Rachel Rener - Contemporary Fantasy and Magical Realism at its Finest
Rachel is the author of THE LIGHTNING CONJURER Series. Her fourth book, a standalone time-bending fantasy, is set to be published in 2020. When she's not engrossed in writing, Rachel enjoys painting, reading, traveling, and playing Diablo 3. She lives in Colorado, along with her husband and a feisty umbrella cockatoo ("Jungle Chicken") that hangs out on her shoulder as she writes. As our Author of the Day, Rachel tells us all about her book, The Lightning Conjurer.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Lightning Conjurer is about. What's the magic system like?
The Lightning Conjurer is a fast-paced contemporary fantasy trilogy with elements of magical realism, romance, and suspense.
Aspen (as she calls herself) has been living entirely off the grid for the last three years, without any form of ID or any memory of who she once was. It's been a lonely and uneventful life, until strange things suddenly begin to happen all around her - things like freak tornadoes, exploding fireplaces, and self-heating bathwater, to name a few. In time, and with the help of a mysterious young professor, Aspen realizes that she herself is the cause of these events.
The magic system in The Lightning Conjurer series is elemental by nature; some people are able to control Fire, others Water, still others Wind, Lightning, or Earth. A few people have control over two elements, but that's uncommon. Aspen, to her incredible disbelief and dismay, appears to be able to wield all five. As she begins to uncover what may have been her past and is certainly her future, she is summoned by a powerful agency that promises to protect and train her. But they have their own secrets. Will she want to stay with them as those secrets come to life? Will she be able to leave if she chooses to?
This is the first book in a trilogy. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the trilogy tie in with this one?
It can be read as a standalone, but you will need to read the sequels to see the ultimate direction of the story. And, once you get into the series, you'll realize this is not the typical "Chosen One" trope. The trilogy has an arc-feel that's similar to Star Wars: the true enemy is not who you think (s)he is, and there's an entire universe beyond Tatooine (or the forests of Colorado, in this case). If book one feels somewhat formulaic, with the overpowered "Chosen One" discovering an organization of so-called bad guys, readers will quickly see by book two that not all is as it seems: perhaps the "bad guys" aren't so bad, perhaps the "hero" isn't flawless, and above all, there is no such thing as "destiny".
The magic in this story is very believable. How did you pull this off?
To me, magic must be a contained system of laws and limits. And while wand-driven sorcery is always fun to read about, I wanted to create an elemental magic system that felt so real, you might begin to wonder whether it could, in fact, be possible in real life. Incidentally, the word "magic" is never even used in this series. Everything is rooted in science, down to the molecular level, particularly with respect to Terramancy. After all, Terramancers in this universe do far more than incite earthquakes!
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I dabble in a bit of everything: painting, drawing comics, cooking, nature photography, lightning conjuring... things of that sort ;)
Tell us more about Aspen. What makes her tick?
Aspen undergoes tremendous changes over the course of this series, which affect both her motives and priorities. In the first book, she's a solitary, albeit anxious, young woman who struggles to trust others - and with good reason. Focused purely on what's immediately at stake, her quest is simple: find answers to her questions and uncover the mystery of her past and her family. Having only discovered the tip of the iceberg, she must then learn to rely on others in the sequel, forging a close circle of friends - some with questionable motives - as she leaves the only place she's ever known to get her family back. By the third book, she knows who she is and has discovered her greater purpose, which goes far beyond her personal needs. Her biggest obstacle at this point is not finding answers, but rewriting the rules. And it will take great sacrifice to do what's right - not for herself, but for everyone else in the Elementalist Community. Sometimes, one must bite the hand that feeds them, risking everything to do the right thing.
Your characters are so relatable and real. Who inspires them? Are they people you know?
No single character was entirely based on anyone else, but many of them were inspired and/or influenced by real life. For example, Sophia’s personality was loosely based on my brother’s, and Aiden borrowed a lot from my wonderful husband. Evelyn is a mish-mosh of my parents and definitely has the whole ‘Jewish mother’ thing down pat! Most of my characters have traits of people I’ve known – some good, some not-so-good, but they all are totally unique and I love how they developed over time. As for my own personality: as much as I love Aspen and we share certain common traits, I’m definitely most like Eileen.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
"From the time of your first gasping breath, your destiny was never up to you. Not because destiny is written in stone, but because great people are destined to do great things." My favorite character uttered this line, reminding Aspen, as well as the rest of us, that greatness is not found in others' expectations of us, but within us.
Family and identity are important themes in your story - why did you take this approach?
We are all the summation of our genes, our ancestors, and our upbringing. And our identities are affected by those we choose to keep close to our heart. As a student of Neuropsychology and a granddaughter to Holocaust survivors, I have always been drawn to the factors that make us who we are - particularly the conscious decisions we make to rise above our circumstances.
What are you working on right now?
It's top-secret for the moment! ;) However, I just finished a standalone novel that’s totally different from The Lightning Conjurer. It’s a dark YA fantasy that revolves around a teenager with a very interesting form of epilepsy. It features multiple converging timelines and is darker than my previous works. You can expect to see that published in Winter 2020/Spring 2021. I also have a villain-driven short story that will be featured in a villain anthology in December 2020.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can follow me on Facebook, where I post nerdy memes, sell signed books, host regular giveaways and frequently interact with followers. There's also a blog, www.thelightningconjurer.com/blog, and I'm a regular on both Twitter and Goodreads. I adore chatting with readers and other writers and look forward to being in touch!