Rachel Linden’s latest novel, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, released on the first of this month. Today, she’s joining me to talk about her inspiration behind the story of twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot.
~ About the Author ~
Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures living and traveling in fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her stories. She holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, a BA in Literature from Huntington University, and studied creative writing at Oxford University during college. Currently, Rachel splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Budapest, Hungary where she lives with her husband and two children. Rachel enjoys creating stories about hope and courage with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.
~ About the Book ~
Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.
Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.
When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.
But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.
~ Interview ~
Thank you for joining me today, Rachel! To start with, let’s take a little ‘flight of fancy’. How would you finish the following questions:
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be… Mopping! I hate to mop, so much so that recently when my parents came to stay for a week I told them, “See, in honor of your visit, I mopped the dining room floor!” and then realized how slovenly that sounds! 🙂
Haha! Not that I’m one to laugh…
If I was an animal, I would be a… Cat. I love lounging in comfortable places and taking naps! As a mother of two little ones under 4, naps are my saving grace. Writers and cats have some habits in common…
Oh, naps! ❤ I also wouldn’t mind the agility of a cat. That’s something I seem to be losing the older I get!
If I could say one thing to my younger self, it would be… Relax and just enjoy each stage of life as much as possible. Don’t be so uptight trying to get it all perfectly right!
If I could have one superpower, it would be… Speaking and understanding every language fluently. With how much I travel internationally, that would be a fabulously convenient superpower!
I can imagine! Plus, how cool would that be anyway?
My ideal place to read would be… A super comfortable velvet divan set in the middle of an evergreen forest near the ocean here in the Pacific Northwest (in this scenario, unlike in real life, it would never rain). And a steady supply of chocolate magically on hand!
Okay, let’s talk about Becoming the Talbot Sisters. What was the idea that sparked this story?
A conversation with a close family member about her struggle with infertility and her interest in surrogacy was the first spark for the theme of miscarriage and surrogacy. Then my own experience living in Central Europe and working with women who had been trafficked and sexually exploited added another major theme to the story.
The story features twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot who have drifted apart as adults. What is it about this relationship dynamic that interests you?
I’m fascinated by the concept of isolation versus connection. We are a hyper connected society but increasingly we are also lonely and relationally isolated. Humans are made for connection; we are meant to live in healthy, supportive relationships, but many people (especially in very technologically developed countries) lack those life-giving connections. I love to write stories about women moving from isolation to connection in their lives, embracing true and authentic relationships in all their messy glory! I love exploring this theme in women’s relationships (sisters, best friends) and also in male/female romantic relationships. My novels generally involve some of both!
Oh, you are definitely talking my language!
Like Charlie Talbot, you live in Budapest, Hungary, and work as an international aid worker. Did you find yourself identifying more closely with Charlie’s character, or are there ways in which you identified with Waverly as well?
I identify with both sisters. My husband and I lost our first child to miscarriage during our first year in Budapest, so the theme of motherhood and loss that Waverly experiences is very poignant and familiar to me. I also can be a bit of a diva and I love to cook and love vintage things, so Waverly and I are similar in that way. I identify with Charlie in her expat lifestyle and love of reading and in her general outlook on life.
Sounds like a good balance. 🙂
Surrogacy is both an emotional and a somewhat controversial topic. What were some of challenges you faced in writing about it?
I don’t consider this a story about surrogacy as much as a story about motherhood – the aspects of love, loss, longing and hope related to being a mother. The novel touches on surrogacy but also on infertility and adoption. There are so many different facets of motherhood, and I am intrigued by what it means to have a mother’s heart, that connection to a child, far beyond the topic of surrogacy in and of itself. The plotline developed as I got to know the characters, and I asked myself towards the end of the first draft – what does motherhood mean to these characters? It was a journey to explore and answer those questions with each character in her particular situation.
Oh, that’s even better! What a wonderful question to explore.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing this story?
I adored getting to put SO much of my own experiences living and working in Central Europe into this story. So many of the details – the countries, places, food, conversations, observations – are authentic, all things I’ve personally experienced. In a way this story is a love letter to the fascinating region of Central Europe and a fond recollection of my years living there.
Those kinds of personal experiences give so much colour to a story, too.
What was something that surprised you as you wrote this story?
The overarching theme of this story is about women being courageous, about women choosing to be “every day brave” and face the major issues in their own lives. I wanted to write a story about women facing big challenges, loss and trauma and coming out stronger, but I didn’t quite put all the pieces together until I was done writing. I was surprised to see how strong this theme was, and frankly I found it inspiring even in my own life! I love seeing the characters put their chins up, be brave, and make the hard, good choices in life! I hope this story will inspire readers to be “every day brave” in their own lives too!
I’m feeling inspired just reading your answer, so I can’t wait to read Waverly and Charlie’s story!
In what way did this novel challenge you personally?
For years I’ve wanted to write a book with a theme about the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women, ever since I started working with women in trauma in my time abroad. I wanted to write a women-centered story about trafficking, about how women become enmeshed in trafficking and then exploited, about the factors that contribute to it and their experiences, but also about who they are, just normal women like you and me. Writing that aspect of the story challenged me to focus relationally on women in tough situations, to not re-exploit or sensationalize their stories, but to focus on them as other members of this sisterhood of women. I was challenged to tell their story in a hope-filled, real way. I wanted to be both authentic and sensitive in telling their story. I hope this story honors them!
Wow! Thank you so much for joining me today, Rachel, and for sharing about Becoming the Talbot Sisters.