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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Author Chat: An Interview with Robyn Carr

If you read my last post, you know how much I enjoyed Robyn Carr's Grace Valley series. I'm excited to have her "stop by" BBB today to chat about her books and writing in general.

Me: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? How did your career come about?

RC: It never occurred to me that I’d be a writer. I studied nursing after high school, got married to an Air Force pilot, and started on our family. It was a few years into the marriage and after reading hundreds of book – mostly those for women – that I thought I’d give it a try. The children were still in diapers and it was a crazy thing to do. It was such a long time ago, pre-computers, that I wrote my first novel in longhand on lined paper.

But it was the writing that snagged me. I loved making up stories. That was even more fun than being kept up half the night reading them. There was no turning back – it was too pleasurable. Even when it was hard and frustrating and discouraging, I still liked it.

My third completed novel sold to Little, Brown & Co and was published in hardcover in 1980. They published my first seven novels, and there have been several publishers and almost 30 novels since. I started in historical romances and moved on to contemporary women’s fiction.

Me: You write 2 interconnected series about women working in small-town medical communities. What inspired you to write about small-town doctoring?

RC: This is so calculated and un-romantic – women practitioners are focused on all women’s issues. They’re not just looking for pregnancy or breast tumors, they’re looking for signs of abuse, depression, difficult adjustments to life changes – you name it. The nurse midwife consultant who works on the books to be sure they’re clinically correct is also an expert in teenage sexual abuse – how handy was THAT? It seems to be the juxtaposition between romance and women’s issues that makes my stories work for readers. And it definitely works for me.

Me: I know you have a background in nursing. Did your own experience influence your characters' actions or personalities? What do you have in common with June Hudson and Melinda Monroe, heroines of the Grace Valley and Virgin River books?

RC: I suppose I feel I understand women’s health, probably because of my background. I have two best friends – one a women’s health nurse practitioner and one a PhD in clinical psychology. Some of the things I hear from them influences me. As to what I have in common with the characters, very little. My job is to make them interesting, admirable, role models for the reader – so if they come off better once changed, I change them. I’m a ruthless re-writer.

Me: Speaking of the Virgin River books, where do you see the series going?

RC: Right now I’m working on my 8th Virgin River novel, due out in 2010. The first three in the series did so nicely that there will be A Virgin River Christmas in November 2008 and the next 3 in the continuing series in Feb/Mar/April 2009. And I committed to 3 more for 2010. This little town is producing a lot of wonderful stories and I’ve never had such fun.

Me: Tell me about your new book, A Virgin River Christmas.

RC: A Virgin River Christmas is a stand-alone special holiday story. It actually takes place during the Christmas period of the 3rd book in the series, Whispering Rock, and even though all the favorite characters are present, it isn’t part of the continuing series. It’s a touching and sentimental story about a troubled marine who became a recluse after exiting the Corps and his best friend’s widow who has come to find him. It’s pure Christmas – all about forgiving, healing, beginning anew. You can read more at

Me: Your stories have a little bit of everything - humor, adventure, romance, mystery, etc. What kinds of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

RC: Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Debbie Macomber are both favorite authors and old friends. I love women’s fiction, and have enjoyed discovering Susan Andersen and Toni Blake recently. I also like a good vampire story – JR Ward and Stephenie Meyer. And Nelson DeMille is my favorite ‘boy’ author – love his adventures.

Me: Your characters are so quirky and fun. Do you have a favorite? (C'mon, you know you do!) Which one would you most like to meet in real life?

RC: Are you kidding me? Jack Sheridan! He’s the leading man in the first Virgin River novel and anchors the series, remaining present through all the books. You can’t imagine the number of emails I get that say, simply, "Send Jack." I write them back and tell them to get in line!
Me: I'm always interested in how different authors write. How do you do it? Do you follow a specific schedule? Do you have a special place where you write? Do you outline your books or just write whatever comes into your head?

RC: I host a visiting author program for my public library and this is one of the most interesting questions – everyone’s process is so different. People write at four in the morning, some write after midnight, one writer I met can’t write at home – he goes to coffee shops. If he’s stuck at home, he feels like he’s in detention.

I get up in the morning and go straight to the computer in my office at home. I stay there all day, alternately answering mail, doing the busy work that goes with the job, (like answering interview questions:)) and writing. I start early – between 5:30 and 7:00 a.m. Sometime between 2-4, I hit a slump. That’s a good time to get a shower, fluff and buff so I don’t look like a vagrant when my husband comes home. But I go back to the computer. I’ve found that my best work comes between 4 and 7 pm, but only if I’ve had all day to get to that point. And I do this 7 days a week, unless I have other commitments. My best week is when there are no conflicting appointments on the calendar and I can focus just on storytelling, everyday, for long hours at a time.

No, I don’t like to outline. Once I have an idea, I like to start writing. More interesting things happen in the story while I’m actually creating it than when I’m just pondering it. I’m fast, I’m never reluctant to go back to the beginning and change things, and the ideas come slowly, over time. Some of my best stuff emerges in the second or third or fourth drafts – I just keep writing. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Just like reading a fun book, writing one brings so many unexpected twists and turns as you go. If I stopped writing to think it through, it still wouldn’t go as planned, and I’d be wasting my time.

Me: Thanks so much, Robyn!

1 comment:

  1. I have fallen in love with Robyn's writing and her characters. It was wonderful to read more about her. I wish I could attend some of her workshops!


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