I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, April 15, 2011

Meet Award-winning Author Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck, a good friend and mentor of The Ponderers, has graciously agreed to visit with us today. She graduated from Ohio State University and married her best friend, Tony. Together, they worked in youth ministry for over 20 years. Rachel served as the president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) for two years and now serves as an adviser. She is the award-winning, best-selling author of 14 novels, with more to come. Yay!

Rachel, you have a degree in journalism and you've traveled the world as a software trainer. (There's a story there!) What made you start writing novels?

RH: Writing novels was always the goal. Since I was a girl, I wanted to write novels. I kept journals for 17 years. I was always writing about something, about life, about feelings, the drama of being a teenager in love. My hopes, dreams, my prayers, my love for Jesus. I loved my corporate career. It was something I needed to do, to get it out of my system, but there is nothing more satisfying to me than writing. And it's the hardest job I've ever had!

Think back. Tell us about receiving the call.

RH: This was actually a strange process for me. Publishing happened in increments, gradually. For example, my first book was co-written with author Lynn Coleman for Heartsong. I did all the writing, but she brought me and the idea to Barbour. I was very grateful. So, with that process, everything happened in increments. I didn't get the "Call" out of the blue when I was least expecting it. It was the same with getting an agent. Same with contracting with Steeple Hill, then Thomas Nelson. It all felt more like a gradual, next step process that had me nodding, going, "Yeah, this is right." Of course, it was all very exciting, but I never had the big shocker. Now, ask my about winning my first award and I'll tell you a different story.

I liked the premise of Dining with Joy--a cooking show host who really can't cook--but I wondered if I'd enjoy the book because I thought the heroine was being deceptive. Then, I started reading it, and I discovered her producer knew her secret and the only reason she was doing the show was to help him out, which made Joy completely sympathetic and heroic. It was brilliant. What was your inspiration for Dining with Joy?

RH: Thanks, Roxanne. I didn't want her to be deceptive so I had to work really hard to find those layers of reasoning as to why she'd do this job when she wasn't qualified. I felt Joy was a picture of the human condition. Often we do things we don't want to do, or don't feel called to do because someone needs us. Our hearts to help and serve win over reasoning sometimes. Even over truth.

I first got the idea of a cooking show host who can't cook a few years ago -- just brainstorming ideas one afternoon. Doing a bunch of "what ifs." I've actually seen a few cooking shows where I wondered if the host could really cook. ;) I loved being able to describe the book in one sentence. "It's about a cooking show host who can't cook." People always laughed. Then I'd ask, "What do you think that book is about?" They'd shrug. "I don't know." To which I'd answer, "Me, neither." I really had to dig deep to find why Joy was in this situation and why she didn't just get out of it when she had the chance. The story ended up with many more emotional and psychological layers than I've had in the past.

Booklist said that Dining with Joy has "... sparkling dialogue ..." and Library Journal said, it has " ... excellent characters ..." I loved the relationship between Joy and Luke. What's your secret for writing such great characters?

RH: Great characters are created. They don't just happen. I have to work really hard to layer my characters and think about why two people do or don't belong together. I do a lot of character work but even then, it may not be enough. I write and rewrite. I think I have good motivation and then I realize I could have better, deeper motivation. So I work on the characters more. Often they really come alive when I write "the perfect scene." In the writing process, somewhere along the way, I'll write a scene that so captures the characters it makes them alive to me. Then I can fix all the other scenes.

With all the cooking shows out there, how did you come up with "stupid cooking tips?"

RH: Stupid Cooking Tricks? I was trying to imagine what kind of show Joy would have -- to hide her flaw. She's athletic, funny, smart and really good on camera so I thought she'd do a bunch of bits, want viewer participation. I remembered David Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks from the '80s and how funny they were, so I made up something like that for Joy. In my mind, her show was something like Letterman in the '80s. A little off-beat but well done.

Would you ever consider writing a book with Joy's nemesis, Wenda Devine, to show a story of redemption?

RH: Wow, what a great thought. Probably not. I didn't like Wenda and have no desire to spend four months writing her. Ha! But I think she'd be a great story of redemption. What an amazing heart you have, Roxanne, to even ask!

What's your favorite thing about being an author?

: Readers. I mean, where would I be without readers? I love hearing from them and interacting with them. I love that they spent time with my baby. I love that, like you, they might have been skeptical about a story but read it anyway and I miraculously won them over. I love having written. I love holding my books. I love having accomplished a whole story. I love working with my editor. I love interacting with readers and talking about writing and the process. I love so many things about being an author. It's so amazing when people ask, "What do you do?" I love to say, "I'm a writer." Love it.

What's on your bookshelf? What are you reading?

RH: I'm reading a book for endorsement by Janice Thompson. Great, funny book called Hello, Hollywood. I'm also reading Jenny B. Jones' Save the Date. But my iPad is loaded with Kindle books and I may read anyone of them at any time.

What's next for you? Another book set in the lowcountry or a book with Sara Evans?

RH: I just finished a book called The Wedding Dress about a 100-year-old gown and four women who wear it. It's a fun book. I'm working on rewrites for the third Songbird Novel. This summer, Sara and I will start a fourth book. And hopefully work on some new ideas for my own stories.

What's your journey to following Jesus?

RH: When I was six-years-old, my Sunday school teacher was talking about Jesus. At least, I think she was because I left that class knowing I needed Jesus as my savior. I cannot recall at all what she said, but I remember being dismissed for church, and climbing the steps to the sanctuary, my little mind racing with, "I need Jesus in my heart." I asked my mom that afternoon and praise God she did not put me off or tell me I was too young or that I didn't understand. Never put off a child who wants to meet Jesus. She explained salvation to me and that night at church, we went to the altar. Kneeling there, I prayed so earnestly for Jesus to live in my heart. I knew He went to the cross for me. I can still hear my weak, six-year-old prayer. "Please, Jesus, live in my heart, I know You died for my sins. Please, please." The pastor came by and prayed for me, his hands on my bowed head. It is so true ... I love Him because He first loved me. I'm blown away that He'd choose me.

Oh, a wonderful story. Rachel, thank you so much for sharing and for being with us today.

One lucky reader who leaves a comment or question for Rachel will receive a copy of Dining with Joy. So, be sure to leave a comment!


  1. Thanks Roxanne and Ponderers for having me! XO!!!


  2. "Never put off a child who wants to meet Jesus." I think this is my favorite quote from this interview. Rachel, I want to be just like you when I grow up! :) (Except the Ohio State part, of course.) Thank you for the inspiration you gave me in sharing your journey this morning. I hope my first novel does even 1/8 as well as yours have! Continued blessings and writing mercies to you!

  3. Thanks for sharing some background with us. Dining With Joy is on my to-read list which I won't have a chance to dent until school's out this summer. I'm more eager to read it now with your explanation about her motivation. Right now I'm in a situation I don't feel called to be in but I'm meeting a need. I don't know how to get out of it without hurting a lot of people. I've wanted out for three years but I really don't know how to do it. I'm eager to know how Joy handled her situation.

  4. I've learned a lot from Rachel as a writer--both by reading her books and whenever I've had a chance to hear her teach. She's a master at symbolism and her voice draws me into the story. I also respect her faith and how she lives it out--and weaves it into her stories.
    Thanks for interviewing her, Roxanne!

  5. Love, love, love Dining with Joy! I've read it twice--just didn't want to let Joy and Luke go.
    Thanks Rachel for sharing your passion with us and for all the help you've given whenever we meet.

  6. Rachel, thanks so much for being here this morning! I wanted to follow up your comment about the story behind winning your first award but you were on a deadline. Will you please share it now?

  7. It's so neat to have a beloved Ponderer doing a quality interview on a talented committed Christian novelist/mentor we also love. Very good content here, many helpful writing signposts for others desiring to travel the writing journey. THANKS Rachel and Roxanne!

  8. Roxanne, I'm glad you asked Rachel to share the story behind her 1st award. I was going to ask you to interview her again for that story til I saw your comment. I love the one line synopsis of Dining with Joy and I'd like to read it-maybe on the plane in June. Can't wait to see you!

  9. Me too, please share that story, Rachel! Thanks for being an inspiration to the Ponderers and writers and readers. We love you and I can't wait to love Dining with Joy, too!

  10. I officially hate blogger! I typed in this whole award story and it errored on me!

    Okay. Here's the lest cute version.

    I never win awards. My first books didn't win awards or any reader choice award. I entered Georgia On Her Mind and Lost in Nashvegas in contests and didn't even final!

    But, an author needs a bit of bling in her bio (note to future pubbed authors) and so I decided to enter Diva Nashvegas in the RWA Maggie contest sponsored by the Moonlight and Magnolia chapter.

    The disappointment of not even finaling in a contest is surprisingly hard to deal with. So I shoved the contest out of my mind. Forgot all about it.

    Late summer, I got a call the I'd finaled in the Maggies. I said, "Uh, who is this?" I thought they messed up and called the wrong person!

    Again, I forgot all about the contest. I'd considered going to the conference, but I was on a November deadline and the conference was in October.

    So I didn't go and forgot about it again. The night of the awards hubby and I went out to eat. I think to a sports bar to watch college football. We got home a little after ten and the phone rang immediately.

    The caller ID said, "Atlanta." The Maggies!

    "Rachel, this is so-n-so, you won the Maggie for the Best Inspirational Fiction. Congratulations."

    "What!? Really? OMG!"

    I ran around the house chanting, "I won, I won, I won, I won, I WON, IwonIwonIwonIwonIwon."

    Hubby is going, "Won what?!"

    That is the story of my first award. It was "the call" for me. I'd been denied the award bling and that call just totally caught me off guard. It was fun and exciting.

    Now, the best story is when I accepted the RITA for Susan May Warren the same year we were both up for the prize! But that's an award story for another day.

    And then there's the call to my husband when I won ACFW Book of the Year. Yet, another story for another time!


  11. Great interview, Rachel!

    I attended your class on metaphor & symbolism at the 2010 ACFW conference and really enjoyed it. Actually, it was one of my favorite classes. I came home totally pumped and made my mom watch The Proposal with me so I could explain all the symbolism to her. :-) Thank you for that class!

    By the way, will you be teaching a class at the 2011 conference?

  12. ...and could I please get the Cliff notes for that class? I have seen The Proposal like 15 times; I would love to know all the symbolism!

    Thank you Roxanne, for this awesome interview. And thank you Rachel for giving it, even on a deadline! I really enjoyed reading it, and even though I'm a Ponderer, I am glad for an opportunity to get to know you better. I absolutely appreciated your contribution to the 2010 Deep Thinker Retreat! You rock!!

    For the record: Dining with Joy is on its way to my house via Amazon, as I write. I can't wait to read it, especially since I remember some of your frustrations as you were writing/editing it. (Thank you, facebook!) I can't wait to see how you resolved a couple of those issues. =)

    Thank you taking the time to share with us!!

  13. Oh, Rachel, sorry for the tough time Blogger has given you today. Thanks for taking time to give us the story (twice!). I'm glad you got your "The Call" moment.

    I was floored by the symbolism you found in The Proposal and started looking for it in other movies and books, once you pointed it out so beautifully. I really appreciate your insight.

  14. Sweet interview!! Loved Dining with Joy...and your award story, too!!

    I'm with Roxanne, too...I attended the symbolism class at ACFW last year, and then we talked about it again at Deep Thinkers. It's changed how I watch movies!

  15. Angela, thanks so much! I'm so glad the class helped. You know, my editor reminds me to leave a few "cookies on the lower shelf" for people who don't see or care about symbolism. But it's so good to be able to use it as a writer if you can -- in a way that doesn't distract the reader!

    Heidi, I'm going to put a book together when I get a chance. :) You rock! Loved hanging with you at DT in 2010!

    No worry, Roxanne. It's just blogger. ;)

    Melissa, XO!!

  16. That was an excellent interview! "Dining with Joy" sounds like a great book! Sounds like it is filled with humor.
    I really liked this interview! Thanks MBT Ponders!

    crazi.swans at gmail dot com

  17. Great interview, Rach. So glad you're here. I loved what you said about your readers being the part you love most about writing. I love love love the Lowcountry Romance series, but I think Dining with Joy is my favorite. I didn't think you could top Elle, but Joy has the edge. :) Your characters come to life.

    My question for you is--you said writing is the hardest job you've ever had. What's the hardest part of writing for you?

  18. What a wonderful interview Roxanne and Rachel! I loved reading more about Dining with Joy, and I can hardly wait to read it. :) Rahcel, I also appreciated your story about your mom's comment when you were ready to ask Jesus into your life. :) Both of my kids have expressed that desire, and we've prayed with them. Your award/"The Call" story had me laughing out loud with tears in my throat, so happy for you and rejoicing at the Lord's timing with that blessing.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I am thankful the Lord allowed me to meet you at Deep Thinkers this year! :)

  19. Roxanne/Rachel-Great interview.

    I enjoyed 'Dining with Joy' sooo much. Complex flavors to that stew--Yum. Will re-read soon. Want to live Joy and Luke's world a little longer...and figure out how you did that!

    Rachel, when writing DWJ, was there a particular scene that made the characters come alive for you?


  20. HI Rachel,

    A great posting/interview...I have enjoyed reading ALL of your work...thanks for the opportunity to read your latest masterpiece.


    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  21. What a great idea for a book! Congrats on the positive reviews.

  22. Faye, thanks for stopping by! And commenting.

    Lisa, great question. The hardestbpart about writing is being honest about the story and digging deep to find the true characters. And writing well. I spend a lot of time, maybe too much, trying write with prettiness. Also, to layer in emotion. That's soooo draining. But soooo worth it. And it's hard to write when I don't feel like it, but I have to for deadline, or when it feels like I'm working really hard for so little reward. That's when I just go back to Jesus and remind myself WHY and for WHOM I write!

    Thanks, Jeanne! Loved working with you at DT!

    Hey Julie, great question! I struggled a lot with the opening of this book and I'm still not sure I got it RIGTH, but I think the scene where Luke jumps in to save Joy from the cook off was e first real scene that put my heart into the book and into the romance. ;) Which one did you like best?

    Karen, Go Buckeyes!

    Thanks, Kristin! ;)

  23. Rachel,

    You've been a wonderful guest. Thank you so for being with us!

    The winner of Dining with Joy . . . is Karen K! Congratulations, Karen!

  24. Rachel-Yes, I think that scene really started it for me too. Showed off the fact that Luke was a good hearted man, observant, feeling compelled to help Joy. Many enjoyable scenes, but also later in the book when Luke was able to watch Joy shine in her own talent.(the spirit he knew she could apply elsewhere)Also, the ending. Sweeeeet. Nice touch with the loaf.I'm hooked.:)