The Thriller Zone

On today's 138th episode of The Thriller Zone, now in our FIFTH SEASON, we welcome the smart, engaging, and incredibly talented New York Times Bestselling Author, Rachel Howzell Hall.

Rachel joins me today to discuss her latest thriller WHAT NEVER HAPPENED.

It’s murder in paradise as a woman uncovers a host of secrets off the rocky California coast in a gripping novel of suspense by New York Times and Wall Street Journal-bestselling author Rachel Howzell Hall.

Colette “Coco” Weber has moved to her Catalina Island home, where, twenty years before, she was the sole survivor of a deadly home invasion. All Coco wants is to see her aunt Gwen, get as far away from her ex as possible, and get back to her craft—writing obituaries. Thankfully, her college best friend, Maddy, owns the local paper and has a job sure to keep Coco busy, considering the number of elderly folks who are dying on the island.

But as Coco learns more about these deaths, she quickly realizes that the circumstances of them are remarkably similar…and not natural. Then Coco receives a sinister threat in the mail: her own obituary.

As Coco draws connections between a serial killer’s crimes and her own family tragedy, she fears that the secrets on Catalina Island might be too deep to survive. Because whoever is watching her is hell-bent on finally putting her past to rest.

Rachel has a certifiable hit on her hands, and as you read, you'll quickly see just how she skyrocketed to the top of her genre, making her a New York Times bestselling author.

On today's show we discuss a multitude of issues: race, respect, honoring family, and of course, we have to inject some humor from time to time; just wait until you hear about one of our favorite snacks!

To learn more about the lovely and talented Rachel, visit: RachelHowzell.com and be sure to follow her on Twitter @RachelHowzell

Be sure to FOLLOW, LIKE & SUBSCRIBE to our website: TheThrillerZone.com, on Twitter @thethrillerzone 

The Story Factory is an entertainment company representing some of the best authors in the business.

What is The Thriller Zone?

Podcast host and thriller author David Temple gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

00:00:05:12 - 00:00:22:22
DAVID
Hello and welcome to the Thriller Zone. I'm your host, David Temple, and this is season five of the Thriller Zone. And on today's show, Rachel Housel Hall. And the book is What Never Happened. This is one of those books that you pick up and you like. I'm going to just paste myself and, you know, read a little bit at a time.

00:00:23:07 - 00:00:34:10
DAVID
And before you know it, you're digging deep. So without any further ado, let's meet Rachel right here on the Thriller zone. Let's just jump out of the gate with a great big welcome to the Thriller zone.

00:00:35:00 - 00:00:39:12
RACHEL
Thank you. I'm proud to be here. I'm thrilled. And a lot of grown.

00:00:39:20 - 00:00:54:06
DAVID
Oh, I see what you did there. I every once in a while, somebody will be scheduled and I'll start talking about who's coming. And they're like, oh, I can't wait. I don't know. They actually do this gesture because it looks pretty stupid.

00:00:54:16 - 00:01:01:00
RACHEL
But I say, That's great, right? This. Yeah, Yeah.

00:01:02:09 - 00:01:10:06
DAVID
But they're very excited. And I'm like. Me too. I mean, when I saw Don Winslow pop in this morning and go, Oh, look who's going to be on the show.

00:01:10:14 - 00:01:20:09
RACHEL
I know. I love him. He's whenever he, like, sees anything I do, I get all like. Like, like that. Yeah.

00:01:22:01 - 00:01:23:13
DAVID
He's. He's a solid dude.

00:01:23:14 - 00:01:27:04
RACHEL
Yeah, he sees perfect in that. But today, supportive.

00:01:27:04 - 00:01:36:02
DAVID
So, you know, isn't that great? That's another thing we talk about on the show. How many people in this business are so supportive of one another? I love that.

00:01:36:07 - 00:01:44:07
RACHEL
82, 82. This? Yeah, more than any genre. I think we support each other a lot. Yeah. Yeah.

00:01:45:06 - 00:01:50:09
DAVID
I can. I just do a little first of all, we're gonna be talking about this beautiful book of what never happened.

00:01:50:14 - 00:01:50:18
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:01:51:23 - 00:02:18:23
DAVID
I ripped through this thing. I was doing some research on you and I was looking. Looking for the best picture I could get to do some ads. Right. So you sent me a really nice high resolution photograph. I'm all. That's perfect. It's. It's. It's. It's. It's. It's strong. It's powerful. It's. Yeah, I'm in control, right? But my favorite to date and I'm going to pull it up is when you're in the car looking on your website, looking over your shoulder.

00:02:18:23 - 00:02:25:10
DAVID
I don't know what it is about that photograph. Every time I look at it, I'm like, What is she looking at?

00:02:25:10 - 00:02:46:01
RACHEL
That is that is like an iconic photo. I love that photo. And the guy who did the second, the one that you have that. Yes, he did that first one to. I used to ride in my car. All right. And so it was best to capture me in the place where I tended to write. And that was the car.

00:02:47:02 - 00:02:48:03
RACHEL
Yeah, well, I.

00:02:48:03 - 00:02:57:12
DAVID
Notice and if you look closely, folks, when you go to the website, they're notes and there's scribbles and highlights and I'm like, Is she right in the car? See? Yeah, you just answered that question.

00:02:57:13 - 00:03:15:22
RACHEL
Oh, yeah. Especially being a working parent in a day job. Or I would use my lunch time to go down to the car and write. And then if I'm taking my daughter to soccer or basketball or the thousands of things that a kid does, I'm in the car writing. So yeah, it was like it was it was my mobile office.

00:03:17:04 - 00:03:23:22
DAVID
I love that. I don't think I've ever met anyone who sits in the car and writes. But it's a perfect environment, isn't it?

00:03:23:22 - 00:03:35:11
RACHEL
And it's so L.A., right? We live in our cars anyway. So like, right there, it's quiet, it's self-contained. So yeah, it's it's a very nice, controlled environment.

00:03:36:07 - 00:03:58:07
DAVID
I was reading recently and we'll put a button on this one I was reading recently, talking about we were talking this person. It was a podcast talking about the future of our world and how self-driving cars are going to be the next big thing and that they'll, they'll merge like perhaps an Uber situation with self-driving cars. So I'm sitting there thinking about you.

00:03:58:07 - 00:04:04:12
DAVID
I'm like, Oh, you can just dial up, have a car, show up, You get in and it drives you around town. You don't have to worry about. You go.

00:04:05:00 - 00:04:38:18
RACHEL
Although part of the process for me is the driving is the actual doing. Because it's weird when when the pandemic came and I stopped going into my day job when I was writing a book, when I think it was toxic things, I had a very hard time just starting, just starting to write. And I realized that my commute had had its serve as that warm up the the mine roaming free.

00:04:38:18 - 00:04:51:15
RACHEL
And so the moment I stepped back, got back in the car, like to take my car to service or whatever, thoughts just came pouring in because it's so connected to my process driving.

00:04:51:15 - 00:04:52:21
DAVID
Oh, I love that.

00:04:52:22 - 00:04:53:22
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah.

00:04:54:04 - 00:05:07:20
DAVID
It makes so much sense when I do long road trips because my brain is concentrated on one thing. I guess you're right. Yeah. It just takes this, this the creative part of your brain, and it just runs with reckless abandon.

00:05:08:00 - 00:05:22:08
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. And it's always, you know, in a place where. Where you can't really write well when the muse hits. But then, you know, I have post-its and a notepad and all that, like kind of write something. Yeah.

00:05:23:06 - 00:05:27:15
DAVID
Do you ever have conversations with the muse? Like, get over here, We got to talk.

00:05:29:14 - 00:05:48:08
RACHEL
Some sometimes when I don't have a project going on and I still wake up at 430 and it's like, Well, can I just sleep in? And she's like, No, get up. There's something to do. And, you know, I don't want to lose that, that muscle. So yeah, the muse, she, she, she wants me to keep working, to keep writing.

00:05:48:15 - 00:05:51:18
DAVID
So you're a fourth 30 person? Yes, 30.

00:05:51:18 - 00:06:19:00
RACHEL
Person. Yeah. I write for until like 630, and then I do the business of writing for the next 30 minutes. I work out for half hour when I decide to do that and then I go to go to work. So that usually means just changing my pins, the pins that I use, that's since I'm working at home. That's really the only thing that kind of differentiates day job from novel writing.

00:06:19:00 - 00:06:23:22
RACHEL
This is a set of pins that I use, so I don't use my work pins to write novels and vice versa.

00:06:24:18 - 00:06:28:17
DAVID
That's interesting. So you're you're not a keyboard writer?

00:06:28:17 - 00:06:53:17
RACHEL
Not initially, no. Okay. All my drafts are longhand, and my husband got me some great tech to help me with that. I got the remarkable device, which, you know, it's this electronic tablet and you write and it feels like paper, but then it converts your handwriting into digital. So it cuts my process of having to type everything in from my legal pad right in half.

00:06:53:18 - 00:06:55:10
RACHEL
I love it. I absolutely love it.

00:06:56:03 - 00:07:14:18
DAVID
Okay. I have to drill down one little extra inch because there's so much technology shared on this show. And I I've seen an advertisement for this, but I haven't seen it in person. And I thought it was just, oh, it's another way to go. But so however you're writing it records it and what if you want to erase?

00:07:14:18 - 00:07:15:15
DAVID
So word does.

00:07:15:18 - 00:07:29:12
RACHEL
Yeah, it has a little digital eraser on the back of it, so it feels like a pen. And it's, it's really it's really incredible. And the word recognition, it's. It's impressive. I love it. Thanks.

00:07:29:22 - 00:07:33:00
DAVID
Rachel. Maybe for your handwriting, but yeah.

00:07:33:10 - 00:07:35:21
RACHEL
I.

00:07:35:21 - 00:07:47:03
DAVID
Oh, my gosh. And after about 2 to 3 hours, it's. It starts out so handsome. And then it becomes this like, this looks like a doctor's signature.

00:07:47:15 - 00:08:03:12
RACHEL
No. Yeah, I was one of those kids who learned calligraphy. And so everybody in church when there was a special event, they came to me to do the calligraphy and my junior high school graduation program. I did it because of my penmanship. So yeah, I was that I was that kid.

00:08:03:12 - 00:08:04:21
DAVID
You were that kid. All right.

00:08:05:06 - 00:08:05:14
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:08:06:23 - 00:08:20:22
DAVID
Well, there is a gentleman on the scene that I respect, Lee Goldberg, and he put a blurb on this. Yeah. Rachel Hall has crafted her own genre of slow boiling, powerfully emotional thrillers.

00:08:21:11 - 00:08:21:18
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:08:21:21 - 00:08:37:15
DAVID
Talking about wanting to hit every single cylinder possible. And this is that book. Now, clarify one thing for me, because on the front here, it says July 11th, and I have a note that says it's available August 1st.

00:08:37:15 - 00:08:42:12
RACHEL
Yeah, the dates changed, so it is available widely. August 1st.

00:08:42:13 - 00:08:43:03
DAVID
Okay. Got you.

00:08:43:08 - 00:08:43:14
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:08:44:05 - 00:09:02:04
DAVID
This book is I'd love to do this, and I've just started doing this recently so that I don't give away anything and I kind of cut to the chase because I like to. I'd love to hear your elevator pitch blurb, like, what is this book? And then I'll give you kind of my elevator pitch review and we'll kind of go from there.

00:09:02:04 - 00:09:02:16
DAVID
Is that good?

00:09:03:01 - 00:09:37:04
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. No. My main character, Coco Collette, she returns to Catalina Island where her family purchased a home. And right before they moved in their home invasion incidents in her family was murder. And so she returns. Works as an obituary writer for the island's only paper. And someone's killing old people. And she's writing the obituaries, but also trying to figure out, are they connected?

00:09:37:17 - 00:09:42:19
RACHEL
And then are they connected to her family's murder 20 years before?

00:09:43:01 - 00:09:58:15
DAVID
Oh, right. Here you go. Here's my pitch With characters as engaging as your best friend. A plot as thick and twisted as kudzu, Rachel manages to pull you in by the shirt collar and not let you go until the last pages. Oh, yeah. Being a Southern guy, I had to throw a little kudzu in there.

00:09:58:22 - 00:10:01:20
RACHEL
Yes, Yes.

00:10:01:20 - 00:10:30:12
DAVID
So what I love about. Yeah, what I love about this, Rachel, is the. And it sounds weird to say this. Oh, I love the way she writes obituaries, because it sounds like it's it's it's an odd statement, but here's why I love it. You have such a lovely and a funny way of summing up a life's person. I know you're doing this as a character in the book, but it also shows me your writing style in general.

00:10:30:12 - 00:10:49:19
DAVID
Yeah, but it and it made me think this is what I love about writers like yourself. It makes me think about things. So I step out of the book for a moment and I go, What would Rachel or Coco write about me? What would what would people what would I hope that would be the last thing said about me.

00:10:49:19 - 00:10:50:03
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:10:50:14 - 00:11:04:08
DAVID
And not to make it about me, but I thought that was so interesting to mirror something so poignant because this person has such a responsibility to come down to the end of your life and sum up your life in a couple of paragraphs.

00:11:04:08 - 00:11:38:08
RACHEL
Yeah. And for her, you know, her family, they were murdered. I know when the obituaries were written that they were kind of just the rote type of born die work. And it didn't they they didn't capture who her people were. And so I wanted her to be someone who is a storyteller, someone who feels the agony of losing someone who doesn't want their last things written about them to be this flat cut paste type job.

00:11:38:08 - 00:11:56:03
RACHEL
And so when you tell stories, you know, you get to meet people and listen to them and do some research. So this was perfect for for her. She gets to, you know, honor those who have passed while also being incredibly nosy.

00:11:56:03 - 00:11:57:20
DAVID
To get paid to be nosy. How nice is.

00:11:57:20 - 00:11:58:14
RACHEL
That? Yeah.

00:11:59:12 - 00:12:20:16
DAVID
I would love to do this, if you don't mind, because I tend to highlight things that I really like and I won't read the whole thing, but this one paragraph is so delicious. And it's the obituary of Gwyneth Rose Webber, who we're going to meet here on Gwen, which I love her voice. She's I want to party with her, but so they're writing the obituary here.

00:12:20:16 - 00:12:35:10
DAVID
Coco's writing ingredients for a splendid afternoon in the life of Gwyneth. Rose Weber sliced Vienna sausages dotted with yellow mustard atop rich crackers, a dirty martini and family feud playing on the television.

00:12:35:10 - 00:12:37:15
RACHEL
We know. We all know those women.

00:12:39:02 - 00:12:41:21
DAVID
Women. That was my afternoon snack. Are you kidding?

00:12:42:05 - 00:13:09:11
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. No, I love it. I hearken back to my childhood and my mom loved Vienna sausages, so I remember the smell that combined with the yellow mustard. It stays with me forever. She didn't drink dirty martinis, but, you know, that's totally Gwyneth. But, you know, you go to a grandparents house in there, things that happen that are comforting to you.

00:13:09:11 - 00:13:35:00
RACHEL
And it may be family feud. It may be the stories, you know, Edge Night, Days of Our Lives, all that. DONAHUE Yeah. And it it's one of those things that you return to as a as an adult, thinking about the people that you love who have taken care of you. And that summarizes when yeah, she is she is a spitfire.

00:13:35:00 - 00:13:36:14
RACHEL
She's yeah. Uh huh.

00:13:37:09 - 00:13:54:08
DAVID
Oh man, I want to party with her. It did remind me though. Yeah, I thought we were we were really doing well when Mom would make and she would take the biscuits and put a big pad of butter there first and then put the Vienna sausage and put the toothpick through.

00:13:54:18 - 00:13:55:06
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:13:55:07 - 00:13:59:21
DAVID
And let it bake so it would get crispy and then dollop that mustard on top that.

00:14:00:00 - 00:14:02:23
RACHEL
Oh yeah. That was, that was living. Yeah.

00:14:03:20 - 00:14:09:06
DAVID
I you say to mark this company Common Cause this is fancy.

00:14:09:06 - 00:14:17:03
RACHEL
Oh yeah. Yeah. No I remember the biscuits my mom did the, the Pillsbury pop the the can.

00:14:17:03 - 00:14:22:00
DAVID
And that's the one I always wanted to be the one to hit it on the corner of the counter.

00:14:22:01 - 00:14:33:04
RACHEL
I always scare me. Even now I like clinch when I pushed a spoon against the seam. Yeah. It seems like it could go out of control and put me in I or something crazy. Yeah.

00:14:33:05 - 00:14:55:15
DAVID
Now I know there's going to be some people listening going. Why is he going down this path talking about biscuits? But it's little things like this that trigger. I mean, Rachel, this was, this was 40 years ago. I'm remembering this. So something I read here just whisks me back 40 years, and I took a moment to just relive the joy, the simplicity of that.

00:14:55:18 - 00:15:21:14
RACHEL
So thank you. Yeah, that I'm glad it's poignant for you because for me, I always like including details that may not be incredibly important, but they fill out who this person is, what their fears are, what comforts them. And Vienna sausages first, you know, in that pot of water is one of those things that make me think about my mom warmly, you know?

00:15:21:14 - 00:15:21:17
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:15:22:18 - 00:15:41:20
DAVID
Well, the end sentence to that, as we're talking about Gwen on Sunday, March 15th, Gwen joined her favorite game show host, Richard Dawson at the studio in the sky. By now, I'm sure he's kissed her cheek, called her darling, and she's glowing like she's just won a new car.

00:15:41:20 - 00:16:03:18
RACHEL
You know, the people who are very young, well, they don't know who Richard Dawson is. But for those of us who do heat, you know, it's kind of weird and creepy now. But women were very happy to get a kiss from Richard Dawson on their cheek. And it was a weird moment in time. Yes. Yes. While. Yeah, that.

00:16:03:18 - 00:16:11:07
DAVID
Wouldn't that wouldn't go over so well. Now, maybe you don't see Steve Harvey walking around with a pinky ring and kissing girls on the.

00:16:12:23 - 00:16:29:08
RACHEL
No, it's a different vibe right now. Yeah. Once again, it's one of those returning to some of the good parts of growing up. And you know that you associate with family. Yeah. Yeah.

00:16:29:17 - 00:16:52:14
DAVID
I want to go back backwards. Just one quick inch, because there is a book on your website. I don't know what it is. It does. There's no rhyme or reason why the cover of this book grabs me. We lie here and I want to say maybe because it's one of my favorite cars back in the by the Camaro.

00:16:52:18 - 00:16:53:02
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:16:53:08 - 00:17:05:22
DAVID
And it's just the rear end of that car and and it's look, it looks like it's getting ready to take off somewhere, which so there's a couple of things that went through my mind. I'm like, okay, what's this story about? And why am I so pulled in by a car?

00:17:06:00 - 00:17:06:15
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:17:07:08 - 00:17:14:23
DAVID
And, and that book was nominated. I just want to make a point of this because it's so impressive. 2023 L.A. Times Book Prize and mystery Thriller.

00:17:15:07 - 00:17:15:15
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:17:16:03 - 00:17:25:17
DAVID
And it's a woman's trip home reveals frightening truths and a twisty novel of murder and family secrets. Which made me start going, okay, let's look at the scenes that Rachel's getting going. Yeah.

00:17:26:03 - 00:17:26:10
RACHEL
Yeah.

00:17:26:14 - 00:17:38:15
DAVID
And now she's gone. These toxic things, the Lou Norton series, you know, everybody kind of writes from a point they they're either there's a skeleton in their closet that they're trying to get rid of.

00:17:39:00 - 00:17:39:08
RACHEL
Mm hmm.

00:17:39:12 - 00:17:43:06
DAVID
What's one of your underlying theme? What fuels you?

00:17:44:06 - 00:18:13:06
RACHEL
Identity and belonging. You know, I African-American woman in Los Angeles, and I have found myself several times, and so has my family in places that aren't necessarily where we are supposed to be. And my my daughter is now going through that. She just finished her first year in college and she is one of the few black people in her class and black women.

00:18:13:06 - 00:18:41:11
RACHEL
And when she first started, she felt like many of us do. We all experience imposter syndrome. But for her it was extra, extra because she went in and she was a representative of all black people in in the world. And just how much of a burden that can be and then you realize, oh, they're not they're not as smart as I thought they were.

00:18:41:20 - 00:19:13:14
RACHEL
Right. I earned my place here. It's scary here. Will I survive this being in this place by myself, or will I just tap out and can't handle it? And some people tap out and can't can't handle it. Their kids who have gone to where Maya's going and they go to HBCU, historically black colleges and universities because they didn't want to spend four years being alone in that way.

00:19:13:14 - 00:19:32:21
RACHEL
And so all my books tend to deal with that because it doesn't stop jobs conferences. You find yourself the only in questioning who you are, how you got there, will it be okay. So yeah, that's that tends to be the theme through most of my books is identity.

00:19:34:08 - 00:19:53:11
DAVID
Well, I love that and I admire that and I respect it and it. Reading this book allowed me to look through the eyes of a person that I would love to get to know more. This Coco character is just I mean, I love her strength and her vitality and her bravery.

00:19:53:20 - 00:20:27:16
RACHEL
Yeah, there's there's one part that I absolutely love which captures it to me. It's kind of an aside. There is a there are a few paragraphs where she's talking about when her family first toured the island and her brother was eating an orange, a tangerine and he spit the seat out and the tour guide picked it up. And I've actually seen this in life, which is why I thought about this and her explanation is orange trees don't grow on this island.

00:20:28:04 - 00:20:51:05
RACHEL
They don't belong here. And if they sprout, if they grow, they'll be taking resources from the native plants and possibly killing them. So it's once again, you know, who gets to be on this island. And why don't we want you on this island? Because you may be a danger to the paradise that is Catalina. And that, for me, captures what the book is about.

00:20:52:00 - 00:21:03:20
DAVID
Yeah, I remember reading that, thinking, Wow, what a parallel. Yeah, what a strong metaphor. And why did you pick Catalina? I was. That was another curiosity I had.

00:21:04:13 - 00:21:38:09
RACHEL
It's an absolutely beautiful place. It's only 26 miles from Los Angeles, but that 26 miles, that's the ocean. So while it's a part of Los Angeles County, it's way over there. And I wanted Coco to be able to literally see her home from this place where she's now isolated. It's it really is a beautiful place. But it's cramped now because there are more people, more vacationers and Airbnb buyers.

00:21:38:20 - 00:22:07:23
RACHEL
And people come over. It's easy to access, you know, with the ferry. So, yeah, they're having some struggles in this like really, really lovely place. And then there's the other side of the island where it's not there, people aren't allowed to develop there. There's that's where the bison are right. Yeah. Yeah. You have. Yeah. I wanted somewhere close but far away Something unique yet wrote.

00:22:09:12 - 00:22:12:18
RACHEL
It's, it's, it was perfect. Yeah. Yeah.

00:22:13:01 - 00:22:34:09
DAVID
There was a moment near the end of the book and Coco is running away from someone and she's in the dark and there is the sound of these animals. And I'm imagining hoof beats and heavy breathing from the bison. And I'm. And I just try to imagine myself being in a strange place and not being able to see my footing perhaps.

00:22:34:15 - 00:22:44:11
DAVID
And it's dark and you hear these beasts and you have no idea how many they are, how big they are, how close they are, and it sends a shiver down your spine. It was great scene.

00:22:44:16 - 00:23:08:08
RACHEL
Thank you. Especially for a city girl. I mean, I remember I grew up in apartments and I remember when we moved into our house 23 years ago and just being freaked out that first week because I never grew up hearing the water heater. I never grew up hearing, you know, cats so close or weird birds chirping. It was it was too much for me.

00:23:08:18 - 00:23:28:22
RACHEL
And so for me to, you know, drop me in the middle of the forest, I am going to free the hell out. And so I wanted that for Coco. Yeah. Anybody would freak out with, you know, being in the dark with bison. But imagine someone who doesn't even, like, hike because it's it's a lot. It's, it's like, Yeah.

00:23:29:21 - 00:23:59:09
DAVID
Yeah, I'm, I'm scared enough of the dark. I want to back up something because you just said something and it reminded me because this I'm going to read one more paragraph. I promise I won't do too much of this. This is chapter one, and this is when I knew I was in for a ride. Because the way you crafted this one paragraph, the man with the unkind eyes receives my gifts, a can of ginger ale and two packets of saltine crackers, his honey brown skin now tinted the pea green of nausea, glimmers not from the light rain.

00:23:59:09 - 00:24:10:08
DAVID
Now drifting from the sky and paddling against dark jackets from the barely there sway of this express ferry racing from Long Beach across the Pacific Ocean to Santa can a leader island.

00:24:11:03 - 00:24:11:15
RACHEL
Hmm.

00:24:11:21 - 00:24:20:20
DAVID
Now that folks if you if you don't if that doesn't just pull you in and tell you about one thing that's happening simultaneously with very few words, you're not paying attention.

00:24:21:02 - 00:24:45:08
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. No. Yeah. She's while she's running away from things, she's also paying attention to others around her once again, like being the habituated. Right. Or wanting to comfort in some ways. And, you know, that's one of the things that people do when you get on a boat, they give you ginger ale and some crackers to try and help.

00:24:45:08 - 00:24:50:09
RACHEL
Yeah, even even when they're hostile toward you in some ways.

00:24:50:14 - 00:25:11:21
DAVID
Two things I've experienced said. I think that's why it affected me so much that that rocking wave and and you can't stop it. And you're like, Oh, I'll just watch the horizon. Yeah, you might not want to do that. And, and then the other that's the thing I loved about her is that very same thing is you don't expect her to be so kind to strangers at every turn.

00:25:11:21 - 00:25:15:05
DAVID
And so giving is so innocent. I love that about her.

00:25:15:05 - 00:25:42:22
RACHEL
Yeah. No. And also, she represents black womanhood for me. Well, we always we take care of people. We take care of this nation. We even when it's not being kind to us, we still reach out because that's just who we are, you know? So she once again represents black womanhood, just like I was talking about identity and trying to figure out if this is a place where I can thrive.

00:25:43:04 - 00:26:03:22
DAVID
Well, thrive. Indeed you are. Let me ask you this. There's so I've rattled off a few of your other books, and I was just drilling down. I was because I'm always fascinated by audiobooks, because I love them. And I notice that you chose to release a couple of novellas as audiobooks only. I'd love to hear your thinking behind that.

00:26:05:03 - 00:26:38:18
RACHEL
Yeah, Audible was interested in short stories that I could come up with, and initially it was a little intimidating because this is it's a different kind of writing. You're writing directly for a listen. And there was also some freedom in that because it could only be so long. So I wanted to come up with stories that were good listeners but were punchy and self-contained that left, you know, the listener kind of like breathless, you know?

00:26:39:18 - 00:27:00:09
RACHEL
Yeah, it was it's it's a fun thing. I mean, I had a great time writing how it ends and see how they run their both. And once again, strong and strong characters in difficult situations who try and survive the best way they can. So once again, another another outlet for my type of story.

00:27:01:12 - 00:27:23:16
DAVID
Exactly. And just a great venue for it. And let me drill one sentence further, because I would love to hear, especially for my listeners who may not fully comprehend what you just said. So you're writing less for the eye and more for the ear. And how does one do that specifically so that we could capture and oh, that's how Rachel does it.

00:27:24:23 - 00:27:52:02
RACHEL
Well, you have to stay out of the character's head a lot, meaning with with with novels, with written novels, you can just talk and talk and talk exposition everywhere and with an audible type story, you have to cut some of that in half because no one wants to hear a character going on and on and on about things that look good in a book but don't move the story along.

00:27:52:11 - 00:28:13:09
RACHEL
And so you really have to read your story aloud to see what the pacing is, to see if this sounds too navel gazing type of, you know, that type of language. Other than that, it was, you know, with that stuff and stuff in mind, it was it was pretty straightforward.

00:28:13:13 - 00:28:31:13
DAVID
As I referenced earlier, and I love about this book, I when this came in the mail and thank you for sending it, I asked myself, okay, because I'm just I'm fascinated by book covers. I talk about it way too much, but I just love great book covers. And I'm like, What did Rachel have in mind here? So I got a two part question.

00:28:32:03 - 00:28:52:06
DAVID
First of all, does your artist do this? Do you have one artist that does all your covers? Question One. Question two is do you ever walk in? You say, Sally, whatever, and it would be Sally, Hey, I have this idea. See if you can run with it. Or you go, Oh, no, no, Sally, you're the artist. You're the pro, you run with it first.

00:28:52:06 - 00:29:27:10
RACHEL
I have been blessed with publishers who hire great illustration as illustrations, and the same goes with Thomas and Mercer. They have, you know, their own artists And my editor, we work together on what would be the most compelling images for each story, the cover of What Never Happened. These Flowers are deadly nightshade, and it's a form of deadly nightshade that only grows on Catalina Island.

00:29:27:17 - 00:29:59:00
RACHEL
ON Yeah. So once again, something that kills you. Deadly nightshade belongs there more than cocoa made may belong there. And so yeah, there's a scene where someone cocoa gets the house and there's just all these overgrown plants and yards her hasn't been able to afford, you know, getting it done. And Coco wants to cut back all these while growing shrubs.

00:29:59:00 - 00:30:25:19
RACHEL
And the guy tells her, you know, don't take that out. That belongs here. And that like deadly nightshade, it belongs here. And you should leave it alone. And, you know, because here she is, this invasive species coming onto the island, wanting to get rid of the thing that is native to that island. So once again, that belongs there more than Coco in some ways that that lives there that was originated there.

00:30:25:19 - 00:30:35:06
RACHEL
Deadly nightshade. So yeah, my my my agent, my editor and I talked so much that we landed on this image.

00:30:36:23 - 00:30:51:19
DAVID
Rachel, why do I feel so ignorant right now? Because now, knowing how the story ends and certain things about this, I'm like, How did I not put that two and two together before? So I feel I'm admitting my embarrassment to you.

00:30:51:19 - 00:31:22:17
RACHEL
But I love that, you know, because I with my stories, I tend to put things there that people don't initially get. And until you mentioned, it's like, oh my gosh, that meant something. And, you know, they're not sometimes the easiest read. I don't think life is an easy read. And so I'm I'm fat. I want to write stories that really reflect how we live and how we think and how we discover things that we may not have known.

00:31:23:04 - 00:31:25:01
RACHEL
You know, on first glance.

00:31:25:01 - 00:31:53:06
DAVID
I use this phrase a lot mission accomplished. Because when you can cause me to not only think about, Oh, what is that plant or recall, you know, pigs in a blanket, I think we used to call it actually. And you know, when you can when you can elicit that visceral response and you can ignite that old memory, or you can ignite something in my heart and make me aware of something that I hadn't stepped outside of myself to think about or recognize or honor before.

00:31:53:13 - 00:32:01:23
DAVID
That's when the author has really accomplished something for me. And so I want to I want to honor your Yes.

00:32:02:00 - 00:32:26:11
RACHEL
That means so much to me because that's what I'm going for. I want it to be more than just, you know, a thriller or whatever. I want it to speak to every reader in some way that that picks it up because, yeah, as different as we all are, there are some things that bind us together. And, you know, sometimes that's a Vienna sausages with, with yellow mustard, you know.

00:32:27:21 - 00:32:32:14
DAVID
Yeah, this is bringing up so many great things from childhood. I mean, I'm a P.K. preacher's kid, so.

00:32:32:22 - 00:32:36:12
RACHEL
Oh, boy. Yeah, Yeah, yeah.

00:32:36:15 - 00:32:39:06
DAVID
Folks, you see that reaction? I get that my whole life.

00:32:39:12 - 00:32:45:12
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. You either go one or another way and there. Yeah.

00:32:46:12 - 00:32:49:11
DAVID
Whichever way you're thinking, that's probably the way.

00:32:50:00 - 00:32:56:03
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah. She says you would be reading this book. Have you gone the other way? Right.

00:32:57:16 - 00:33:03:13
DAVID
I'm waiting for the phrase Bless your heart. That would be next. Yeah?

00:33:03:13 - 00:33:04:01
RACHEL
Mm hmm.

00:33:04:10 - 00:33:28:16
DAVID
Okay. Yeah. Well, why did I bring that up? Because it's going to. And we're going to circle back to that thing that I said to you is that, you know, I read a lot of books. There are a lot of thrillers out there, and I'm not pooh pooh in any great ciation of that, but sometimes sometimes you want to just leap into a book and go, go fast, go hard, kill people, move on.

00:33:29:00 - 00:33:42:15
DAVID
But but here it's when you can again, when you can take me out and re relive something that inspired me or move me or challenged me. You have just done it.

00:33:43:03 - 00:33:43:19
RACHEL
Thank you.

00:33:44:11 - 00:34:00:07
DAVID
Oh, I forgot I'd done this. I always I put notes in the back of my books to remind me of why I really loved this book. For some reason, some of my favorite writing was the obituaries, and it made me realize how utterly boring real life obituaries can be. The second is, I love seeing the world through Coco's eyes.

00:34:00:07 - 00:34:05:19
DAVID
It provided insights and understanding in that I couldn't or wouldn't otherwise appreciate quite the same.

00:34:06:21 - 00:34:34:11
RACHEL
Yeah, yeah. No, I, I. That makes me happy because. Yeah, I there. Yeah. There are moments when you want fast hard blow things up. Yeah. And that's fine. I love that stuff. But for me it's hard for me to, to write that because I don't that stuff doesn't scare me. It's the quiet snail in a garden type things that just creep me out and stay with me.

00:34:34:19 - 00:35:06:05
RACHEL
You know, fireworks in my neighborhood. I'm not alarmed by them, but when I first moved in, it was the weird water heater knocking or the floors creaking that it's like, what is that? And is it going to kill me? Yeah, that scares me more than, you know, hearing a gunshot because it's over. It's quick. It does that one visceral punch and then it leaves you because you know fear your heart beats the same as when it's scared, as when it's happy.

00:35:06:05 - 00:35:27:02
RACHEL
It's the same thing. But what is it going to do to your mind? What what things can happen to you that just linger and you're part of the problem, but you don't know how you're part of the problem and the people you love are part the problem and the environment is, you know that stuff. That stuff makes me excited.

00:35:28:03 - 00:35:32:04
DAVID
Yeah. And the things you can't control often are the scares.

00:35:32:09 - 00:35:57:05
RACHEL
Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. And for control freak, that scares me the most. I've checked the boxes. I've done what I'm supposed to do. Why isn't this working? Why am I still scared? Why am I agitated? Yeah. No, it's. And she's. She's like that. She's had to be, you know, she's grown up basically by herself in many ways with with Glenn popping in and out of her life.

00:35:57:15 - 00:36:12:05
RACHEL
And, you know, obituaries can only be so long once again, you know, she can control what she says, how she says it all still being kind and thoughtful. Yeah. Yeah.

00:36:12:21 - 00:36:35:00
DAVID
The synopsis of a life in a few paragraphs is is quite a gift. And again, I spent some quite some time thinking about that because we often do that, you know, you have people show up for your eulogy and they say these nice things and you always I always wonder, were they saying those things when I was still here?

00:36:35:00 - 00:36:37:12
DAVID
And is the impact that.

00:36:37:12 - 00:36:38:11
RACHEL
I had.

00:36:39:15 - 00:36:44:11
DAVID
While I'm not no longer here the same as I had when I was here, if that makes any sense?

00:36:44:16 - 00:36:48:00
RACHEL
Yeah, yeah, yeah. What is your absence causing?

00:36:48:06 - 00:36:48:20
DAVID
There you go.

00:36:49:04 - 00:37:16:06
RACHEL
How are people moving on without you? But with you still? And so. Yeah, her. Her. She wants to do more than I've heard this. She lit up a room when she came in. No one was a stranger. She gave you the shirt off your back. It's such a trope and a cliche right now. It's meaningless. Yeah, but saying it, she always saves the last soda for me because, you know, she wanted to drink tea.

00:37:16:07 - 00:37:25:05
RACHEL
You know, something that is truly, truly about that person that makes them remarkable. Even the worst person has something remarkable about them.

00:37:26:04 - 00:37:44:18
DAVID
And isn't it funny when you read or hear a cliche how your brain will check out yet when you say this, if you want to get across the same point in yet a more poignant way, like you just said, she always say the last soda for me, you perk up because you hadn't heard it that way before and it impacts you differently.

00:37:44:21 - 00:38:06:12
RACHEL
Yeah. And while the quick, easy thing would be to say she left the room. Yeah, I don't want to do that. Not with my books. I want to say. Yeah, she, she, she bake cookies on the third day of every month because that's when I stopped dieting. You know, there's something, something that is uniquely who that person is.

00:38:06:12 - 00:38:29:06
RACHEL
That's what makes me happy. Well, I want to be remembered, you know? Yes, not necessarily. She got up at 430 every morning to write, but I don't know. She she enjoyed playing Diablo four with her husband on the couch every every night. You know, something that you people wouldn't know if someone didn't tell them? Yeah. Yeah.

00:38:30:05 - 00:38:57:01
DAVID
I like that. I as we wrap, I always ask my guests their best piece of writing advice. And I know you've got a doozy, so I'm going to let you take a second and think about it. But everybody, you know, it can be for first time listeners, first time writers, people who are really trying to hone their craft, but they're always looking to leaders like yourself to go, oh, what what piece of writing advice can Rachel Hall leave with me that I can be a better writer?

00:38:57:07 - 00:39:22:06
RACHEL
Well, in this part of what we're talking about with obituaries, pay attention to people, not necessarily how they look, not things that are Google all about them, but those those qualities that make them special and who they are. Because we read quotes primarily for the characters and how the characters are going to react through all these things you're putting through them.

00:39:22:16 - 00:39:49:11
RACHEL
But how I react is different from how you react. So tell me what those differences are. Pay attention to body cues and how they eat, how they nibble or go. My husband every dinner, he he's a gobbler and he burps every like within the first minute of every meal. And that's who he is. That's that's something no one else would know.

00:39:49:17 - 00:40:15:14
RACHEL
But now you do, because I share that with you. And it's an enduring thing. It wouldn't be dinner if they didn't do that, you know? So I would say to I would plead with with with new writers especially, make your people special. We don't want folks who could be in any novel, make them truly unique and and give them meaningful things to do.

00:40:15:14 - 00:40:16:07
RACHEL
And to fear.

00:40:17:09 - 00:40:26:06
DAVID
That is one of my favorite things I've heard yet because you're you're you're finding a signature that is only theirs.

00:40:26:18 - 00:40:29:17
RACHEL
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, thank you.

00:40:29:22 - 00:40:48:16
DAVID
Yeah, that's good. Well, folks, if you'd like to learn more, go to Rachel Housel dot com. Love the cover photo again that just you're going to see that and you're going to go to shelter and you can also follow her on Twitter as I do at Rachel Housel. This has been absolutely delightful. Thank you for carving out time.

00:40:49:05 - 00:40:55:11
RACHEL
Well, thank you for inviting me. This is a great conversation. I am I'm I'm even more excited to to share that book now.

00:40:55:18 - 00:41:06:10
DAVID
Yes. And I had hoped to be able to sit down face to face, but because of scheduling conflicts, we couldn't do it. But I'll tell you what, I'm going to try my darndest because you're just up the road. You're like 90 minutes away.

00:41:06:12 - 00:41:07:03
RACHEL
Yeah. Yeah.

00:41:07:11 - 00:41:10:05
DAVID
So next time I'm going to plan earlier and.

00:41:10:15 - 00:41:11:11
RACHEL
Then I can find you.

00:41:11:21 - 00:41:15:22
DAVID
And and we'll sit down face to face, because I think we'd have just even more of a hoot and.

00:41:15:22 - 00:41:17:20
RACHEL
A half. Yeah, I think so. I think.

00:41:17:20 - 00:41:19:06
DAVID
So. Thank you again.

00:41:19:17 - 00:41:21:02
RACHEL
Yes. Thank you for I me.

00:41:22:04 - 00:41:42:23
DAVID
Thanks again to Rachel. And once again, the book is What Never Happened, a terrific read. Join us next week when this gentleman joins us, Bruce Burgos. Now, I tried to read this to myself a couple of times. Craig Johnson has a blurb here on the front of the book, A crisp jolt of cask strength, 100 proof writing. Yeah, go ahead.

00:41:43:03 - 00:41:53:18
DAVID
Try to read it real fast three times in a row. Good luck. Anyway, the bitter past. Bruce is going to be with us next. I'm David Temple, your host. We'll see you next time for another edition of the Thriller Zone.