I am so excited to welcome Rachel Linden to the blog today!
Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures living and traveling in fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her stories. She holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, a BA in Literature from Huntington University, and studied creative writing at Oxford University. Rachel lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and two children. She enjoys creating stories about hope and courage with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.
Her debut novel, Ascension of Larks, released June 20, 2017 from Thomas Nelson!
When globetrotting photographer Magdalena Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she risks her stellar career to care for his widow and young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.
Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie adores her life of travel and adventure. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.
When Marco drowns in a kayaking accident, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island. Once there she discovers that Marco was hiding something that could destroy his family. As fragile, perfectionistic Lena slowly falls apart, Maggie tries to provide stability for Marco and Lena’s three young children.
When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she thinks she’s found the answer to their problems. Then Lena makes a choice with unexpected and devastating consequences, forcing Maggie to grapple with an agonizing decision. Does she sacrifice the golden opportunity of her career or abandon the Firellis just when they need her the most?
Gradually the island begins to work its magic. A century-old ritual to beckon loved ones home offers hope in the midst of sorrow. And a guilt-ridden yet compelling stranger hiding on the island may offer Maggie a second chance at love, but only if she can relinquish the past and move forward to find joy in unexpected places.
Hi Rachel! Welcome to the blog!
Rachel: Apples! I grew up in the Midwest where apple picking and canning our own applesauce was a yearly fall tradition.
Carrie: homemade applesauce ♥
Rachel: Summer, please! I live in Seattle where the weather is mostly cool, gray and rainy, but the secret of the Pacific Northwest is that we have glorious (albeit short) summers. A typical summer day ends with watching the sun set over the majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound from our back porch, a salt breeze blowing in from the ocean. It is my idea of heaven.
Carrie: That does sound heavenly… even if i’m not a fan of summer as a general rule.
Rachel: Both! All! I love animals and grew up with a menagerie – cats, a big dog, a parakeet, hamsters, even a 3 legged turtle.
Carrie: Did anyone ever call you Doctor Doolittle? 😉
Rachel: Herbal tea – preferably rooibos or peppermint. I’m naturally pretty high energy so giving me caffeine is like giving a squirrel cocaine.
Q: Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Rachel: Scientifically it’s called splitting. Plans and animals like sea stars and lichens can split into multiples of themselves. I wish I could do it! One of me would be reading and writing novels, one would be cooking, cleaning and keeping up with my two little ones, and one would be out hiking and enjoying nature and solitude.
Carrie: If you figure that out, could you let me in on the secret too?
Q: Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?
- Gilead by Marilyn Robinson – this Pulitzer prize-winning novel is such a gorgeous, deep meditation on legacy, faith and family. I have the utmost respect for Robinson’s intellect, faith and talent with a pen.
- Little Women– my favorite book as a child, it inspired me to be a strong, independent woman and a writer like Jo.
- Thirst by Mary Oliver –Oliver uses vivid nature imagery to speak about profound metaphysical truths. Her poems resonate with me in such a beautiful and transcendent way.
- Wuthering Heights or Rosemary Sutcliff’s retelling of the tale of Tristan and Iseult – I cried cups of tears over these tales in high school. They taught me how compelling tragic love and loss can be in story.
- Love Does by Bob Goff – Such a refreshing look at faith. It is whimsical, real and transformational and closely mirrors how my family aspires to live. I find it delightful!
Carrie: Bob Goff is my patronus. I love him!
Q: Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks? Any snacks/beverages that are a must when you sit down to write? Inquiring minds want to know!
Rachel: I’m an introvert, so I crave silence and solitude when I write which is quite a tall order living in a smaller space with a 1 year old and a 3 year old! A noise machine and ear plugs are my best friends. I don’t write at a desk and can’t write in a public space like a coffee shop. I think I’m part cat so I like to lounge, preferably in bed. I do my best writing in a very comfy piece of furniture with my laptop on my knees.
As for quirks…I choose a theme song for every book I write, one that resonates with the main character in some way. When I listen to the theme song I find I can emotionally access the characters much more easily. For Ascension of Larks it was Colin Hay’s “Maggie”. Becoming the Talbot Sisterswas Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”. And now for the novel I’m currently writing, it’s Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Come to think of it they are all sort of wistful, folksy songs, not peppy pop numbers! I may have a song type.
As for snacks that are a must…I find that chocolate seems to really invigorate my writing process! 😉
Carrie: I love the theme songs!! And I think chocolate is a must for just about anything 😀
Q: Ascension of Larks is a fascinating, compelling and unique story! I know you love to travel – did anything from your travels inspire this layered plot?
Rachel: Definitely! I drew a lot of the descriptions in the book from my various travels – Honduras, Morocco, Nicaragua – but more than just the sensory details of travel, I was inspired by the emotional experience of being an expat. I lived for 7 years in Europe (we just moved back to the US this year), so I identify strongly with Maggie’s journey from isolation to connection and finding a sense of place and home. I found the dichotomy of isolation and connection to be a very fundamental part of living abroad. I’m fascinated by human connection. We are made to be in relationship but often we aren’t very good at it. I love stories about people choosing connection and building better relationships. And the book’s main setting on San Juan Island is a special place for me as well. My in-laws have a cabin on San Juan, and we spend part of each summer there. It’s a very heartwarming place for our family and embodies such a beautiful sense of home for all of us.
Carrie: I love that the emotional side affected this book as well! That really came through in Maggie’s character.
Q: In Ascension of Larks, Maggie and Lena are best friends who are opposite in many ways. Maggie is more of a creative, free spirit while Lena is definitely a perfectionist. Which of these two characters do you most relate to, and why?
Rachel: Both of them! I can naturally tend toward Lena’s perfectionism in personality, but my lifestyle choices have stretched me to be so much more flexible, adventurous and unflappable like Maggie. Living abroad, having children, and especially traveling with children, you can’t control SO much about your circumstance and environment. So you have to learn to be flexible, resourceful, and make the best of whatever circumstances you encounter. And we’ve had the most wonderful adventures in those messy, unpredictable spaces of travel!
Carrie: “we’ve had the most wonderful adventures in those messy, unpredictable spaces of travel” – I’m not gonna lie. Those kind of adventures terrify me LOL.
Q: What do you most want readers to take away from Ascension of Larks?
Rachel: The idea that there is hope in the midst of loss and that the hard life circumstances we might not necessarily choose can turn out to be so beautiful and redemptive in the end.
Carrie: Amen & amen.
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Rachel: My second novel, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, comes out May 1st. I adore this story about estranged twin sisters who take an unexpected road trip across Central Europe. The story touches on subjects that are very close to my heart – miscarriage, surrogacy and adoption, and human trafficking. I also loved writing about my beloved Budapest (my home for the past 5 years) and so enjoy the sisters’ relationship. Waverly is a Food Network celebrity chef and Charlie a volunteer with an NGO in Budapest. When their road trip takes an unforeseen turn, they have to learn to rely on one another once again and find the courage to fight for what they love.
Carrie: I cannot wait to read this one!
Musing about novel theme songs, my top 5 books, and a 3 legged turtle on Reading is My Super Power!