Young author's novel began during internship

January 19, 2013
  • Rachel Stark of Shepherdstown, W.Va., wrote a psychological suspense novel, "A Veil of Shattered Dreams." She says the book is suitable for adults and mature young adults.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Name: Rachel Stark

Age: 20

City in which you reside: Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Day job: Communications student at Shepherd University

Book title: "A Veil of Shattered Dreams"

Genre: Young Adult/Psychological suspense

Synopsis of book: "A Veil of Shattered Dreams" is the story of a teenage girl, Katerina, struggling to piece together lost fragments of truth — the reality of the dark past that she has forced herself to forget.

Publisher: Cressen Books LLC

Price: $9.99

In your bio in the book, you say you have always loved the written word. Did someone — Mom, Dad, grandparents — influence you in reading or writing?

Actually, I would have to say all of them. Both of my parents and my grandparents have always influenced my love of reading and writing. I remember that my grandma used to take me to the library and read to me as a young child. My parents, also, helping me with my writing as I grew up, always giving me advice and feedback on story ideas. You could definitely say it runs on both sides of the family.

What inspired these story ideas? Parents abandoning their children. A young woman bouncing between two worlds. A ghostly woman.

 It actually started out as a story idea I had about a young woman meeting someone in her dreams, but then as I developed it more, it became more psychological, and definitely more complex.

Some experts advise writers to write about what they know, and the book's protagonist goes through a mental breakdown of some sort, so, um, is the story a little autobiographical?

Not at all! It was definitely just a creative means to an end. When you think about how you want to get from Point A to Point B, you start developing the character and their motives and thought processes. And for me, it was as my editors told me, that the characters started writing themselves.

I am thankful that I never had to go through what my character did, but I absolutely had to do my research.

I enjoy reading psychological novels and watching films in the genre, so that certainly influenced the book's style. It was also important to me to make my main character as authentic as possible, so I had to dig a little bit into the dark side of myself.

What was your process of writing like? Did you write it all in one long weekend or did you work on it for a year?

The writing process was long, but necessary. It was about six months total. With a plot this intensive and so intricately woven, it took months of writing and planning to execute the ideas in the way I wanted.

The book's writing mechanics are pretty solid. Are you an English major? Who edited your manuscript?

I'm an English minor, but I can't take most of the credit. I have a superb team of editors (who are also my publishers) who really know their stuff. They've got thorough methods for editing that really make a novel great. I'm blessed to have them.

One of interesting things is that the novel was edited on a chapter-by-chapter basis, rather than the manuscript as a whole. I think this made a huge difference on the mechanics. When the story is edited in chunks, I think it's easier to catch the tiny grammatical errors that might be missed.

What sort of reader is this book for?

The content can be intense at times, so I recommend it for mature young adult audiences and adults.

This is a story for readers who want a challenging, engaging read. Unlike most books, the reader is not an observer, but a participant in the novel experience. This isn't something that you read once and put on the shelf. I want you to flip back through the pages, and discover the layering that really gives the story its depth.

One of the plotlines has the protagonist's father abandon her. As a dad, it was tough to read. What inspired that idea?

The situation was very emotional, but the abandonment idea came from within the character's own mind. Her father was a very important figure in her life and a memory that she clung to as she receded into her own mind. The main character, Katerina, feels very lonely and scared in rehab, and her mind translated that into being abandoned. It's a complex idea, but weaves in well with the character's mental state. As you come to find out, the father's image is not what it appears to be at first.

What theme were you exploring with the book? What do you hope readers come away with after reading the book?

There is an element of escapism and redemption in the novel. But as the main character comes to realize, it is necessary to be honest and forgiving with yourself in order to start dealing with whatever hurts the most. The truth is not always beautiful or happy, but it is real.

I hope people come away feeling that it is OK to let go and start over, even when life is at its most painful, because that's when the healing process can begin.

The action is pretty complicated, with two parallel plots and flashbacks on top of that, and some of it clearly contradictory. How did you plan it out?

It wasn't easy, but neither is exploring the depths of the human psyche. I had a timeline, numerous outlines and so many notes to keep me focused, though I admit that it was easy to get lost in Katerina's thoughts.

To make the story as intimate as possible, you have to delve into the human thought process, which is a web of memories, emotions, and, at times, chaos. There are errant and contradictory thoughts in the human mind. I started out with the idea that this was going to be a story between a dream world and reality, but that turned out to only be the surface story. When a character is presented in a book in first person, such as Katerina is, the author must develop mental and emotional aspects alongside the plot.

Mentally and physically, writing the separate contents between real world, dream world, and the character's own subconscious helped me plan where to place each layer. Like a novel-cake.

Did you learn anything about yourself while writing this book?

I learned that I should always write for myself first, to write novels that I would want to read, regardless of whether it is the kind of work that people expect me to write. I want to write about the magnitude of the human experience no matter how uncomfortable it is, which is a little unpopular sometimes.

Did you secure an agent to help with publishing the book?

No, I did not have an agent.

How did you find a publisher?

My novel started out as a product of my college internship that I arranged with the publishing company Cressen Books LLC out of Gerrardstown, W.Va. As part of my internship, they proposed that I write a working manuscript, so I could experience what authors experience in the editing process. After my internship was over, they loved the story and asked me to officially sign on as an author with their company.

Did you develop the visual design or did the publisher work with you?

The cover was a collaborative effort by two other Shepherd students, Danielle Gesford and Caity See. Danielle is from Hagerstown.

Are you working on another book project?

Not at the moment. I have some ideas, but right now I'm focusing on promoting "A Veil of Shattered Dreams" and also devoting most of my time to my schoolwork.

Is your book available in bookstores in our area? Where? If not, how can a reader buy a copy of the book?

The book is available online as an e-book through Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. Paperbacks can be ordered online through and also on It is not yet available in local bookstores.

— Chris Copley, Lifestyle assistant editor

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