Reading and writing have been a part of me all my life. I was the kid who checked out stacks of books from the library half as tall as me, and read them all in a week. Weekly trips to the library were part of my childhood. I started playing with words of my own when I was about ten and decided to write what happens between the beach kiss and the wedding in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
I was homeschooled from kindergarten through graduation, and my parents encouraged me to explore interests. When I started dabbling with writing and characters, they signed me up for a creative writing class hosted by another homeschooling family’s grandmother, a retired English teacher. Mrs. Murphy took my interest in words and stories and turned it into something I can’t live without.
I continued to dabble and play around all through high school. A friend and I created this elaborate world of interconnected characters and we’d write letters to each other as these characters. All of mine are male, and still live in my head in one form or another, plus a few dozen more. I have probably a million or more words handwritten on college ruled notebook paper. And a permanent groove in my right middle finger from so many hours of holding a pen. No matter what I find myself writing, it’s all about him.
In 2007, I decided to get serious about writing and joined my first professional writers organization, American Christian Fiction Writers. I met a lot of friends, including my crit partner (aka the other half of my creative brain), and set about learning how to write an actual novel. Historical romance was my favorite genre to read, so that’s what I settled on learning how to write. And I wanted it to be all about the hero.
Along the way I learned about the ins and outs and intricacies of the Christian romance market. And began to find it stifling my creativity. I really wanted to write about Russia, which is an impossible sell in the Christian market. In an effort to break in I found another period and culture I could write about that had the same air of mystery as 19th century Russia: antebellum Creole Louisiana. Not coincidentally, I was the head archivist and tour guide at a local Creole plantation turned museum, Kent House, here where I live. I was immersed in Creole plantation culture and life.
While working on the first draft of that novel, I got married. And the marriage blew up in my face. He was not who he claimed to be. In fact, he turned out to be an abusive narcissist. Because of what I went through for eleven months, my words dried up. I had to leave, and I moved back home with my parents. I went an entire year without writing a single word. I was dying inside, and my one way of working through things was locked away so tight I couldn’t get it open for anything.
Going from someone who wrote every day, to someone who couldn’t get words out, was torture. I didn’t want to live that way, and yet I couldn’t see my way out of it. My dreams weren’t only dead, they had been shattered into a million pieces and thrown in my face as stupid and idiotic.
In January 2011, my grandmother fell and broke her thigh bone. After her second surgery I went to stay with her for a month while it healed and she got back on her feet. While there, surrounded by my grandmother’s love and her oasis of peace, my words came back! By October I had a 110,000 word finished novel.
It’s a Christian historical romance, set in 1857 central Louisiana, with a triple whammy of “no one will buy this.” Interracial relationships, the hero is the strongest character, and Catholic main characters. And an adultery subplot. I pitched it to two of the premier historical romance agents in the Christian market in September of 2011 at the ACFW conference. Both loved it, but didn’t think they could sell it. It was exhilarating and disheartening all at the same time. (If you write Christian fiction, the ACFW conference is amazing and worth every penny.)
I’m not one who easily gives up, so even though everyone said I couldn’t sell it, I persevered and started the next book in my Creole world. And promptly stalled out in the spring of 2012. I was trying to force myself to make it about her, when the story was really about him.
Then the most amazing thing happened. On the night of what should have been my third wedding anniversary, May 16th, I had a dream. A humanoid alien walking through a forest saying one word over and over and over. I woke up the next morning, figured out what the word was, and A’yen (the alien in the dream) sat down and started telling me his story.
Eighty-six days later I had a 97,000 word science fiction romance, a genre I had no idea existed. Since then I’ve written four more novels set in this universe. But before that happened, I did the expected thing and started researching and querying. I made it to the third of four rounds of an open submission call at Harper Voyager in the fall of 2012. I kept querying and submitting, and getting no from everyone.
I tried to set the A’yen’s Legacy universe aside and come up with something more marketable. I love what I came up with, but A’yen wouldn’t leave me alone. By this point, I knew what self-publishing was, but I didn’t really take it seriously. It wasn’t “real” to me. Yet.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a Christian. My faith is the most important part of my life. I was trying to do the writing thing my way, when God had other plans. Last May, the 29th to be exact, I gave in to what I was being told and decided to publish A’yen’s Legacy myself.
From decision to first book coming out was three and a half months. It’s been a heck of a wild ride, and I’m having the time of my life! Doing it myself was the last thing I thought I’d do, yet it’s also a natural fit for me. I’m not afraid to learn new things, I like tinkering, I love researching, and most of all I love retaining absolute control of my story world. I don’t have to change things to meet a publisher’s expectations, or downplay the fact it’s the hero’s story and he’s the star.
I’d still like to have a traditional contract someday, but it’s no longer the driving force behind my story creation. For the first time in my writing career, I can write exactly what I want. Which is romance from the hero’s perspective. The heroine is definitely the second character.
A’yen’s Legacy is still growing in my head, and I’ll write in the world as long as I keep getting new novel ideas. Eventually I want to branch out and publish my other SFR series, because it’s also really cool. No matter what book I put my name on, readers are guaranteed one thing: it’s all about the hero.
A’yen’s Legacy, Book Two
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Genre: Paranormal/Sci-Fi Romance
Freedom has a cost. Can A’yen pay it without losing his soul?
Liberation of the enslaved Lokmane begins with the king. A’yen and Fae agree to visit the Hidden, a group of escaped Lokmane, to protect his identity while the Shadows make their move with emancipation acts. But he’s not prepared for the prejudice rampant in the Hidden, or their lack of patience for him. And his new linked bodyguard is unstable to the point A’yen fears for the young man’s sanity.
Upon returning to Titan, A’yen is kidnapped and taken to the largest breeding farm in the galaxy. This time he’ll be himself even if it kills him. His resolve to unite his people grows as he wonders if he’ll live long enough to do it.
With A’yen kidnapped, Fae returns to the Lokmane homeworld seeking the final pieces of what happened two thousand years ago when they were conquered and enslaved. Getting as far away from her father as possible is the only way to keep her from disappearing too.
Separated by light years, A’yen and Fae have to stand alone and fight for their right to live in freedom. No matter the cost.
A’yen’s body stiffened, though he tried to relax to keep the burning from coming back to the point he wanted to rip his skin off. Pure, unadulterated evil moved about the house.
He held still on the bed, breathing deep, trying to get a sense of who it might be. Damn stupid pain kept him so cloudy nothing of his telepathic field worked. He missed it. A man’s voice filtered through the closed door. Not close enough to make out the words. Who would come here?
The male voice disappeared and Fae sounded like she held to her sanity by a single thread. She needed him. Now. He pulled his arms under his chest and pushed up from the bed. The room tilted. He grabbed the headboard with one hand, leaned forward, breathed deep again.
Something he’d never felt before crept into his muscles. A warmth, from outside himself. Not from Na’var either. The pain didn’t lessen, but he could move now. Slow, with deliberate care. He kept one hand on the bed, then the wall, moving toward a pair of shorts on the rocking chair. Whoever was out there didn’t need to see him without clothes.
The warmth remained, infusing him with enough strength to get the shorts on, make it to the hall and follow the voices to the living room. Pain accompanied him with every step, and if not for Fae’s need pulling him forward he’d go back to bed.
“Farran, how can you even think of keeping him? Males are more dangerous than you can imagine. I will not have you living here with someone capable of slitting your throat and running away.” Her father. His father-in-law. President of the Breeder’s Association board of directors.
“I’m thirty-two-years-old, Daddy. I think I can decide for myself how I’m going to live.”
A’yen stopped, leaning on the wall in an attempt to slow his breathing. She stood in the middle of the room, her back to him, hands clenched at her sides. Trembling.
“I’ve indulged you long enough. It’s time to come home and take your place. Without this male slave who’s obviously messed with your mind.”
He squared his shoulders and walked the last five feet into the living room. Stopped in the doorway. Leaned against it to hold himself up. “This male slave happens to be her husband and will not tolerate you talking to her in such a manner.”
Fae turned by degrees to face him. She tried to glare at him, but eyes reflecting unshed tears said she’d never been more thankful to see him. More fingers of warmth moved through his body. He crossed to her, folded her in his arms, stared at Benai Hart. She pressed into the safety of his embrace, her trembling forcing the pain to the back of his mind.
“Do you not know who I am?”
“I do. I bow to no one.”
Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. There may also be Netflix binging . . .
She blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook, www.facebook.com/rachelleighsmithauthor. You can sign up for her newsletter here. She’s an active member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and Romance Writers of America.