Rebecca McDowall is the author of Regan: Snatcher of Souls and the blog Dystonia and me where she helps raise awareness for her health issues and to support other people who are also fighting them.
The book Regan is about a couple in love Cassie and Daniel who are faced with danger after Cassie’s true identity is revealed. Will Cassie’s love for Daniel be enough to keep him safe from the danger that lurks ahead?
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Should we start with a brief introduction from yourself, and what hobbies and interests you do outside of writing?
As a mother of an 11-month-old and student in her final year of university, I’d have to say sleep is my main hobby. I’m joking of course. I’m extremely passionate about horse riding and have ridden since I was six. Riding has taken a back seat at the moment whilst I focus on my family and degree but I hope to be back in the saddle soon. Crocheting, music, and reading I would say are my three current interests. I’m about to move to Merseyside and hoping to join an orchestra there.
You have now published Regan and are looking to work on the next novel, was there a particular moment in your life that you realized you wanted to write? How does it feel now that your book is published?
I’ve always toyed with writing. Growing up I was always jotting down lyrics and short stories. Getting my work published was something I dreamed of from a young age but I was accurately aware of the difficulties in achieving it. It was a goal I didn’t think I would be able to achieve until much later in life.
It’s surreal. Now and then readers drop me a message to tell me they’ve enjoyed the novel, it always leaves me a bit emotional. So much work went into Regan, followed by numerous rejection letters, to see people reading it is incredible.
In your book Regan your two main protagonists, Daniel and Cassie are very much in love despite everything that’s going on around them, how would you describe their relationship?
It’s pure raw love, the sort that can raise you up or crush you. Despite the nature of their love being very ‘love conquers all’ Esq, their relationship has its turmoils. It was important to me that it wasn’t an easy sailing relationship as it wouldn’t have felt as real to the reader. Every couple has their ups and downs but it’s how we respond to these tests that make or break bonds. Having Daniel and Cassie struggle but fight for their love, to me, demonstrates true love.
Cassie is a very strong female lead in this story and I love her, I feel if Cassie and Daniel’s roles had been reversed this story wouldn’t have the same impact. Was your intentions to always have their roles like this?
I completely agree with you. The last thing I would have wanted is for Cassie to have been depicted as a Damsel in distress, which if the roles had been reserved would have been a very easy trap to fall into. Cassie and Daniel are wildly different characters but they are equal to each other. They both have their own strengths and flaws but I am convinced if the roles had reversed Daniel would have come across in a manipulative light with the balance of power in his favour.
Myself as I reader would love to see more of Daniel’s point of view, can we expect any more of this in your next novel?
Yes! The working title for the sequel is currently Daniel: Eyes in the Ice. That gives you a bit of a hint about how the P.O.V is being split.
Where did the idea for the novel come from?
I was bed bound in the hospital in 2009 for six months with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome it was there that I started mapping out Regans’ character; though I wouldn’t return to this until 2011. Then during my final year of A levels, I had to write a piece of gothic literature for my coursework, and Regan’s’ story sprung to life. I wrote the final chapter and what would become chapter five during this time
Do you believe your life experiences have influenced your writing in any way?
Without a doubt, I have been through both tremendous joy and extreme pain. I think as a writer you draw on your life experiences and put a lot of yourself into your work. As a survivor of domestic abuse I have known evil and as much as I wish I had never gone through what I did it undeniably shaped my view of suffering and pain. I’m lucky to have a mother who has stood by me through everything and the love she has shown me you can see in Aphrodite.
You have an amazing strength to have accomplished as much as you have with raising awareness for your health issues and writing your own book, how would you say this affected the writing of Regan?
Thank You. Writing Regan has been a very therapeutic process for me. Being chronically ill and living with rare conditions is not easy, and at times it can be both emotionally and physically painful. Writing Regan allowed me to let those emotions out and work through them in a proactive way. You can see hints at my conditions when reading; points for anyone who can guess what condition inspired the naming of the town Regan is from.
As an author with a young adult target audience, do you have any advice for young aspiring writers?
Read. Read. Read. Familiarise yourself with what the current trends in the young adult market are but also know what titles are experiencing a good shelf life. Gain as much knowledge about your audience as possible, what are they reading? What are they looking for in the market? How do they find their books?. Also get to grips with social media! I’m 25 and maintaining a presence on social media can sometimes feel overwhelming. I’m lucky to have an amazing intern who helps me and keeps me up-to-date. I’ve only just started using Instagram stories but wow did I underestimate their importance!
Was there a piece of advice you were given as an author that you would like to share?
Don’t allow rejection letters to distinguish your drive. I can’t tell you how much this piece of advice helped me. I received some rejections which were your bog standard email, and others that told me they loved my work but as a new author, they weren’t prepared to take a risk on me. It took about a year of rejections before I received an offer and signed with Vanguard Press.
Don’t just sign any old contract either. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of receiving an offer but try not to get ahead of yourself. I rejected three offers as the contracts were not right for me.
Where have you travelled? Is there anywhere that you would really love to go?
I’ve not travelled that much, France has been my main destination as my grandparents live there. I would love to travel to Iceland and Norway. It’s a bucket list goal of mine that if my health is ever stable enough I would love to do.
You started out as a blogger writing your blog Dystonia and me, did you ever think you would have gotten to where you are now when you started?
I started my blog out of frustration with the lack of awareness of Dystonia in both societies and the medical profession. When I started blogging I didn’t really have an idea of where it was going. For me, it became a way of letting out what I was going through, at the time I was grieving for both my body and the loss of my ability to train as a midwife, and also a way of connecting with fellow sufferers.
What advice would you give to people wanting to start a blog?
Research your host and go where you feel comfortable. I started out on Blogger but just couldn’t get to grips with the interface, I’ve been using WordPress for almost six years now and love it. Write about what your passionate about; the reader will recognize this and your follower count will grow. Most importantly blog weekly as a minimum, my blog has been updated infrequently whilst I finished the last year of my degree but my stats are around three times as high when I post regularly.
What is your utmost favourite book and why?
Oh, that’s a hard question. I own a small library and love so many titles.
If I had to pick I’d go with Sabriel by Garth Nix. I discovered the Old Kingdom series in my early teens and still reread it, at last, twice a year. The romance, magic, and darkness just tick all the boxes for me.
What is your best/favourite accomplishment in your life so far?
My son. I was told years ago the due to extensive endometriosis it was unlikely I would have children naturally. He is my miracle and my world.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years?
It’s my aim to have completed the Regan saga by then, though I may be being a bit ambitious. I currently run my own small traditional publishing house and I hope to have it well-established with a growing list by then.
What is your favourite Quote and why?
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore
It’s so easy to consumed by negative emotions and forget to treasure the positives in each moment. When I’m having a hard time this quote helps to remind me to seek out the light in my life.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you got to take 3 things with you, what would you take?
A lighter as I doubt my fire starting skills, a writing pad, and pen.
Who is your favourite character in Regan?
Jahia. I both love and hate her. She’s cruel, manipulative and evil to the core, but she is a joy to write.