Exploring underwater archaeology with Rachel Grant

A huge welcome today to the first of my crime/thriller author guests on the blog: archaeologist and bestselling romantic suspense author, Rachel Grant.

Rachel’s latest book, Cold Evidence, was released last week, garnering some fantastic reviews, and I felt it was time to find out more about this real-life… no, I’m not going to say Indiana Jones. Here’s why.


The only thing Navy underwater archaeologist Undine Gray fears more than facing former SEAL Luke Sevick is never scuba diving again. But when a dive on a Cold War-era US Navy submarine ends with an accidental explosion, she’s terrified of going into the deep, forcing her to beg the most experienced diver she knows to take her back to the bottom of the cold Salish Sea

Hi, Rachel. Could you let us have a bit of an introduction about yourself?

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Rachel!

The other day I was watching the TV show Bob’s Burgers in which a character said about Indiana Jones: “That movie is to archaeology what Pretty Woman is to prostitution.”

Brilliant and hilariously true. I tweeted it almost immediately.

You see, both my husband and I are archaeologists, and we hear references to Indiana Jones a lot. Now, I love the Indiana Jones movies (well, the first and third ones, anyway), but sadly, what you see Indy doing in the movie isn’t archaeology.


Rest assured, none of my heroines will ever waltz into a tomb to steal golden idol without taking notes or having a proper permit

What attracted you to writing in the crime/thriller genre in the first place? Was there a particular author that inspired you to do so?

I always knew I wanted to write some sort of mystery or suspense, it was one of those givens I never questioned. My first book (Grave Danger) was a romantic mystery. I loved writing it (and promise I’ll write the sequel someday!), but when I started my second book (Concrete Evidence) I found I wanted to write the higher stakes found in thrillers, and so I added a political element and from there I was hooked.

What inspired the idea behind your latest novel?

In the late nineties, my husband worked for the Underwater Archaeology Branch at Naval History and Heritage Command (where Undine, the heroine of Cold Evidence, works). I’ve always wanted to write a book about the types of projects they do, and a story that centers around the excavation of a US submarine that sank during the Cold War was the perfect fit for my series that explores the intersection of archaeology, politics, and war.

I’ll admit it, the idea of scuba diving terrifies me so I’ll be reading your latest book Cold Evidence while chewing my nails – what research did you have to undertake for this thriller?

Research was much easier for this book than for some of my others. I’ve never scuba dived, but fortunately, I’m married to an underwater archaeologist who also happens to know a lot about Navy vessels. He’s a good man to keep around. Online, I downloaded the Navy dive manual and spent a good deal of time researching NOAA and Coast Guard boats and protocols.

© Rachel Grant

This book was set in my home state (only my second book to be set here), so I was able to spend two weekends in Neah Bay, Washington, where most of the action takes place. I also took the ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC, because I set a scene on the ferry.

Oh! I almost forgot, last summer I got to walk through an Osprey when they had tours of Navy vessels during SeaFair here in Seattle. I didn’t know at the time I’d be using an Osprey in the book, but it ended up being perfect for the scene.

Do you outline/plot, or do you prefer to start at the beginning and see where the story takes you? Why do you prefer this method of writing?

I plotted this book in 2012 with a plotting group, and had the opening scene in my head since that time. I didn’t refer to those old plotting notes, however, and just relied on memory for the key points. I knew the story would change once I started writing anyway. I usually only know the first turning points and let the story take over. I always know the villain (if the villain is hidden), but the twists usually come to me in the writing.

Sometimes I wish I were a better plotter; it seems like it might make the process easier, but there is a certain excitement to surprising myself with what happens next that I don’t appear to be ready to give up.

What does your writing space look like?  Do you have any pre-writing rituals to get you “in the zone”?

I move around my house a lot. I have an office, but only write in there about 25% of the time. Otherwise I go where the mojo is, the couch, the bed, or the standing desk.

One rule that helped a lot with this book was turning off the Wi-Fi on my laptop when I went to bed at night. That way the emails wouldn’t even load when I started up in the morning. The rule is I can’t turn Wi-Fi on until I have 1500 words. That way I get in the zone before email and the Internet distract me.

Are you ever tempted to write in another genre or sub-genre, and if so, what would it be?

I’ve written one paranormal romantic suspense novella. I’d like to write the sequel someday!

We all occasionally hit a brick wall with our creative endeavours – what do you do to overcome any stumbling blocks?

I often go for a walk with my husband around the track near our house in the evenings. We go over the plot point that isn’t working. Often I just need him to ask probing questions to figure out how to fix it.

When he’s not available, I pace a lot and talk to myself or IM with several author friends. IM is great for getting quick feedback.

How do you structure a typical day to ensure you avoid distractions and hit your word count targets?

No Wi-Fi before I have 1500 words. After that, my head is in the story, and I’m energized to write. I can easily slip back in after checking email or taking a promo/social media break. It’s much harder to get started writing when the day starts with email and promo chores.

Finally, where can we buy your books?

A huge thanks again to Rachel Grant for the interview. To find out more about Rachel, take a look at her website and social media pages below:


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