Rachel Linden Fabulous Washington

Author Rachel Linden Draws Inspiration From the Pacific Northwest in Her Latest Book

Over the phone, Rachel Linden comes across effortless—with a bubbly demeanor, transcendent passion, and relaxed energy that translates even through a computer screen. She’s calm, collected and inimitably warm. It’s that same warmth that Linden affords to her readers through her literature time and time again. With a variety of electric and page-turning books already under her belt, the critically acclaimed author has opened a new chapter in her writing career with the debut of her latest book, “The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie”—a heartwarming and uplifting tale about the power of choices and the hope that comes from second chances.

“This story, as I was writing it under lockdown in the midst of a lot of scary, crazy things that were happening in the world, took on real significance for me because we were, in a lot of ways, all living that same life [as the character]. We didn’t choose it, but we had to figure out what to do with it and how to make lemonade out of the lemons that life was handing us,” says Linden in regard to where the inspiration for the book came from.

Fans and new readers alike will be able to find something to relate to and enjoy in Linden’s latest novel. Spoiler: as if the ending to “The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie” wasn’t sweet enough, Linden even teased that readers will be treated to a one-of-a-kind lemon drop pie recipe that they can make while still mulling over the book’s conclusion. (Not to worry, the acclaimed author reassured us that another book—with a brand new story—was still on the way!)

Read on as Linden speaks about how this novel differs from her previous work, what her creative process entails, and how her greatest writing inspiration might just be the Pacific Northwest. [This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.]

How did the story idea for “The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie” come to life for you? 

I was on a flight from Nashville back to Seattle, and I scribbled on one of those little Delta beverage napkins: “What if we could redo our three biggest regrets?” And that was the seed of this entire story. I was just captivated by that question, because I think part of the human journey and experience is having regrets sometimes about things we wish we’d done or hadn’t done or had done differently. 

So, when I started to write this story, it was in the spring of 2020, and I was in Seattle. We were under COVID lockdowns, the COVID pandemic hit, and this story took on a special significance because the main character is thrust into a life that she didn’t choose after the death of her mother. So she gives up her engagement and her dream career in England, goes home to Seattle in the Magnolia neighborhood to take care of her father and younger sister, and to keep their struggling diner afloat. So, 10 years later, she realizes that she hasn’t done any of the things on her life goals list—and she is given the magical second chance to redo her three biggest regrets and live three days as though she’d made different choices all those years before. And so this story, as I was writing it under lockdown in the midst of a lot of scary, crazy things that were happening in the world, took on real significance for me because we were, in a lot of ways, all living that life. We didn’t choose it, but we had to figure out what to do with it and how to make lemonade out of the lemons that life was handing us. 

You have so many great novels already under your belt. For people who are fans of your previous work, how does this book differ from some of your other books?

The books are similar in the sense that there are strong women facing big challenges, travel, food and second chances of love. But this book differs because I leaned into the magical realism aspect a lot more, and that was just completely fun to do. I’ve always had a hint of it in my stories, but my editor just really loved it and encouraged me to do more with magical realism. And it worked so well for the story with the three lemon drops that allow her to experience three different days in lives and paths that she didn’t choose. I also don’t know that I’ve ever done flashbacks in my other stories, and this has some flashbacks to the first boy she ever loved and the way things fell apart. 

The book is set in Seattle, which is where I understand you also reside—correct? 

I’m on a little island outside of Seattle now, but while I was writing it, I was in the heart of Seattle. We’re still in Washington state, still in the Pacific Northwest—but we, we have taken up island life and we’re really enjoying it. 

Nice. Did it feel kind of serendipitous getting to create this entire story and plot all within like a city that you’re so familiar with and at least, at the time, were really immersing yourself in? 

Yes—and I love to write my books and set them in the Pacific Northwest because I think the Pacific Northwest is such a phenomenal, naturally beautiful, culturally rich area. I just think it captures the imagination and has so many hidden gems and wonderful things. So my first book was set on San Juan Island. My third book was set on Queen Anne, where I lived for 10 years, and then this one was set in Magnolia. My next one is gonna be set on San Juan again—and so I really enjoy getting to put that Northwest flavor that I think is so beautiful and so unique into my work. And I also like to take readers on a journey to some other fun places that I’ve lived—so this one also takes place in Hawaii, Florida and Brighton, England. 

Speaking of the creative elements that you played into while writing this book, I know every writer and author’s creative process is so different, and it can even vary depending on the book that they’re writing. I’m curious, what does your own creative process entail or look like? 

Well, I have youngish children and so it entails finding those moments where I’m not momming [LAUGHS]. I try to never sit down without knowing what I’m going to be writing next, and so I’ve become much more of a plotter than just flying by the seat of my pants… I like to sit down and have a good sense of the story, a good sense of the characters, a good sense of the character arc. First, I’ll usually have an idea that I just roll around in my mind sometimes even for a year or two before I decide: “OK, this is the next one.” Then I sit down and we’ll spend a week or two making a sort of a skeleton of a plot—not a hugely detailed outline, but at least knowing the trajectory of the story and the trajectory of the emotional growth of the character. 

It sounds like you were able to really maximize your time and energy around the pandemic for good, given that it’s kind of where the inspiration for this book started. Did you find that your creative process changed at all during the pandemic? 

Oh, that’s a great question. I feel like some authors had an amazingly creative time during COVID and some authors found it very, very difficult to write. I absolutely loved writing during COVID because it felt like an escape and it felt like something that I could control. So, it felt like going into this wonderful little world that was normal and safe and happy. We were living in an apartment in Seattle at that point, and I loved shutting my bedroom door and getting to go into this safe, wonderful, magical world. So, it was really life-giving for me and I put a lot of creativity into it during the pandemic. And I think there weren’t as many distractions because there wasn’t a lot going on—so, it was a good period of time creatively for me. 

You had mentioned something about your next book and that it would also be set in sort of the Pacific Northwest area. Have you started working on that next book? And if yes, is there anything that you can share about the upcoming project?

Oh, yes—and that is not a premature question at all. I think in general authors love to be asked about their books because we sit alone in a room for months and months with these characters that we love and these stories we love. And so it’s exciting to give people little sneak peek of it. Right now this story is completely written. It is with my editor, and then we’re about to start the editorial process. It takes place partly in Paris and partly on San Juan Island. It’s about a disgraced chef trying to regain her spark in the kitchen, reconnect with her estranged mother, and find a special little bit of island magic in the process.

This may feel like kind of a big question, but if you could wrap up or encapsulate this story in a single word, what word would you use for “The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie?”

Ooh, just one word. Alright, I’m gonna talk around that for a minute because that is a great question! People keep telling me that this book is the book they didn’t know they needed, and that the word that keeps coming up over and over is about hope—hope after loss, hope after grief, hope after disappointment, hope in the midst of hard things. And so I think if I were to do it in a phrase, I’d probably say “hope despite hard things” or “hope in the midst of hard things.” And the entire point of the book is that we can’t look backwards. We have to take what we have and make it the best we can going forward. 

As a final question, outside of your home, are there any specific spots like coffee shops or even like bookstores in the Seattle area that you go to to either write or that you find a lot of like real creative inspiration from?

I have to write in complete silence, so I actually write inside the house in a boring room because that works better. But for inspiration, I absolutely adore riding the fairy boats of the Washington State Ferry System, and I find so many good ideas as I’m riding the boats. The water is gliding past, the beautiful sceneries are gliding past. Sometimes you’re seeing whales or porpoises or jellyfish. And the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is just slowly, serenely skimming by you. That’s where I get a huge amount of creative mental space to think about new stories. 

For more information on Rachel Linden and to purchase her latest book for yourself, visit the author’s website at www.rachellinden.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

*