MM: Rachel Hunter is a two-time award winning poet, she has an upcoming fantasy novel and, at nineteen, is the youngest author in this series. Her story Perfect Nothing is a moving and highly personal account of her own near-death experience. What brought you to share such an intimate experience?
RH: Honestly, if I had been asked a year ago, I would never have written this story - nor anything that portrayed my illness and the internal confliction I suffered - in such a way. It is highly personal and difficult - I think - for someone who has not suffered from an eating disorder to fully understand. But my desire to heal others gave me the inspiration to finally pour my emotions into words. This is the first time my story has gone out publicly. Most deeply of all, I wish for others to be rid of the heinous clutches of their eating disorder - or any affliction, for that matter - and for those who know of a loved one who suffers to be able to understand the extent to which the individual is fearful, lonely, and most likely caught between a world of internal chaos. It is as equally difficult for an observer to go through this this as the actual figure with the illness. I think it is therefore important for the stress of both parties to be recognized, as well as the horrifying truth that no one can force another to change; it must come from within. Perhaps sharing my experience will help others to find the light in life - to find something by which they may grasp and pull from despair. That, above all, is my inspiration
MM: Also, the fact that you are now a medical student is a testimonial to your desire to heal, not only yourself, but others. I imagine writing is a cathartic way of dealing with your experience. How long have you been writing?
RH: I have been writing since I was just a girl - in fact, even before I could fully read or spell words. Ever since I was a child, I would create stories in my head, relay them aloud for my parents, and have them spell each word as I wrote them down in tiny paper books. I was quite handy with a stapler! Yes - even at a young age, I aspired to build a library filled with volumes of my own.
MM: My own daughters were the same way. We had to hide the stapler and tape. To think those tools would be so crucial to the creative process! I can see by your vocabulary that you have evolved since those days. What are some of your other writing habits or eccentricities?
RH: I tend to be quite compulsive in my writing. That is, when I begin something, I prefer to sit down and work on it until it is complete. Therefore, when I am in the heat of writing, I will most likely be locked away for hours at a time in my room - for however long it takes me to finish. Sometimes, I almost forget what the sun looks like. *chuckles* But another habit I frequent is the way in which I actually begin to write, for very seldom do I first sit down to scratch up a ‘blueprint’ of what to actually write. No - I let the creativity flow as it comes. In fact, when I started writing Perfect Nothing, I knew it was going to be about my eating disorder, but I had no clue as to what aspects I would bring up or what style of writing I would use to express my inner thoughts. I prefer to write on whim. It’s enchanting, really.
MM: There are definitely different schools of thought on the whole process. For example, I typically do need that “blueprint”, but I’m always open to serendipity. Beyond your writing habits, do you want to share anything about your faith that is not already in your story?
RH: As my short story clearly alludes, I take strong hold in Voltaire’s saying, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” As a psychology/pre-med major, I find quite a fascination with the psychological necessity it seems religion holds for mankind. If one looks throughout history, he will discover that religion has always been with us - though in varying forms. Therefore, I take on a more ‘coexistant’ faith, in which I believe truth can be found in any religious belief. A beautiful aspect of religion is that it does not need to be necessarily true (I.e. the existence of a god) for individuals to feel a divine connection or embrace life in a devoted, systematic way. Rather, it is the conviction and belief in a particular substance or ‘divine’ figure that draws this. It is, after all, psychological. Yet that belief is enough, it seems.
MM: Those are some deep concepts for a young person. You must be well read, which will surely be a benefit to your writing future. From all of those books, who are your writing influences?
RH: Aha! A grand question. I will, inevitably, be unable to list every name of every figure who has held some sort of influence over me. As I have grown and matured in my reading and writing, I have found more than one individual in each genre who has inspired me in some way: whether to think differently about a subject or pique my interest in a particular topic. However, I must relent to name a few: Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Ken Follett, Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Kurt Vonnegut.
MM: So, at heart, you are a romantic. You clearly love a good fairytale. I can definitely see that influence in Perfect Nothing, especially the way you treat the doctors. Because this series is about writing and spirituality, this interview would not be complete without asking who are your spiritual influences?
RH: My father, for keeping an open mind and embracing all peoples; and society, for showing me who I do not want to become.
MM: Your father plays a significant role in Perfect Nothing. Obvioulsy, he is a central figure in your life. As a father, I read your story feeling the emotions he might have felt. While the illness happened to you, I can see how it affected him. You mentioned earlier that these types of illnesses affect everyone it touches. I hope your writing has helped him cope as well. Now, since you are being so personal, do you want to tell us anything that is not in your author bio?
RH: Oh, goodness… Where to begin? I am highly organized, feel like I belong in an earlier century, appreciate nature for its serenity and exquisite beauty, find a fascination with the human brain, and am intrigued with endangered creatures called slow lorises. Also, I must admit a weakness: nostalgia. Yes; I’m afraid that anything that reminds me of the 1990s (the decade in which I was birthed) brings about a solemn, even awed, emotion. Let’s not even start on old photos…
MM: One, what are slow lorises? I had to look that up. Apparently, it is a type of rare, and small, primate. I also have to say I love that you consider the 90’s nostalgic! I graduated from high school before you were born, so please don’t make me feel old. Now, before my nurse says “lights out”, can you tell us what other projects you are involved in at present?
RH: Well, it is my first year attending the University of Oklahoma, and my Anthropology professor has personally requested that I become her research assistant and transcriber, and the wife of my Zoology professor, who is actually the author of my college Biology textbook, has asked that I aid her, and thus become a contractor for McGraw-Hill, in the creation of her new textbook. Needless to say, it has been quite a year already, and the second semester has not yet begun! Oh, I cannot forget to include my recent accomplishment: finishing my 8,000-piece puzzle of the School of Athens, which is roughly 4’x6’ in dimension. Let’s just say that it is nearly taller than myself!
MM: Don’t forget, you also have a soon-to-be published novel. Readers can get your links at the end of this interview, but, as you would expect, it is YA Fantasy. Not that I need an excuse, but I do like to get a little silly sometimes, so I will end with two oddball questions. First, if you could ask your supreme being one question, what would you ask?
RH: Well, seeing as I believe we - as in, all of humanity - are divine, I would most likely ask something along the lines of: Why? Why the need for something beyond yourself to find peace in this world? Why a ‘higher’ being? Cannot man be divine?
MM: Most paradoxical. It is something for which we can all strive. Lastly, if you were a flavor of ice cream, what would it be?
RH: Vanilla - that way, the possibilities of the devourer are endless. I may be coated with sprinkles, I may be doused in chocolate… Who knows the possibilities! If I were, say, Rocky Road, then my fate would already be set. Vanilla is an open canvas.
MM: A blank canvas is an excellent description! We authors get to paint with words. Thankfully, at your age and with overcoming your illness, your canvas still has plenty of room for a great story. Thank you for participating in the One series and thank you for taking time for this interview.
RH: Thank you most cordially. Oh yes! Please visit my blog, where updates on my upcoming novel, Empyreal Fate, will be listed, as well as other shenanigans: http://www.rachel-m-hunter.blogspot.com. Also, feel free to check out my websites: http://www.rachel-m-hunter.yolasite.com and http://www.wix.com/rachel_hunter/author.
All of the stories of One are available on Amazon Kindle or BN Nook for ONLY 99 Cents each. Every participating author has agreed to donate some portion of their proceeds to charity.
You can get Perfect Nothing on Kindle here: http://tinyurl.com/8759eof