As the daughter of missionaries, Rachel Phifer grew up in Malawi, South Africa and Kenya, and managed to attend eleven schools by the time she graduated from high school. Books, empty notebooks and cool pens were her most reliable friends as she moved from one place to another. She holds a B.A. in English and psychology from Houston Baptist University, and lives in Houston with her family.
Rachel is going to share with us today about writing and how she comes up with her ideas for books. She has offered a giveaway of her new book. Please leave a comment for her below with your email address. We need at least ten comments from Continental US residents. Thanks!
Okay, Rachel, please share with us about what inspires you!
I sat across the table from my uncle at a family reunion. “Where do you get all the ideas to make a whole novel?” he asked.
I usually give a noncommittal answer to that question. It’s easier than trying to describe the complicated process that really takes place.
For me, a novel starts with a few kernels: memories, books I’ve read or curiosities, and grows from there.
A college friend once told me about camping in the Romanian hills with his brother and father (a history professor), eating cold canned peas as they prepared to sneak across the border into Yugoslavia. Once there they would have to cross another closed border to Austria and freedom. I wondered what it would be like to live in a communist country where teaching was a dangerous profession and where talking about God came with a degree of risk. Daniel’s story gave birth to my character Luca, an old man who was once a teacher in Romania.
I was a teacher myself in my 20’s. I taught in tough urban schools. It wasn’t a job for the faint of heart (as I was), but there were a few charismatic teachers who really knew how to get the kids’ attention. So Nick, a dedicated teacher was born, as was Sierra, a brilliant teen who is hiding her talents among a crowd of at-risk kids.
I wrote April into my novel for the simple reason that Sierra needed a mother and after some writing, I discovered that the story needed a woman protagonist. But once I began writing, she took off and became a fleshed out character in her own right. April’s determination to rescue her daughter from failure became balanced by her gift for photography, her own back story and spiritual struggle.
As I began writing, a what-if question would bring in a whole new plot twist. What if a mom were keeping a secret from her daughter? What if the secret wasn’t as secret as she thought?
After watching The Karate Kid I was inspired to write in a self-defense lesson.
Sometimes, the characters would seem so real that as I typed, words I never expected ended up on the page straight from their mouths, and the story expanded. Call it the muse, subconscious, or a gift from God.
Required research took me to books, videos and experts, and unexpected plot developments.
So as you can see, it’s a mish-mash of ideas and experiences that bring a story to life. It’s kind of the way my mom bakes a pie. A little bit of this and a little bit of that go into the mix. If she’s out of something, she’ll try a new ingredient and see what happens.
At times, trying to balance all the elements of the story seemed like wrestling a whale. But with help from my brilliant critique partner, prayer and support from my loved ones it came together. Second, third and fourth edits took a roughed-out story and gave it new dimensions.
I didn’t think my uncle, a very practical man, wanted such a long, meandering answer though. So I simply said, as I often do, “Oh, I just start with one or two ideas. And as I write, the story takes shape.”
He nodded, clearly just as mystified as he’d been before he asked the question.
Brilliant and fluent in too many languages to count, 15-year-old Sierra Wright can’t seem to communicate what is important to her in any language. Though April Wright stubbornly keeps an upbeat attitude about her daughter’s future, she has let her own dreams slip away.
Just across the bridge lives old Luca, scarred from his time in a Romanian gulag years before. Though he has seemingly given up on people, Sierra is drawn to him despite his prickly edges.
No one else is comfortable with the unpredictable old man spending time alone with Sierra, not even Luca’s son. Yet it is this unconventional relationship that will bring two families together to form friendships and unearth their family stories, stories that just might give them all the courage to soar on wings toward a new future.
To know a little bit more about Rachel and her book, watch this video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuaeJVOdFYM
You can visit her at www.rachelphifer.com