I’m pleased to have fellow Tule author Rebecca Crowley in the spotlight today.
Rebecca hails from Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University and ubiquitous references to ‘The Little Apple’. She pulled up her Midwestern roots to attend Barnard College in New York City, before moving to London to pursue an MA at UCL. She spent six years in London and four years in Johannesburg, South Africa before relocating to Houston in 2017.
Rebecca is married to the charming Brit she met while studying abroad at Oxford, and mom to a little girl she hopes will eventually love romance, too.
N: Welcome to the blog, Rebecca. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. When did you start writing?
A: Thanks for having me, Nan! Like many authors, I was a storyteller from a young age, and in first grade loved stapling paper together to create books. I finished my first two manuscripts when I was 24 and found an agent, but never managed to sell. I took about five years off, then somewhat randomly jumped into NaNoWriMo. That book became my debut, which released in 2013.
N: What comes first—the plot or the characters?
A: Definitely the characters! If they could just sit in a room together and talk all day I’d find writing much easier. Plot trips me up every time.
N: Your new novel with Tule Publishing releases today, November 30—that’s so exciting! What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing Shine a Light?
A: This is the first book I finished since taking some writerly maternity leave after my second daughter was born in 2019. I wrote it while my older daughter was doing kindergarten virtually, there was so much uncertainty about the future, and we were still in a state of endless lockdown. It was a grim few months, and Shine a Light not only showed me I could still write after some time off, it proved that writing will always be an essential mode of escape and stress relief for me – and by extension, hopefully for my readers!
N: Shine a Light is book 1 in your new Orchard Hill series. Will we be meeting characters from other books in the series in this first novel?
A: This first book stands alone more than the next two, but there are a couple of cameos! The series focuses on a group of high-school friends who’ve all taken separate roads in the last decade and are now drawn back to their hometown.
N: I love the sparring hero and heroine trope in Shine a Light…it’s always so much fun. In this story, both characters are struggling to live up to their parents’ ideals. Want to talk about how it was writing that struggle and how it affected Ellie and Jonah’s romance?
A: Ellie and Jonah approach the temple Hanukkah play from opposite directions. Jonah wants to create a solemn, meaningful production that will impress his estranged rabbi father, whereas Ellie wants to replicate the over-the-top, colorful theatrics her mom was famous for staging. They’re both so intent on following other people’s paths that they lose their own ways – until they forge a new road together.
N: Give us three words to describe your heroine Ellie. Three words to describe your hero Jonah?
A: Ellie is driven, passionate, and slightly disaster-prone. Jonah is cerebral, considered, and yet surprisingly impulsive.
N: In this series, your characters are Jewish—how much does your own faith play into the stories you write?
A: Toni Morrison said something to the effect of, if you can’t find the book you want to read, write it yourself. That’s pretty much how Shine a Light and the whole Orchard Hill series came to life. In most of the Hanukkah romances I’d read or seen, at least one character wasn’t Jewish, and the other was educating that person about the holiday. I wanted to write a story that reflected my own experience, in which Hanukkah is simply celebrated, not taught or explained. The heroes and heroines throughout this series have varying degrees of religious observance – and some are more confident in their faith than others – but they are all Jewish, and all celebrate their holidays as a matter of fact.
N: When you’re writing a particularly emotional scene, how do you get in the mood?
A: Not going to lie, as a working mom with two young kids, I don’t always have the luxury of time to get in the mood! J Whenever possible, though, I like to listen to instrumental music. Nothing with lyrics because they’ll find their way into the text! But Philip Glass usually hits the spot.
N: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell your readers about?
A: I just sent off the manuscript for the third book in the Orchard Hill series, Coming Home to You, which is a reunion romance set during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Ellie and Jonah definitely make an appearance.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: What didn’t I want to be? For a while I had a plan to have a different job for each day of the week, including firefighter (big fan of the hats), cardiologist, and orchestra conductor.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: So many to choose from! I was super into horses, so I loved Marguerite Henry – especially King of the Wind – and The Wild Mustang by Joanna Campbell was the first book that moved me to tears. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene were the first books I read and re-read and re-read. I could answer this question for days!
N: And here is my signature question that everyone loves: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: Love this question! First guest would be Brandon Flowers from my longtime favorite band, The Killers, because he’s dreamy and weird and absolutely made a mistake by not marrying me (or, indeed, ever meeting me).
Second would be one of my lifelong heroes and literary icons, Dorothy Parker. She would bring her own bathtub-brewed gin, openly admire Brandon’s beauty, and intersperse the wisecracks with profound thoughts on life, love, and liberty.
Last but in no way least would be the very much alive Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of my favorite soccer players. He has a huge personality, is brash and hilarious, but secretly seems like a sweetheart, so he’d fill in any awkward gaps in the conversation.
Shine a Light
When Ellie Bloom’s life literally goes up in flames after an apartment fire, she slinks back to her sister’s house in the St. Louis suburb she’s avoided since her mom died. Ellie quickly caves to her nephews’ pleas to direct the temple Hanukkah play—her mom’s pride and joy—and by the time she’s lighting the first candle in her menorah, she doubts she’ll ever escape her hometown. And then she spots the cute fireman who rescued her lighting his own menorah in the window next door.
Firefighter Jonah Spellman may have dropped out of seminary, but he still has deep roots in his Jewish faith. Hoping to mend fences with his Rabbi father who can’t forgive his career change, Jonah agrees to direct the Hanukkah play, never expecting to clash with his beautiful, fire-starting new next-door neighbor.
By day they spar—Ellie’s desperate to live up to her mom’s legacy while Jonah’s driven to impress his dad. But by night they return to their secret candle-lighting ritual. Will their love burn as brightly as the Hanukkah flames?