Rachel stopped by to answer some questions about her latest novel, Love All. She’s among the best of the best writers of lesbian romance. She has a unique way of writing down-to-earth characters I’d love to know. I thoroughly enjoyed her answers and look forward to reading Love All. To be entered into a drawing for a free ebook copy of Love All, please leave a comment below. To read more about Love All visit Bywater Books at https://www.bywaterbooks.com/product/love-all-by-rachel-spangler/
1) One of my favorite books of yours is Edge of Glory. When I read it, I felt like I was reading a story written by someone who’d actually spent time in professional snowboarding. Your research was either that good, or you’re hiding the fact that you did a stint as a winter Olympics athlete. In Love All, you take on the sport of tennis. How do you approach researching the sports you write about? Do you take the time to actually learn how to play them as well?
First of all, thank you for that wonderful compliment and for taking the time to chat with me on your blog. Second, having a researcher of your caliber compliment my work in the area means a lot! You traveled all the way to Antarctica to spark 2°; that’s impressive. I feel like most of my research is mostly me playing around. For Edge of Glory I got to take snowboard lessons and spend days watching the X-Games, then I got to chat with ski writers and Olympic snowboarders. That hardly feels like work, and Love All felt even easier, not because I am any good at tennis (I’m not), but I have been tennis adjacent for several years because my son, Jackson, has fallen in love with the sport. I have spent countless hours watching tennis lessons and matches at tournaments, so I’m in the rare position of being able to talk about a sport I don’t really play. That being said, for some of the descriptive work around major tournaments in the book, I had the added benefit of taking an in depth tour of the All England Club where the Championships at Wimbledon are played, and our family attended the US Open. It was easier to write about those areas, practice courts, and locker rooms after visiting them. From there, it was mostly a lot of reading blogs, articles, and books written by tennis players about everything from finances to racquet stringing, to life on the road. Honestly, I had so much I had to cut/condense, pages into sentences, and leave out huge sections on things like warm ups and gym sessions and sponsor events, because they didn’t forward the story, but I don’t regret knowing any of it, and I still maintain that Open, Andre’s Agassi’s memoir, is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, period.
2) Beyond teaching readers a thing or two about tennis, what essential messages or themes did you intend to explore in writing Love All?
The big theme in all my work is the transformative power of love. In my humble opinion, that’s the basis of the entire romance genre. Falling in love has the power to change a human being on a fundamental level in ways very few life experiences can. In this book you see love heal, love inspire bravery, and love inspire growth.
Some slightly lesser messages I wanted to deal with were the ways in which the media spins stories in ways that are incredibly hard to undo once they are set, and ways that accepting or rejecting other people’s narratives of ourselves can actually define us. I have one character who has fought stereotypes her whole life, and one who has accepted them to a certain extent, and we get to see how their lives and their response to challenges is shaped by those decisions.
And finally, because I have little interest in writing about perfect (read: boring) people, I have a secondary character in Love All who’s only seventeen when she hits the pro-tennis circuit. At a time when most kids are having their bad days at home or school, she’s having them in front of 40,000 people. She is physically an adult, but mentally very much a teenager, and as both a person and a parent, that time is fascinating to me. I think we as a society have stopped letting people in this age group figure things out for themselves, or letting them make their own mistakes. Because of that, they don’t get a chance to learn those lessons. Now to be clear I’m not talking about “mistakes” like attacking women at parties, but mistakes like missing practice, failing tests, or saying something you didn’t mean and learning through the process of making amends. So, I got to really play with that, when I have these scenes where reporters stick a microphone in front of a seventeen-year-old girl who’s just been humiliated on international T.V.
3) You are well known for writing some of the best lesbian romance in the genre. Are there other genres you’d like to try sometime?
I never say never. I am mentally and emotionally open to writing anything I feel inspired to write, and I take my inspiration from everywhere. I never thought I would write time travel, but I did in Timeless. I never thought I would publish erotica, but I did in “Safe Word.” I never thought I’d write a series, and I technically haven’t, but I’ve edged close to it with the Darlington Romances. I will never cling to a genre for the sake of being affiliated with that genre. However, I won’t do the reverse either. I am not going to write something else just to play marketing games or avoid being typecast. I love romances. I love love. I am fascinated by the whys and hows of two humans making themselves completely open and vulnerable at their most fundamental levels because they feel a pull to one human over every other human on the planet. And I’m so intrigued by how the experience of falling love has the power to change who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world. I imagine I could live my whole life time without ever being done with love.
4) You’re a busy mom. How do you find time to write? Do you do your writing at scheduled times, or when opportunity arises?
I am doing better on this front now that my son is in school fulltime. When he was younger, I had to take my writing time whenever I could get it, which meant I learned to write during naps or playdates or late at night. I was always tired and feeling guilty. Now I have roughly 5 hours a day, five days a week between when I drop Jackie off at school and when I need to get ready to pick him up. It honestly feels downright luxurious comparatively speaking, but that is both blessing and curse. When someone who’s been writing 2-3 hours a day now has 5, it’s very easy to get a little lax and lose the sense of urgency. I have had to become a master at what I call my AIS or Ass In Seat. I’ve learned to set hard and fast writing goals each week, and I try to always do my writing up front. I never know what might happen later, what issues may arise or how my motivation might fade, so I do the important work first. Emails, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. all have to wait until at least the bulk of my words are on the page. Some days that happens quickly and I’m free to move on to other work by noon, but some days it’s harder and I’m still stuck when Jackson gets home. At that point the emails don’t get answered because I cherish the few hours a day I get with my family. Then I have to go back into AIS mode after he’s has gone to bed at 9:00.
5) We know what kinds of books you like to write. What kinds of books do you like to read?
A few years ago, I would have said “lesbian romance” and left it at that, and to be honest that’s still the primary answer. After all, I started writing because I wanted more stories out there that I wanted to read. However, my son is an avid reader. He flies through books at a rate I can’t even imagine, and he can read more than one at a time. He’s often got a book at school, a book at home, and an audiobook in the car. It’s through sharing those audiobooks and bedtime stories with him that I found, or refound maybe, a love of hero stories. Together we’ve read the Narnia books, the Harry Potter Series, and everything Rick Riordan has ever written. There’s something purely joyous in watching monsters and villains get vanquished by people we can all root for. Honestly, I suspect those hero/adventure stories primed me for your own new release, 2°. The romance reader in me would have always been drawn to the power of love that drives your heroine, Sharon, forward, but the desire to see good people triumph over evil through a good dose of science and ass-kicking really tapped into the same better angels that called to me as a younger reader. You harness our desperate desire for heroes, flawed as they may be, to rise up right now and give us hope, and I very much enjoy reading those stories.
6) What are you working on now, and what are your long-term goals for writing?
I’ve been on a tear lately. I made the promise to my readers right after the last presidential election that I would keep telling our stories, that I would keep believing in love, and that over the next four years I would put out at least eight books. So far I am keeping that promise. I’ve already released Close to Home, In Development, Edge of Glory, and most recently, Love All. Up next I have a romance that was inspired by my recent stint living in a small, English village, called Full English. Then just this week I finished a first draft of a sexy little romance set in southern Spain, tentatively titled Spanish Surrender. Then I hope to return to the wide world of sports and set two women on ice for a curling-themed romance, but we’ll have to see if the muse agrees with me.
7) Do you have any upcoming appearances?
Yes! Next week I’ll be heading to Provincetown for Women’s Week. I’ve got several readings and signings as well as our annual readers and writers wiffleball game, but the event I’m really looking forward to is our shared book launch party at the Harbor Lounge. I am so thrilled to have you as a colleague and to be able to celebrate our new babies, 2° and Love All, together. And in case anyone wants to know more about our full Women’s Week slate of events, here’s the official Bywater schedule.