“To live a life that is full of the things we want, we sometimes have to take risks. We have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to do the hard things.”A Bookshop Christmas – Rachel Burton
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to love Rachel Burton’s memorable stories. They’re so full of heart with such vibrant casts of characters, and Rachel is one of those authors you just know won’t write a bad book. You can read my reviews here for The Tea Room on the Bay and A Bookshop Christmas!
I’m absolutely thrilled to have Rachel here talking about her life as an author, the books she’s written as well as what we can expect to see from her next. Do check out all her current published work!
1. Tell us a little bit about your author journey!
I’d always known that I wanted to write a book but my background had been very academic so I had imagined that when I did it would be non-fiction – a biography perhaps. I was as surprised as anyone when I started writing fiction! I had a lot of unfinished first drafts that never really went anywhere on my computer when I started to write the book that went on to become my debut novel ‘The Many Colours of Us’. I started writing that in 2013 and it was the first book I ever actually wrote all the way through to the end. I started sending it out to agents and publishers in the summer of 2016 and it got picked up by HQ digital and was published in spring 2017. I went on to write two more books for HQ before taking a break and moving to Head of Zeus in 2020 (I signed my contract literally days before the first lockdown). I’ve had three books out with Head of Zeus now (‘The Tearoom on the Bay’, ‘The Summer Island Festival’ and ‘A Bookshop Christmas’) and my fourth with them is out in April 2022 and is called ‘The Secrets of Summer House’.
2. I’ve read two of your books so far (with the rest coming soon!) I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite just yet, but do you have a favourite book that you’ve written?
I think my favourite is definitely my debut, ‘The Many Colours of Us’, for several reasons. It took me such a long time to to write (nearly three years) and I was literally fitting in about 300 words a day in my lunch break so it sort of took over my life quite a lot! It’s also the book that has the most bits of me in it – the house in the book is a real house that used to be owned by friends of my parents and was somewhere I spent a lot of time as a teenager for example. It’s also about art, fashion and lost letters which are three of my favourite things (art and lost letters seem to crop up a lot in my books!)
3. Who has been your favourite character to write about and why?
Probably Edwin Jones from ‘The Many Colours of Us’ because he’s quite a complicated character weighed down by family secrets and loyalites. I really love all of my characters but I do particularly love getting inside the heads of my heroes (with a little bit of help from my husband!)
4. After recently reading A Bookshop Christmas and loving it, I’m curious to know who you’d pick to play the parts of Megan and Xander if it was to become a TV show or film. Any ideas?!
I actually had Matthew Goode in my head as Xander when I was writing the book (although it will have to be a younger Matthew Goode as he’s about 10 years too old to be Xander these days!). Jennifer Lawrence would make a great Megan!
5. Have any of your books or any particular scenes in your books made you so emotional that you had a little cry with joy or sadness?
Without giving anything away, there is a scene in my second book, ‘The Things we Need to Say’, that was incredibly hard to write because it made me cry so much – it’s a really sad scene. Writing the epilogue of ‘The Summer Island Festival’ made me cry too – mostly with relief that I’d managed to pull all the threads of quite a complicated story together!
6. What do you like to do when you take a break from writing?
Reading of course (I’m known for never having my nose out of a book – I missed seeing the Corinthian Canal once when I was in Greece because I was reading The Sea The Sea by Irish Murdoch), I also like to knit and draw and I’m actually about to start a Masters Degree in Victorian Studies!
7. Who is your favourite author of all time and which is your favourite book by them?
Stephen King. I have loved him since I first read Pet Semetry at the (too young) age of thirteen. My favourite book of his is The Dark Half – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it and it still surprises me every time.
8. Is there one particular book, person or situation in your life that really inspired you to write your first book?
Yes – Bleak House by Charles Dickens, particularly Esther’s part of the story. I love the idea of somebody who is struggling suddenly finding they aren’t who they thought they are and have inherited a life they never thought would be theirs….
9. What can we expect to see from you next? Are you working on a book at the moment?
My next book is out in April and, as I mentioned, is called ‘The Secrets of Summer House’. It’s a little bit of a change of direction in that it’s my first dual timeline book – set in Cambridge during the long hot summers of 1976 and 2018. This is my lockdown book and it’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for such a long time. It’s a family mystery and involves a long kept secret and a bundle of old letters! I’m currently working on my next dual timeline but I can’t really tell you very much about that one at the moment.
10. What is one piece of advice you’d give to new authors?
Keep writing from the heart and don’t worry too much about the perceived market. We have to write for ourselves, and we have to love it, not force ourselves to write something that we think will sell. If you don’t love it you won’ t stick at it and really it took until my fourth book before I started selling in any significant numbers!
About the author
Rachel Burton has been making up stories for as long as she can remember and always dreamed of being a writer until life somehow got in the way. After reading for a degree in Classics and another in English Literature she accidentally fell into a career in law, but eventually managed to write her first book on her lunch breaks.
She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their three cats. She loves yoga, ice hockey, tea, The Beatles, dresses with pockets and very tall romantic heroes.