I loved Rachel Howzell Hall’s novel They All Fall Down. It was a wicked novel, vicious and funny and super fun, and twisty in all the right places. None of the characters were noble people, and yet they were delightful to read about.
Rachel’s newest, out just this month, has already gotten such great buzz, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it. (Not literally.)
Here’s more about And Now She’s Gone: Isabel Lincoln is gone. But is she missing? It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family. Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, Rachel Howzell Hall’s And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.
Lucky for us, Rachel has agreed to talk more about fear right here. Let’s see what keeps her up at night.
How do you deal with fear?
I write to deal with fear. Before I knew that I could write, when I was a kid, I would sleep. Just close my eyes, say a prayer, and hope that It would be over in the morning. I would seek out books to disappear and not deal with my fears, but then I wanted to write my own stories. As an adult, I deal better with some fears than others. As I was going through cancer treatment while also being pregnant, I faced my fears head-on. I was scared that I would die because the papers that I signed before each surgery told me that it was possible. Again, my faith and writing kept me sane. I cried, though, and I turned to my family for support. In those moments, I listen to gospel music—there are some songs today that bring a visceral reaction because I remember playing them over and over again from 2003 to 2008.
What is your greatest fear?
Dying – I’ve faced that possibility, and while that scares me, that isn’t my biggest fear. I fear leaving my daughter before I can teach her how to deal with love and heartache, college and parties, marriage and babies, jobs and racism and sexism. I want to be there for her in every life challenge and life celebration. I don’t ever want her to feel lost and alone. We started our journey together in such a treacherous moment, and I fought for her to be here with me. The thought of not being here for her wrecks me more than anything.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I don’t, but you won’t get me to say “Bloody Mary” three times in a dark bathroom while standing in front of a mirror. Also, I don’t believe for religious reasons as well. I do appreciate the creative metaphors for ghosts, and I do believe our ancestors are with us in everything we do—but I don’t believe that in a literal sense. I believe there are demons and angels, most definitely, but humans who have left us and are moving among us? No.
“There are creatures in the sea, big creatures, creatures with big teeth or long stinging tentacles.”
What scares you most about the writing process?
Every time I start a new story, I worry that my idea isn’t big enough, twisty enough. I know it will be interesting, but for me only or for a larger audience? I’m scared that the words won’t come or that the words will be wrong. That I won’t have the energy because I’m only getting older. That I won’t be able to deliver. I worry that I will listen to critics of my work as I write and that I’ll do more of those things they’ve dinged me on, no matter how ridiculous. It’s weird—before I start a new story, I go on a shopping trip to Office Depot or Staples and buy new pens, pads, stickies, all of that cool stuff, and I’m excited about it. But after the high of office supplies wears off, dread settles in, and it stays with me until the second draft. Once I know that my story is sound, that my story is actually a story, I relax into the process. That doesn’t mean that I’m confident. Just that I have something to make better.
In which post-apocalyptic scenario are you most likely to survive and thrive: 28 Days Later (zombies), The Stand (sickness kills all but a few), or The Last Policeman (asteroid hits Earth)?
Ha. So right now, we’re… not in a post-apocalyptic scenario? You’re shitting me. Umm… one thing my oncologists always said to me was that sure, my body kept creating these cancerous tumors, but I heal really quickly. So, I’m gonna go with The Stand. I think I’m pretty resilient. But Randall Flagg….
Maybe The Last Policeman. Can I change my mind? Ha.
What’s worse: being stranded at sea or lost in a desert?
Being stranded at sea. For one, I can’t swim. Two, there are creatures in the sea, big creatures, creatures with big teeth or long stinging tentacles. And it’s deep—there are parts of the sea we haven’t reached. At least in the desert, I have my legs. And there are clumps of unexpected civilization. Maybe a rainstorm will dump water to drink. Maybe I can munch on the insides of a cactus. There are “maybes” with the desert.
Rachel Howzell Hall, author of the bestseller and Anthony Award-, Lefty Award- and ITW-award nominated They All Fall Down (Forge), writes the acclaimed Lou Norton series, including Land of Shadows, Skies of Ash, Trail of Echoes, and City of Saviors. She is also the co-author of The Good Sister with James Patterson, which was included in the New York Times bestseller The Family Lawyer. She is currently on the board of directors for the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is a Pitch Wars mentor for 2020. She lives in Los Angeles. Her newest novel And Now She’s Gone waspublished in September 2020. You can find her at www.rachelhowzell.com and on Twitter @RachelHowzell.