Welcome to Fabulous Fiction, which celebrates books so good, you just want to hug them when you’re done reading.
I am so pleased to welcome Rachel Armstrong to the blog. Those of us who have been members of RWA for some time will all know Rachel – by name if not in person – as she is often to be found represented at Awards Night. She signs her emails off with the tagline “Love Stories of Every Kind”, she’s into ribbon gymnastics, and her BFF Jacob is often to be seen on her social media feed, recognisable by his handsome black and white coat.
Reunited with the Millionaire is Rachel’s debut book with publisher Escape, and it released last month. Hot on its heels, and up for pre order now, is the first in Rachel’s Shadow Creek series, Home Among the Palm Trees.
Let’s find out some more about Rachel and her fabulous fiction …
STELLA: Tell us a little about your book, Rachel
Amidst pristine beaches, gorgeous hikes and breathtaking sunsets in the Whitsundays, can Mirabella convince the man she’s always loved to open his heart to her and her child?
All Mirabella Goldring wants is a family. So when she falls pregnant to her boyfriend of six months, it’s not the end of the world. Until she arrives in Sydney to surprise him and is met by his wife. Pregnant, alone, and facing her biggest fear-becoming a single mother-Mirabella heads back to the airport to return home to Melbourne. The last person she expects to encounter is her high school sweetheart, now millionaire CEO, Lincoln Crawford.
Lincoln is also down on his luck. Recently separated from his wife, he has given up his dreams of a family and is ready to live a life of solo adventure; starting with a trip to the Whitsundays originally planned for two. But when he runs into the girl he let get away ten years ago, he impulsively invites her to come with him. A tropical vacation with an old friend who looks like she needs cheering up sounds perfect.
When sparks start to fly, both Mirabella and Lincoln wonder if this might be something more. But there’s one problem: After his own cold childhood living with a stepfather who didn’t love him, Lincoln swore he would never adopt another man’s child … and Mirabella is now a package deal.
STELLA: Did you research or fact check anything interesting while you were writing it?
RACHEL: Yes! I fact checked everything! While writing the book, the Hamilton Island website was my best friend. I’d only been to Hamilton Island briefly more than ten years ago, so my memories were faint. All of the activities Mirabella and Lincoln do came from the website, the meals they ate were from real menus, and I had many pictures to inspire me. But of course, when I finished the first draft, I treated myself to a Whitsunday trip! It’s only a few hours’ drive after all.
I spent three days doing heavy research. The first afternoon, I did an afternoon trip to Whitehaven Beach because despite my many trips to the Whitsundays as a kid, I’d never been! On the second day, I did the day trip out to Hardy Reef. While on the boat, the divers managed to catch me with their pitch so I signed up and went scuba diving because a) I doubted I’d get the opportunity again for a long time, and b) so that I could write a better scuba diving scene for the book! And it was so worth the (lots of) money. That’s how Maggie the Maori Wrasse entered the book and it was on the boat ride back that I wrote the scene describing the day at the reef. On the third day, I took the dawn boat to Hamilton Island (couldn’t afford to stay there). The first thing I did was the hike to Flat Top Hill, where I made voice notes about the gradient, view, and found that spot for the dramatic scene. I poked around the Reef View Hotel, took many random photos of shops, menus, and gardens, all so that I could describe them better. Then I took the art class, both for myself as a budding painter and for Mirabella’s sake. Yes, the painting she paints is the one I did that now sits in my bedroom.
Any excuse for a holiday, right?
STELLA: *runs to computer to book cruise
STELLA: How much say did you have in the cover? The title?
RACHEL: I titled this book! When I first had the idea in 2011, I named the manuscript ‘Reunited’ and wrote the opening scenes. Then I never thought about it again until after RWA Conference in 2020 when I wanted to use that idea. A lot changed, but it was still the two old friends meeting and spontaneously running off to Hamilton Island together. I was about halfway through when I wanted to submit the opening scenes to a contest in the US, so I considered a tropey title, came up with ‘Reunited with the Millionaire’ in a matter of minutes, sent it off, and stuck with it. I had always expected that the publisher would change it. When it was picked up by Escape, I was actually curious to see what their suggestions would be. Then I got an email saying that they loved the title and were going to keep it and thought, ‘Oh, okay. Cool!’. As for the cover, I submitted a brief and I’d imagined a couple on the beach with yellows, whites, and blues. Then I received this cover and even though I was surprised, I quickly fell in love with it. It brightened up what had been a truly horrible day since it featured my favourite colours pink and yellow (although I know it’s more pink and orange). Oh, and the guy’s pretty all right too…
STELLA: Did the writing of this story come easily or was every word chipped from your breastbone (as the author of Tarka the Otter is reported to have said)?
RACHEL: The beginning came easily because that was my original ‘idea’ and I had old thoughts already jotted down. But this was the first book I wrote after a year of writing nothing and battling depression, so it was tough. Once Mirabella and Lincoln arrived on the island, I was stumped. But walking always got my mind turning so that afternoon, I packed up my notebook and headed to Townsville’s Strand for beachy inspiration. I walked one length, sat and wrote out my thoughts, then returned home to type it up and continue writing until dinner. I did this every day until the book was finished. It took a total of 46 days. Some days the words flowed, others I only got a little bit down. But every day I had something to look forward to and this routine set me up to complete my next three books too.
STELLA: Aww. I know what you mean about finding something that the mind responds to. When I’m anxious about something, I knit. When I’m agro, I rip weeds out. When I’m happy, I love a good mow of the yard. Routine can be a wonderful (and reliable) soulmate.
STELLA: Have you upped your social media game with the release of this book? Or do you have any events planned? Bonus points for a fun author promo disaster story ☺
RACHEL: I’ve always loved my social media, but since this was my first release, it was fun to finally be promoting my own book! I signed up for Book Brush and got to make pretty headers and such, so it changed a little in that way.
STELLA: Why will readers find this a HUGWORTHY book? – in my book club, we call these books “bosomclutchers” – we coined the phrase because we noticed when a person was talking about a book they loved, they clasped it to their chest as they spoke
RACHEL: It’s a reunion romance full of fun, sunshine, and adventure in an iconic Aussie location with an ending that still makes me tear up.
STELLA: What’s the best thing a reader could do for you to help your book reach new readers?
RACHEL: Tell your friends and leave a review.
STELLA: Here on the RWA blog, there are a lot of writers lurking, and we love reading other writer’s “bios”. Let’s check out Rachel’s bio before we give her a grilling.
Rachel Armstrong has always loved making up stories and has never wanted to be anything but an author. She writes contemporary romantic fiction ranging from rural to suspense. Rachel enjoys creating epic feel-good stories and has a weakness for an adventurous holiday escape. Helping her characters find their happily-ever-after is her life’s joy.
Rachel lives in Townsville, Queensland, with her border collie, Jacob, where she helps people live their best lives as an exercise physiologist. In her spare time, she is either reading on her exercise bike or plotting out her next novel while grooving at Zumba. Rachel’s a keen traveller and has enjoyed many holidays exploring historic London, flying through the Grand Canyon, and hiking volcanos in Bali.
STELLA: Do you have a favourite genre to read? To write?
RACHEL: To read and write, I’m still in love with romance – rural, contemporary, and romantic suspense. I love reading a good psychological thriller, but I doubt I’ll be any good at writing one. We shall see…
STELLA: Do you have “must haves” in a book for you to love it?
RACHEL: A good storyline and deep emotional punch. I don’t like books with a hidden agenda meant to tell you what to think about the world, although it’s okay if a theme leaves you thinking. I do love quirky, quiet heroines who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves and the softer hero who loves with his whole heart and would go to the ends of the earth to make his woman smile. I also love dog characters and you can sell me anything if it has a border collie in it.
STELLA: How busy does writing life make you? Are you snowed under? Do you have to put limits on your reading and writing and social media so you don’t get burnout?
I have my dedicated writing time from about 5-6pm until about 8pm. Depending on what I’m doing, I may work on books during the day, but otherwise it’s the day job that keeps me too busy and gives me burnout! Writing is my escape! Social media is done during exercise time or after dinner when it’s time to relax. I hardly have time to be busy writing and reading at the same time, but reading is reserved for exercise time (I need to do something to keep walking/peddling!). Yes, it is a routine, but I’m happy with it because it allows me to get everything I want to do done.
STELLA: Have you ever caught the bingewatching bug and lost your reading or writing mojo?
RACHEL: I’m too attached to my routine. I write/read from after exercise time until dinner, then I’m allowed to turn on the TV after everything is done. I can’t think of anything worse than sitting in front of the TV all day, so that’s not my thing.
STELLA: I wish TV wasn’t my thing. How productive I’d be!
STELLA: Okay, now for the nitty-gritty:
Favourite Australian holiday destination?
Sydney, I guess. I always love going there.
What’s your preferred drop?
Pepsi Max! Or any sugar-free soft drink, really. I don’t drink alcohol.
Chocolate pancakes. With strawberries or blackberries.
Tiktok … a fun and useful program, or just another darned thing to master?
I started it, then decided that rather than gather a whole new following, I should just stick to Instagram and use reels instead.
So many…but I’m going to go with people who let their dogs off-leash in on-leash areas! Makes it impossible for me to take my dog anywhere safely.
A romance book that gave you all the feels:
I know it’s a little cliché at the moment, but The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood actually made me curl up and read all day until it was finished. This is not something I ordinarily do and I was left wanting an Adam and almost in tears knowing it’ll never happen.
[STELLA: I have that on my Kindle, saved for a rainy doona day …]
Starting sentences with “And” and “But” … yes or no or who cares?
Of course! It’s necessary for variety.
Best thing about being a writer?
Being able to explore new things and live multiple lives all at once.
Worst thing about being a writer?
It’s too sedentary and I love to move. Hence why I write at the end of the day when everything is done.
Do you have a preference for reading or writing in 1st person or 3rd person point of view?
I used to! I started writing in 1st person, switched to 3rd about six years later, and stuck with it for a while, but would now happily write in both. I didn’t read 1st for a while, but again, happily will read both.
Top three favourite places to read?
Exercise bike, verandah, and my swinging chair.
What themes do you love to see shining through in a book?
I love reading about grief, overcoming or managing mental health problems, and dealing with medical issues. I also love characters who stand up for themselves to achieve their own happiness, even if that means saying no to others. Stories that involve friendship, sisterhood, health and fitness, and new starts also are winners for me.
Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?
Holiday: beach or bush?
If I had to choose, I’d go with the bush. But otherwise, the city or somewhere with lots to do.
Proudest writer moment?
The Emerald Awards and decision to independently publish.
Three fun facts about you:
- I studied exercise physiology at uni because I was and wanted to write about athletes.
- My dream is to see Phantom of the Opera in another language (I had tickets to the French version and it getting cancelled remains the greatest disappointment of my life).
- I’ve done magic with David Copperfield in Las Vegas.
Keep in touch with Rachel:
Rachel’s newsletter subscription is here:
Want to read the book?
Buy Reunited with the Millionaire here:
About your blogger, Stella Quinn:
When Stella Quinn isn’t sitting in the sun scribbling in a notebook, she can be found walking her dog, roaming her neighbourhood in search of the perfect latte, or thrashing her children at scrabble. She grew up in England, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and spent five (long!) years at boarding school in country Queensland.
Stella writes contemporary romance novels that are warm-hearted and filled with characters you want to be best friends with. She loves rural small-town settings, island settings, and everyday heroes. Imagine if Sea Change and Virgin River had a series of fictitious bookbabies … they’re the books Stella writes.
She’s currently (in 2022) trying to build a shed for her orchids, but keeps getting distracted by things like nutgrass infestations and how adorable her dog looks when he’s begging her to chuck a ball for him to fetch.
The Vet from Snowy River came out in June 2021 and is available here: https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781867254102/the-vet-from-snowy-river/
A Town Like Clarence is coming out in July 2022 and can be preordered here: https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781867225614/a-town-like-clarence/
The Vet sequel (unnamed as yet, but it will be Hannah’s story) comes out in May 2023 and there’ll be a fourth, which (currently) is just a twinkle in Stella’s eye, coming out in 2024.
Stella Quinn’s awards in the fabulous world of romance include winning the Valerie Parv Award in 2018, winning the Sapphire Award in 2019 and 2020, winning the Emerald Award in 2017 and coming second in the Sapphire in 2018. Stella was shortlisted in the Australian Society of Authors/HQ Fiction Commercial Fiction Award in 2020, and in the 2020 Ruby Award for best contemporary romance for Stowaway. With her writing group (who published a Christmas anthology of novellas) she was shortlisted by ARRA for best small-town contemporary romance in 2019. The Vet is a finalist in five categories in the ARRA 2021.
Follow Stella Quinn:
Newsletter www.stellaquinnauthor.com/subscribe – (there’s a free novella waiting)