Home > Books, Writing > My sister, the author

My sister, the author

Silver Star just published a novel!

Wait, what? Silver Star? Who’s Silver Star?

You mean you don’t know?! Why, she’s my just younger sister! You might recall that I once wrote a post about how I’d love her more if she’d blog? No? For those of a more literal bent, I also reference her as “Rache” or “Rachael” in, oh, 10-15% of my posts.

So she wrote a book, huh? 

Yep. It’s called Waking Dreams, and you can find it here. It’s even free right now!

She is an ASNAC nerd, a Portlander, her own kind of Wonder Woman, and, always, always, my Silver Star.

rache me mid-80s

Silver Star, aka Rachael Wolfgang, answered a few questions for me. My questions are in bold. Her answers are in not-bold, which is not to say she’s not herself bold. It’s just a formatting thing. Trust me. (Why not?)

* First off, tell me a little about yourself … in exactly 23 words.

Well, I love writing, my kids, family and friends, medieval insular literature, and am currently working to put my husband through medical school.

Mwa-ha! There! Did it! (If you don’t count this gloating, that is!)

* I guess I won’t count the gloating. Anyway, what inspired you to write? How did you keep that inspiration aglow?

That’s a tough one. I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember, but I think the big inspiration was this pretty awesome big sister I had, who shared her dreams with me and even let me, at age of 10, start co-authoring a book where she’d write a chapter and I’d write a chapter – I have no recollection of the actual book, but I remember it was very emo and I cried while writing some of my chapters. I still remember my character’s name in that book – Raven. Later, after we scrapped the book, we decided we would use our characters names, Raven and Sarro, to be our pen names if we ever became authors. I’ve of course abandoned that, but I still remember those dreams fondly.

To keep the dream aglow, I just kept fanning it. After I had my daughter in 2011, I decided I really wanted to make sure to pursue my dream of writing, even if I didn’t “make it big”, because I wanted her to know that it was never too late to follow your heart – even if it was simply doing what you love because you love it.

* What inspired you to write Waking Dreams specifically?

Waking Dreams was an odd one. I was actually just on a lunch break in April of 2007, and I walked down to the University campus, purchased a notebook, and sat down on a bench. The day was breath-takingly gorgeous, and I felt a wave of inspiration. I decided I was going to write a stream-of-consciousness short story, and instead, the first chapter of Waking Dreams came out (in a very, very rough form). I had recently returned from the UK, where I had lived two years while studying Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and I had experienced a culture shock at my reintegration into the U.S. and our fear-mongering media and entertainment industry. Everything was, “Are you doing THIS? You could DIE!” or “Are you raising your child THIS way? They’ll be MESSED up forever!” It was just this constant barrage of fear, fear, fear, and it made me feel really anxious for the first few months. So, after the first chapter of Waking Dreams just leapt onto the page, I decided to use this horror novel as my own exploration into my fears, and the fears of others. I read up on Freud, Jung, dream symbolism and mythos. In my research, I came upon a quote from an ancient manuscript that was about a “dream child” and my brain just went on over drive. Once I tracked down the actual translation from the source, I realized it was a reference to the messiah, so that was quickly scrapped, but I decided to write my own prophecy.

Anyway, I always imagined the first book I would write would be fantasy or sci-fi, but I guess I grew up reading Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Paul Straub, so I shouldn’t be surprised that horror was my first work of fiction.

 * What’s your favorite book? Do you have a favorite genre you prefer?

Ooh, favorite book, that’s a hard one! If you’re talking children’s lit, my new favorite is “Rosie Revere, Engineer”. If horror, I’d have to say Dean Koontz’s “Twilight Eyes”, because that was the very first novel I ever read and it was a truly pivotal book for me. It opened my eyes to this whole world of fiction, and I just never stopped reading after that. I want to re-read it, now that I’m an adult, but a part of me refuses, because that book still feels magical to me. Sci-Fi/Fantasy is the genre I prefer reading now-a-days, and there are too many novels there to really choose one favorite in that field (George R.R. Martin’s series, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson).

* We’ve talked many times about our shared love of horror. I’d love it if you’d share why you enjoy horror. I’ve enjoyed your answer to this question in conversation but know I’d do your explanation injustice trying to convey it from my own distant memory!

To me, horror is in some part inspirational. It allows us to plunge ourselves in the darkest of possibilities, to confront the worst of all imagined worlds. This plunge, in turn allows us to see the light and hope these terrible situations can bring. We see in the darkness of each horror the possibility for redemption. When confronted with the worst of monsters, we can find our own humanity.

Terrible things happen in this world, and horror, to me, is a cloak. We can imagine a world where monsters are evil creatures or supernatural events that we can somehow control, rather than the truth – in this world, men and women are the monsters, and we can never tell who is a monster.

* How long do it take you to write the first draft of Waking Dreams? How long did it take you to edit it?

Oh, between working and being a parent and supporting a spouse through pre-medical and now medical school, writing has been a long journey. I started writing Waking Dreams in April of 2007, and finished my first complete draft in 2013. I then revised it substantially over the next two+ years. The editing (or revision, truthfully) process was quite significant, and I had several very helpful beta readers to whom I’m extremely grateful.

* How did you make time for writing and editing in light of an already wildly busy life?

When I was working, and before I had kids, I would write here and there on my lunch breaks and occasionally in the evening and on weekends – even if it was only for 30 minutes, I felt good about it because it was time I was spending on me and something that was important to me. Once the kids came along, my steam wore down, and I was often only able to write or edit in 3 hour chunks on a Saturday or Sunday every other week, skipping large chunks of time where I or the kids were sick.

* Has anyone expressed interest in your writing in general but been concerned that you were writing horror? If so, how did you approach this? How would you recommend someone else newly starting a horror novel address this?

Yes, actually I was kind of shocked how surprised most people were to find out that I was writing horror. Some even wondered if I was perhaps unbalanced because of the traumatic childhood I endured, and that’s why I chose to write works of fiction that leaned to the darker side of fiction. One of my readers (who self-professed that they were not horror aficionados), who was extremely insightful and gave great criticism, also expressed distress at the graphic nature of some of the horror scenes and couldn’t continue reading. There are definitely a line of folks who look askance and say, “Really? Horror?” as if you’ve grown tentacles and are no longer the perfectly reasonable and sane person they thought you were a moment before. Horror definitely isn’t for the squeamish, but the big thing to remember is that you’re writing because *you* want to write, and you should write the story that comes to you – not the story other people want you to write. I know Waking Dreams has violent content that is disturbing to some, but to me, shirking from describing that violence means I’m not truly telling the story, or embracing the horror of what is happening. Horror is just that – horrifying.

* Why do you hate puppies?

Oh, my, this question made me laugh!

* Just kidding! I know you love puppies.

See?! Puppy hage!

See?! Puppy hage!

* Are you working or preparing to work on anything else? If so, mind sharing a sentence or two teaser?

Yes, I’m working on my second project right now. It’s an urban fantasy tentatively entitled “Shieldmaiden”, about a modern day Valkyrie. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s already fun. I actually had six chapters already written, but have decided to re-center and start anew. I want to take some time to brush up on my sagas and Nordic literature.

* Anything else you’d like readers to know, about you, writing, Waking Dreams, or, well, anything?

I actually wrote the first 13 chapters by hand, before converting to computer only. Writing by hand felt more natural, initially. I made the decision to go electronic, however, after my dog (whom we appropriately named “Vash, the canine typhoon” from our favorite anime, Trigun) ate some of my handwritten notebooks. Oh, the tears that I wept when I found my green, leatherbound, Celtic knotted notebook in shreds on the floor! Thankfully, my dog had started from the outside in, so I could guess at what wasn’t legible. And took what I couldn’t guess at as a queue that I probably needed to re-write that section anyway.

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  1. Tiegan
    January 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Something I can only dream of happening to me 😉

    Congratulations to your sister.

    • January 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks, Tiegan! I’m super proud of her, but then again, have been since I was old enough to have memories. Whatever she does or does not do, I will always be proud of the spark of who she is. ♥

    • January 6, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks, Tiegan!

  2. January 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Congrats to your Sis! She sounds super cool.

    • January 6, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      She is super cool, not that I have any bias whatsoever. Ahem.

    • January 6, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      I like to think I’m super-cool (except, um, I kinda know I’m super nerdy). Thank you for the kind comment, Nancy!

      • January 7, 2016 at 4:58 am

        Now, now. You can be super cool AND super nerdy at the same time! 😊

  3. January 6, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    That is inspirational because I think it will take me around six years to finish my book too. Sounds like a good book and I like when someone has the gusto to write tough scenes.

    • January 6, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      I was one of her beta readers. It’s been a year or two–I think since before Littler J was born?–but I remember loving the story, and that she had the guts to write it.

      I really do believe it’s not when you do it but that you do it that matters. Rache is trying to show her daughter that pursuing your dreams is important. I, too, believe, it’s important to show dreams can be achieve at 14, at 40, or at 80, as circumstances permit!

  4. Karen Leon
    January 6, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    That’s amazing! Congrats to her!

  5. January 6, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you, Deb (aka Dark Moon or the Sarro to my Raven)! I love you!

  6. January 7, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Congrats to your sister. Writing a book is a goal of mine too. What an amazing accomplishment. I don’t normally read horror, yet I promise to read Walking Dreams as part of my 2016 reading challenge!

    • January 8, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Yay, thank you, and I love your screen-handle! That’s something I need to do – make time. Have a wonderful year!

  7. January 7, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Congratulations to your sister. Being between sisters, this was a fun interview. Kind of funny, I looked at the picture of the puppy (we have brindle Boxer that looks a lot like this) and misread the name as “Hagen” and my mind immediately leaped to the Ring Cycle and Valkyries, so when I read the next book project….

    • January 8, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Thank you for the congratulations, and thank you for the reference – I tend to just think of the original eddas and Nibelungenlied, and this made me realize that I’ll need to look back at the source that most people know re: the Valkyries – Wagner! Thank you for your words of encouragement. 🙂

      • January 8, 2016 at 12:18 pm

        Wagner did base everything on the Icelandic sagas, but then twisted them into one narrative that fit his story and philosophy, unfortunately including some of his racist philosophy. Although some people may go back to or know the original myths, legends and sagas, yeah, most will know more about them from Wagner, or at least a reference to the music from the movie Apocalypse Now.

        • January 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm

          Yeah, I’ll admit, as Nordic scholar, I often get peeved with Wagner, but he’s definitely someone I should keep in mind, and I can always build this into any dialogue in the book! Thanks!!! Also, I’ll now have to re-watch Apocalypse Now – it’s been too long and all cultural references are helpful! Thanks – these tidbits are super helpful and get the researcher in me all excited! 🙂

  8. January 7, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Congrats on your accomplishment! Downloaded and will read soon. Just started Infinite Jest, so it might be a while! 😉

    • January 8, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Thank you so much! I started the Infinite Jest recently, too (I think it’s going to take me a while – I’m only 5 chapters in). Happy reading and thank you again!

      • January 8, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        You’re welcome! I think that’s about as far as I am also, it’s going to be a long read! Would love to hear your thoughts at the end.

  9. January 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

    13 chapters by hand! That’s impressive! Just downloaded the book, and looking forward to a rainy weekend so I can dive in.

  10. January 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Congratulations!

  11. January 7, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Congrats to your sister! I’ve downloaded the book and sent it to my Kindle! Then I read further and saw “horror” and was like, nope, can’t do it. Then I saw Dean Koontz, so if it follows that – I should be fine. I’m coming back if it gives me nightmares though! 🙂 But seriously, that’s a big accomplishment, congratulations!

    • January 8, 2016 at 11:14 am

      Thank you, Kate! If it is too dark (I am hoping not – there’s a few points that are graphic), then I can promise that my next novel shouldn’t be so graphic! Thank you so much for taking the time and your kind words. I appreciate it! 🙂

  12. January 7, 2016 at 10:50 am

    How cool! Congrats!

  13. January 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Congrats to your sister!!!

  14. January 9, 2016 at 8:34 am

    First Congrats to Rachael / Shinning Star! What an accomplishment.

    Very fun interview, this especially since you are sisters so the dynamics are obvious. I love horror, it is I think my second favorite genre. Already downloaded, can’t wait to read. Though I have promised myself I will finish the three I am currently making my way through before I start another.

    • January 10, 2016 at 1:21 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for the download! I am super lucky to have the encouraging and awesome sister I do, and also thankful for her awesome readers! ❤

  15. January 11, 2016 at 5:42 am

    Good luck to ur sister. She is an inspiration.

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