Bestselling author Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, better known by her pen name Rachel Caine, who wrote the YA series The Morganville Vampires, and The Great Library, in addition to thriller and sci-fi titles for adults, died on November 1 following a battle with soft tissue sarcoma. She was 58.
Conrad was born Roxanne Longstreet on April 27, 1962 in White Sands, N.M. and grew up in West Texas. She first began writing fiction when she was a teenager and recalled those days in an interview for the Unbound Worlds website. “I remember two things: one was getting super frustrated with a TV show… and wanting the story to come out differently,” she said. “The other thing that happened was a teacher assigned us a classroom exercise, to write a story around a sentence prompt. ‘The clock struck twelve and everything changed.’ ” Conrad remembered crafting a tale of two gunfighter characters in an old Western town who ended up drawing wands in a wizard’s duel instead of pistols. From those experiences, she knew she had discovered a true passion.
Though Conrad continued to create stories at a steady clip, she did not believe her writing could turn into a career. She earned a B.A. in accounting from Texas Tech University in 1985, with a minor in music, and segued into the corporate world. In addition to accounting, Conrad worked in web and graphic design, corporate communications, and was a professional musician. She continued writing all the while and in 1990 published her first novel for adults, Stormriders, as Roxanne Longstreet. The following year, she met fantasy artist Cat Conrad when they both attended a convention known as Justice-Con in Dallas. The couple married, and in a moving post that Cat Conrad shared on social media, he noted that they were together for 29 years.
In 2003 Conrad launched her urban fantasy Weather Wardens series for adults, the first major work under her pen name Rachel Caine. Her work blossomed at a brisk pace and she kicked off her 15-volume Morganville Vampires series in 2006. It wasn’t until 2010 that Caine left her day job and officially became a full-time writer. By 2015 Caine saw the publication of her Great Library series, which imagines an alternate world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived and becomes a great power. And in 2017 the bestselling thriller series for adults, Stillhouse Lake, was released. In addition to her multiple series, Caine wrote stand-alone titles and anthologies, too, producing more than 60 published works in total.
Caine’s literary agent Lucienne Diver paid tribute to her client and friend on social media. “Roxanne is-was-and-ever-will-be one of those rare people every bit as amazing as she was talented,” Diver wrote. “She put others first. Not just when it was convenient. Not just when she had nothing better to do or felt there might be something in it for her. During even her hardest times, including this latest, life-ending battle with cancer, she was an activist, an ally, a philanthropist, an author uplifting other voices…. She left her mark on all who knew her. We are all richer for having her in our world, and I won’t say poorer for her having left it, because she leaves behind her legacy that will always be with us.”
Sara Simpson-Weiss, Caine’s longtime assistant and close friend, posted about the author’s relentless work pace, as well as her great compassion. “She would pick the writing back up whenever there was a lag in her line, which was rare. She would write in her hotel room until the very last second to make it to a panel or signing. I’ve watched her write on planes and in airports. I’ve watched her churn out four books a year for almost 11 years now. I’ve watched her donate books to classrooms around the world. I’ve watched her fund classroom materials, fund other people’s bills, and basically swoop in to save the day for anyone who needed it, regardless of if she actually knew that person. I’ve watched her champion indie bookstores, debut writers, and more. She is absolutely the most hardworking, genuine, and compassionate person I have ever known, and being her assistant and friend for the past decade has made me a better person in every possible way.”