Meeting a Hero

I wish I hadn’t been such a big fan.

It’s awful, but after you open with, “oh my god, you are the reason I thought I could do it. You’re my inspiration,” it’s hard to carry the conversation in a normal way.

Rachel Caine (real name Roxanne Conrad) was my writing hero.

Was. What a horrible word.

She died yesterday, after a long and yet not-long-enough illness. Sarcoma is one of the cruelest of cancers. She was so brave.

I liked Rachel’s Weather Warden books the most. They’re this great midpoint between magic and science. They are inspiring, the heroine kicks ass, they are sexy. They are wholly original, and a lot of fun. There’s even a spinoff series, and I am still thirsty for more.

So I loved the books. But it wasn’t the books that made Rachel my inspiration (well, it was, but also…). It was her personal story. She didn’t live somewhere typical, like New York or London or California. She lived in Texas, not far from me. And she hadn’t always been a writer. And she persevered through so much.

That was what made me think I could do it. She was a real person, not some literary superstar, and that brought my dreams down within reach. If she could be a real person AND be a writer, maybe I could, too.

When I was having a hard time, my husband-to-be reached out to Rachel/Roxanne, asking her for a letter. Bless her heart, she actually wrote one, to me, a nobody nothing writer. I kept that letter. I should get it framed. But then how would I hold it? It’s wrinkled from being folded and read so many times. There may be tear stains.

And then I met her.

I really tried to keep it cool, but she’s my real-world idol. I asked a few questions about her books, got her to sign a copy. I looked up when she was speaking and attended her talk, even though I had no idea what the story was about because it was from another series I hadn’t read yet. I texted my husband with lots of exclamation points.

I saw her multiple times, after that first one. I followed her on Twitter, and tried to not be weird about it. She was the speaker of honor at the writer’s convention, and her story was both inspiring and so frustrating.

She was always so nice. She was always writing. Even just on breaks at the con, when I was hiding by the snack food and trying to avoid making even more small talk, I would see her typing away at her laptop in a corner.

I wish I hadn’t been such a fan so that I could have more gracefully become a friend. I wish I had had more time. I had planned to get a decent enough footing with my own books that I wouldn’t feel like a gawping novice next to her anymore. That day probably wouldn’t ever have come, but I’m sad it’s been taken from me.

I’ll miss you, Rachel Caine. God bless you, Roxanne Conrad. You are, and always will be, and inspiration.

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