Interview with Rebecca Rook, Author of The Penance of Valentine Cash

16 Jan 2024

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Penance of Valentine Cash?

The Penance of Valentine Cash follows a magical and arduous journey into the afterlife. When she dies in an accidental collision she caused on the cusp of musical fame, Valentine Cash is offered a deal: Complete a series of difficult tasks to get her life back. Fail, and she dies a final, everlasting death.

Guided by Route 66 the Mother Road of America on her quest, she tackles one herculean task after another, giving up a piece of herself with each trial. Since Valentine is a young alternate country musician, it’s very appropriate that the idea for this novel was inspired by a lyric from a country song. The phrase, “The sharp knife of a short life,” prompted me to explore what would happen after a young woman’s untimely death – and what she would do to regain her life.

Eventually, the story truly took shape when I realized that the novel was a retelling of The Twelve Labors of Hercules, which recounts the trials and tribulations Hercules must face after committing an accidental offense. I also imbued this novel with my love for adventure, folklore, and road trips, all of which are deeply embedded in the characters and the setting.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Penance of Valentine Cash, what would they be?

I create playlists for each of my novels, which means The Penance of Valentine Cash has its own soundtrack! You can find the playlist listed in the front matter of the novel and through Spotify.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I love genre fiction. If the novel has horror, science fiction, fantasy, or mystery, I will likely want to read it. So it’s no surprise that I now write in these genres. As a storyteller, I love the possibilities and scope of imagination afforded by these genres.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

Never Whistle at Night (an anthology), System Collapse by Martha Wells, A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher, and the Scholomance Series by Naomi Novik.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

I especially loved writing two scenes in The Penance of Valentine Cash: When Valentine is forced to undergo The Wild Hunt and when she battles the Bell Witch. I had so much fun finding North American legends and tall tales to include in her adventures.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I don’t have any quirky writing habits and I try not to accumulate them. I worry that fixating on a writing ritual or a habit would quickly become an excuse to avoid writing altogether if I lack the lucky pen, the right eucalyptus candle, etc. So I try to focus on having a solid outline of the novel and working, bit by bit, on whatever stage I’m currently in.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

The right time to do something is now.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

After reading The Penance of Valentine Cash, I want readers to remember that they are far more capable than they realize. It’s important to have faith in yourself.


Rebecca Rook is the author of the new book The Penance of Valentine Cash

Connect with Rebecca Rook

Author Site


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