A little sappiness before release day…

Working on the sixth Ransom book was truly one of the best writing experiences of my life. Which is really surprising to me, considering how things were going before I started it.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know that this book was originally supposed to come out more than a year ago. But sometime after releasing Lennon’s book, I started to have a really hard time with my writing. I don’t know if it was writer’s block or feeling burned out or if my anxiety was getting worse, or what. All I know is that it got a lotharder to write. Over a two year stretch I wrote four books, which is way below my normal output (I usually publish at least five books a year).  I thought about starting The Ransome Brothersall the time, but it seemed like an impossible task. This series means so much to me, and I’ve been planning this book for years. I felt a lot of pressure to get it right and the thought of even starting it scared the hell out of me.

Several months ago, I decided I would read the rest of the series just to see how I felt about it—and man am I ever glad I did! Reading those books again, for the first time in ages, felt like hanging out with old friends. I realized that I knowthese characters, that I understand them and get what makes them tick. I remembered how much I freaking love writing about these brothers and their girls. For the first time in months and months I was excited to write again.

When I sat down to get started, writing felt easier than it had in years. This is the longest book I’ve ever written, and it was also one of the fastest. The words came easily and I finished it in record time (unfortunately this fast writing meant the editing process was crazy long and difficult, but oh well. Totally worth it!) Even better, it was fun—and writing hadn’t been fun for me in a long time. Even better than that, I love how the book turned out! That’s such an important thing for me as a writer. Of course I want the readers to enjoy it too, but so long as I really feel like I wrote what I wanted the way I wanted, I’ll always feel good about the book.

So before the book comes out tomorrow (tomorrow! Eek!) I wanted to give a shout out to my Ransome boys, and thank them for helping me to get back to the thing I most love to do in the world. And to thank all of you, too, for your patience and for encouraging me! And for being excited about this series and this book—I’m so happy to finally share it with you. You’re the best readers a girl could ask for!

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On the road for Ransom

There are several things about the new Ransom book that are unique compared to the rest of the series. It’s the first book where we’ll get to directly see what Will Ransome is experiencing and feeling (which I am super excited about! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy writing about Will as much as I did). The Ransome Brothersis also the first book where we’ll switch Point of View between more than two characters. Another way this book is a little different is that the boys aren’t on tour at all. Redeem is the only other book in the series where we don’t see the boys out on the road.

The fact that 4 of the 6 books show the band on tour probably tells you that I really enjoy writing about their life on the road! That’s mainly because a huge source of inspiration for this series was my own experiences traveling around with my friends to follow a band.  To tell you about this, I’m going to have to confess something: I am a huge Hanson fan. Yes, Hanson, those Mmmbop kids from the nineties. Feel free to laugh at me! The funny thing is that I absolutely hated them when I was a kid and they were popular. But then a good friend reintroduced me to them years later and I fell in love. If you haven’t checked them out lately, you totally should! They all grew up super cute! They own their own record label now and write really fun pop-rock songs and seeing their shows is SO MUCH fun. Seriously, go find some of their new music. Okay, Hanson advertisement over 😉

The band themselves didn’t have anything to do with my inspiration for these books—Ransom has a totally different sound, style, and reputation. But my own experiences as a fan did inspire a lot my writing, particularly about Daisy, Paige, and Karen. When I was in my early twenties some friends and I followed a tour around for a few weeks and it was seriously the most fun I’ve ever had. We slept in crappy hotels and camped out on the pavement in the freezing cold to get good spots inside. We lived on gross fast food and traveled by bus for over twenty hours. And I loved it! It was so great to spend that time with close friends and to get to hear music we were passionate about every night. That was the feeling I wanted to capture when I wrote about Ransom being out on tour—that sense of freedom and adventure, excitement and connection with a group of people.

Beyond those tour memories, travel in general has played a big role in my writing. Traveling is something that I truly love and I try to do it as much as possible. So it makes sense that I love writing about characters who are traveling, experiencing new places and new sights. If I’m writing about somewhere new, I try to visit that place first whenever I can afford it. It’s important for me to really get a feel for the places I write about. I was super lucky to be able to visit Paris before I wrote Rescue. That trip ended up changing the entire book.

I always knew that Lennon was going to go and find their mom while on tour in Europe. Originally this was all going to happen in London (which I’ve visited a few times before). But then I got to Paris and that idea totally changed. Paris seemed like a place that Lennon would have such a connection to. I knew he would love the art and the culture and the food and vibe of wandering along the river, looking at beautiful things. When I walked into the Musee d’Orsay, I immediately envisioned the entire scene where Paige takes the boys there as a special treat for Len and he connects with Haylee. I have no idea how their relationship would have been different if I hadn’t gotten the chance to see that place for myself. Something similar happened when I went to the Monet house in Giverny. It was suddenly so obvious to me that Lennon would take Haylee there and that’s where he would see his mother.

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Gardens at the Monet House in Giverny, where I plotted out Haylee and Lennon’s love story

Little surprises like this are my favorite part of writing. When I see something new or travel somewhere I’ve never been before or catch a glimpse of a stranger who seems interesting and suddenly feel inspired to write—there’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than that. I love it when I have a plan for a story and something new and unexpected comes barreling in to change it. To me there’s nothing more exciting!

The Ransome Brothers is set mainly in LA, which I was lucky enough to visit when I was researching the Lovestruck series. It’s also the place where I first had the idea for the Ransome boys (you can read about that here). In that sense, LA is really where this whole series began for me. And it felt completely appropriate and fitting that The Ransome Brotherswould take me back there.

 

**Book 6 in the Ransom series, The Ransome Brothers, will be available on June 12th**

All about Paige

I have a really hard time picking a favorite character—it’s like picking a favorite child! But there are a few characters that really stand out to me and feel particularly special. Paige is one of those characters.

When I was working on the plot of Ransom, I knew I wanted Daisy to become friends with two girls who would help her to regain her confidence and break down her protective shell. The original character notes for the girls ended up really different from the way Paige and Karen look in the book. I had originally envisioned Paige to be a hard-core rock and roll chick. I knew I wanted her to be kind but I thought she would have a much harder edge. I pictured her being sarcastic with a sharp sense of humor and a jaded outlook on life.

But once I started writing the book, Paige totally took over. I love when that happens! Sometimes it feels like the character just reveals themself to me as I write about them and that’s exactly what happened with Paige. Almost as soon as I started Ransom, it didn’t feel right to make Paige sarcastic and sharp and cynical. It wasn’t her. Paige is sweet and excited and enthusiastic about everything. A total contradiction to her rock and roll style, with her leather jacket, dyed hair streaks, and multiple piercings. She’s a little ditzy sometimes but completely loyal and kind and she constantly surprises everyone with how capable she is at just about everything she tries.

This is one of my favorite Paige quotes from Release, where she describes to Reed why she loves all the silly roadside attractions she drags the boys to on tour. I always felt like this was the moment where Reed really fell in love with her:

“Because it’s out of the ordinary,” I tell him. “I like things that are out of the ordinary—that’s the most fun part of life. Finding the things you weren’t expecting, the things you aren’t used to.” I wave my arms around to encompass the store. “Just think about the people who own this place—they must really love it. You don’t put all this effort into a Christmas store unless Christmas is, like, your favorite thing. I like that they’re sharing that with everyone. It’s like the Cadillac Ranch or the Jell-O museum. The people who started those places might be kind of weird, but they really love Cadillacs and Jell-O. It makes them happy. It gives them a purpose. And they want to share that.” I shrug, feeling slightly embarrassed by my enthusiasm. “I just think that’s cool.”

I didn’t plan this silly, earnest part of her character ahead of time . That’s just who Paige is. It almost felt like I didn’t have a say in it—Paige’s personality was already formed and she didn’t need me trying to fit her into my original plans.

I think that’s why I love her so much. She always surprises me, she always makes me laugh. Every scene with her is so much fun to write. Pretty much as soon as I started to write Paige back in book 1 I knew I needed to change things in the future books to give her a bigger role. When I started plotting book 6, Paige’s plotline was the first one I came up with. It was so important to me that this strong character gets a fitting story in the 6th book. I’m so excited for you to read The Ransome Brothers and see what I have in store for Paige Brennen!

New Ransom covers and how it all began

We’re getting so close to the release of the next Ransom book! A bunch of people have sent me messages to let me know they’re rereading the series to prepare for the new book. That makes me BEYOND happy! Before writing this book I did the same thing and reading all of those books just reminded me of how much I love this series and these characters. And my reread got me totes hyped for the new covers I’ve been working on with Paper and Sage Book Cover Designs! I am absolutely in love with these covers—I think they express the feel of this series perfectly! So without further ado, here are the brand new covers for Ransom books 1-5!

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Aren’t these amazing?? I love them so much. Next week I’ll have the cover for The Ransome Brothers ready to show you!

Speaking of The Ransome Brothers, today I was editing a scene featuring Daisy and Daltrey, and it got me thinking about the beginning of this series. When I get an idea for a new book, I’ll usually start thinking about the characters before I decide anything about the plot. Ransom was a little different—I had an idea for a character and within just a few hours I pretty much knew what was going to happen in the entire series. That’s never really happened to me before! It probably won’t surprise you to hear that Daltrey was the first character I thought of (even though his name was originally going to be Levi!) The second character might not be as expected—I actually thought of Rose before any of the other brothers or even Daisy!

The day I decided to write the Ransom series I was out in LA to do setting research for Lovestruck in Los Angeles. I knew I wanted the Lovestruck characters to go to Disneyland so I was visiting the park with my friend Jon (sometimes my job is SO HARD!) We were heading over to Space Mountain when we passed a younger guy holding his daughter, who was probably around four or five. This guy had longish hair in a ponytail and tons of tattoos—he totally seemed like a romance novel bad boy! He was so cute laughing with this adorable little girl as they walked by, this tough looking guy having a sweet daddy-daughter outing. I only caught the briefest glimpse of them, but I couldn’t get them out of my head for the rest of the day.

I’m TERRIBLE company when I’m stuck on an idea for a book because I can’t really think about anything else! Luckily, my friend Jon is a huge rollercoaster fan—and I am mega terrified of heights. So while Jon went to ride California Screamin’ a bunch of times, I got in a long line for Radiator Springs Racers. I pulled out the notes app on my phone and spent the next hour and a half plotting the entire Ransom series while I waited for the ride.

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Part of the original notes on Ransom, jotted down in line at Disneyland. This is the moment I had the idea to name the boys after rock legends and started to brainstorm options.

By the time I left the park that day I had decided on most of the main plot points for the whole series. Some of that changed over the months as I wrote the first four books but a lot of those original ideas ended up in the series.

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When I got back to the hotel that night I had decided on the main character names and descriptions. I scrawled out this note on a scrap of paper–which I ended up spilling something on. I’ve kept it pinned up over my desk ever since I got home from LA, stains and all 😉

I think about that dad and his daughter a lot. I hope they still do fun things together like visiting Disneyland. I hope they’re still as happy as they seemed when I saw them laughing for those few seconds that day. I’m so grateful that I caught a glimpse of them all those years ago because the Ransom series has given me more joy to write and share with you guys than anything else I’ve ever worked on. People always ask me what has been my favorite part to write. I don’t know if I have a favorite, I love a bunch of the scenes so much, but I can say my most emotional writing was the scene where Daltrey introduces his brothers to Rose in Rescue. After all, it was those two characters who started the whole thing!

A whole bunch of Ransom news

The Ransome Brothers are coming! The sixth book in my Ransom series will be available on June 12th and I am so freakin excited. It feels like I’ve been working on this one FOREVER and I really can’t wait to share it with you. And it’s coming so soon!

In other exciting Ransom news, I had pretty new covers made for the series! I really love the original covers but it’s always good to put a fresh face on things. I’m so pleased with how the new ones turned out. I particularly love how strongly they represent the music theme of the books. Next week I’ll be revealing the rest of the series but today I wanted to give you a sneak peak of the new cover for the first book. Check out the new Ransom…

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If you didn’t see the announcement a few weeks ago, all of the Ransom books (as well as the rest of my series) are now available in paperback! I know many of you have been waiting for these. You can find them over on Amazon.

One last bit of Ransom news: Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a short blog series about these books. I’ve been working on the Ransom series since the summer of 2013–so long! Book 6 is meant to be a wrap up of the series. That doesn’t mean I’ll never write another Ransom book (and you’ll be able to visit with the Ransomes in the Intrigue series), but this is the last one I have planned out. So I thought it would be a good time to share some stories about how this series came to be and what my experiences were like writing it. I hope you’ll join me in my walk down memory lane!

Okay, now I need to go and edit, edit, edit. Only three more weeks until release day!

Take care,

Rachel

30 and Out

I hate when things feel bittersweet. I honestly think I would rather feel downright sad than have that tinge of bitter tainting what would otherwise be a pleasant emotion.

Today, the student’s last day of the school year, was a bittersweet day.

I’ve been a special education teacher for the past four years. During that time I’ve met some truly amazing people. I work with some of the most patient, compassionate, passionate professionals that I’ve ever known. Many of these people have become friends—some are like family. The students that I’ve worked with represent the definition of kindness. They are open minded, sweet, funny, loyal, hardworking, and positive, even in the face of enormous challenge. They humble me on a daily basis and I have loved being their teacher.

So it’s a bittersweet feeling to reach the end of the school year, the end of this school year, because I know I won’t be back with them in September. When fall rolls around, for the first time since I was five years old, I won’t be starting a new school year. I am so lucky to work for this amazing school district because they are allowing me to take a leave of absence to concentrate on writing for a year. Come fall, I will not be working as a teacher; after today I will officially be a full time writer.

A little more than a year ago, and a few months before our 29th birthday, a dear friend and I embarked on a crazy scheme. We were going to get serious about writing, publish our books, and make every effort to be where we wanted to be in our lives by the time we turned thirty. We even had a name for our plan: 30 and Out. It was a promise to ourselves, a mantra, a motivation to kick our own butts and get a move on. Our own personal revolution. 30 and Out.

I’ve done everything I could over the past year to try to make that promise come true. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. I’ve researched my market and the publishing industry. I’ve given up free time and skipped social events. I’ve forced myself to sit and write even when I didn’t feel the slightest amount of creativity or motivation.  I put out four full-length books and pretty much worked my tail off, in addition to teaching. Some of the time that sucked, some of the time I felt tired and discouraged. Okay, a lot of the time I felt tired. Writing 30 hours a week in addition to working full time is no joke!

But it’s also been the most amazing year of my life. In the past year I’ve told stories that I’ve wanted to tell for ages. I’ve had the chance to work with some truly gifted professionals in this field. I’ve sold more than 45,000 books. Most importantly, I am satisfied and fulfilled in a way I never thought possible. Every day I feel a rush knowing that someone, somewhere, may be reading one of my books. There is no better feeling than that, honestly. The idea that I’ll get to do this thing full time is completely mind blowing. Exciting. Scary. Overwhelming.

For the next year I am sure I will miss teaching, but I am also certain I will wake up every day excited to write, excited to focus all my attention on this thing I love so much. I am positive I will miss my students and I will miss the people I work with, but at the same time I am so proud to say that I did what I set out to do a year ago: I changed my life.

I’m not totally sure what this new life will look like, but I’m excited to find out. And I’m excited to be able to continue to tell my stories. I promise I’ll let you know how it goes.

30 and out.

Let’s Get Fired Up

I have a new obsession.

Last week I spent a good sized portion of every evening watching the show Everest: Beyond the Limit (My book is with the editor. I’m allowed to watch some TV, right?). Then I went up to the cabin for a few days and felt like I was in withdrawal. It felt totally wrong to go to bed every night without my Everest adrenaline fix.

What is Everest: Beyond the Limit, you ask? I will tell you. It’s a fantastic reality show from the Discovery Channel, circa 2006 (I find really weird stuff on Netflix since I cancelled my cable). It chronicles an expedition of climbers attempting to summit Mt. Everest. It was only 19 episodes long, but they are 19 episodes of fantasticness.

You might well wonder what the draw is for me in a show like this. You may have heard that I dislike snow. You may also have heard a rumor that I’m terrified of heights. Both factoids are true–I do hate snow and being up high makes me break out into a cold sweat and start hyperventilating. But in spite of those things, watching this show makes me want to chuck it all in and become a mountaineer. Crazy, right?

I think the reason the show draws me in so much is related to its epicness. These are people that are trying to accomplish a feat that is literally the hardest thing they will ever do in their lives. Their desperation to succeed is palpable. I find myself rooting for them and feeling crazy excited when they make it. It’s the story of people who are passionate and driven beyond reason. And I can get behind that.

Since I started my publishing journey I find that I seek out these types of stories–stories of passion and drive. Stories of people following their dreams, and succeeding. Biggest Loser anyone? Amazing Race? I can’t get enough. And though all this might sound ridiculously corny, it’s also very true. For the first time in ages I’m feeling really fired up about my life. Writing has everything to do with that but even when I’m not writing I will happily sit and watch people climb Mt. Everest, or lose try to lose weight on television, or race around the globe in search of adventure.

I’m looking for the epic in life right now. I feel like great things are within my reach. Anything that adds to the general feeling of potential awesome is much appreciated.

I might even watch American Idol this week…