Rachel de la Fuente (meaning “of the fountain”) lives in Maryland with the love of her life and two furry children that meow. Her first novel The Most Special Chosen is being released by Burning Willow Press in early 2018, but it’s hardly her first story. She’s been writing since elementary school, and telling stories since she could speak. She is an avid fountain pen enthusiast with a bit of an ink problem, and often writes book notes and sections of stories by hand.
Rachel was born and raised in southern California, but spent many summers with family in Mexico. Her parents loved traveling, so she also spent many vacations in various locations, soaking up foreign cultures and sights.She still loves to travel, and is committed to crossing all of the locations off her bucket list.
Rachel is a proud Slytherin, and when not writing, spends much of her free time reading, cross stitching, and watching documentaries.
Ryan Lieske: What is the first book you remember reading, or having read to you?
Rachel de la Fuente: That’s hard to say. I remember so many being read to me around the same time, as my mom read to me almost every night. I vividly recall Love You Forever, Thunder Cake, Dance Tanya, Chrysanthemum, and several Eric Carle books. The list just goes on, and I can’t say which was first.
RL: What is the book that sealed your fate as a lifelong reader?
RDF: Probably Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. My mom bought me several versions of that as I grew up. I remember a hardcover, illustrated, abridged version with large type when I was maybe 6. The illustrations were so pretty. They were black line illustrations, like a coloring book, and I so wanted to color them all in, but I couldn’t deface a book like that, even then.
A couple years later, I received an unabridged paperback version that I read so many times it fell apart. It was one of the first books I bought as an eBook when the Nook app was released for iPod Touch. I read it to my mom in her final days to try and bring her some peace.
I still love that book. It has so many memories associated with it. I started my Friday Reads blog series with it. I even reference it in my upcoming book The Most Special Chosen.
RL: A lot of people tell me that, even if they were a voracious reader as a child, it was their middle-school and high-school years that had the most impact on the reader they are today. Would you say this is true for you? What were the books from this period that shaped you?
RDF: When I really give it some consideration, I suppose that’s true, but I don’t necessarily think about it that way.
Middle school and high school did expand what I read. I started reading biographies, which led me into historical fiction. It was around that time that I developed a major interest in Tudor England, which later expanded into various periods of royal history. It’s also when I read Harry Potter, and that carried me through college.
RL: What books engendered your fascination with the Tudor period?
RDF: I think the very first book that peaked my interest in Tudor England was Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor from the Royal Diaries series. The series was written as the “journals” of various princesses.
Not too long after that, I read Beware Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer, which then led me to read the other three books in the series: Mary, Bloody Mary, Doomed Queen Anne, and Patience, Princess Catherine. They sealed my fate as a lifelong Tudor-phile. But it’s okay, I have no regrets.
RL: Speaking of this time period, were you one of those kids who went rogue from the curriculum and read whatever you wanted?
RDF: Does it count as going rogue if you’re always reading? I literally always had a book with me. Sometimes two, if I was close to finishing one.
I did try to substitute required reading with whatever I was reading at the time, and occasionally it worked, if I could make a good enough argument why the two books were similar.
RL: Nice. You worked the system. Can you give me one or two examples of this, and what your arguments were?
RDF: It was so long ago I don’t have solid memories, so forgive me for sounding very vague. The one I remember best was in 7th grade. While everyone was reading something I’d read long before, I was able to read my own book. I remember doing the same assignments, but answering the questions, building diagrams, doing summaries, etc. for the book I was reading. I want to say that one of the books (either the one I was reading, or the one the class was) was The Odyssey, but I could be wrong. It’s kind of weird what things you do and don’t remember.
I also got away with it once in my 11th grade English class. It was treated as a two-part AP class, so we had the same instructor for two years. This meant we were assigned a metric butt-ton of homework over the summer (Read 5 books, and write different types of essays for each, at least 1,500 words). 3 of the books were assigned, but for the other two, we could choose from a list of ten. I figured I could make my work easier if I worked with Little Women, as I wouldn’t need to read it. The book list focused on important or iconic literature, and Little Women certainly qualified for both. It’s one of the great American novels. My instructor agreed, and let me use Little Women as one of the books.
It turned out to be a moot point, however, as not one person (me included) actually did the homework, so the instructor dropped the requirement and just offered extra credit to anyone who had done any of it.
RL: Did your reading life ever supersede or cause conflict with your social life growing up?
RDF: I’m not really sure at this point if I read so much because I was a loner, or if I was a loner because I read so much. I didn’t tend to spend much time in the library simply because I already had whatever books I wanted. My parents were rather strict with me though, so many a Saturday night (many a night, period, to be honest) were spent reading.
RL: What new books, literary styles, or genres were you exposed to in college?
RDF: As a Valentine’s Day gift one year, my boyfriend at the time bought me the first three books of Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series. They were my first exposure to adult romance novels, and expanded my reading further into that genre, especially historical and paranormal/fantasy.
RL: What was it about that series that captivated you?
RDF: Well, to be blunt, hot leading men doing sexy things to their partners is always good. *grin* The Immortals After Dark series is also pretty well written, and throws in a few plot twists here and there.
RL: What was your seminal bookstore experience?
RDF: My main bookstore growing up was Barnes and Noble. I loved that store. I don’t think I can properly explain just how much. My parents and friends used to joke that you couldn’t even take me near one if you didn’t want to spend at least a half hour inside.
These days, bookstores don’t play as big a part in my life, because I’ve made a complete eBook conversion. I love being able to buy books anytime I want and have them immediately, and I love carrying an entire library in my pocket. Most of my book money still goes to Barnes and Noble, though.
RL: Did you find, as you grew older, that the books of your youth began to mean less to you?
RDF: Some books from my youth mean less to me, but that’s really only because they were kids books that I’ve outgrown. Some, like Love You Forever, still punch me straight in the feels every time I give them any prolonged consideration.
RL: What is it about that book that moves you so much?
RDF: My mom used to read it to me as a child. Memories of a loved one who has passed touch the feels. On top of that, the way it follows the relationship between Mother and Child through the years is incredibly touching. And to bring it around full circle at the end, it’s as powerful as Ellie and Carl’s story at the beginning of Up. It’s such an important book to me, I wrote a Friday Reads entry about it as well.
I can’t say I’m really bothered by any books I used to read, and I’ll freely admit to still picking up YA books regularly. Some of them are really well written, and it seems stupid to ignore a good story just because it isn’t marketed to me.
RL: How has your reading life survived adulthood?
RDF: I read every day. Sometimes it’s just a bit of a WIP, a new chapter in a fanfiction story that’s just been posted, or a new comic strip on WebToon. Other times it’s most of a book.
But no matter what, I make time to read. I’ll read in the morning while I’m eating breakfast (one handed reading on my phone now is much easier than it was as a child with a large book). I read on the train on my way to work in the morning and afternoon. I read on the walk to my office (it’s all about how high you hold what you’re reading, you have to make sure you can see in front of you with your peripheral vision). I even read in the bathroom. Any time I have a few moments where I’m not otherwise completely occupied.
RL: Currently, what types of books are you mostly drawn to?
RDF: I don’t have one specific type of book I read. I still read romance, historical fiction, and random fiction books that catch my attention. I really enjoy “re-writes” like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (don’t cringe, the book was amazing even if the movie was a travesty). And there are a metric butt-ton of fanfiction stories that are really well written that come with an added bonus of making you analyze books in new ways.
RL: I cringe at very little. Reading is reading, and as long as people are doing it, I’m happy. And, I’ve never read the book, so I can’t comment on it one way or the other.
How do you share your love of books with others?
RDF: When I had real books, I wouldn’t loan them out at all. I was always afraid someone would wreck my book. Now that I’ve got digital versions, I use the lending feature if it’s available. I’ll recommend books to the few avid reader friends I have, but we don’t have similar tastes in books, so they rarely read what I suggest.
RL: What is one book you’ve loved recently that you’ve shared (or tried to share) with others, and what did you love about it so much?
RDF: Most recently, I’ve shared my own upcoming book, The Most Special Chosen, with a couple of friends, and have convinced my fiancé, James Crawford, to share his current WIP series (working title is the Alexa Hernandez series). I convinced James to read Harry Potter, because, well, Harry Potter. It’s kind of a requirement being my close friend or partner because I make so many references to it. I also tried to convince people to read The Creation of Anne Boleyn because it really made me think about the way we’ve constructed the personas of various historical figures throughout the years, but I haven’t gotten much interest there. Hey, go read my Friday Reads post about it; maybe you’ll want to read it.
RL: I’m one of those people who reads several books at a time. I’ve been called a “reading polygamist.” Are you? Our are you pretty monogamous when it comes to reading?
RDF: I was 100% monogamous until I discovered fanfiction. Since fanfiction stories aren’t published all at once, but rather chapter-by-chapter as they’re written, I had no choice but to read other things at the same time. I’m still monogamous when it comes to published books, as in, I won’t read more than one published work at a time, even if I’m reading some sweet fanfiction on the side.
RL: You mentioned fanfic above, too. What are some examples that you really like, and what is it you like about them?
RDF: Some of my favorites are by old-crow and robst. I highly suggest checking them out. Fanfiction is both amazing and horrible. It’s amazing in that it opens your eyes to possibilities and ideas in the original works, known as “canon” that you’d never considered before. It’s a collection of ideas from all over the world, crowdsourced, if you will, in a way that the original author, being a single person, couldn’t possibly have come up with. It delves into canon, bringing to light all sorts of things that could, technically fit into canon, but also some that are completely divergent. There are “what ifs” and “if onlys” that can make reading canon that much more enjoyable. But it can also completely destroy canon, because you start seeing the flaws, the plot holes, and the paths not taken.
RL: Now, I’m not a big fan of the term “guilty pleasure.” However, for want of a better term, what are your literary guilty pleasures?
RDF: I don’t really think of any of what I enjoy reading as “guilty pleasures”. I’m more than happy to let people know what I read. I suppose the two that come closest are fanfiction and romance novels, but hey, a good story is a good story.
RL: What are your thoughts on “genre?”
RDF: I like labeling to some degree, if only because it lets you take a look at books you’re more likely to enjoy.
RL: Are you a physical copy person, or do you prefer other ways of “reading” books, such as e-books or audio?
RDF: I’m an eBook convert through and through. As I mentioned earlier, I love the instant gratification of buying eBooks and being able to carry so many at once. As long as I have my phone, I have a book.
I’m fairly certain physical books will always be available in some way or another, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see them turn into collector’s items as opposed to the main form of publishing they are now.
RL: What are your favorite books of all time, and why?
RDF: This one isn’t a fair question. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, picking favorite books is like picking the body parts you’d most like not to lose. It’s just not possible for me. Every time I think I’ve covered them all, another one or two come to mind that are just as good.
A very abridged list includes Little Women, Indian Captive, Pride and Prejudice, The Last Boleyn, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Where the Red Fern Grows…
RL: Could you briefly tell me what it is about each of those that makes them favorites?
RDF: Oh, wow, okay, I’ll try to make this short(ish). Let’s see…Little Women, as mentioned above, is probably the book that sealed my fate as a reader. Indian Captive taught me how similar we all are as human beings, despite any differences we may have (read more here).
Prisoner of Azkaban gives Harry two new links to his parents, has a badass Hermione, gives Draco the punch he deserves, and nobody dies. Just that once, nobody dies.
Where the Red Fern Grows…that one’s a little harder to explain. It’s both heartwarming and horrifying. It’s an amazing story, and so very well written. The emotional highs and lows it takes you through are a great parallel to life. It’s just a story that speaks to me.
RL: What books―and they don’t have to necessarily have to be “all-time favorites”―do you feel have influenced you and shaped you the most: as a human being, as an artist, etc.?
RDF: I’ve never actually given this any thought, and therefore have no idea how to answer. While this may sound like a cop-out answer, it’s the complete truth. I primarily read books to enjoy a story, and don’t really contemplate their effect on me after I’ve finished reading them.
RL: Lastly, just for fun, what is the one book―be it a widely lauded classic, or bestselling popular phenom―do you find absolutely unreadable?
RDF: I’ve never been able to make it through the Lord of the Rings books. I’ve tried a couple times, but they just don’t pull me in. They aren’t the most unpleasant reading experience, though. That goes to a book involving Queen Elizabeth I and vampires. Nowhere near as good as some of the other books in that style that I’ve read.
RL: And we’ll leave it at that! Thank you so much, Rachel!
TO FIND RACHEL DE LA FUENTE ONLINE, CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS:
Future Book (Coming March 2018): The Most Special Chosen