I want to thank Stephenee and the #NerdGirl lovelies for inviting me to join in the fun. I’ve been blessed to have the support of #NerdGirl since I started self-publishing my novels in 2014 and I appreciate them immensely!
I want to talk about hope. Hope is a word that seems very Pollyanna-ish or unrealistic. Hearing the word can even cause folks to roll their eyes. But hope is my life. Between teaching at-risk kids in my day job and writing romance novels, and being a parent, hope is everything. My hope wavers from time-to-time, and I cling to it desperately when that happens, sort of like a life preserver that seems too small to hold my weight, but darnit if it keeps me afloat.
I’m reminded of hope this week because the other day I ran into a former student who had just enrolled at Adult School, which is adjacent to my school. He’d dropped out 18 credits shy of graduating several years ago and it broke my heart that I couldn’t get him to the finish line. But there he was, showered, dressed, clean-shaven, and adulting no less! The smile stayed on my face for the rest of the day and evening. In my line of work where students frequently give up on school and leave for other endeavors, it’s easy to lose hope and believe that the work we do is useless. Like the story of the child saving the starfish who’ve washed up on shore, the child chucked them one-by-one back into the sea and was hell bent on saving as many as possible.
Jesse Martin, the main character in Teacher, the first novel in my Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Romance Trilogy, was a huge believer in giving people second chances, which leads her to find her true love. I reworked the beginning paragraphs so many damn times to try to get the right feeling across. I finally realized that Jesse was so much like me in that she’d dedicated her life to helping people find their hope. The story arc of the three books really follows this thread; how Jesse brings hope, and receives love in return. Hope shows up in all of my stories, as a matter of fact.
So that’s why I write romance novels. My B.A. is in History and I have a Masters in Counseling Psychology. I remembered telling my mother after I graduated that I’d never write flowery shit, that I was all about the facts, ma’am. I read true crime and thrillers when I wasn’t reading horror. I had no time for pretty things and happily ever afters. That seemed like hogwash. But then I found my own true love, who I’ve been happily married to for nearly 18 years, and I spent the last twenty-two years in education. I even had enough hope that I brought two children into this uncertain world. I found love, and through education, I found hope. I see fantastic kids overcome so many terrible tragedies and still graduate, or at least do something positive with their lives. That all gives me hope. When my hope sags, I write. I write beautiful, deep, tragic, and hopefully inspirational love stories in the hopes that someone, somewhere will read them and go “Someone gets it.” And I get emails and messages quite often with just those sentiments.
I’m assuming many of you read romance because you need that hope in your lives, too. I’ve met so many readers who are struggling daily to survive debilitating diseases and conditions, whose families have been affected by tragedies, and people just trying to find themselves and their purpose. I salute all of you. I hope that my stories bring you hope. I hope you continue to inspire hope in others as you’ve done for me.
Thank you so much for continuing to read, to support indie authors, and to inspire hope!
Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance from R.L. Merrill
Where are you from? Does the area you live in influence you writing?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the East side! My travels to places like New Orleans, Hollywood and Chicago totally inspired my writing, as well as the four years I lived in Iowa during college, but the Bay Area is my heart.
Tell us your latest news!
I’ve been diversifying lately, trying my hand at everything from LGBTQIA+ romance to paranormal/ghost stories, to a sci-fi flash fiction I just wrote this week! I’m all over the place and I’m excited to try new things. I hope to have some new material out later in the year.
When and Why Did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
Writing has been healing for me. I went through a rough few years with my work and my health and started writing to find some hope. I did, and I found love and readers and new friends and I discovered that my stories helped other people as well.
What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
Anne Rice and Stephen King were my introduction to horror at an early age and I loved their stories. I didn’t read for many years because as a student and then a teacher, who had time? When I was pregnant with my daughter and had no energy for anything but reading, I devoured Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, Earlene Fowler and Tony Hillerman. Then after I got sick, I discovered Charlaine Harris, J.R. Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon and I was hooked again. It wasn’t until I read Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire that I realized I could totally share my stories with the world through self-publishing. And now, coming full circle, I want to slay the publishing industry like Stephen King! Mwahahahaha
Just kidding. I just want to share my stories with as many people as possible. Maybe.
Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?
My characters come from real life friends and acquaintances as well as my rock ‘n’ roll heroes. Maggie’s Bones, the band from Haunted, came to me after I visited New Orleans and then lost my father. Jesse from Teacher came to me while watching my friend struggle with RA. Her paramour sprung from my psyche after three things happened: I heard Dave Grohl talking about getting his GED, heard Jason Ellis (SiriusXM Faction) talk about his daughter being upset with him because he can’t read, and then I watched a doc on Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach going through surgery on his vocal chords. Leah from El Corazón Sabe came from some of my coworkers and experiences I had working at a continuation school. And so on.
What motivates you to write?
Once I got the bug, it was a way to challenge myself. This was the first thing I did as an adult that wasn’t career related where I set a goal and I met it, and I continue to smash through goals. It’s my escape, it’s my sanity, it’s my passion!
What is the hardest part of writing?
Having the energy and time. I teach more than half time, have two busy kids, parents to take care of and needy furbabies. There’s only so much of me to go around, despite my non-petite size!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a helluva lot more about grammar and paragraph structure than I ever knew. I learned a ton about marketing, formatting, tech stuff, and gained so much respect for authors.
Where do you get your ideas?
EVERYWHERE! Music, real life, work, and I like to use the Brainstormer app.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are super supportive, although my kid says we’re all a bunch of horny old ladies.
What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Push your boundaries. Don’t even think about self-publishing until you have 2-3 polished manuscripts. Ask for help and give it freely. Don’t be a dick.
What book are you reading now?
On Writing by Stephen King and Sommersgate House by Kristen Ashley
Once upon a time… A teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ‘n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and starting purging her demons. Eleven self-published novels later, with more tucked away in her evil lair, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. You can find her lurking on social media, being a mom taxi, or head banging at a rock show in her home, the East San Francisco Bay Area!
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