Today I’m rather thrilled to share an interview I did with my friend Rachel Kovaciny. Her newest book–One Bad Apple–was recently published (read my review here, add it on Goodreads here, buy it here) and I’m really excited for you to get to know Rachel (and her writing) through this interview. So without any further fuss and folderol, here it is!
Welcome to the blog, Rachel, and congratulations on One Bad Apple’s publication! You’ve written and published three Once Upon a Western novellas now. Of those three, One Bad Apple is by far the most serious in tone. What did you like and dislike about writing a story not as lighthearted as, say, Dancing and Doughnuts?
During the two years I’ve spent writing One Bad Apple, I’ve come to realize that the more light-hearted and cheerful stories are much easier for me to write. Not necessarily more enjoyable, but easier in a lot of ways. Part of that is because a more serious book like this tends to have a more villainous villain and higher stakes, and those take more emotional energy to write. At the same time, because the stakes are higher and the heroes are fighting a potentially deadly foe, there’s more opportunity for them to stretch and grow, learn and change.
Personally, I prefer more serious books over lighthearted ones–that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed OBA so much. As well as your characters learning a lot, I know you had to as well. What sort of things did you research for One Bad Apple?
Wagon trains, obviously, as in what life was like while traveling in one. What their daily schedule was like, what you would and wouldn’t take along, and so on. I actually got to visit the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, MO, as part of my research, and I learned so much there! Not just to use for this book, but also for my upcoming Cinderella retelling, which will be either book 5 or 6, I haven’t decided which yet.
But I spent the bulk of my research time learning about Black pioneers. Many, many Black Americans made their way west in the 1870s. When Reconstruction ended in 1877, life in the South became intolerable for many Black people, and they flocked west in 1878 in what is called the Exoduster Migration. But even before that, many Black people headed west, both those who had formerly been enslaved and those who had been free all their lives. The Homestead Act of 1862 granted 160 acres to anyone who would pay a small filing fee and then live on the land, build a residence, and work to improve it for five years. This was the first really big opportunity for Black Americans to own their own land, and an estimated 25,000 moved onto their own land.
I also did a bit of research into traditional remedies and medicinal herbs, because those play a big part in the book’s plot. That was pretty fascinating.
I honestly hadn’t thought about Black pioneers before I heard about One Bad Apple. Definitely appreciate your dedication to telling a part of that story! Did you enjoy all that researching or did you wish you could just skip to actually writing the story?
A little of both? I do love learning about history, and sometimes research for a book becomes a sort of rabbit hole I fall down. I never manage to do all my research before writing, however — I do a good bit before I start a book, and then the day comes when I realize I’m using research to procrastinate starting the book, so I make myself start writing. I continue to do research throughout the writing process because I always discover I need to know more things I didn’t think about when I began!
Starting a new book is actually the scariest part of the process for me, for some reason. I will waver on the edge of it for days, like it’s a cold swimming pool and I know I need to jump into it, but I’m not sure I want to. Once I’m past the first page or so, I love writing a first draft, but that initial plunge is always hard.
I procrastinate as well. *hides face* On a different note, what was it like working with sensitivity readers?
Wonderful! I had the privilege of working with two amazing Black ladies, one who loves history and one who loves literature, and they gave me such good feedback. I learned a lot from them, and their input gave me lots of ways to improve my writing and my story.
Was it a little scary sending them my book and asking, “What did I get wrong?” Yes. But I believed strongly that I needed their perspectives, and I knew both of them would give me advice that would make my book better, which was the important thing. Still, part of me did worry that they’d tell me I’d gotten so much wrong I would have to start all over, which would have been crushing. But happily, that didn’t happen.
That’s awesome, that it went so well! Knowing One Bad Apple went through a couple sensitivity readers just makes it feel that much more authentic, in my opinion. Moving from the writing/researching process to the book itself, can you share a favorite quote or two?
Sure! One of my favorites is the one that is now available on a campfire mug from Crabapple Books and More:
There’s no sense telling this story if I’m not going to tell it straight. — Levi Dalton
“Charity’s just another word for love. Everyone needs love.” — Hopeful Mallone
You couldn’t stop life from unspooling behind you any more than you could stop that road from stretching into the distance. — Levi Dalton
Those quotes are great! I especially love the one from Hopeful (particularly when read in context). Sounds as though the characters you’ve crafted are pretty awesome people (at least some of them, *wink*). If you could sit down for coffee and conversation with two of the characters from One Bad Apple, who would they be and why?
I’d like to get to know Jacob Dalton better. He remained elusive during this whole process, never would really let me see what made him tick. And I’d love to chat with Hopeful Mallone and find out more about her life before she had a stepmother, and what she wants to do next.
We’re just about done, but if you were to choose one piece of advice for anyone looking to self-publish for the first time, what would it be?
Ask questions. Find other authors who have self-published and ask them for their tips and tricks. If something confuses you, find someone who can help.
Thanks for all these fun questions, Eva! They have been a pleasure to answer 🙂
Have you read any of Rachel Kovaciny’s books? I highly recommend them (and not just because she’s my friend, haha). They’re high quality, beautiful, clean reads that would be perfect for tweens and older. (I may even get my nine-year-old brother to read them.) So far she’s retold Sleeping Beauty (The Man on the Buckskin Horse, part of the Five Magic Spindles anthology), Little Red Riding Hood (Cloaked), Twelve Dancing Princesses (Dancing and Doughnuts), Three Billy Goats Gruff (Gruff), Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Blizzard at Three Bears Lake), as well as a story inspired by the tale of Sherezahde (No Match for a Good Story).
Also, don’t forget to check out the giveaway for this blog tour! There’s still time to enter and the prizes are pretty awesome. 😉 (If you’d like to check out the other posts in this tour in order to score more giveaway entries–or just to read all the fun posts–here’s the link to the whole schedule.)
See you next post!