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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return


Please welcome Rachel Harrison to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Return is published on March 24, 2020 by Berkley.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Rachel a very Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return




The Qwillery: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Rachel Harrison: One of my earliest memories is dictating a story to my mother before I could write myself, so I must have been pretty young. I have a very clear picture of where I was, but I don’t remember what the story was about. Willing to bet someone died, though. As a child author I was quite brutal. Excessive death. Maiming, too. Maiming was a staple of my early fiction.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

RH:  A hybrid! For The Return I had a solid outline, but I like to give myself some breathing room. Sometimes my characters intervene.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

RH:  I love to write. I wish I had more time to write but writing itself is pure joy for me. I think the challenging part comes with putting your work out there. It’s really vulnerable and weird and wonderful and terrifying and exciting. It’s a lot to process, and in general I have a low threshold for the stresses of existence, so it’s been tricky for me to navigate this strange new reality.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

RH:  For The Return, I was influenced by The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Shining by Stephen King, which is an entirely unsurprising answer as those are two of the best and most iconic horror novels of all time. But I was also really influenced by Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Those are my favorite books about female friendship. As far as the setting goes, The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo was the inspiration for the Red Honey Inn, the hotel in the novel. I’ve never been, but I saw some pictures and was smitten. I hope to go someday!



TQDescribe The Return using only 5 words.

RH:  Careful. Keep your friends close.



TQTell us something about The Return that is not found in the book description.

RH:  This book is really a coming-of-age story. Everyone always talks about how hard it is to be a teenager, but you don’t magically have everything figured out when you hit twenty. Things get harder and more complicated, and you have to pay taxes. You want horror, let’s talk first trip to H&R block. What I’m getting at is, The Return explores some of the struggles of being in your twenties and trying, and sometimes failing, to figure out who you are, what you want out of life as an adult, and who’s going to stay with you on your journey.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Return? What appeals to you about writing horror?

RH:   I was inspired by my relationships with my friends and my experience in my twenties. On a bit of a deeper level, I’ve had two close friendships fall apart in my life. I never knew how to mourn those relationships. There’s a lot out there on getting over romantic breakups, but how are you supposed to cope when you lose a friend? I personally felt, and still feel, a lot of shame and confusion and sadness over the ends of those friendships, and writing this book was a way for me to parse out those feelings.

And everything about writing horror appeals to me. I love the genre so much it’s difficult for me to articulate an answer. My inner monologue is currently set to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, but instead of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” it’s “ghosts in dark graveyards and monsters in closets.” The world is a frightening place. Writing horror is how I explore my fear, so it becomes less of a burden.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Return?

RH:  I researched characters, I researched locations, but it’s horror fiction, so a lot of it is imagination, heavily seasoned with personal experiences, anxieties, and traumas.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Return.

RH:  The cover is a hot pink masterpiece by Katie Anderson. All I’ll say about the cover is that it’s absolutely perfect and I’m obsessed with it.



TQIn The Return who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

RH:  Molly was probably the easiest to write because she’s self-assured, she knows exactly who she is. Also, we both have dirty sailor mouths. Julie was the hardest because she’s got a lot going on. She can be warm, but she’s not forthcoming. It was difficult for me to understand her at times because she doesn’t want to be understood. She enjoys being an enigma.



TQDoes The Return touch on any social issues?

RH:  I wanted to write a novel that felt honest about female friendship. My friends and I love and support each other, but in my opinion, no healthy long-term relationship is pure love and support, sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay, it’s normal! It’s important that women allow each other to be flawed, to give each other room to make mistakes. Women are allowed to be fuck ups. We’re human! We can love and support each other and also be honest our feelings and experiences, even if they aren’t pretty. We should be able to fail and forgive each other. Fail and forgive ourselves.



TQWhich question about The Return do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

RH:  Hmm, this one is tough. Maybe, “Rachel, The Return is so brilliant and amazing, how did you write such an incredible book?” I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Though feel free to ask me that. I like to talk about my characters, especially the messy ones. I think I’d like to be asked about Elise, how I feel about her. It’d be a long answer.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Return.

RH:  “You can’t erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.”



TQWhat's next?

RH:  I’m too superstitious to answer this question but follow me on Twitter for updates @rachfacelogic! *throws salt over shoulder*



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

RH:  Thank you!





The Return
Berkley, March 24, 2020
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return
A group of friends reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance in this edgy and haunting debut.

Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return—except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong—she’s emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who—or what—is she?





About Rachel

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The Return
Photo: © Nic Harris
Rachel Harrison was born and raised in the weird state of New Jersey. She received her bachelor’s in Writing for Film & Television from Emerson College. After graduating, she worked on TV game shows, in publishing, and for a big bank. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their cat/overlord. This is her first novel.










Website ~ Twitter @rachfacelogic


Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return


Please welcome Joseph Helmreich to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Return was published on March 14th by Thomas Dunne Books.



Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Joseph:  As a child, I always loved writing my own books by hand, drawing the pictures and then stapling the pages together. When I got older, I was mainly interested in trying to write screenplays. Eventually, a psychologist and author named Paul Marcus approached me about co-authoring a book based on some of his cases and in working on that project, I realized just how much I loved writing prose.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Joseph:  I'd say for this project, I was more of a plotter because the structure of the story is a bit complicated and I needed everything to fit together. But there are writers I admire who dive into their projects with no idea where they're going and I think that's extremely exciting (if also terrifying) and I'd love to write something that way.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Joseph:  I think it's always a challenge to find the core or "soul" of your story and not let that slip away. Writing a novel can take a long time and it's important that you don't lose focus on what you're story is really about, though you don't want to be rigid, either. It's a delicate balance.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does being a musician influence or not your novel writing?

Joseph:  As with many writers, my writing is heavily influenced by whatever I've just read or am reading. But in the case of this novel, the music I was listening to also played a very big role. There was one Arcade Fire song called "Tunnels" that served as the backdrop to a scene in my mind and there was a Joseph Arthur song called "Wait For Your Lights" that impacted the plot and there were an Okkervil River record that helped me get to the heart of my story. Music can function for the writer a lot like a movie soundtrack or score functions for an audience, helping you feel the story on a deeper level. As for being a musician, I'm not sure it impacts my writing, but the creative process is definitely similar for both mediums.



TQDescribe The Return in 140 characters or less.

JosephThe Return is about a physicist who gets abducted by an alien ship during a live TV broadcast and then returns and denies it ever happened.



TQTell us something about The Return that is not found in the book description.

Joseph:  A big chunk of the book takes place in Alicante, Spain.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Return? Why blend Science Fiction and Thriller?

Joseph:  I was very intrigued by the idea of a public alien abduction that no one could deny and what that would mean for the world. In terms of combining sci and thriller, my creative impulses have always leaned towards sci fi and fantasy, but I love the pacing, plot twists and cliffhangers of thrillers and really wanted to replicate the feeling I get when I read those kinds of books.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Return?

Joseph:  My writing process for this book was very much a rejection of "write what you know" and I had to learn a lot of material (particularly about theoretical physics) from virtually scratch. The research process involved lots of articles, maps, academic papers and discussions with people far smarter and more knowledgeable than myself on everything from quantum mechanics to proper military terminology to when Texans say "y'all" and when they say "all y'all."



TQPlease tell us about The Return's cover.

Joseph:  The cover was designed by David Curtis and I think it's perfect for the story. As to whether the image depicted there relates literally to any particular event in the book, I think that's up for interpretation.



TQIn The Return who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Joseph:  I think the character of Andrew Leland, the alien abductee, was both the easiest and hardest to write. Easy because his character goes through so many changes that he's not expected to come off as consistent. Hard because how do you make a character who changes so much still feel, on some level, like the same character?



TQWhich question about The Return do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Joseph:  When you're in the process of dreaming up a novel, do you find yourself walking around talking to yourself and humming the score to the movie playing in your head and generally causing other people to want to cross the street? Yes!



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Return.

Joseph:

"If the conspiracy theorists are right and it never happened, then the day it didn't happen began innocently enough."

"'When faced with great and historic scientific challenges, there are always those who say it cannot be done. And when they say, 'We can't do it,' they're in at least one respect correct. When it finally happens, they will surely have had nothing to do with it.'"



TQWhat's next?

Joseph:  Right now, I'm working on a few novel and story ideas and also trying to adapt The Return as a screenplay.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Joseph:  Thank you!





The Return
Thomas Dunne Books, March 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return
During a live television broadcast on the night of a lunar eclipse, renowned astrophysicist Andrew Leland is suddenly lifted into the sky by a giant spacecraft and taken away for all to see. Six years later, he turns up, wandering in a South American desert, denying ever having been abducted and disappearing from the public eye.

Meanwhile, he inspires legions of cultish devotees, including a young physics graduate student named Shawn Ferris who is obsessed with finding out what really happened to him. When Shawn finally tracks Leland down, he discovers that he’s been on the run for years, continuously hunted by a secret organization that has pursued him across multiple continents, determined to force him into revealing what he knows.

Shawn soon joins Leland on the run. Though Leland is at first reluctant to reveal anything, Shawn will soon learn the truth about his abduction, the real reason for his return, and will find himself caught up in a global conspiracy that puts more than just one planet in danger.

Equal parts science-fiction and globe-hopping thriller, Joseph Helmreich's The Return will appeal to fans of both, and to anyone who has ever wondered... what’s out there?





About Joseph

Interview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return
JOSEPH HELMREICH, author of The Return, has contributed writing to Every Day Fiction and New York Press. He has worked on film and television projects, such as Garden State, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, before becoming a script-reader for The Weinstein Company. In addition to his writing, Helmreich is also a voice-over actor and member of alternative folk duo, Honeybrick. He lives in New York City and works in film distribution.

Tumblr  ~  Twitter @Josephhelmreich  ~  Facebook


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich


2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2017 Debut Author Challenge.



The Return
Thomas Dunne Books, March 14, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages

2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich
During a live television broadcast on the night of a lunar eclipse, renowned astrophysicist Andrew Leland is suddenly lifted into the sky by a giant spacecraft and taken away for all to see. Six years later, he turns up, wandering in a South American desert, denying ever having been abducted and disappearing from the public eye.

Meanwhile, he inspires legions of cultish devotees, including a young physics graduate student named Shawn Ferris who is obsessed with finding out what really happened to him. When Shawn finally tracks Leland down, he discovers that he’s been on the run for years, continuously hunted by a secret organization that has pursued him across multiple continents, determined to force him into revealing what he knows.

Shawn soon joins Leland on the run. Though Leland is at first reluctant to reveal anything, Shawn will soon learn the truth about his abduction, the real reason for his return, and will find himself caught up in a global conspiracy that puts more than just one planet in danger.

Equal parts science-fiction and globe-hopping thriller, Joseph Helmreich's The Return will appeal to fans of both, and to anyone who has ever wondered... what’s out there?

Interview with Rachel Harrison, author of The ReturnInterview with Joseph Helmreich, author of The Return2017 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Return by Joseph Helmreich

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