Rachel Allord’s debut novel, Mother of My Son, won Novel Journey’s Out of the Slush Pile contest in the contemporary women’s category in 2010 and is now available for pre-order through Pelican Book Group (release date May 24). Rachel grew up as a pastor’s kid, vowed never to marry a pastor, and has been contentedly married to her husband, a worship pastor, for seventeen years. Privileged to be both a biological and adoptive mother, Rachel resides in Wisconsin where she avidly consumes coffee, sushi, and novels– preferably at the same time.
Sometimes it’s a long journey from idea to publication. What was your winding road like?
Writing a novel began on somewhat of a whim. As much as I loved being a stay at home mom, I felt like my creativity was drying up and I couldn’t shake this story brewing inside of me. So in a rather feverish way, I began to write.
I soon realized, however, that even though I could write, (didn’t my English degree prove it?) I had no idea how to write a novel. After attending a couple of conferences and establishing myself as a freelance writer (Chicken Soup for the Soul books, MomSense and other publications) I kept writing, kept improving the story. Then ironically, providentially, I began experiencing some of the themes compelling me to write—namely infertility and adoption.
After adopting our precious baby girl from China, and after not looking at my manuscript for almost three years, I brushed it off and read it with fresh eyes. Did it need work? Oh yes. Was it redeemable? I thought so. So I rolled up my sleeves and dove back in, equipped with clarity that comes from shelving a project for so long, and experience.
From first draft to publication the process took twelve years, with lots of starts and stops and rejections. But I guess that’s how much time I needed to find my voice and get the story right.
Tell about your new release Mother of My Son.
College student Amber Swansen gives birth alone. In desperation, she abandons the newborn, buries her secret, and attempts to get on with her life. No matter how far she runs, she can’t escape the guilt. Years later and still haunted by her past, Amber meets Beth Dilinger. Friendship blossoms between the two women, but Beth’s son is a constant, painful reminder to Amber of the child she abandoned. When heartache hits, causing Amber to grapple with the answers to life’s deeper questions, Beth stands by her side. Yet just when peace seems to be within Amber’s grasp, the truth of her past and the parentage of Beth’s son comes to light and threatens to shatter not only their worlds, but the life of the teenager they both love.
Where did you get the idea for the story?
One evening I caught a news story on TV about a high school girl who gave birth in the bathroom during prom, put the baby somewhere, (I don’t remember where) and went out to dance again. Being a new mom myself, the birth experience was still pretty fresh in my mind and I thought how in the world does someone do such a thing? What kind of home life does she come from? What was her mindset? What would become of her? I also began to grapple with questions like: Is God’s grace sufficient to cover all sins? How do we rid ourselves of the guilt from the past? This story haunted me and prompted a lot of questions—a great place to start for a writer.
Where do you find time to write? How do you juggle everything in your schedule?
My son was a baby when I wrote the first draft so naptime equaled writing time. Now he’s thirteen and no longer naps, (nor does my eight-year-old daughter or my husband for that matter) but I still tend to write in bursts. This isn’t advice really, just my reality. My goal is 1000 words a day, a mediocre goal for many writers, but I can’t stop myself from editing along the way. Truthfully, some days I write for eight hours other days, ten minutes. The key is, I love to write, and we somehow manage to find time for what we love.
What’s one word of advice you’d give to someone just starting out on the writing road?
Listen. Listen to writers who’ve gone before you and listen to their stories. Listen to conference instructors and agents and editors. Listen to the news. Listen to conversations around you. Listen to what’s stirring in your heart. Listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Listen to the word of God. Should you listen and heed every voice? Of course not, but still, listen, listen, listen.
Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest…what’s your favorite social media and why?
Pinterest leaves me feeling like an ADD homemaking disaster, Facebook has definite perks but also plenty of drama, so I guess that leaves Twitter. Short, simple, direct, Twitter. Does face-to-face over a cup of coffee count? If so, I’ll take that.
Where can readers keep up with your writerly exploits?
At my website: Rachel Allord