Rachael Johns is a bestselling Australian author that I have been a fan of for many years and I think her books just keep getting better. She is definitely on the must read list and I loved the latest release, How to Mend A Broken Heart. I touched base with her recently to see if she wanted to answer some questions for me.
Welcome back to Mic Loves Books, thank you so much for chatting with me again.
Thanks so much – you and I go WAY back (did we connect when you read my first book, JILTED) so it’s always fun to catch up again.
Mic: Yes we did connect when I read Jilted, unless the Carina Press titles were before that. Either way it was way back in the beginning and I do love to keep catching up.
The newest release is How To Mend A Broken Heart, can you tell us a little about the book?
HOW TO MEND A BROKEN HEART is the story of Felicity Bell, her daughter Zoe and an elderly lady they meet while spending some time in New Orleans. All three women have experienced some form of betrayal or heartbreak and the story is about them learning (or not) how to move on from that. I wanted to explore how there are so many varied reactions to such trauma. This novel is also a little bit of a love affair to New Orleans and the city is definitely a second character. There’s also ( I hope) something for all readers – family drama, intrigue, unlikely friendships, romance and possibly even a ghost!
How To Mend A Broken Heart shares characters with The Art Of Keeping Secrets and picks up a couple of years later. Do you think it’s important to read The Art of Keeping Secrets before picking up How to Mend A Broken Heart?
No, I wrote HOW TO MEND A BROKEN HEART completely to be read as a standalone. While many readers will have read THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS or decided to do so before or after reading BROKEN HEART, I wanted people to be able to pick up this book and enjoy it on its own, therefore any information from ART that is needed for BROKEN HEART is just presented as backstory as any other standalone novel has backstory. I wrote the book because so many people said they wanted a sequel to ART, but I’m pretty sure what they really wanted was to know what happened to Felicity and her husband, so that’s the story I’ve written and the other two main characters from ART play very little part in BROKEN HEART.
The bulk of the book is set in New Orleans, how and why did you pick that location?
Recently I heard Jonica Newby talking about her book BEYOND CLIMATE GRIEF and she spoke about “heart places” in terms of places we fall in love with exactly in the way we might fall in love at first sight with a person. THIS is what happened to me when I first went to New Orleans for a writing conference in 2014. I think it’s a place you either love or hate, but I loved the eclectic nature about it and I loved how much there is to experience – the art, the music, the food, the history, the beautiful architecture, the unique cemeteries, the bayou, and of course, the ghosts! It just seems like a place begging for stories to be set there.
Tell us about your research and some of the highlights of your research trip.
When I finally decided on writing HOW TO MEND A BROKEN HEART, I knew that it would be the perfect book to set in New Orleans (which I’d been wanting to do for a while) because Felicity Bell is a taxidermist (so creates art out of dead things) and New Orleans is a place where death and the dead are very much revered. Not to mention a place that loves all kinds of art.
My husband thought I could write the book on my memories from my first trip and fabulous Google, but I insisted I needed to go there and I’m so glad I did. There were things that happened on our trip that I would NEVER have known to research. One afternoon in the French Quarter my travel buddy, Anthea Hodgson, and I stumbled upon a tiny little jazz bar and were entranced by this guy singing and playing on the piano. Immediately I knew I needed a bar just like this one and that this guy would inspire one of the love interests in the novel.
We also were lucky enough to see two second line (wedding) parades, which were just magical to watch. This is where a bride and groom dance through the Quarter following their wedding ceremony with their bridal party, a jazz band, their guests and then anyone else can join in the parade as they walk the streets. It’s a beautiful sight to behold and I had to put THAT in the book too.
I seem to remember there was an earlier tale set in New Orleans, Fire Me Up, is this where your love of the area began?
Yes, I wrote a biker book (which was WAY out of my comfort zone) with Megan Crane, Maisey Yates and Jackie Ashendon which was brainstormed on my very first trip, where I was hanging out with Megan and Maisey. We all fell in love with the place and wanted to write a book set there but just one wasn’t enough for me!
What’s your favourite memory of New Orleans and did it find it’s way into the book?
Ooh that’s hard, cos I literally love almost everything about the place (the bad bits are the homeless problem and of course the tragic history of some of the enslaved people). Probably my fave thing to do while there is go on ghost tours though, and yes, of course I included one of them!
I am a huge fan of Anne Rice and vampire novels were my genre of choice for a long time, and more than one series is set in New Orleans. So when I think of the area my mind is immediately drawn to thoughts of Rice’s vampires. I love how you wove a little vampire lore into the story, and Rice got a mention. Can you tell us why you felt it was important to include them in the story?
Well, the vampire stuff is a huge part of New Orleans, not just because of Anne Rice, so that just seemed to fit into the story. We did see Anne’s house while on a tour of the Garden District and my hubby is a HUGE Anne Rice fan so I thought the mention of her would be fun!
Mic: Must say I am vey jealous that you got to see Anne Rice’s house in the Garden District.
Do you think there could be another book with these characters, I feel their stories are far from over
Sigh – when people have said they would like more of Zoe and Aurelia, it’s both lovely and infuriating. Put it this way, I THINK I’m done, but never say never!
One last question, unrelated to the new release. I wondered if you wanted to talk a little about the online book club you created?
Of course, I LOVE the online book club which I run with Anthea Hodgson and Bree from 1Girl2ManyBooks. I started it because I really enjoy being in a face to face book club and I know there are many people that would love to be in a book club but aren’t for whatever reason, so I thought it would be good to create an online version. We now have over 3.5k members and it is such a fabulous community. Many of the members have become friends in real life after meeting in the group and there are a few groups that have formed and now meet face to face because of it, which just makes me SO happy. We have a book a month, which we discuss live and then post questions in the group, but it’s very casual. No pressure, you can participate as little or as much as you like. Anyone who would like to join can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1417551485018792
Good luck with the release, I can’t wait to read what’s next. And good luck to all the entrants of the shelfie contest, I must go check out the entries.
Thanks so much for having me 🙂
How To Mend A Broken Heart is published by Harlequin Mira and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.