Rachel Lindsay Celebrates Release of New Novel Inspired By Her Experience Before 'The Bachelor'

The former Bachelorette exclusively shares with PEOPLE what went into making her first romance novel, Real Love, and how her time on The Bachelor shaped her perspective

Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay's book
Photo: Brian Parker

With a collection of essays, multiple podcast gigs and a role as an Extra correspondent under her belt, Rachel Lindsay has truly done all forms of media — and she's adding one more.

The former Bachelorette released her first novel, Real Love, on March 7. It fells the story of Maya, a by-the-books hard worker who turns down a chance to participate in a reality dating show competition in favor of her set life plan — only to seek more excitement in her life elsewhere.

Following a successful launch party for the book on Thursday, in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Lindsay, 37, shares how Maya was inspired by herself before she took a chance on her own life by joining The Bachelor. She explains how she was living a similar life in the career she'd always wanted as a lawyer and with a partner of five years who checked all her boxes.

Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay's book
Brian Parker

But, like Maya, she wasn't fulfilled. Maya's story, Lindsay says, is an exploration of what her own trajectory might have looked like if she hadn't joined the show that changed her life.

"I felt like I was living a life of what I was supposed to do, rather than what I really wanted to do," Lindsay tells PEOPLE. "And so I thought, how many people probably go through that same thing or are there right now?"

Lindsay — who admits she has a "hard time being celebrated" — threw a party after the insistence of her family and friends in celebration of the release of the novel.

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Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay's book
Brian Parker

Complete with sweets and a photobooth, the party was a chance for Lindsay's friends to praise her hard work on the book — and point out the similarities between the "old Rachel" and Maya, whose friend Delilah takes the spot on the reality show in her place.

"It was fun to just have some drinks, kick back, listen to music, talk, dance and then they tell people about the book. And so far it's been really well received," Lindsay says. "A lot of my friends knew me as Maya. And so for me to be Delilah now in real life — they find it very interesting."

She adds, "There was this point in my life around the time that I eventually changed all of this where my friends kind of had an intervention and said I wasn't acting like myself. So for them to see me living this life, knowing how I was with Maya and how I was losing myself in a relationship and in my job, they get it. And so that's been really nice for them to see."

Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay's book
Brian Parker

Lindsay's passion for writing came after she realized how "rigidly" she had lived her life up to law school, always following the set path she had put in front of herself.

However, when she gave herself the chance to explore her creativity, she says she discovered how "liberating" and "freeing" the process could be.

"I think a lot of times when we're too scared to do something, we're afraid of [hearing] no, we're afraid of the judgment, we're just afraid of what other people think," Lindsay says. "I feel like I've fully embraced living a life of not allowing other people to define things for me. I'm going to do that myself. And that was part of the reason I wrote."

"I had control over my life for the first time. And I wanted people to see that whether they accepted it or not, I'm not going to allow you to define me. You can turn the pages of this book," Lindsay continues.

Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay's book
Brian Parker

As the first Black Bachelorette, Lindsay's experiences included many highs and lows, all coming to a head after former host Chris Harrison made some controversial comments during an interview with Lindsay on Extra, which led to public vitriol for Lindsay.

Despite it all, Lindsay always aims to come out on top of the drama and celebrate all that she has accomplished in the years since. For the author, this is still only the beginning.

"If you ask me what the next five years look like, I'm stepping back into that box of the life plan of how things are supposed to go. Instead, it's more of how I feel, not compromising my morals or my beliefs, but what I want to project to the world," Lindsay says.

She concludes, "What means a lot to me, how I want to use my platform to make a difference and how I want to do that in a passionate way. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the podcast. I'm proud of the impact I've had through Extra. I'm proud of the writing. There's a lot to be proud and grateful for."

Real Love is available in bookstores. now.

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