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For Self-Published Fantasy Month, we’re spotlighting books, authors, and exciting new releases. The Lightning Conjurer is a contemporary fantasy series with a focus on elemental magic, and the fourth (somewhat unexpected) installment is released today. We asked our contributor Constance Lopez to seek out the author, Rachel Rener, and have a word with her about her books, travels, and inspirations.

Hi! Tell us three things about you, for anyone who is not yet acquainted with your awesomeness. 

  • I used to have a motorcycle, which directly influenced my writing a female protagonist who rides a motorcycle, who then influenced my decision to get a motorcycle again because I was envious of her badass motorcycle scenes ????
  • I have a 13-year-old parrot named Terrance who sits on my shoulder muttering “head scratch?” at me all day long while I’m trying to write.
  • I drink the blood of capybaras to hone my writing skills. 
Say what?

(One of these things is a lie)

What is your FAVORITE part about being indie?

I had a traditional agent at one point tell me that she “loved” The Lightning Conjurer – I just needed to turn the series into a steam-fest like 50 Shades “because no one wants to read about 20-somethings unless there’s bodice-ripping.”

Naturally, I said goodbye to said agent and then proceeded to write whatever the hell I wanted. Indie publishing gives me the liberty to write the best quality stories for my readers while taking the biggest possible risks, because there’s no one around to tell me that “cannibalistic mermaids aren’t the trend anymore” or “glittering, pouty-lipped zombies will yield us the most sales.”

The Lightning Conjurer is a 4-book series following Aspen, a young woman who wakes up with no memories in a cabin in Colorado, who develops elemental magic to control all five elements. Why did you decide to make lightning a separate thing from fire?

Electricity is everywhere, even in the human body. Our cells are specialized to conduct electrical currents. Tiny charges inside human cells spur the development of an embryo. At rest, the human body can produce around 100 watts of power on average – enough electricity to power a lightbulb! Electricity runs our society, our brains, our hearts, our entire bodies! To me, you can’t have a book about elemental magic without it.

What was your first inspiration for Aspen–both her personality, as well as her being the Pentamancer(master of all five elements)?

In the beginning, I had no idea what the hell I was writing. I’d just quit my heart-palpitating, 60-hour-a-week job. In the interim, my husband hid my resumé and pushed my butt into a chair. “Write,” he said. I said, “But—” He said, “Write!” And so, the story of a young woman with heterochromatic eyes and a forgotten past was born. That’s all I envisioned to start, but by the end of the week I had written 10,000 words as my feverish fingers took on a story of their own.

I love how your stories span the globe, and each place we visit(not limited to… Istanbul, Japan, multiple states in the USA) feels so real. How much is from your own travel experience, and how much is from research?

Travel is paramount to my existence on this little blue marble. I’ve been to 40 countries and plan to visit at least 60 more. So all of the places I’ve written about are actual places I’ve been to. Research can provide you with the knowledge of a city – but experience can give you insight into its soul. That’s what makes a place leap from the page, filling the reader with the sights of a bustling bazaar, the smell of steaming apple tea and cigarettes, and the sound of the call to prayer interspersing with the screams of seagulls.

You published books 1-3 fairly close together(from Sep 2018 to Sep 2019), whereas the last book, The Reckoning, is only coming out now, two years later. Were you always planning on writing a fourth book to the Lightning Conjurer series? It’s such a perfect ending, but I never knew I needed it until I read it. What made you decide to add another installment?

First of all, thank you

To answer your question, I had only ever “planned” for TC to be a trilogy. I put that in air quotes because my sub-conscious brain tends to make plans without consulting my prefrontal lobe in advance. So, I finished the series – conquered my fear of trilogies (since the 3rd book in a series always tends to be disappointing), put a neat little bow on top, and bid farewell to Aspen and her found family. But I never stopped missing her over the years. And wondering: what happened to the Asterian Order? Did Barish’s vision truly come to pass? What was Ori’s experience after joining the new parliament? One gray, snowy, pandemic morning, I sat down without telling anyone what I was doing and I began to write Aspen’s story through Aiden’s eyes. But then Eileen said, “No way, man. I’ve got my story to tell as well. And Ori said, “Yeah, move over – I’ve got things to say, too!” 

The most surprising character POV was the one who emerged in Chapter 13. That one both shocked and delighted me the most.

What sets Lightning Conjurer apart from the average Urban Fantasy series?

I think TLC sets itself apart with science-based magic that feels real, functioning/loving romantic relationships with minimal melodrama (save for Ori – he’s a huge troublemaker), and a protagonist who has the abilities, but not so much the desire, to be the hero. Aspen doesn’t leap into her “Chosen One” role – she trudges. And even in the final installment, she’s not exactly suiting up in lightning-patterned latex and rushing out to save the day. She’d much rather have a quiet life with her family close by. Because in The Lightning Conjurer series, destiny is a matter of choice – one that comes with both surrender and sacrifice. 

Where are you going next? Will you revisit other characters you’ve written before(such as Lilah from your magical realism, Girl Who Talks to Ashes), or will you be diving into something entirely new?

I’m considering another installment in The Girl Who Talks to Ashes – one that explores Lilah’s biological father and his intertwining role in her newfound Time-Bending Detective adventures. That said, I may need to take a beat to explore an irreverent, humorous story first. And I do have one that’s stubbornly tugging at my brain. We’ll see where my fingers decide to go.

Have you ever considered writing anything besides contemporary fantasy/magical realism? I know you have at least one short story that is secondary world fantasy. 

My happy place is realistic magic in modern times – but there are definitely plans to create a mini series around a certain cranky, retired dragon!

Tell me about the update to the cover for Girl Who Talks to Ashes. The new one is SWEET!

Thank you so much!! I really liked the old cover, but it didn’t tell unsuspecting readers anything about the mish-mosh of genres and themes waiting to be found inside: coming of age, mystery, multiple converging timelines, romance, found family, and, yes, some mildly horrifying scenes that sent me skittering around the house to turn on all the lights. 

This new cover is so lovely and detailed, and really gives a glimpse into the strange time-bending seizures that Lilah Quinn must learn to control.

And a few quick questions:

What’s your favorite…

…book, in recent times?

Dragon Mage by ML Spencer made me a blubbering mess of ALL the feels.

…game, in recent times?

Zelda: Breath of the Wild pushed my book release out an entire month because it consumed my very soul.

…writing advice?

Write drunk, edit sober. (I don’t presently employ this, but the first time I experience writer’s block you’d better believe I will!)

…advice for someone who wants to publish their own book?

Hire that professional editor, cough up the money for the beautiful cover, and start planning your sequel! The best way to sell more books is to write the next one.

…way to clear your mind when everything gets a bit much?

Noise cancelling headphones and Starset blasting on repeat.

And finally, do you have any last words?  

Yes: “I left a million dollars under the—”

Books by Rachel Rener

Lightning Conjurer series:


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