I’m thrilled to introduce Rachel Goodman, who recently published her debut novel, From Scratch, a feel-good story of food and family set in Texas. She and I not only share a love for Southern food and books by Kristan Higgins; we also happen to be sorority sisters! Here, Rachel describes her writing process, talks about working with an agent, and reminds us how multi-talented romance writers are.
What inspired you to write this story?
I’m heavily influenced by food, so indulging in a meal that can simultaneously take me on an adventure and remind me of where I’ve been is always a fun treat for me. I also adore homecomings with a sprinkle of crazy relatives thrown in and second-chance-at-love storylines, so I wanted to write a book that incorporated all those things. Plus, it meant I got to partake in dessert every night as “research.”
I also wanted to explore the idea of a couple who got to experience that rush of first love as young teenagers—when everything is new and exciting and perfect. And then, as life is prone to do, the couple grew apart as they grew older. I wanted to explore the idea that sometimes a couple has to take separate, and sometimes painful, journeys to ultimately figure out what they want from life. But this time around, as wiser, more mature versions of themselves, they’re hoping for a different outcome.
Describe your process for writing this particular book.
I am both a plotter and a pantser. I always knew how FROM SCRATCH would start and how it would end, but everything in between I decided as I went. Getting to know the characters was an organic process for me, so while I could roughly plot beforehand and even envision some scenes, I had to leave room for surprise and spontaneity. Otherwise, moments like the prank scene in FROM SCRATCH wouldn’t exist.
I also write in my head at all times and places—in the shower, in bed at 4 a.m., on the drive to work—but when it comes to putting words to the page, I write in long stretches and outside, preferably at a coffee shop with a hot cup of tea or a glass of white wine if it’s the evening. Luckily I live in Texas where it stays warm (or blazing hot) almost all year round.
How long did it take to complete?
FROM SCRATCH took me five years from idea to execution to landing a book deal. I started writing the book in 2008 but then became stalled on Chapter 3 for two years because I joined a university as a professor while maintaining a full-time job as an engineer. The demands of both prevented me from doing anything else. However, once I got settled into both routines, I was able to write the rest of FROM SCRATCH in ten months.
BUT my current manuscript, SOUR GRAPES, which is the sequel to FROM SCRATCH, took me roughly 18 months to write…So, in summary, instead of naming a single, depressingly large number, I’m going to opt for optimism and say that I’m cutting my time more than in half for each book! Soon enough it’ll only take me weeks! Right?
Was this the first book you had written?
Did you work on simultaneous projects?
No way. I’m a one project at a time kind of person. I think it may be the analytical, engineering part of my brain that won’t let me mix different ideas at the same time, but if I try to work on multiple writing projects simultaneously, everything gets jumbled in my head and I end up not accomplishing anything.
What was the rest of your life like while writing the book? Were you working?
I am a full time engineering professor at SMU in Dallas, TX, so I’m only able to write on weekends during the school year. However, I have three months off during the summer, so when writing FROM SCRATCH in the summer, I was able to write every day, all day, and completed the majority of the manuscript during those three months.
Were you involved in a writer’s group?
When I decided I wanted to write a book, I joined the Writer’s Path program at SMU. The instructors of the program helped me formulate an idea, hone my writing craft, taught me story structure, how to strengthen plot, and ultimately how to execute it all into a publishable, full-length novel.
I personally haven’t had much success with writing groups but I do have a few close friends and critique partners who I share my writing with.
How many submissions did you send out?
I polished my query in early 2013, started subbing to agents in April 2013, and signed with my agent, Melissa Jegliniski in August 2013. My stats are as follows:
Total Queries Sent: 76
Requests: 41 (28 fulls, 13 partials)
No Response: 23
Agent Offers of Representation: 5
Did you work with an agent? How did you find him/her? In what ways did the agent help with the process?
I did work with an agent—Melissa Jeglinksi of The Knight Agency. She is a ROCKSTAR. I found her through Publisher’s Marketplace and spending hours and hours researching agents who represent the kind of romance I was writing (light contemporary romance in the vein of Kristan Higgins). After I signed with Melissa, we went through several rounds of edits to make FROM SCRATCH as strong as possible before it went on submission to various editors.
What did you do when you got the go-ahead?
My agent called me in February 2014 to tell me I had received an offer of publication for FROM SCRATCH from Simon & Schuster. I was at school in between classes, so I did the whole stifled laughter-through-tears thing in the middle of the hallway while students flowed around me like I was a rock in a river.
Then I went out to a fancy dinner with my husband to celebrate!
Who’s the first person you called?
After speaking with my agent, I immediately called my husband and burst into tears. It took five minutes before he could fully understand what I was trying to tell him.
What happened between hearing your yes and getting the book to print?
LOTS AND LOTS OF REVISIONS with my editor. I had to add scenes to solidify the novel as a contemporary romance—the original version leaned more toward chick-lit/light women’s fiction. And I had to cut A LOT of food comparisons because I went a tad overboard. J
What has surprised you most about this process?
The only aspect on this crazy, wild journey that’s in your control is writing the best book you can. And then after you’ve done that, write another one.
Rachel Goodman was raised in Colorado on her mother’s award-worthy cooking and Roald Dahl. Now an engineering professor at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, she has not lost her passion for culinary discovery or a well-told story. A member of RWA, she continues to hone her craft through the Writer’s Path at SMU while seeking to create the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. Her debut novel FROM SCRATCH releases July 20, 2015 from Simon & Schuster/Pocket Star. Visit Rachel on Twitter @MojitoMaven, on the XOXO After Dark website, or on Facebook.
Personal Website: http://www.rachelgoodmanbooks.com/
Simon & Schuster Website: http://books.simonandschuster.com/From-Scratch/Rachel-Goodman/9781476774695
Thirty-year-old Lillie Turner grew up with maple syrup stuck to her skin and bacon grease splattered on her clothes, courtesy of working in the family diner. Thank goodness she escaped all that when she moved to Chicago five years ago. Now a successful strategy consultant and newly engaged to a man who complements her like biscuits and gravy, she has everything she wants.
When an urgent phone call about her father’s health pulls Lillie back to Dallas, she soon learns it was a ruse to bring her home so she can run the diner she’d rather avoid and compete in the Upper Crust, an annual baking competition, with no option to withdraw. Lillie is furious and ready to run back to Chicago, but her father’s haggard appearance makes her wonder if he’s hiding something. Things go from bad to worse when Nick, her handsome ex and the only man she ever truly loved, reappears, looking as scrumptious as ever.
Lillie’s trip home forces her to question the path she’s chosen, find her place in the family she abandoned, and wonder if the life she left behind is what she really wants after all.