Rachel Hodges blends reality, imagination in her first novel, ‘Gingerly’

  • “Gingerly”


  • Tinky Weisblat

For the Recorder
Published: 3/13/2019 4:07:55 PM

Former Erving and Greenfield resident Rachel Hodges always loved reading and secretly wanted to write. Until about four years ago, however, she didn’t feel ready to become a novelist.

“I had read so many great books,” she said. “I pushed (writing) to the back burner for years. I was afraid I wouldn’t produce something good enough.”

For that reason, her newly released first novel, “Gingerly” (BookBaby, 346 pages, $14.99), began as a purely personal project.

“Just raising two kids, one of whom had special needs, I really needed a creative outlet,” she said, noting that she began the book when one of her children was diagnosed with autism. “It helped me process some of the feelings I had about that.”

As she shaped the novel, however, she felt more and more confident about the appeal of her story.

The heroine of “Gingerly,” Caitlyn McIntyre, is hired as a nanny to an adorable little boy named Aiden. Like the author’s son, Aiden is autistic. In fact, the author told me, the character is “nearly a carbon copy” of her child at the age of 4.

Caitlyn soon finds herself attracted to Aiden’s widowed father, Nick. Nick is rich, handsome and kind. She hesitates to become involved with him, though, as Nick has a reputation as a womanizer and Caitlyn still has disturbing memories of her abusive ex-husband.

Of course, the two finally get together — but they encounter a series of adventures and misunderstandings along the way.

According to Hodges, who now lives in Florida, the story nicely blends her own experience with her imagination. She and Caitlyn are quite different, she explained, although they both love to sew. Caitlyn has a small business making handbags while Hodges concentrates mostly on creating dresses.

Nevertheless, a couple of the book’s characters (not just little Aiden) are based on people she has known.

“The character of Nick is a lot like my husband,” she stated. “If I didn’t know what to make Nick say, I’d ask Josh. Although he doesn’t have millions and millions of dollars.”

In the novel, Caitlin takes in a foreign exchange student; that character, too, was based on a young woman who spent time with Hodges and her family. In one of the novel’s more humorous moments, the exchange student Skypes with her cats back home. Apparently, Hodges’ guest did the same.

“(The cats) would go up to the (computer) monitor, and they’d yowl at her, and they’d get excited,” Hodges recalled. “It was pretty adorable.”

Still, Hodges said she did have to overcome some difficulties in her writing process.

“I had to overcome my fear of talking about autism. Every time somebody writes about disabilities, it seems that somebody jumps on them,” she replied. “I just finally had to do it and hope that people would understand it. (Aiden) is a wonderful, beloved character, and his differences are who he is.”

She added that she also had some difficulty writing about the post-traumatic stress disorder Caitlyn experiences in the wake of her divorce. Hodges noted that she has received positive feedback from readers who have suffered from similar problems.

“They feel heard,” she explained.

Writing the book was mostly pleasurable, Hodges said. She relished the creative process, which included working with an editor who helped her shape the book.

She also enjoyed what she hopes her readers will enjoy: the fantasy life that Caitlyn ends up living with Nick.

“I wanted to write about something that was fun, something that I could daydream about,” she observed. So far, her daydreaming seems to be infectious: several retailers have already sold out of her book.

Rachel Hodges will talk about (and read from) “Gingerly” on Wednesday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Erving Public Library. Copies of the book will be available for sale that evening, and Hodges said she’ll be happy to sign them.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.

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