It’s cold and snowy here, but it’s the heart of summer down under, where today’s blog guest lives! I’m super-excited to welcome David Rawlings to the blog today, whose debut novel, The Baggage Handler, is already generating a lot of buzz ahead of its March 5 release! Here’s the blurb:
A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.
A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister's house before her niece’s wedding.
And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.
When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.
In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.
Doesn’t that sound amazing? And I haven’t told you the best news yet: One of you lucky commenters will win a copy of your very own! Details at the end of the post, as always.
Welcome, David! We’re so glad to have you today!
What was your inspiration for The Baggage Handler? What do you hope readers take away from it?
I’m the type of person who wants to talk about the deeper things in life rather than just small talk, so issues like the concept of dealing with baggage have always been a part of conversations I have. I guess it was just there not too far under the surface.
The Baggage Handler itself was borne out of rejection. My first manuscript, about reality TV and churches, finaled in a range of fiction awards but I couldn’t get industry interested in it. Someone suggested for my next novel maybe I should focus on “life lesson” stories. I read a couple of stories like that, then at 9pm one night I was reading when The Baggage Handler arrived. It pretty much downloaded into my head. When I next checked the clock it was 1am, and I had the story, the characters, plot, twists, structure - almost everything. That hasn’t happened before or since with books 2 and 3, but I’m glad it did with The Baggage Handler.
How has God changed you during your writing journey?
Fiction writing was always something I was going to do … one day. All these ideas for novels came to me, which I politely filed away for that mythical day in the future when all the financial ducks were lined up. That would allow me to comfortably approach the task of writing without the expectation of getting paid. When I had enough money or enough clients behind me so I could safely take the plunge into what is a vocation not flushed with cash, I would take my ideas out of my folder, and write fiction. (I currently have 17 storyboards sitting there waiting to be fleshed out into living breathing stories).
Then God challenged me. He reminded me that His gift of notes with story ideas and novels on them wasn’t just it. He hadn’t just given me stories to tell, He had also given me the ability to tell it and He would provide the room in which to tell it. He took my writing dream, flipped it upside down and then stood back and said two words to me.
I would have loved to have heard: “Publishing House.” Now that I could live with. I wanted to hear: “Great Story.” Now that would be the highest endorsement of my writing. A part of me wanted those two words to be “Best Seller”.
The two words I heard were these. “Trust Me.” Two words no control freak wants to hear. So it is taking me a while, but I am getting there.
As you look back on your journey to publication, how did God open those doors for you? What is one piece of advice you might give to your younger Writer Self?
God has opened more doors on my writing journey than your average limousine driver. I’ve been to the States twice – both times to Nashville – and God provided for me to be there, in the right place at the right time.
In 2016, my first manuscript was a finalist in the ACFW Genesis Awards and I had neither the time nor the money to get there. (You won’t get much change out of $5,000 to get there from South Australia). That money arrived from two completely unexpected sources, down to the last cent. I had corporate bookings that were immovable – except the client was able to move them because someone hadn’t promoted them for some (still) unknown reason. Then, at that ACFW Conference, I connected with James L Rubart, my mentor, who played such a key role in connecting me with Steve Laube, my agent. And although my first manuscript didn’t get anywhere, the seeds of The Baggage Handler were sown.
In 2018, it happened again. I decided to come across to the ACFW Conference because HarperCollins Christian Publishing was five minutes away from the Conference venue, so I would get to meet my editorial team, marketing team and sales team. The money became available, again. The time freed up, again. And that Conference led to so many opportunities in meeting with other authors, finding publicity opportunities and has laid the foundation for a successful start for The Baggage Handler.
Let me say this: without God opening these doors, I probably would still be standing outside. That would be the advice I would give to my younger self. You can’t do this alone, get on board with that concept quicker. So stop leaning on the door. Step back. And when it opens, step through with confidence that Someone else has it under control.
You are one of a very spirited and delightful contingent of Aussie authors in ACFW. What, if any, challenges does having your agent, publisher, etc. based in the US present to you as an author?
Why thank you. Aussies are naturally spirited and delightful - it’s in our DNA.
My major challenge has been the distance. I’m 8000 miles away from my primary marketplace, my publisher and my agent. This means I’ve had to balance timezones and build extra time into my schedule because emails tend to have a bit of a lag as they arrive overnight. It’s like if email has gone old school and requires a postage stamp. It also needs a bit more logistical planning for media interviews as no-one wants to do a radio interview at 2:00 a.m. No-one.
The other challenge I’ve had – which I’ve actually found fun – is learning to write for an American audience. It’s more than typing with an American accent, I’ve had to relearn US grammar and spelling after 25 years as a professional writer here in Australia. (Do you know how I know how I’m bilingual? Read that last paragraph. We don’t use miles in Australia and we don’t write the time like that either. See? Bilingual.)
What does your writing routine look like, if you have one? What obstacles or challenges do you face in making time to write?
I’m really focused with my own business, so I tend to use blocks of time really well. I write on the train, or while waiting for the kids’ music and theatre rehearsals, or between client projects. The other thing I do that really helps is I dictate a lot. I’ll record whole chapters onto my iPhone, and then transcribe them into my story. Because I edit as I listen back, I don’t write first drafts. It’s almost first-and-a-half drafts. And I set hard deadlines for word counts.
Because of the nature of running my own business, I guess I’ve honed my project juggling skills. Right now I’m marketing The Baggage Handler pre-launch, I’m editing The Camera Never Lies (which is due for release in December) and also writing Book 3 which will come out in 2020.
The challenges are always balancing those activities with the priorities of the real world.
If you could have coffee/tea/gratuitous amounts of carbs with any author(s), living or dead, who would you choose? What would you talk about?
Robert Ludlum is my hero, so he’d be across the table for sure. I met him when I was a teenager, and his response to my shaky question in the Q&A inspires how I write today. I would ask Ludlum about his plotting, and how he manages to paint such vivid backgrounds using only words. And I’d show him my book.
I would also share a cup of tea with William Shakespeare. It would have to be tea, he is English after all. We would talk about his mastery of language, and how he crafted some of the phrases we still use today. I am in awe of the craftsman who wielded words like an epee.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I have my own business as a copywriter, so when I want to earn money for my words, I turn to my clients. I have a teenage family (my wife isn’t, just to be clear), and we’re involved in College life and church life as well where I play bass. I love watching sport (okay, I’m a junkie) so that’s what I will often do to relax. And I also relax in the kitchen by cooking for everyone else. I’m a serial caterer.
I should probably have a rest at some point.
How can we pray for you?
For trust. In all stages of writing – from concept development through to marketing. These doors keep being opened in front of me, but my request isn’t that they keep opening. It’s that I trust in the outcome whether they open or not.
Thank you so much for sharing with us today, David! And now, for the Baggage Handler giveaway details! To enter, leave a comment on this post. We’ll randomly select a winner, and we’ll contact you with results next Thursday, February 28th!
David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase. Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication. Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face.