar Matches series with the incredible Sophie Pembroke, Andrea Bolter and Jessica Gilmore. Like definitely pinch me material because when they asked me to be a part of this editorial-led series I gave a resounding yes. It was only after that I realised the pressure of living up to these fabulous ladies. But I hope I’ve done just that and I have to say working with them has been an absolute dream come true. As for the tale itself, it’s a gorgeous second chance romance set in the stunning Seychelles and it’s full of fun, sizzle and of course, love! Here’s a glimpse of the setting that will hopefully entice you into snapping the book up:

Oh, the sea. I am so desperate for a glimpse of the sea! And that is a fabulous line up of writers. Definitely a mini series to watch out for. But now it’s time for your last book.

Okay so I know I said I haven’t read many time-travel/dual-time romances and here I am bringing another with me. I know this one can be a little controversial in the romance-loving circles and I must admit it certainly doesn’t appeal to my inherent need for HEA, but I can’t deny how The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger affected me and I can’t deny that even now when I recall it, I get goosebumps and the tears are quick to form.

It’s been over fifteen years since I read it. I gave it to a friend to read and never asked for it back.

That might be my fear of going through that emotional trauma again, but I think I should man up and revisit it, and what better than on a desert island where no one can see me blub 😉

Whew… moving swiftly on… How are you going to manage on the island, Rachael?

Are you practical? Could you build some kind of shelter? Will you treasure a little time completely on your own, or will you be lighting a signal fire and flagging down the first passing yacht?

Ooo, good question! I will confess to snorting my delicious cocktail over the “Are you practical?”, Liz! I’d certainly give it a go but frankly, lying in that hammock, glass and book in hand…bliss! I’m in no hurry to go anywhere…unless Chris Hemsworth is passing on his yacht and needs some company — only kidding, hubby!

It’s always interesting to hear who my castasways would like to see coming over the horizon in yacht! And now onto the last choice you have to make. Your luxury. You know the score. It can be as mad, emotional, enormous as you like, as long as it’s not practical. A toolbox is not allow.

My luxury has to be my  kindle. Okay, okay, I know that’s cheating but seriously it goes everywhere with me. I love having so many stories at my fingertips but for the purposes of this blog it’s totally cheating so I’m going with a solar powered drinks fridge with a variety of tropical suited drinks…you’re going to tell me that’s cheating too, aren’t you? Lol!

Oh, that is a good one, although you might have to gather the fruits and make your own drinks!

Thanks so much for sharing your book choices with us, Rachael. Wishing you a ton of sales fand 5* reviews or Surprise Reunion With His Cinderella. Keep well, keep writing!

* * *

Can one week in paradise…
…heal ten years of heartache?

When the elite M dating agency sends wealthy Freddie Highgrove to the Seychelles for a weeklong “date,” the last person he’s expecting to be matched with is Jasmine Walker, his first love and ex-fiancée! Ten years ago, his family’s expectations for a high-society marriage sent housekeeper’s daughter Jasmine running. Can one week in paradise bring them back together?

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