This week’s Member Interview is with Rachel Burkum, a multi-novelist and frequent Challenge finalist. You may also remember that Rachel was the 2009 Best of the Best winner for her Challenge entry, The Composition. I was thrilled to have a chance to ask Rachel a few questions about herself and her writing. Join me in getting to know her a little better.
LYNDA: Tell us a little about yourself.
RACHEL: I live a pretty quiet life and I’ve learned that it usually isn’t a bad thing. A little acreage in Iowa helps provide some of that quiet and I love the countryside. I’m in my mid-leaning-towards-late 20′s and my days are filled with a full-time job at a Christian ministry, writing (of course), learning Taekwondo, flower gardening and taking care of my pets (along with a plethora of other interests that I squeeze into the nooks and crannies of my time). I share a house with my parents, so that presents some unique situations and opportunities, and one of my favorite things to do is watch a Thunderstorm roll in.
LYNDA: You’re pretty young (well, compared to me, anyway). When did you know you were meant to write and how did you stumble upon FaithWriters?
RACHEL: It actually took a long time for me to recognize then say with confidence that I was meant to write. Writing was just a hobby… something I wasn’t convinced I was even that good at. Later, as my writing matured and I had several books published, I began to feel the passion and I realized that God had given me a gift. I remember one day in particular, I was driving down the road…I’m not sure what had happened that day or why I was thinking about it, but I suddenly had overwhelming joy when I realized that I was a “writer.” I had found my purpose and my passion and I knew I didn’t want to let go of that. I suddenly had a goal and I could feel God leading me towards something greater, through the use of my talent.
In all honesty, I can’t even remember how I found FaithWriters. I know it was at a time that I was searching for help – other writers, advice, and people to interact with who were interested in the same things I was. I stayed with FaithWriters because I not only found a group of writers, but a group of writers with a faith in God like mine – it’s been a blessing ever since.
LYNDA: Let’s talk about your books. Can you give a brief synopsis of each one?
RACHEL: Probably the best wording would be taken from the back covers, so if you don’t mind the “teaser” style, here we go (from the most recent to my first).
Discovering the Dawn
The death of Kate’s father has left a gaping hole in her heart. Harboring bitterness and pain, she turns her back on comfort, willing herself to stay strong. Keeping her father’s memory alive is the only thing worth striving for. But when her uncle hires a new stable hand, everything unravels and Kate decides to take matters into her own hands.
Matt’s journey to escape a shadowy past has led him a long way from Texas, but how far is far enough? It seems God has led him to a new place to belong, until he realizes that Kate will do all in her power to see him leave the horse farm for good. Is friendship too much to ask?
With the darkness of the past close behind, discovering the dawn has never been harder for two young hearts. Can Kate and Matt truly move on? Will love truly have a chance to grow?
Randi Steel finds herself in the midst of turmoil after she’s forced to move to her brother’s horse farm in Oregon. An almost non-existent relationship has scarred their past and has left the future dim.
Randi’s brother, Brad, is consumed with only one thing: training for an upcoming endurance horserace. After a sudden accident though, he is forced to withdraw, leaving untold secrets vulnerable.
In an effort to salvage whatever is left of her relationship with her brother, Randi bravely steps up to the plate, facing more than she’d ever dreamed. But the cards are stacked against her. She’s a woman in a man’s world, and on top of that, she’s deaf.
At the Heart of Truth
Jeff Curtis’ life is spinning out of control. Thoughts of abandonment and failure plague his mind as he struggles to keep his job at Twin Oaks horse farm and prove himself worthy of racing. But nothing is ever easy for someone with a bad reputation.
Hidden truths, a friend’s betrayal and a stolen horse lead Jeff on a daring ride as he discovers the key to overcoming his grief.
Melanie Peters is finally home. After spending eight years away, she welcomes the chance to know her father again. But old feelings of resentment soon surface. Caught between being a Christian witness to a hurting friend and obeying her father’s wishes, Melanie longs to bridge the gaps that distrust has built.
Will Jeff ever find peace? Will Melanie be able to mend relationships through God’s love? The answers lie At the Heart of Truth.
A Test of Courage
Jody Myers is sent to Texas from Virginia to write an article about a dude ranch, and lands in the middle of an adventure she hadn’t planned on.
Wanting to prove to her friends and family back home that she’s not the timid and sheltered young woman they see her as, she struggles to overcome fears of new experiences and homesickness. Through determination and prayer, Jody finds her place among the Christian family at the ranch. Now only one problem remains: Eric Chambers, a rough young ranch hand, who seems bent on becoming her enemy.
Trapped in his feelings of bitterness about the past, Eric fights to maintain balance in his life. Peace seems impossible to attain, and he’s soon driven to try and relieve his pain, heading even further down the wrong path.
Almost losing his life, Eric soon begins to realize that something needs to change. But what?
LYNDA: They all sound wonderful! Did you self-publish or go the traditional publishing route? Tell us about your experience.
RACHEL: My first three books were accepted by a publisher that was fairly unique – it was similar to self-publishing without the upfront cost. At the time, they met my needs and, of course, I was thrilled to see my work in print. I had a lot of fun learning to promote and I was forced out of my “box” with book signings speaking engagements. A few years later, I outgrew this particular company. They had changed from when I first signed on with them, and I knew that my future needed to take a different direction. So, when I was finished with my fourth book, I decided to try self-publishing. It was a great experience and I loved being involved with every part of the process. I didn’t go through a self-publishing company, but I had my manuscript edited and then later prepared by a graphic designer. I sent the final product to a printing company and was very pleased with the result. I’m not sure which route I will take for my upcoming books. While I am leaning towards self-publishing, it would be nice to be accepted by a commercial publisher, however, as a friend pointed out, God doesn’t need a publisher to get my work out there. So we’ll see what He’s got planned.
LYNDA: Your novels fit into different genres, including children and romance. What is your favorite genre to both read and write?
RACHEL: Fiction! I absolutely love writing novels and reading them, too. I enjoy writing children’s books but my passion definitely lies within longer stories for an older age group. Sprinkling a bit of romance into my novels is fun too, and I like incorporating what I know (like horses) while I also enjoy researching areas that are not my expertise so I can include realistic plot lines. Fiction is great because I can create whoever I want and bend the plot however I want – or however the characters want, depending! I’ve been focusing a lot lately on shorter pieces (such as FaithWriters Challenges and devotionals etc.) though I still desire to finish a couple more novels I have in the works.
LYNDA: Tell us a little about your “day job” working for a non-profit ministry for the deaf.
RACHEL: Technically, I’m the “Order Manager” at a ministry called Deaf Missions. We produce Bible visuals for deaf people – much of our focus is on creating DVDs in sign language to both minister to Christians and guide non-Christians to Christ. My job consists mainly of running our store of resources. I handle incoming orders from customers, package and stock our resources and ship out orders. I’m closely involved with our small printshop where we produce additional materials, I maintain our online store, assist with some secretarial duties and I also serve as a “backup” interpreter when needed. An additional project I was involved in was the creation of a series of children’s books called Matthew’s Bible Stories. The first has been published by Deaf Missions with more to come. The ministry of Deaf Missions fills a great need, and being involved with God’s work is a blessing.
LYNDA: Where do you feel God is leading you at this time? Any short or long term goals you’re striving for?
RACHEL: The first question is something I would definitely like to know the answer to! I’ve been asking God for a long time where He’s leading me, and so far, I honestly don’t know. When I ask Him about my writing in particular, and what I’m supposed to be doing, or where I’m supposed to be going with it, the answer has so far always been the same: “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” It’s tough some days, but it’s teaching me patience and perseverance. As far as my own goals go, right now I want to finish up several books that I’ve got going. I have a new novel in the works, a devotion book and a handbook/guide for others new to novel writing. Sometime I’d like to put together a collection of my shorter pieces as well. Apart from my writing, I’m just trying to take life one day at a time. I know God’s got more in store for me just around the corner, so I anxiously await what comes next in my own story.
LYNDA: Awesome, Rachel. Especially at such a young age, you are a true inspiration. Prayers that God continues to bless the road you’re on – no matter where it takes you!
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