Today our special guest is Rachel Coker, a Christian writer who I am a huge fan of. She's a teenage writer and a graduate of homeschooling. She writes, owns a photography business, runs a fashion blog with her sister (who sells handmade skirts), and is a pretty good artist, too. I've read both of her books and let me tell you, they are amazing. I'm not sure there's anything this girl can't do!
Why did you start writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
I actually wrote my first ever fiction story for a school assignment when I was in sixth grade! I was homeschooled, and my mom realized that year that she’d never had me do any fiction writing before. So she told me to write a short story and it just clicked for me. I’d always been a huge reader, and I guess that transferred over to my fiction writing skills! It was obvious I had a gift, and my mom immediately realized that she couldn’t help me develop my talent, so she hired a fiction writing coach to help me learn the craft of writing! After that, I just wrote all the time. I never seriously thought about being published, especially at such a young age, but God just sort of worked it all out that way!
What is your writing process? Do you write regularly or just when inspiration hits?
I am seriously the most sporadic writer you will ever meet. I will go days—weeks!—without writing at all, and then write five days in a row, five hours a day. I’m definitely just a laidback, busy teenage girl, and I write whenever I feel like writing! Some weeks, I’ll be incredibly inspired and I’ll just want to write all the time. Other weeks, I’ll have a lot going on and it’s just too hard to find the time. I find that if I don’t push myself, and just let my stories grow organically, I’m more creative and inspired.
My favorite book growing up was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I loved that book so much as a child and it completely inspired me and made me want to write stories that would mean something to people. When I was in high school, I read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and that book was world-changing for me. I also was completely inspired by East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I’d say those are my three favorites.
What is your goal in writing and publishing these books?
I think that my primary goal in every book that I write is to bring glory to God. I want to show people what He’s taught me in my own life, and hopefully answer some questions people might have about faith and what it means to truly trust God. I also want to provide a clean story that young people can relate to. I’m only seventeen myself! It makes me really happy to think that other young people can read my stories and relate to them on a personal level, because they also know what it’s like to be a teenager. It’s a really cool connection I’m able to make with my readers.
Can you tell us about the publishing process? Was there anything in particular that surprised you or that was easier or harder than you expected?
It was surprising to me how many amazing opportunities I was given after I published my books. I always thought that I would write a book and then it would all sort of be over and I would just go back to writing. It’s crazy that I get to travel and do book signings and conduct interviews and meet people through my blog. It makes being an author ten times more fun and exciting.
I hate how hard it is to get through a first draft. Everything feels so awkward and stilted and I constantly feel like I’m just pushing all the time to get it over with! I’m always wondering, “How many more pages do I have to write?” and “Is the story still progressing?” It’s actually easier for me to go through and do edits because I’m just cleaning things up. There’s less stress, and I can really focus on making the book better.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled?
When I first got published, I would google myself periodically to see what results would come up! It was really funny because all the websites seemed to differ on what my age was (some said fourteen, others fifteen, some even younger) and there were all these awkward old photos of me from before I got professional pics done. I had to stop googling myself because it was just too embarrassing! ;)
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write about what you know. If you’re a teenager, write about other teenagers. Write about what you personally struggle with—whether it’s self-confidence, confusion, anxiety about the future. If you’re writing about something that you are personally passionate about, it will resonate with others, and you will create works that will transcend the test of time!