Q&A with New York Times Bestselling Author RaeAnne Thayne

Q. At what age did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

RaeAnne: I’ve always loved to write and even won a school-wide poetry contest when I was in first grade (“If I could be a bee, I would fly across the sea …” That’s all I can remember!). Though I’ve been an avid reader most of my life, in my teenage years, I wanted to be an actress and I acted in or directed about a dozen plays in high school. My mom encouraged me to take a journalism class and from the moment I filled my first assignment, I discovered the joy in telling stories. I went on to become a newspaper reporter and editor but throughout my decade-long career in journalism, I longed to write a romance novel, the kind of books I’ve loved to read since I was in junior high. I sold my first book in 1995. I’m now close to fifty, something I never would have imagined back when I was dreaming of starring on Broadway!

Q. What three important facts do you want readers to know about your books?

RaeAnne: 1) I usually end up with something autobiographical in every one, despite my best efforts to keep my life out of my books! 2) I generally cry at least once during the writing process of each book when something I’ve written touches me. (I figure if it doesn’t move me, it’s not going to move my readers!). 3) My core story — whether I’m writing about DEA agents or ranchers or burned-out undercover cops —  is that we’re all here to learn how to take care of each other.

Q. Who are some of your favorite authors? Who inspires you?

RaeAnne: I have many, many favorites, both historical and contemporary authors. It’s always hard to narrow it down because I’m finding new favorites all the time! I love Debbie Macomber, Sherryl Woods and Kristan Higgins on the contemporary side. Some of my favorite historical authors include Mary Balogh, Sherry Thomas and Loretta Chase. Every good storyteller inspires me to try harder!

Q. What advice would you have for anyone wanting to break into writing today?

RaeAnne: This is a fantastic time to be a writer, with so many opportunities to reach readers! I can remember a few years ago when people thought the book was dead … I think the huge explosion in e-readers proves people are still hungry for the written word. The best advice I can offer is not necessarily the most original: Read everything you can in the genre you want to write, continually hone your craft at every opportunity and never, ever give up on your dreams!

Writing is hard, physically painful, mentally exhausting — but it is also an incredible, magical joy. The ability to create characters and stories out of nothing but my own imagination still seems like a miraculous gift to me. I try to cherish that gift, even when the going is tough. If you dream of being a writer, do it, no matter how difficult you find it. As others have said far more eloquently than I can, on your deathbed you will never regret having tried to write. If you let your fears or sense of inadequacy hold you back, however, you will always wonder what you might have achieved.

Q. Why did you choose to write romance novels?

RaeAnne: I have read romance novels since I used to sneak them out of my mom’s closet when I was eleven years old. I started with Harlequin romances and fell in love with authors like Betty Neels and Violet Winspear. From the very moment I decided I loved telling stories, I wanted to write a romance novel. It still amazes me that dreams really do sometimes come true!

Q. Your first profession in writing was the journalistic kind. Is there anything you miss about being a reporter?

RaeAnne: This is a great question. I really miss going out on interviews. I have a relentless curiosity about people and I loved talking to sources about their jobs or passions. I also miss the constant flow of ideas through my head as I would be out in the community talking to people. I used to keep a notebook of fiction ideas that would come to me in the course of my job at the newspaper and I would never run out of something to write about.

Q. How did working as a journalist prepare you for a fiction-writing career?

RaeAnne: Those years really set the framework for my entire career as an author. I learned how to formulate my thoughts quickly on deadline and how to write under pressure. I think my many years of interviewing sources gave me a good ear for the way people speak, which helps when trying to craft realistic dialogue. I also developed a fascination for people and their stories and learned that everybody has one. I loved digging deep to find out what led people to the choices they made — good and bad — which I think influences me a great deal when trying to develop genuine characters.

Q. What is your writing schedule?

RaeAnne: I try to write basically from the moment my kids leave for school until they get home, and then again for a few hours at night when they’re in bed. Summers play havoc with my writing!

Q. What’s something about you that might surprise readers?

RaeAnne: I started my professional journalism career as a sportswriter. While I was still in college, I covered high school sports for my local newspaper. Oh, and I was also caught in a flash flood in Marrakech, Morocco.

Q. Favorite food?

RaeAnne: Anything out of the sea. Salmon, halibut and grilled shrimp are my favorite.

Q. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?

RaeAnne: I always have music playing. I have eclectic musical tastes but my favorite is tasty (not too acidic) mellow jazz. Bill Evans, Chet Baker, earlier Miles Davis, etc.

Q. What makes you laugh?

RaeAnne: My husband. Always. I was first attracted to his sense of humor and twenty-nine years later, he can still make me laugh, even in the most stressful of moments.

Q. Describe your perfect evening.

RaeAnne: Taking a walk with my family in the mountains at dusk as the shadows are long and the colors are rich, then coming home and becoming lost in a fantastic book.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration?

RaeAnne: Where don’t I get inspiration? Magazine articles, talking to friends, television, museums, walking in the mountains, listening to my children play, seeing an elderly couple struggle hand in hand together through the grocery store. Life is my inspiration.

Q. What do you do when you get writer’s block?

RaeAnne: Writer’s block to me usually means a scene isn’t working right. I give myself permission to do something else for an hour — read a book that moves me, listen to favorite music, take a walk or write something else — but then I force myself to sit back down and figure out where the story has gone off the rails.

Q. Who is the one person who has influenced your personal life the most and why?

RaeAnne: I have three amazing children but I would have to say my middle son has influenced me most. He is seventeen now and was born with severe disabilities (cerebral palsy, global developmental delays). I am his primary caregiver and every decision in our lives the last seventeen years — from where we live to the car we drive to our vacation destinations — has centered around the challenges (and privileges!) of caring for him. I am a much different (better!) person than I would have been without him in our lives.

Q. You have many awards. Is there one that’s more special than the others?

RaeAnne: Hmmm. This is a tough question! I’m always honored when my books are recognized by others. I consider it a huge compliment that two of my books were named best Special Edition of the year by Romantic Times, especially considering the fantastic books that come out of the line. One that means a great deal to me is the Isolde Carlson Utah Writer of the Year. Isolde Carlson was a romance writer who belonged to my chapter of Utah Romance Writers of America when I first joined in the mid-90s and was an extraordinarily generous and talented writer who lost her battle with cancer after a hard fight. My chapter of Utah Romance Writers of America gives this award out only rarely, for both a writer’s body of work and service to the chapter. To be recognized by my peers in such a way was humbling and overwhelming.

Q. You’ve written over 40 books. How do you continue to keep your ideas fresh?

RaeAnne: My problem is not coming up with fresh ideas, it is finding time to write them all! I do have consistent themes I tend to return to — family, community, learning to reach out and help others — but since the characters and the situations differ dramatically, the stories are different too. I love discovering where my characters want to take me!

Q. You keep a busy writing schedule in addition to having three children! What do you like to do when you have some spare time?

RaeAnne: I love to hike and bike in the beautiful mountains near my Utah home. I love to read (mostly romance, of course) and I am a passionate beader, thanks mostly to the research I did for my Hope’s Crossing series, which started in a bead store. I also love to travel — any time, anywhere — and find it enriches my writing and my life. I would love to visit every country in Europe, though to date, I have only hit Italy, Spain and England (and Morocco in northern Africa!) so I have some work to do.

Q. You’ve done some unique things in your career as a journalist — flown in a hot air balloon, interviewed a country music star — just to name a few. Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Is this reflected in your writing at all?

RaeAnne: Wow. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me if I’m a risk taker! When I was younger, maybe, at least regarding physical risks. After I had children who depend on me so much, I think I lost some of that fascination. I don’t think it’s unusual for parents to begin to filter every activity through a cost-benefit analysis — is this three seconds of adrenaline rush worth the possibility that my children might have to go the rest of their lives without a mother? I would have to say the answer to that is almost always a big no!

On the flip side of that, every single time I sit down to write feels risky in its own way. That blank page can be terrifying and overwhelming. Throwing all my creative, mental and emotional energies into my writing is a huge, frightening undertaking! I guess that does make me a risk-taker of sorts.

Q. Your brand identity is that you write “Stories of Hope, Healing, Heart”. Why is this important to you?

RaeAnne: During my years working as a journalist, I felt surrounded by the inherent negativity all around as I sifted through the world’s events of the day to decide what would run in my newspaper. There is so much hatred, darkness, ugliness everywhere around us. Sometimes it seems those clamoring voices drown out everything courageous and bright and good in the world. I want to write stories that lift people, that show it is not only possible to fight through the ugliness with dignity and strength but is absolutely necessary in order to have a fulfilling, meaningful life.

Q. You have said you find it inspiring to write about people who have faced difficult times and overcome them. What do you hope your readers take away from these kinds of storylines?

RaeAnne: Nobody makes it through this life without experiencing heartbreak or loss. It is as inescapable as the changing of the seasons. I hope to show my readers through my characters’ struggles that even after times of what might feel like unendurable sorrow, eventually the sun always comes up again. My characters inevitably discover the world can still be a bright and beautiful place filled with hope, joy, love. Perhaps as a reader going through a tough time watches my characters soldier on through their fictional problems, it might give her a little bit of strength to struggle through another day. I have a sign in my office that says “I may not change the world, but I can change someone’s afternoon.” That’s all I really want — to make someone’s day a little brighter, their burdens feel a little easier, if only for a moment.