We caught up with the charismatic and endearing Rachael Stewart to find out about her transition from writing for the Dare series to True Love – which couldn’t be more different!. As well as her work with Georgia Toffolo and her writing journey so far…
You recently started writing for the True Love series with Tempted by the Tycoon’s Proposal, and your next True Love book Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella is out in July. Can you tell us some more about it?
Aah, Jasmine and Freddie…such a tale of second chances, it gives me all the glorious feels just recollecting these two. It’s the second book in the Billion-Dollar Matches quartet, a series which centres around an exclusive dating agency to the rich and famous called M. M manages to match these two people who many moons ago were engaged. An amazing coincidence, or as I like to see it, the wonderful hand of fate.
It was lovely to write a tale of past hurts where the hero and heroine were at the heart of each other’s pain, fast forward ten years and they are still trying to make sense of what went wrong while tackling a fierce attraction that hasn’t eased in the slightest. In fact, it’s all the more intense for the years without one another. Both have changed, but the qualities that made them firm friends (then lovers) when they were younger are still so apparent now and they have to decide whether to let the past control their future, or to let those old feelings back in, move on and risk having their hearts shattered anew.
It’s fun, steamy and emotional, it has the bonds of friendship and family, and is set in the visually stunning and romantic, Seychelles — *sigh* bliss!
You also write for the DARE line – which is a lot steamier than True Love! How have you found switching to a more heartwarming series?
Ha! Yes, they are quite different and in truth, it was a challenge at the outset. I had characters that wouldn’t behave, that wanted to indulge their wildest fantasies and run with every DAREing thought that came to mind. But ultimately, Jack and Sophia, my hero and heroine from my True Love debut, are not DARE characters. They’re emotionally wounded to an extent that it took a lot of sharing, a lot of talk and bonding before they were comfortable to take that next step in their relationship. I will say that Sophia was ready long before Jack, but his emotional wound was so closely linked to his ability to give himself over to a relationship again, his inability to love himself and see himself as worthy.
To sum it up, the characters and the kind of tale they weave dictate the heat level and once I’m firmly inside their heads, the tone, be it heartwarming or erotically charged, comes naturally.
Who says the writer is ever in control, hey? It’s always the characters…strange as that may sound to anyone who doesn’t write!
You worked with Georgia Toffolo on her romance novel Meet Me in Hawaii. How was the experience of working on the book?
Fun, fun, FUN! I had a blast — aside from the 3 hours stranded on a broken train heading into London for our very first brainstorming meeting! Toff is a vibrant, joyous person who is so passionate about every one of her endeavours and this series is no exception. Reading every manuscript in great detail to provide her thoughts and ideas, even on long haul flights when she must have been exhausted, she made sure she was available to get stuck in.
And from the brainstorming stages, right up to the final book, it has been a wonderful experience. Getting to write a book with a longer word count that allowed for the exploration of friendship groups, the fierce bond of women who have gone through so much together and always have one another’s backs — joyous! And through this project, I too have found a very similar friendship group with the other three authors involved — the extremely talented Louisa George, Avril Tremayne and Pippa Roscoe. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with them so closely, from our zoom chats to our WhatsApp sessions and never-ending emails, these ladies have become friends for life, and I am so grateful I gave a resounding yes to this project when it came to me.
All in all, it has been an incredible experience. Thank you, Mills & Boon, and Becky Slorach, in particular, our ever-patient editor for her encouragement and never-ending enthusiasm for what is a wonderful series. As a team, we are fan-tab-u-LOUS!
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to write for Mills & Boon?
Do you have all day? Yes, it has been that long a journey!
No, ha! Okay, I’ll give you the highlights…
I have adored Mills & Boon since I was—actually I’m not going to say because I don’t think I was supposed to be reading them so young. Just take it as read that I was very young when I first wanted to write for them.
My friend Jenny and I would spend our summer holidays, our evenings and weekends, writing romance and passing them back and fore between us, providing what you would call beta feedback in this day and age. We were so desperate to write for them, but I didn’t actually submit anything until about ten years ago. It was a historical and it was rejected, but the feedback was very detailed and encouraging. And instead of taking it as a good thing that the editor had taken time to respond in such detail, I took it as confirmation that I couldn’t write and stopped trying for a long time — bad move!
Anyone reading this who aspires to write for M&B, do NOT give up. When an editor provides such feedback, use it and hone your craft. It takes perseverance as well as a love of these stories to get across that line and you shouldn’t make the same mistake I did. When I think on it now, I mourn all the books I could have created in between if I’d just stuck at it.
You can read more about my journey to publication on the Write For Harlequin website here: https://www.writeforharlequin.com/getting-the-call-meet-rachael-stewart/
You live in Yorkshire and enjoy the great outdoors – how have you found writing through lockdown and how has your location inspired you during this time?
Tough. Definitely tough. Pre-lockdown, I had various strategies for tackling writer’s block: exercise, changing my setting by going to a local café, even cleaning the toilet(!). But lockdown restricted exercise, lockdown forbade a trip to the café and seriously, cleaning the toilet only to have my locked-down house of five get it dirty again within minutes (sorry for the graphic visual there!) was just too demeaning.
I had to change the exercise, all the more so when I bust my knee. I had to test out different spaces in the house to work in for that change in scene and soon ran out of those. As for the cleaning…yeah, like I said that was more frustrating than beneficial. However, I seem to be getting through it and my latest release, Our Little Secret, which was the second book I wrote in lockdown, has blown me away with the positive reader response, so I can’t have done too bad a job after all.
I am also blessed to have a loving and supportive family around me, kids that have coped admirably with the pressures of this past year, editors who are so understanding, and authors and readers across the world who are so supportive and always have your back. Ultimately, I think it’s all these individuals who have got me through and kept me believing in myself when I was so ready to hang up my pen/laptop.
Why do you think Romance has been so successful as a genre, especially during the past year?
The unbreakable promise of a Happy Ever After. The hope and joy it brings. Never have we needed those two things more than this past year where the news is never good and so many people are suffering. The power of that HEA between the pages, and its ability to help people to heal and cope with the day-to-day, should never be underrated or criticised. I love romance and writing such tales and providing that escapism is an honour and a privilege that I will never lose sight of — #RomanceRocks!
What’s the perfect date night?
Ooo, that’s a tough one. Before Covid and endless lockdowns, I would have immediately said a cosy night in: Champagne, Strawberries, a saucy board game and my gorgeous hubby…or one of M&B cover models would do — Joking, hubby!
However, now I’m craving a night in a hotel, no kids, just me and the man and whatever we fancy…heaven!
You captured the magic of Hawaii beautifully in Meet me in Hawaii – What’s your dream holiday destination?
Having spent many hours on google maps and reading travel blogs to research locations in Hawaii while writing Malie and Todd’s adventures there, I would definitely like to go there myself. My husband and I were huge fans of the original Magnum PI with Tom Selleck, which was filmed there too, so it would mean something to both of us.
As an aside, did you spot the sneaky and not-so-sneaky ways I brought my love of Magnum PI into Meet Me in Hawaii? Let me know!
Ooo, this would make a good competition question now I think on it.
What are you working on now and what can we expect next from you?
I have my last DARE releasing in May, the last month for the line — boo! So sad to see it go. These books have been so much fun to write, and I will miss it greatly. The book is called Reawakened, and it is my naughtiest DARE to date, it also involves the Older Woman Younger Man trope which was a blast to write.
As mentioned above too, Surprise Reunion with his Cinderella is out in the Summer and then I have my recently completed WIP releasing at the end of the year. This is a contemporary Beauty and the Beast tale, with a Hollywood actress and the older brother of her best friend who is now a recluse living on his own Greek island, hiding out from the world. They are polar opposites forced into close proximity by the best friend, his meddling sister…and boy, was it fun to write! ALL the emotion and the heat with the glorious Aegean island for a backdrop.
Grab your copy of Rachael’s first True Love Romance, Tempted by the Tycoon’s Proposal now!