I honestly can’t remember how Rachel and I met—most likely we fan-girled over the same something on Facebook (and besides she is from Canada which instantly makes her uber cool in my book). I had the honor of meeting her in person this past September at the ACFW Conference in Dallas and, guys, she is as awesome as she looks in her pictures. Today is release day for the much anticipated begin of Rachel’s Herringford and Watt’s Mysteries with the novella A Singular and Whimsical Problem (we have to wait until April 1st for the first full length novel—it can’t get here soon enough!) Grab a cup of something yummy and enjoy getting to know Rachel McMillan.
To celebrate the release of A Singular and Whimsical Problem (and the fact that it’s December) I’m giving away a Kindle copy to one lucky reader be sure to sign up below!
How did you get started as an author? What or whom inspired you?
I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. But I do know a big starting point for me was the Christmas when my brother gave me my first journal! It was a purple Precious Moments journal and I filled its blank pages really quickly and told stories ever since.
I am always writing. I am inspired by everything. I read a lot and have always been a bookworm, so that is part of it but I also was blessed/cursed with a huge imagination 🙂
What sparked the idea for the Herringford and Watts mysteries?
My agent was shopping a straight historical romance I had written to publishers and getting no traction. So, while that was still out making the rounds, she suggested I capitalize on the trends she was seeing in romantic suspense. She knew (because I don’t hide this at all!) that I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and suggested I try a female Sherlock. I started brainstorming and had so much fun creating these characters and their worlds.
What does your writing process look like?
I write historical fiction so after I have an initial outline I research and read and read and read. For the Herringford and Watts series as I spent hours and hours at the Toronto archives looking through old photographs and really getting a sense of the city in Jem and Merinda’s time.
I also outline and play a bit (always long-hand). I write probably three times as much as lands in the final product and a lot of this happens at the beginning. I play with my puppet-characters and try different things on for size in hopes that they will soon start speaking for themselves and take over the page. And they do.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Most often I write at my desk at home. I am always writing so I have a notebook with me at all times in case I get an idea for a sentence or a scene. There is a café here in Toronto called Artisano where I spend a lot of time on the weekends. It helps me get out in the world!
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what do you do to get back on track?
It’s so funny, this year is the first time I have been writing under contract and with deadlines. Previously, if I had writer’s block (and yes, I do get it), I would just leave the book and come back to it. Now I have deadlines and since I have a day job, I only really have evenings and weekends and holidays to work on my book series so I don’t really have the luxury of writer’s block. When these tough moments hit, I will jump ahead and work on something else, edit a chapter or work out a scene that is coming more easily and then back-track
If you could choose someone famous to star in one of your books made to a movie, who would you choose and for which character?Kelly Reilly is a really good choice for Merinda Herringford. I have all the characters in my head when I write so, unlike some authors, I don’t use real-life templates: but her intelligence and profile are just wonderful. She would be a great Merinda. And—she has the Sherlock Holmes connection from starring alongside Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law in those films.
What other hobbies do you enjoy when you are not writing?
READING. Number 1. I love reading. Theatre! I see a lot of theatre! I am a Broadway musicals nut! We get all of the big touring shows here in Toronto but I also like to go and see theatre wherever I can. A few friends and I did a Broadway weekend (that’s right, JUST Broadway) in NYC in October. That was the best.
If you could invite any authors to dinner, what six authors would you invite and why?
THIS IS SO FUN! I am going to say some dearly departed ones, too!
Lynn Austin: she is one of the strongest story tellers I have ever come across and her books have really influenced me spiritually.
Lucy Maud Montgomery: she wrote one of my favourite books of all time, The Blue Castle. I’d love to hear her talk about it in her voice.
Patrick O’Brian: He wrote this gargantuan 21-volume series set during the Napoleonic Wars on the high seas and I just love them. I would get him to tell me all about what that extensive research was like.
Martha Grimes: Martha Grimes is one of my favourite mystery writers. She has written about 20 books featuring a British detective and his aristocratic sidekick and these books make me laugh. They also keep me guessing until the end.
Elizabeth Peters: Her Amelia Peabody series about a Victorian Egyptologist who is well ahead of her time is a big influence for me. I love female characters who colour outside the lines.
Charles Dickens: they say that Dickens used to act out his characters and their voices when he was writing them. Sometimes his family would overhear him. I think it would be great to be around someone that entertaining and so committed to his characters!
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Curio by Evangeline Denmark, The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson, Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Shepherd Grey
Who is your favorite author of all time?
THIS IS SUCH A HARD QUESTION LOL! I would have to say Charles Dickens. He really is a writer whose worlds I will never stop retreating into. His characters are so life-like to me and he taught me that fiction can be used to inspire change for the good.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I have pretty eclectic tastes. I do love mystery novels. Especially series where I feel I get to know the characters and will meet them again and again. I also love historical romance. I read a lot of it. I love history and I AM A DIE-HARD romantic so these go together well.
What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
I enjoy a lot of high fantasy like George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch. I also am a big time geek when it comes to the history of sea-faring. I love tall ships. So I have every type of book on naval warfare: from guns to what they ate to Trafalgar’s strategy. I GEEK out about the British Age of Sail.
What’s your favorite TV show or movie?
TV Show: Foyle’s War. Movie: Master and Commander
Who’s your favorite fictional hero or heroine?
I really do love Sherlock Holmes. I have since I was a little kid.
Do you have any strange or funny habits?
I sing all the time. Usually broadway. Often while writing. Like, some authors write to period appropriate music and epic soundtracks and I tap away to Phantom of the Opera! 🙂
I also stutter when I am nervous.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite books and authors?
I WAS A HUGE READER ! Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene was the first Christian book I read and I loved it so much I have read it pretty much every year since. I loved Sherlock Holmes and the Anne of Green Gables books and Little Women. I went through an RL Stine and Sweet Valley High phase. I cried when I had to take Dr. Seuss’ The Sleep Book back to the library when I was in kindergarten. I didn’t know you could sign the books out again. And my dad had been reading it to us every night and I loved it. That was a sad day with a happy ending because I SIGNED IT OUT AGAIN!
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
I have never read the Divergent series and I think I should. I have also never read A Wrinkle in Time.
What do you plan to read next?
One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg! I pre-ordered this little Christmas Novella and it pops up next week!!!
Rachel McMillan lives in Toronto, Ontario where she spends a lot of time daydreaming about meeting Benedict Cumberbatch. She works in Educational Publishing by day and by night scribbles about trouser-wearing, bowler hat-sporting lady detectives in Edwardian-era Toronto.