Please help me welcome Rachel Blanchard to the blog this week as she shares with us about her Christian Romance novel, First in My Heart. She giving away a paperback or ebook to a US winner. Be sure to comment below by April 11 for a chance to win!
Welcome, Rachel! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
This is my seventh year teaching high-school English. My husband teaches history at the same school, and my oldest child attends on the elementary side, so I feel blessed that we can work so close together. I also have a toddler boy and a baby girl.
Nice to meet you! Who was your favorite book character as a child and why?
I related a lot to Hermione from the Harry Potter series. I am what the students call these days a “try-hard.” As I’ve grown older, I have learned that loving learning and being smart is an immense strength, even if it makes you different from everyone else!
Yes! Intelligence and learning are such a gift. Let’s talk about writing. What genre do you write and what inspired you to write that particular genre?
I write Christian Romance. I love romantic stories, no matter what the genre, and I am a sensitive person, so I have a hard time enjoying mainstream books with graphic content or language. Once I discovered there are authors who actually weave inspiring themes into their novels, I was hooked!
I’m right there with you. I love novels that include a spiritual message. On that note, how do you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
Christ has had such an impact on me that it would be impossible to write without His influence on my writing. Through every lesson I’ve learned, I’ve providentially been held in His hand. Every blessing I have is by Him (friendship, love, children).
It’s natural for me to write about church and use Bible verses/references since I’ve attended church since I was a baby and also have enjoyed completing a Bible-in-a-year plan for almost the past decade. I hope these spiritual aspects come through in a gentle and inviting way, reflecting how important these practices have been in my life.
Yes, it’s difficult to write truth we don’t first live out. Is First in My Heart inspired by true events or personal history?
I started writing First in My Heart because so many people told me that my love story sounded like a fairytale or a Hallmark movie. I did move cross-country to get married like the protagonist does. If you know my husband and I, you will see some similarities in our mannerisms and personality peek through in the main characters.
However, the backstories, plot events, and other characters in the novel have been fictionalized. I needed to change the truth to raise the stakes and have the story make sense in the timeframe allotted. I like to tell people, the love you feel coming through the pages is real, but the story is fiction!
I love that. It sounds like a sweet romance. What is the setting of the book? Is it a real location or fictional?
In both First in My Heart and my work-in-progress, the town of Summer Shores is a fictional location. Using a fictional location allows for much more freedom, enabling me to choose what shops and activities work best for the story rather than worrying about total accuracy. Plus, it’s more fun to make up the business names and scenery!
I set the story in Florida where I really live because it is so beautiful, and I wanted to allow readers to enjoy escaping to a warm place as they read the romance.
Great setting! We lived in Florida three times during my husband’s military career and loved it, especially the weather. Share what a typical day in your writing life looks like.
Having young children and a full-time job, I have learned that I just can’t expect hours of quiet like I want to have. I force myself to write in thirty-minute increments. This is easier in the morning because I am so tired at the end of the day.
I will go stretches of time writing nothing if work picks up or we get busy at home. But I try and be patient because sometimes a break is good. I can always brainstorm and take notes on my phone until I can get back to the computer.
Before I started writing, I decided I could not sacrifice my family for something I wanted to achieve, so unless the kids are really occupied, I don’t write while they are awake. I can always write when they are older and out of the house, and I know by then I will be missing them. Sometimes I ask for babysitting help such as before a book release, and then it is easier to be productive.
It’s definitely a lot to juggle when you have a family at home and a full-time job. What did God teach you through the writing of First in My Heart?
It was funny, I thought First in My Heart was about a person just starting their life and career, but as I wrote about that time, I think I was also writing from a place of stagnation—doubting myself and my abilities. Anyone can experience setbacks, and I hope the themes of trusting God are relatable to any stage of life!
In closing, what advice would you give an aspiring author?
When I finished my first-ever novel draft, I rode the pendulum-swing of “All the major publishers are going to love this!” to the crushing rejection of “What was I thinking, I should never pen a word again!”
I would want aspiring authors to spend some time following other author’s blogs/social pages to soak up all the advice they can. Finish a manuscript or multiple and get critiqued by people in the same area you want to write in (I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers group this year, I’ve received great counseling from agent appointments at a virtual conference, etc.).
I think to be a writer, you have to determine that you are going to persist as long as you’re bringing glory to God. It’s disappointing to be turned down, or have abysmal sales figures, or feel like no one likes your story. But many talented writers have felt they weren’t good enough. Being “good enough” shouldn’t be what creativity is about.
The more I practice, the better I get and the more I enjoy myself. I think God has taught me this wisdom by not giving me what I thought I wanted right away.
That’s solid advice. Thanks so much for sharing with us on the blog, Rachel. I pray God will bless you as you continue to write and publish stories for His glory!
Comment on this author interview with Rachel Blanchard by April 11 for a chance to win her #ContemporaryRomance novel, First in My Heart. #amreading #giveawayTweet
Join the conversation. Do you enjoy reading Christian Romance novels? What do you love about them? Does Rachel’s theme of trusting God when you doubt yourself resonate with you? Do you have any questions or comments for Rachel?
Be sure to keep scrolling to the comments section and leave a comment by April 11 for a chance to win a paperback or ebook of First in My Heart. (US winner only)
First in My Heart by Rachel Blanchard
Click the book cover for purchase link
A thousand miles away from all she’s ever known, can Ava’s heart finally find a home?
Ava Keller is a recent graduate who traveled from her small hometown in Eastern Iowa to sunny Florida in the hopes of starting a teaching career. She finds the members of the local community to be more than welcoming—all except Pete Harrison.
Pete had been getting along just fine until Ava came along, creating another opportunity for his “well-meaning” family members to marry him off. He’s seen enough change in his life to know that nothing good can ever last. But Ava keeps showing up again and again, and in time, he finds himself wanting to help her succeed.
Can Pete open up to the possibility of love? Or will the uncertainty of Ava’s future send her back to her family? Both must rely on God to show them the way, and to remind them what is truly important.
Rachel Blanchard is a teacher, wife, and mother of three young children. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri before moving to Central Florida. She is passionate about sharing lessons learned, and the message that we can trust in God’s goodness.
Please share Rachel’s interview to help spread the word about her book!