Author’s latest fiction novel set in Westport
WESTPORT — Rachel Cullen has authored four novels, and her latest one, titled “First Came Us,” is set in none other than Westport.
“First Came Us,” a fiction book, tells the story of Jack and Ellie Miller, who have been married for 18 years and lead a predictable, ordinary and happy life in Westport. Jack Miller is an economics professor at Yale University, while Ellie owns a thriving yoga business. Everything in the family’s lives seemed to be in order, until mistakes and ghosts from Jack’s past haunt him, Ellie receives unexpected news requiring immediate attention, and their 16-year-old daughter hits her stride as a rebellious teenager.
The novel is scheduled to be published on Feb. 5 and will be available on Amazon.com.
Cullen, 42, was inspired to choose Westport as the setting for the book after spending plenty of time in the town in the past. From 2004 to 2005, she was a marketing brand manager at Playtex Products, Inc., in Westport.
“Westport is a fabulous town and it is a well-known setting, near Yale, which fits one of the characters in the novel,” Cullen said. “I was looking for an a suburb of New York, but a little further out, so I decided on an affluent town in Connecticut. Westport has a lovely downtown area, and later on in the book there is a house that comes into play that is set on the water.”
Like her previous three novels, “First Came Us” has received positive reviews. Kirkus Reviews described it as, “A provocative read about love and forgiveness.”
Cullen has been churning out books pretty quickly. Her first book, “The Way I’ve Heard It Should Be,” was published in 2015; her second novel, “Second Chances,” in 2017; and “Only Summer” in 2018.
“That is the goal, one every year, or year-and-a-half,” Cullen said. “Each one has done better than the next, in terms of sales and reviews. It’s a challenge to publish independently. But I like it, because I’m in control of my deadline, my time and my day.”
A resident of Pelham, N.Y., with her husband of 16 years and three children ages 13, 10 and 8, Cullen graduated from Northwestern University, then received her graduate degree at New York University.
She experienced success in management consulting, marketing and marketing strategy consulting, before changing her career path.
“I had three children and went back to work after having each of them,” Cullen said. “Soon, I realized it wasn’t the right choice — working full time, while having a family.”
Cullen opted to take a year or two off from the corporate world and, while doing so, began writing from home.
“These stories that had been percolating in my mind for a while came out,” she said. “One day, I remember talking myself into sitting down to try to a write a chapter or prologue, and that is where it started.”
Cullen’s books have followed a woman’s fiction genre, featuring themes of marriage, families and friendships.
“Each of my books has a teenage character, addressing the life of a teenager,” said Cullen, who is already working on her fifth novel.”
As for those who have always wanted to write a book or put their thoughts down on paper — or in these days a computer screen — Cullen offers some advice.
“As simple as it sounds, it honestly comes down to sitting there and writing,” she said. “Even if you write for 30 minutes, just writing something down. Get something down on paper or a computer, then edit it and make changes if you want. For most people, it flows after that.”