Rachel Nightingale was a highly imaginative child who used to pretend she was a gypsy wandering the woods on her way home from school. Once she realised creating stories gave her magical powers she decided to become a writer. Some years later, she is the author of Harlequin’s Riddle and Columbine’s Tale, the first two books in The Tales of Tarya trilogy, which by complete coincidence is about the power of creativity to shape the world. She lives in regional Victoria with a very bossy cat, her family, and the cutest dog in the world.
Who or what inspired you?
My Dad is my biggest inspiration. He was a journalist and author who loved words. Puns and word play were a big part of my childhood, and Dad introduced me to a huge variety of books by wonderful writers, which I read voraciously. My first book is dedicated to him and I just wish he could have been there when it was released.
What has been your journey up to this point?
I have been writing since I was eight years old. My first every story was about Pasha the bear, who had a little sister called Sasha who loved to rollerskate. I wrote it in an old hardcover diary so it felt like a real book. I have written my whole life, but life got in the way of taking it seriously for a very long time – working, raising a family, all the usual. Luckily I had some wonderful friends and family who believed in my writing, and one in particular encouraged me not to give up. It’s due to her that I sent Harlequin’s Riddle to Odyssey Books and finally got the magic ‘yes’ that meant I was going to become a published author.
What are you working on now?
I’m just over halfway through writing the final book in the Tales of Tarya trilogy. I find myself being reluctant to sit down and write because I don’t want the story to end, and I don’t want to say goodbye to characters I’ve spent so much time with. But there are other stories whispering to me in the night now, waiting to be told, so I know I need to bring Mina’s amazing journey to an end.
As a child, what was your relationship with books?
I read everything. Ghost stories, time slip, fantasy, historical – it didn’t matter as long as it was a good story. My favourite place was the library. I particularly loved reading a series because then I’d get to spend a lot of time with the characters. Books made my imagination soar. I read the Little House on the Prairie books and could taste the maple syrup candy. The Diary of Anne Frank made me want to find a safe place to hide. Whatever I read became real to me.
What is the most important thing about what you do?
I read a book about writing by Terry Brooks (author of the Shannara Chronicles) recently and he said something that really struck me. He said the point of book signings is to make a link between readers and books. I think it goes even further than that. I think as authors we have a responsibility to make readers love reading. There are so many fantastic reasons why reading is a good thing, for individuals and society. Books change lives. So if I can get them to want to read more and more, that’s a really important responsibility.
What are the challenges you face in this industry?
Just getting noticed seems to be really tough. There are thousands of new books released every month. I’m with a small press so there’s not a huge marketing budget to help me promote my books. But I’ve discovered an amazing network of friends and fellow authors who are incredibly supportive, so that’s kept me going when I feel like a tiny little voice trying to be heard in a room full of voices.
What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?
The obvious advice is read a lot and write a lot. Read as a reader, for the love of it, because that will remind you why you are aspiring to be a published author when the dream feels a little shaky. But also read to understand what makes a good book – put your analytical brain to work and figure out why you think something’s so great, why it draws you in and keeps you reading. And when you’re writing, recognise that it is a craft that takes time to develop. Write and edit, then write and edit some more. But something I’ve remembered recently, because ten year old me was much smarter than adult me – if you want to write novels, don’t forget to daydream. Let your imagination off the leash and you’ll discover stories hiding everywhere.
What is your definition of success?
I did a degree in Creative Writing and we had various artists come in as guest lecturers, talking about their creative practice. What I learned most from that was that they each defined success for themselves, rather than letting anyone else define it for them. What we’re told is success in publishing is huge sales and name recognition. While that would be nice, it’s not the reality for many, many authors. I think success is all the wonderful things that happen along the way, big or small, like having someone Cosplay as my character at my book launch, or every single time I’m asked “when is the next book coming out”.
What is your ultimate goal?
To keep writing stories for as long as my hands, eyes and imagination will let me!