River Ridge teenager publishes three books with more on the way

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Rachel Mergen, 17, holds the three fantasy books she’s self-published, including two full-length and one novella: “Cloaked,” “Enlightened” and “Blood of Tragedy” (out in July). She has many more in the works too. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

Not many of us can say we’ve written a novel, especially as teenagers. Yet, Rachel Mergen, 17, a junior at River Ridge High School, can. In fact, Rachel has composed and self-published, via CreateSpace, three fantasy titles, the first when she was 13 and the second two at 16 and 17. A fourth will come out in March 2016.

“When I was little, I didn’t enjoy writing or reading that much. But I started writing song lyrics when I was in seventh grade,” Rachel said. “The vampire movies, like ‘Twilight’ and ‘Vampire Academy,’ came out when I was younger and this (her books) just kind of happened around then.”

Additional inspirations for Rachel have come from the band Imagine Dragons’ lyrics, the classic title “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Amy Plum’s “Die for Me” series, which is based in Paris. “She’s one of my favorites. I’ve actually had conversations with her,” she noted.

While fantasy has been her main genre so far, she is intrigued by technology, as well as politics, and hopes to delve into those areas some day. Rachel’s mother and grandmother, who always wanted to be authors but never got the chance, do all of her editing.

Rachel’s first full-length book, “Cloaked,” is the original in The Chronicles of Elisabeth Foster series. It’s about 350 pages long and took her three years to get published. She started at age 13 but didn’t publish it until she was 16. The second full-length paperback in the Chronicles series, “Enlightened,” came out in March. It is about 425 pages and was written in nine months. The third book, a novella titled “Blood of Tragedy,” coming out in July 2015, is the first in its own series but based off a chapter in “Enlightened.” It also takes the viewpoint of one of the Chronicles’ main characters, Clarence Harrison, who Rachel said is a nice person who is based off her uncle.

There happens to be a number of characters in her books who are inspired by real-life people she knows, but Rachel isn’t ready to divulge who those individuals are just yet. “For now, they’re just characters in a small-town setting,” she said. “There’s a lot of underground meaning to my books.”

In March 2016, Rachel plans to publish her fourth book but third full-length one in the Chronicles series, “Innocence.” It will be around 500 pages. A fifth and final part of the series will come later.

Then, next summer, she wants to head in a more contemporary and emotive direction with her work. She’s already chosen a title for that fifth paperback, “Oblivion,” and knows the story line: “a girl who loses her brother to cancer; she has her whole future planned out but then, of course, it changes.” After that, she anticipates writing a trilogy.

The covers of each of her paperbacks are very personal. Her friend Maya Harvey was photographed in the Bloomington Village Park for the front of “Cloaked.” “Enlightened” featured a Prairie du Chien park and “Blood of Tragedy” has a scenic Colorado location she visited on its cover.

All of Rachel’s published works, in print and e-reader editions, can be purchased online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They are also available at the River Ridge High School library as well as the Bloomington and Lancaster public libraries. So far, she has sold about 100 books total to people she knows as well as online to those she’s never met in countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. She said she’s received few but good reviews thus far.

“I really like her books. You can hear her voice in them and, if you know her, that’s really neat to experience,” said her Modern Lit teacher, Wendy Scherer.

When asked to choose which of her books she loves the most, Rachel said, “Just like parents can’t choose a favorite child, that’s how I feel.” However, she admitted her first two are not necessarily as mature as she would have written them now, at age 17. “I enjoy putting together a wide variety though. It keeps it interesting,” she said.

As if being a full-time student and penning novels isn’t enough to keep Rachel busy, she also participates in FFA, Spanish club and NHS at school and works part-time at Subway in Prairie du Chien. She produces short stories with the characters from some of her books online, where she also blogs to keep her fans up to date with what’s coming up for her. Her website can be found at rachelmergen.weebly.com. She also loves listening to music and certainly writing in what spare time she has left.

“I write as much as I can, maybe an hour each night,” she said, noting that the process is soothing for her. “It can be interesting though, being a teenager and worrying about publicity of my books when I’m also focusing on a math test the next day.”

Looking into her future, Rachel aspires to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and major in political communications and minor in English lit or journalism. She plans on writing for as long as she can and eventually move into journalism more.

Rachel is the daughter of Alan and Dawn Mergen. She has one older brother, Trevor.

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