Some Thoughts with ... Rachel Aaron/Bach

12 Jun 2024

The Author/s

Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron

Hello, my name is Rachel Aaron, author of Nice Dragons Finish Last, the best-selling writing productivity book 2k to 10k, and The Legend of Eli Monpress, published by Orbit Books. I'm also the author of Fortune's Pawn, the first book in the rollicking fun Paradox Science Fiction trilogy (now complete) under the name Rachel Bach. Confused yet? I know I am!

I was born and raised in Atlanta, but I currently live a lovely, nerdy, bookish life in Athens, GA with my faster-than-the-speed-of-light son, perpetually understanding husband, and fat wiener dog. I write full time, all the time, but when my family can drag me away from my own books, I love reading fantasy (urban and traditional), Romance (paranormal and Regency), and Science Fiction (all kinds). I also enjoy video games, Minecraft, anime, manga, hanging out at conventions, and overdone, epic things.

Other than my fiction, the internet knows me best for writing very fast. The best way to get to know me is to read my booksmy blog, or follow me on Twitter.

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to Jamreads’ readers?
Absolutely! My name is Rachel Aaron, and I’m the author of several Fantasy and Urban Fantasy novels you might have heard of, including The Legend of Eli Moonpress and Nice Dragons Finish Last! My latest release is another Urban Fantasy set in a brand new world of demons, witches, and giant magic called HELL FOR HIRE. My books focus on strong characters, awesome fights, and that amazing feeling you get when the drama hits just right. If that sounds like something you’ll like, you can find all my titles at!

2.- When did you start writing?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I didn’t really get serious until I graduated from college in 2004. I had an English degree and vague ideas about writing something someday, but then I read the famous Hemmingway quote “Those who say they want to be writers, but aren’t writing, don’t.” 
That hit me right in the ego. From that day forward, I got serious about becoming a professional novelist. My first book was a 220 thousand word Fantasy that got rejected by everyone everywhere, but the second novel I wrote was The Spirit Thief, which got me an agent and my first book deal. Sometimes you’ve just got to keep trying!

3.- What inspired you to create the world of your Tear Down Heaven series? 
This was one of those magical books where everything came together. I’d had Adrian’s character in my head for a while, but didn’t know where to put him. I also knew I wanted to base a book around the Sumerian myth of Gilgamesh trying to conquer the afterlife, but, again, I didn’t know what specifically I wanted to do. Then I went on vacation with my family to Seattle and the whole series exploded into my head. I literally came up with Bex and her crew on the same ferry to Bainbridge that’s in book 1, and I knew right then that I had to write this book. 
Unfortunately, I was in the middle of my DFZ Changeling series at the time, so I had to wait a few months before I could actually start writing. Once I did, though, the whole book just poured out of me in a frenzy, which was very exciting. The frenzy books have only happened to me a few times before as a writer, but they’re always my best works.

3.- Hell For Hire starts as urban fantasy, but it quickly acquires a more epic scope. How did this book evolved from its inception to the publication?
My books always go epic by the end ;). Hell for Hire came into it a little earlier than the others, but when you’re rebelling against the tyrannical god king of Heaven, it’s go big or go home. 
Honestly, the biggest problem for me was making sure I didn’t blow everything up too soon. Drama has to have time to build in books. If you hit the gas too soon, readers won’t be invested in the characters and it’ll just be a bunch of explosions and swordfights rather than meaningful, character-driven explosions and sword fights. It’s all about hitting that sweet spot on the character arc so that, when the time comes to put the pedal to the metal, your readers are ready to stay up all night with you to see how it’s going to end. That’s the ultimate goal for me: making people stay up late and love every second.

4.- You’ve been traditionally published and indie published. Which are the differences between the process to get each book?
From the writing side, not a lot. I still have to write my books on time and answer to my editor. The biggest difference with indie—and the main reason I switched to self publishing in the first place—is that I now get final say over how my books are packaged. 
When you write for a publisher, they make all the decisions over how your books are sold. They pick the cover, they set the price, they determine whether you get a hardcover release or an audio book. It’s all in their court, and I didn’t like that. I put a lot of time and work into these titles, and while some authors are happy to sit in their cave and just write, that wasn’t me. I wanted more control over how my work was presented. I wanted the expensive covers that are usually reserved for bestsellers. I wanted consistent marketing and multiple formats. I wanted all that front list treatment, so I became my own publisher and paid for it myself, and it has worked wonderfully for me.
Of course, it helped that I love the business side of publishing. If I didn’t care as much about numbers and working with artists to get the exact right cover, I probably would not find self publishing as enjoyable as I do, because it is a lot of work. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but if you’re the sort of person who likes the details and values being in control of their creative future, self publishing will make you a lot happier (and a lot more money).

5.- One of your most recognized series/worlds is the DFZ. How did the idea for this one appeared?
I came up with the DFZ because I loved Shadowrun but knew I couldn’t get the book rights. So, in true author fashion, I made my own cyberpunk dystopia full of dragons, magic, monsters, and the most horrific capitalism I could imagine. It’s a lot of fun and I’m nowhere near done writing books in the setting. 
Fun fact: the very first DFZ character I came up with was Bethesda, the Queen of Heartstriker and all around delightfully horrible person/dragon. Julius might be the heart of the setting, but she’s the reason those books got started. The Heartstriker books are also named after her clan, so you could say it’s her series. Bethesda certainly does. ;) Never forget who the dragon queen is around here!

6.- As your career has been long, how would you say your process has changed with the time?
I’ve gotten slightly more organized as I’ve gotten older, but the way I write now is still very much the way I describe in my fast writing book 2k to 10k. The biggest change is that, as I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve gotten much faster at figuring out why a book isn’t working. I haven’t stopped making mistakes, but at least now I can spot them early and fix things before I get 60,000 words into the hole. 

7.- Trick question: why do you think dragons are so interesting to include in fantasy? How would you introduce your Heartstrikers series to anybody?
I usually introduce Heartstrikers as “dragons in a magical future cyberpunk dystopian version of Detroit,” which always gets me a look. Honestly, I think dragons are so interesting because they’re monsters you can talk to. They’re intelligent but also inhuman, familiar but fantastical, dangerous but you can reason with them, all of which makes them inherently fascinating.
If you’ve read any of my works, you know I love monsters. A huge part of why I wrote Nice Dragons Finish Last was because I had an argument with my husband over the D&D alignment system. I just didn’t buy that entire races were evil by nature. I mean, are goblin babies evil? This inspired me to imagine a dragon who didn’t want to horde gold or rule the world, and thus Julius was created and forced to suffer through 5 books while he saves every other member of his family, because that’s the secret: no one’s born evil. They’re all good dragons.
Except Bethesda, she’s actually horrible.

8.- Which books would you recommend as entry points to your bibliography?
All of my first books are designed to be onramps into the Rachel Aaron universe, so I say go with whatever sounds the most fun! If you absolutely must have a suggestion, though, here’s what I recommend:
If you like Urban Fantasy, start with NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST. It’s the first novel set in the DFZ and probably my most beloved title. The audio books are also incredible. 
If Epic Fantasy is more your thing, start with THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS, my debut novel about a wizard thief and the series that still has the most dedicated fans. If you liked THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA, Eli is going to be your jam.
If you like SciFi, my Paradox novels written as Rachel Bach are my favorites of all the books I’ve ever written. Devi is just such a badass lady. If you like hardcore powered armor combat and kissing, this series is going to be your new favorite.

9.- Which advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Ironically, don’t worry about advice. Part of the joy of being a new author is discovering the stories you want to tell. Every person is different and every writer climbs the mountain in their own way. There is no writing advice I could give that someone else isn’t breaking and still doing amazing work. 
I might be a little biased, but I think writing is the most incredible artform humans can attempt. It is imagination in its purest form: no cameras, no audience, no gimmicks. Just you and me and the words between us weaving a lie that feels more real and important than reality. That is the power of fiction. That is the magic of reading, and make no mistake, it is magic. I cannot tell anyone how do to do their magic nor could I describe my magic to anyone else in a way that makes sense. The only way to do magic is to do it, so write your stories, and don’t worry if they’re not good yet. Writing is not a performance art. You can edit that book as many times as you need until it becomes the story you envisioned. You also don’t have to sell your work. It is totally fine to be a hobby writer the same way it’s fine to be a hobby painter or pianist. Write for the joy of writing. Write to entertain yourself and others, and you’re going to end up with something amazing. It might take you several tries to figure out what works, but if you put the fun first, it’ll never feel like work. 
Writing is pure creation. It should feel joyful, so don’t poison the well of your creative magic with criticism. Just write, and when your book is finished and you’re super proud of it, then you can worry about all the other stuff like publishing and marketing and sequels. Or just move on and write the next book. Let no one tell you what to do with your creative power.

10.- The Forever Fantasy Online series was co-written with your husband. Would you say it was a different experience? How did your process changed?
That was a really fun project! 
My husband and I were both giant World of Warcraft addicts, to the point where I had to cancel my subscription at one point so I could finish writing my Eli Monpress series. We also both got very into Sword Art Online when it first came out, and my husband was like “imagine if we did this but with Warcraft!” 
I loved the idea but I was already on the hook for a lot of projects. He was on fire for it, though, so I told him to give it a shot. He did, and I really liked the result, but I am a greedy book goblin who wants all the good ideas for herself. He also wasn’t interested in starting a writing career of his own, so we compromised and wrote the series together, which was a whole new way to write for me. We basically tossed the story back and forth between us until we had something we both loved, and that something became our trapped-in-the-game novel, FOREVER FANTASY ONLINE

11.- What can we expect from Rachel Aaron in the future?
The Tear Down Heaven series is on track for five books. I’m writing the third one right now and hope to have the entire series finished by the end of this year for publication next year. Once that’s done, I’m really hoping to get back into writing Fantasy. I’ve been in Urban Fantasy for 10 years now, and honestly, all the toys have been played with. I still love the DFZ and am always looking for new ideas in the setting, but I’m also eager to move into new territory and play with some really big ideas. HELL FOR HIRE’s got me in the mood for epicness, apparently!

Those were fantastic questions! Thank you so much for having me, and thanks for supporting my work. Once again, I’m Rachel Aaron, and if you haven’t read me already, I hope you’ll give my stuff a try. I have a lot of titles across a lot of genres, so there’s something for everyone. Give it a try, I promise you won’t be sorry!

Thanks again, and I’ll see you in the next book!