This is it. The Evelina series—book of my heart—a lot of good clean fun—something for all ages to enjoy. Evelina and the Time Pirates has had 70K reads on Wattpad, so that’s good news. And Evelina and the Reef Hag will be out in paperback this week. I’m excited to finally hold it in my hands.
While Rachel Donnelly’s Evelina Young Adult series is a fun fantasy, she also explores some serious topics, too. Welcome Rachel. It’s so nice to have you here today.
Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog today, Betty. Happy New Year to everyone!
There is nothing like the feeling of holding your own book in your hands! How has writing this book changed you?
Every book has changed me to some extent. It’s a journey filled with darkness and light where my mind wrestles with my soul. I wrote the Evelina series just for fun. I gave myself permission to just puke it out and write a story from my heart. I realized after writing the Reef Hag how much the Evelina series explores so many themes near and dear to me, like freedom of expression, living an authentic existence, standing up for yourself, and my belief that learning should be a joyful adventure.
But inevitably darker themes surface. I realized after writing Evelina and the Reef Hag—the insidious curse of the Reef Hag was a way of me working through the pain and loss of my brother’s depression and eventual suicide—something difficult to discuss, as mental illness is not well understood. The death of Robin Williams, one of our great talents, prompted a great deal of dialogue this year. Hopefully, more can be done in the future to help people who need it.
So your book explores some very important issues. What a gift for your readers. Was there a scene that was more difficult than others? One that you pondered whether or not to include it?
Not in this one, although I did wrestle with the ‘black moment’. But I have had to chop whole scenes in some of my historicals. The story usually has to rest for a while before I see it, or feel it. Often something wonky with the pace alerts me to the problem. And I’ll think “what the hell have you been yammering’ on about here? Get rid of it.”
I tend to write in a linear fashion, with the exception of the odd crazy scene or bit of dialogue that pops into my head. I get it down and then later, if it fits, I’ll use it.
Oh my, your Muse does that to you, too? How do your characters influence your writing? Do you have disagreements with them?
My characters tend to be quite vivid. Sometimes late at night, when I’m getting ready for bed, I’ll get flashes of faces in my mind of strangers or possible characters. It’s a bit weird. LOL Not sure what that’s all about. But, if I lose touch with a character I might make of list of “he wants/ she wants” to keep their goals and motivations fresh in my mind. It’s a great way to churn up plot and kick-start ideas for those unexpected twists and turns.
How do you handle major rewrites?
Luckily I haven’t had any of those yet.
You lucky woman! What food or beverages do you turn to while you are writing? Are you a stress eater on deadline or a “lack of inspiration” eater when ideas are not flowing?
I’m a huge coffee fiend, but I drink instant so I’m not too wired. I definitely have to keep a lot of veggies on hand to munch on when I’m restlessly wandering from the computer to the kitchen between bursts of inspiration.
You are so healthy! I reach past the veggies and head right to the chocolate LOL. Thanks so much for being my guest today, Rachel. Wishing you great success with your Evelina series.
Evelina and the Reef Hag blurb:
Evelina Crimm has to stop the Swamp Hogs from winning the Glaring, but a Reef Hag is killing off the competition.
Her powers are limited as a novice Water Witch, but she’ll fight the dark forces that conjured the Reef Hag to the bitter end. She’ll do what she has to to catch her parents’ killer, even if it means risking expulsion. Falling in love with a Time Keeper is just as forbidden, but it’s difficult to stay away from Frankie Holler, even when he keeps breaking her heart.
Frankie Holler is a Time Keeper on a mission. Like other Warlocks, he wants his tribe to win. But he’ll sacrifice glory and do what he has to, to save the future of the Water Witches, including breaking a few rules, to help Evelina Crimm.
Evelina and the Reef Hag excerpt:
“You’re dead, Crimm!” Henrietta Ledbetter leered across the aisle, jowls quivering, black eyes narrowed to slits in her big melon head.
“Evelina Crimm!” Sister Mary Rosalina, or Sister Mary Elephant as everyone called her, swung round from the blackboard, like a Smart car pulling a U-ie. The scent of shoe polish and mothballs swirled around her in a noxious tornado. The chalk in her hand slid away from the half drawn quarter note. “Eyes on the board!”
Evelina came upright in her seat.
Every hair sprang to life from the stubble on her legs to the tip of her ponytail.
She’d been thinking about Frankie Holler again. Whenever that happened her brain left the building.
Everyone turned to stare—sliding in their seats toward her, like water to a drain.
Her heart tapped louder.
The last thing she needed was another detention—one more and she’d be pulling garbage duty, or scraping gum off chairs.
She stared straight ahead, ignoring Henrietta’s hot glare, wondering what she’d done this time to incite her wrath? Not that it took much. She was a freak show.
Maybe it was that goose in her bed. Maybe not the goose so much, but what it left behind. Having just learned she was a Water Witch, Evelina didn’t have much control over her powers. Nights were cold at St. Cecelia’s in December. She’d only been trying to conjure a nice warm duvet. But things got a little out of hand—okay, a lot out of hand, especially when the goose escaped.
But who knew that was going to happen?
Not that she was ever far out of Henrietta’s beady sights. But right now Henrietta was relishing her power. Every day since her cousin, Sister Bellona became their new Phys. Ed. instructor, Henrietta had grown meaner.
She seemed to feed off the fear Sister Bellona incited. One gym class was enough to discover why. After two broken noses and a near fatal asthma attack, the school was on high alert. Bellona was out for blood.
A shiver ran up Evelina’s back.
Sometimes she hated school. Hate was a strong word, one you should never use, according to Grammy Crimm, but, today it seemed appropriate. Oh, she enjoyed the learning part, especially music, when the flute trilled in her hands like a spring robin. But all that theory she could do without.
And classmates like Henrietta. She took the prize for evil. It oozed out of every pore, dripping in foamy bubbles from the side of her mouth whenever she went ballistic.
Like right now.
She looked like a bull ready to charge.
Henrietta sprang from her seat, snatching the piece of paper from Evelina’s hand.
Henrietta held it high over her head like a trophy. “Lookee here! Whatcha got, Orph?” She slashed Evelina a look of poison. “Doesn’t look much like a treble clef!”
The entire music class roared with laughter.
A few clapped.
Molly Nuttle, Henrietta’s best friend, howled like a hyena, sending her greasy blonde hair swinging past her ears.
The caricature of Sister Mary Elephant with her pointer shaped like a claw floated above Evelina’s head like the angel of death. She hardly remembered drawing it. She was always drawing something.
Actually, it was a pretty good likeness.
“Oh, no!” Lily Huckabone, Evelina’s best friend, groaned, slinking down in the desk beside her. “Not good.”
She was right.
From the look on Sister Mary Elephant’s face, retribution was at hand.
“SILENCE!!!” She snatched the claw from the corner of her oak desk. The image was so similar to Evelina’s picture a few students snickered. “You think that’s funny, do you, Crimm?”
Sister Mary Elephant’s pale blue eyes narrowed behind her black horn-rimmed glasses. “On your feet when I’m talking to you!”
Evelina scrambled out of her seat, taking the opportunity to snatch the picture from Henrietta’s meaty fist.
Henrietta gnashed her bulldog canines in a snarl.
Evelina leveled a fierce glare on her. For once Evelina was grateful for her height. She might be a feather weight, but at least she could look Henrietta straight in the eye.
Henrietta backed up, wedging her bulbous butt into her seat with a satisfied sneer creasing her face.
Evelina spun round.
Sister Mary Elephant’s pinched features constricted. “Go to Sister Juliana’s office at once!”
Evelina glanced back at Lily, who sat clutching her sandy braid like a rip cord, chocolate eyes as wide as cupcakes behind her wire-rimmed specks.
Being sent to the Mother Superior’s office was no small matter. Inevitably consequences followed, not usually of the pleasant kind. Sister Juliana meant well. But her discipline bordered on medieval, adhering to the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy.
Evelina strode from the room with a straight back.
But the hollow bang of the door closing chilled her blood.
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