I got to know Rachel Hauck through social media after reading and loving her books – yes, I was one of those fan stalker types. She’s an amazing novelist who creates worlds you just don’t want to leave, whether in the sultry South of America or in Hessenberg, her fictional-but-real Kingdom. But her books aren’t mere escapism; they uplift and encourage with messages of hope based in her Christian faith. Rachel, as you’ll see in this engaging blog, has a huge heart, and I’m so thrilled she joins us today. (And if you’re not familiar with Cheetos – huge loss, in my view – they are a wonderful cheesy-but-crunchy snack food.)
Home is a precious word. It’s defined by so many things. The cliché, “Home is where your heart is,” rings true to me. And it’s a cliché because it’s true.
As a kid, my family moved around a few times but even when we were in a new place, we were home. Because my parents made home a place of peace and rest.
When we moved, Dad, Mom, my brothers and sister were with me. The same argument I had with my older brother in Kentucky was the same argument I had with him in Florida. Even those bumpy moments are part of constructing home in our hearts, right. They are intense at the time but later we laugh at them. Hopefully.
My parents were good at setting the tone of our home. I love lighting and my mom always had this balance of warm light. It was more than light, it was the emotion of the home.
Our home was welcoming. Never once did I dread going inside. I learned to be content in the place where I loved and was loved.
Off to college, I carried that sentiment with me. Living in a large sorority house part of the time, I found “home” with my friends, with my roommate, with the common bond of college sisterhood. We laughed. A lot. Laughter is a key component of “home” in my mind.
After college, I hit the road with my professional job. Home became a shared house in central Florida with a co-worker. But home also became the hotels I lived in 70 percent of the year.
I brought home with me in my heart. All the things I loved about “home” growing up and in college. Even ordering a pizza and watching a sitcom alone in my hotel room was “home” to me. Or sharing the evening with one of my co-workers.
Home also meant exploring my surroundings, discovering the community I was launched into for one, two or three weeks.
Upstate New York reminded me of my grandparent’s home in Ohio. A snowfall took me back to my childhood, to playing in the cold snow only to run home to a warm cozy place with soup on the stove.
Australia taught me people are the same all over the world. We want to raise our families in a good, safe place. Have a good job and good friends.
Venezuela allowed me to use all my years of high school and college Spanish! But in some places, it reminded me of south Florida where I’d lived in my early teens.
All the while, each place, each trip, each house I visited wrote the story of “home” on my heart.
One year my company sent me to Ireland two weeks before Thanksgiving. I was sure to be home in plenty of time to share the holiday with my family. As the weekend rolled around, my boss called to tell me I was not leaving and had to stay a few more days. Not the news I wanted to hear. I wanted to see my family, sure, but there might have been a guy I wanted to see more. (Wink!)
That evening, our Irish distributor, a kind, fatherly man, invited me to his home for Friday night fish and chips. Their home was cozy and welcoming — just like my parents home! — and we watched a movie and laughed, told stories. That night refreshed me for the for the days ahead and eased my disappointment of “life interrupted.” And, I still made it home in time for Thanksgiving. And yep, I saw my guy.
I married that guy a couple of years later and all those “home” moments helped me create my own atmosphere when we set up house together. I wanted a place people could come and just be. “Take your hat off and stay awhile.”
When my youngest brother married, we had the whole family at the house one afternoon and my young nephews were running around with Cheeto fingers. You know, orange and sticky from eating out of the Cheeto bag.
It was no skin off my nose because what’s the use in getting upset when anything they trashed could be cleaned? And why care more about my stuff than my nephews?
Later, my middle brother commented, “You didn’t get riled by them getting Cheetos crumbs all over the place. You just rolled with it. Not many people would do that.”
I want people to feel at home! Now, come on, I wouldn’t let the boys purposefully trash the place but they were just having fun, laughing, being… boys. At Aunt Rachel’s house. Do you know they make paint now that is easy to clean? I could clean Cheeto finger prints from the wall easily enough. But I could not change their memory of me if I’d yelled at them.
All of these moments and events go into the stories I write. My own growing up experiences with my parents and siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. My life as a sorority girl on a large university campus. My days living on the road in hotels and out of suitcases, making friends with those I met along the way.
When I sit down to create a world, like Brighton Kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg in the Royal Wedding Series, I remember Ireland, or Australia. Or the six hours I was in London on my way to Israel.
When I create characters, the memories of the people I’ve met over the last 30 years, begin to form faces and voices in my head. Just one thing, or one event remembered can help me define a character.
I think home is a slice of heaven on earth. The place where one can just “be.”
I know not every home is peaceful, safe or comfortable. We all have varied memories of our childhood homes. Or our married homes. My husband often comments he must have grown up in a different house than is sister. They have such different perspectives.
But our experiences, good or bad, can be stored safely away in the heart of Jesus who makes all things new. He is home to us all. Peace. Safely. Comfort.
That’s why I try to write a little bit of Jesus into my stories. Because no matter what worlds and characters I create, Jesus is the “home” in the midst of it all.
Rachel Hauck is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author. Her latest novel, The Wedding Chapel, was named to Booklist 2015 Top Ten Inspirational Novels.
A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in journalism, Rachel worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full-time in 2004. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker.
Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets, and writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.