Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Rachel Atwood Interview - Outcasts of the Wildwood

Photo Content from Rachel Atwood

Rachel Atwood is the author of Walk the Wild with Me. She grew up enchanted with British History. Now she writes historical fiction with enchantments. Every time she visits the British Isles, she basks in the shadows of standing stones and glories in ancient crypts while drinking in the lush accents of the people she meets. She thinks driving on the left is natural and roundabouts are efficient as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Greatest thing you learned at school. 
There is always more to learn.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill? 
When I started rewriting Little Golden Books when I was in 1st grade.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? 
Le Morte D’Arthur by Malory is the book I return to time and time again. Outside my SF/F genre I have to say my favorite book is The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale. Historical Romance. It has a killer opening line. “Hell is being a hero.” I didn’t ‘like’ either of the main characters, but I kept reading and reading. Then on the last two pages I figured out why she put the dedication at the end of the book, and I sat paralyzed with my mouth agape as it all made sense and I learned why I was crying.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
A fan letter for my first book from a 14-year-old girl. She opened the letter with “I hate to read.” Turns out I’d given my dragon the same name as her and spelled it the same. A friend gave her the book because of it. She read it from cover to cover and looked forward to the next book. If I never did anything else in my career, I knew I’d succeeded because I turned a non-reader into a reader and the world opened before her.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be? 
The Riddle Master of Hed and the sequels by Patricia McKillip. Her poetic use of language along with compelling character sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until long after I’d re-read them twice.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book? 
Too much research. I wanted to include it all, but there wasn’t room, and it didn’t always move the plot forward or enhance the characters.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes? 
Language of the Night by Ursula K. LeGuin made me look at what I said AND how I said it. Neither is more important than the other in writing fantasy.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us? 
Human beings, maybe even the Neanderthal, have been telling stories since the beginnings of language. They are teaching tools, moral lessons, entertainment, explanations. Stories are part of what makes us human and helps define humanity.

Can you tell us when you started OUTCASTS OF THE WILDWOOD, how that came about?
When I finished WALK THE WILD WITH ME, I knew that Nick and his friends had more adventures that I needed to discover. So I went looking for something that would threaten the forest—which is more than just the trees, it is a complex ecology of parkland, fish ponds, open meadows, trees, and wildlife preserve reserved for the king’s private hunting grounds—my reading took me to charcoal burners. They could clear great swaths of woodland for a necessary heat and energy source for those who do not have access to firewood or coal. One charcoal burner with a mission could devastate 100 acres a year, or more. Then I had to find the kind of man who must live a solitary life, who would befriend him, and who would shun him. The rest fell into place behind him.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters? 
In this book I learned that sometimes, being an outcast is preferable to living within society.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from OUTCASTS OF THE WILDWOOD
“The time has come for me to pass the authority of the Green Man to the heir of my choosing,” Little John announced, making certain his voice carried to the circle of human and fae friends who had come to observe this rare ritual.

This winter Father Tuck’s outlawed friends had found a cave adjacent to his own for their winter sojourn. That cave was now empty and his informant, Blaidd the father of the wolves, told him that last autumn’s enclave near Ardelia’s pond was fully occupied. Sheltered by the cave, he had slept longer and deeper than during the decades of monastic life when the bells summoned him to Mass seven times a day. He missed the bells.

Then Robin noted the plop of dirt clods impacting soft moss behind the boar. Robin took a half step to his left. The foliage was thicker here but the boar dipped his head just so… He loosed the arrow. The thwap of his line sang against his ear. The feathers of the fletching grazed his cheek. The tension in his arms recoiled, bringing knots to his forearms. His instincts demanded he shrink into his Robin Goodfellow body. Gnomes didn’t develop sore muscles.

  • 1) I’m sorry that Robin Hood in fact is a collection of personalities from 300 years of British history and not a single person.
  • 2) King John wasn’t as evil as usually portrayed.
  • 3) The Magna Carta is a peace treaty among King John, his barons, and the Church and not a rights of man.
  • 4) the common folk can be more resilient and resourceful than tyrants.
  • 5) When motivated I can write faster than I think I can.
  • 6) My beta reading friends love me more than I thought. They actually put up with my first draft horribleness.
  • 7) “Time Team” streaming on Amazon Prime Video is an amazing resource. I had to rewrite the scenes inside the ancient barrow after two episodes of the show.
  • 8) My husband proves his love for me every time he surgically removes me from my computer and kidnaps me for a day out in the wilds of Oregon so I can refresh my brain and inspire my imagination. 9) My lizard brain is smarter than I am and knows much more about my books than I do. It lays down clues I don’t know are clues until chapters later.
  • 10) Robin Hood, King John, and the Magna Carta are the parts of history I need to write more about.
Meet the Characters
Nicholas Withybeck is an orphan raised in Locksley Abbey. He’s smart, curious, and restless. Escaping the confines of the monastic community is his greatest joy. Since King John is at war with Pope Innocent III, and no church services or sacraments may be celebrated in England, the Wild Folk of the forest are free to come out and play. They quickly become Nick’s best friends.

In the oldest folklore Robin Hood looks like Puck or Robin Goodfellow, Little John has associations with The Green Man. Will Scarlett was often called a preening bird with bright plumage. The rest of the cast of characters fall into place. I had a ball playing with them.

Your Journey to Publication
Back in the Jurassic, I thought I was writing Romance. I joined Romance Writers of America and found a critique group and my first agent through them. Then I broke my ankle in 2 places and dislocated it 90 degrees. I was laid up for months and had to give up dancing with the Ballet du Lac. I turned to writing.

All of my submissions came back: Too much plot, not enough romance. Too many ghosts and crazy woo-woo stuff, not enough romance. So, if I couldn’t write romances, and had to give up my day job of working retail, and (sob) dancing, I’d damned well do what I wanted to do. I wrote “The Glass Dragon” by Irene Radford. It took years to write while working part time teaching ballet and raising a family. Eventually the manuscript landed at DAW Books. Sheila Gilbert—still my editor—bought it and two sequels. I haven’t looked back since, though I have added several pen names. I have also branched out and published independently through the Book View Café, a publishing co-op. Between the two, I have published 49 books and am working on #50. I also edit for small presses. Several of my anthologies from B-Cubed Press have hit Amazon best seller lists.

There have been lean years when my books have not been as popular as I want, resulting in a new pen name for the next book—some strange algorithm known only to New York publishing houses. I have lost friends and family members, resulting in periods when grief kept me from writing and wonder why I try. But then an idea hits me, or I get an inspirational fan letter, or receive an award, an anthology hits a best seller list, and I find I’m cranking out the words again.

Mostly my family has cheered me on and joined my celebrations even if they don’t read my genre. For them I write cozy mysteries, the Whistling River Lodge Mysteries available through the Book View Café—4 so far. Thanks to Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions and social media my friends have evolved into writing colleagues and readers. I couldn’t ask for better or more supportive companions in my life.

Writing Behind the Scenes
If I don’t get dressed until I’ve finished writing for the day, then I’m not tempted to abandon writing and go somewhere, anywhere, away from work. I can be a workaholic or incredibly lazy nothing in between. Lunch out with my friends usually dissolves into brainstorming sessions. That’s work isn’t it?

What is the first job you have had? 
Retail clerk in a department store during Christmas break in college.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? 
How much do I have to eat to restore my blood sugar.

What is your most memorable travel experience? 
5 months in Great Britain my senior year of college with 24 other students and a professor. Incredible immersion in history.

What's your most missed memory? 
Dancing with a semi-pro ballet company.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today? 
Watching Watergate tear apart the government and my ideals about how it should work.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep? 
Where I left off in the stories I tell myself in order to get to sleep.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why? 
If I could change one thing, I’d give Mary Queen of Scots some brains so she’d be worthy of the adoration she inspires. If I could be someone in history, I think I’d like to be Eleanor of Aquitaine. Wife to 2 different kings, mother of three more, and the real power behind the thrones of Europe for 7 decades or more.

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
My journey out of clinical depression and back to relative sanity after the death of my father. Dancing helped me get out of bed in the morning. Dancing gave me an outlet for suppressed emotions. Dancing was the only sane part of my life.

This second novel of a historical fantasy series that reexamines the Robin Hood legend in medieval England.

Nick, an orphan raised at Locksley Abbey has made friends with the Wildfolk: the Greenman, Robin Goodfellow, dryads, water sprites, and other paranormal creatures. He often hides in the nearly forgotten abbey crypt, where he found Elena, the goddess of sorcery, crossroads, and cemeteries. He carries her vessel and tries to learn from her wisdom.

Robin Goodfellow lives with a curse. Half of each day he must spend as a hideous gnome with a bit of magic and near immortality. The other half of the day he can live as Robin Hood, archer of legend. At the time of his curse sixty years before, an insane magician trapped Robin's love, Marian in a secret chamber that keeps her in perpetual sleep. The only way Robin can break the curse is to awaken Marian in his gnome form and have her recognize his true face.

But the magic is breaking down. Marian will die if Robin doesn't break the curse soon. He needs Nick's help, his affinity for dark underground places, and Elena's whispers to find Marian's secret chamber and decipher the clues to breaking the curse.
You can purchase Outcasts of the Wildwood at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. I love the cover. I love the design and colors!

  2. "What is the dumbest thing you have ever done?" I can't tell you that!--it's too bone-crushingly awful!

  3. When I was a kid, I tried to walk on ice against the ice. I quickly learned how dumb I was when I had to go to the doctors to get stitches.

  4. Had a painful infection after walking barefoot in the yard.

  5. Just today I was putting on a pair of earrings in front of our bathroom sink and I even put something to cover the drain and I still managed to drop the earring in the sink and the earrings weren't even mine, they were my sister's (sigh)

  6. Actions too numerous to mention. Maybe even a world record. Thanks for the reminder. ;^)

  7. That would be a long list of dumb things, but marrying The Mister is right up there.

  8. Oh my goodness, what dumb thing haven’t I done.

  9. Letting someone else's expectations alter my life.