Episode 140 – Rachael Herron on Writing Your Memoir

In this episode Mark interviews Rachael Herron about her writing, her multiple pseudonyms, being a hybrid author, and writing memoirs.

Prior to the interview, Mark shares some comments from recent episodes and via Twitter, some information about an offer the Clark Chamberlain has for his Story Stuck Consultation, and a personal update.

He also thanks new patron Johanna Rothman as well as all existing patrons for the podcast, and lets his patrons know that they were automatically entered in a chance to win a story stuck consultation from Clark.

In their conversation, Mark and Rachael discuss:

  • The thought that being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life
  • Rachael’s thriller (Hush Little Baby) that she just turned into her editor at Penguin Random House and which comes out in May 2021
  • Getting over the “who cares” issues she was having working on this novel in the middle of a global pandemic and a world-wide drive to end systemic racism by recognizing that it’s okay to delve deep into a focused project like this
  • How willpower can be a finite, exhaustible resource
  • How a good writer can take people out of their normal world and the feeling when a reader reaches out to let Rachael know that her book has moved them or helped them
  • The feeling when you’re reading a book that the person who wrote it “just gets you”
  • The value of feeling seen and heard, of community, and of responding to reader emails
  • Being involved in blogging from the early days, and the connections that can come out of that
  • The fact that, despite appearing to share everything socially and on blogs, podcasts, etc, the content is actually curated – but that it’s still authentic
  • Rachael’s book “Fast Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours”
  • The importance of recognizing that there are plenty of people who want to write a memoir but who don’t want to writers
  • How there are so many genres within memoir
  • One of the principal tenants of a good memoir – in that you treat yourself more critically than anyone else, and that you give and show grace to anyone who might have done you wrong
  • How when you write about the most uncomfortable things how people really lean in to listen
  • How Rachael’s book “Letters to New Authors” is based on a series of emails she created to encourage other writers
  • Being a fully hybrid author, and the mental shift involved when Rachael moves between traditional and indie publishing
  • How not having control of little things can drive Rachael crazy with some of her books
  • How Rachael’s books, both, traditionally published and indie published, tend to sell better in eBook format
  • The advice that Rachael would give to her younger self
  • Ira Glass’s theory of “the gap”
  • And so much more . . .

After the interview Mark reflects on writing about uncomfortable things.

Links of Interest:

Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thrillers (under R.H. Herron), mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing.

She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, Oakland, and she teaches writing extension workshops at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. She is a proud member of the NaNoWriMo Writer’s Board and is the host and co-host of two awesome podcasts for writers.

The introductory, end, and bumper music for this podcast (“Laser Groove”) was composed and produced by Kevin MacLeod of and is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

9 thoughts on “Episode 140 – Rachael Herron on Writing Your Memoir”

  1. Great podcast as usual, Mark! Both Rachael and you provided useful advice and thought-provoking reflections. I watched your short video with the three Marks, and now I’m thirsty for a beer.

  2. I have been meaning to leave a comment as I love your podcasts. I met you in Oregan about three years ago and was so intimidated to meet you, but you were so friendly and generous to someone new to the business – thank you. Rachael was a great guest as you said she would be. I went straight to her website and signed up for her newsletter and am considering some of her online classes. Continue on and know that you are appreciated. Claire

    1. Thanks, Claire. It was great to meet you (seems like forever ago) – delighted to hear that you enjoy the podcast – thanks for taking the time to let me know, and thrilled that you’ve discovered the awesomeness of Rachael.

  3. Great episode! Rachel is such a generous teacher.

    Mark, something you mentioned in passing was your Mastermind Group. I read J. Thorn’s new book on masterminds recently (Secret Powers of the Author Mastermind: How to Transform from Struggling Writer to Career Author) but it’s mostly aimed at new writers joining a group led by a more experienced writer. It’s a book that would have been really beneficial to me when I was first starting out, but I’m in a different place in my career now.

    It would be great to hear about your experience with mastermind groups, especially if they’ve been a group of peers. How did you find your group and what has made it useful to you? Any insight there would be really valuable.

    Thanks again for everything you do!

    1. Brilliant idea, James – glad you asked.

      I’ve only been in a couple of masterminds, maybe three, or maybe even four, depending on how you define them. But how they are defined and how they operate are crucial. Makes me think I should dedicate an episode to talking about them. How I’ve gotten into some of them, how they are formed, how they work (or perhaps how they sometimes don’t work), etc.

  4. Hi Mark,
    I’m a little behind listening to podcasts. I enjoy your podcasts and will try to do better commenting on them. I usually listen while taking my morning walk. I considered writing down what I’m thinking while listening, but I’d probably walk into a tree. Obviously I could stop walking, but then I’d want to keep writing. It’s a dilemma.

    You and Rachael had a good dialogue with each other. I like that you add other creative areas, such as music, into your talks. I particularly like your comments at the end of this podcast.

    1. I messed up. I meant my comment above for Ashley Joanisse podcast interview. Both of you had a good dialogue. Now I have listened to Rachael and she has some good points about memoirs. I had been hesitant about putting anything of mine out there, but maybe I will. Also, I liked your thoughts about not telling everything in your podcast. Some things being off limits. Of course, that only makes me wonder what they are. By the way, when is Ashley going to put out more songs?

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