Author Interview ~ Robin Shope

NJ: Leave a comment and two of you will win copies of The Christmas Edition.

Robin Shope is the Special Education Coordinator for Denton County Juvenile Justice Alternative Program. She works with at risk teens from fifth grade through high school. She and her husband have been married for thirty-one years and have two grown children. They traveled overseas as missionaries, and later served as pastors of a church in Illinois. They live near Dallas, Texas.

What new book or project do you have coming out?

The Christmas Edition (first book in The Turtle Creek Edition series) debuts at the end of this month, just in time for Christmas. It’s a contemporary romance set in a fictional Wisconsin town. It should be available on Amazon and other online stores for easy shopping by the first week in December. I write stories about Christian people who struggle with their faith, but still depend on God.

Emotionally driven stories with a strong romance and a strong Christian principle. When a reader picks up one of my books I don’t want to fail them. I want them to awed, moved to laughter or tears—or both in the span of a few chapters. I want them to talk to their friends about my book, that they’ve found a keeper of an author in me because all my books are a must-read—and how they can’t wait for the sequel or the next new release.

Here is a blurb: Lucy Collins has given up on Christmas since the painful break-up with her fiancé. Things only get worse when a large newspaper is about to come to town and threatens the livelihood of their family run business, The Turtle Creek Newspaper. At the staff Christmas party, she makes a wish and what seems like the answer to her prayer walks in the front door to apply for the editor position, which they are hoping will bring new life to the paper. Not only is Joe McNamara a genius when it comes to the written word, but he is also gifted with ideas about keeping the newspaper afloat. However, Joe has a secret of his own that he is keeping from Lucy. If she finds it out, then what looks like a promising relationship will unravel, but it’s Christmas time, the season of rebirth and miracles. Will the spirit of celebration be enough to heal two hearts? Or will the reality of deception make this the worst Christmas of all?

What sparked this story? Where do you usually find your stories?

Sometimes a headline will spark an idea. Other times I build a book around a childhood event. My dad owned a nightclub in Chicago. One morning we woke up to news the entrance was bombed because my dad refused to be a front for the mob. It is no surprise then that my first three books are thrillers. A good mystery book was all I ever used to pick up. I read them voraciously before I even considered writing them.

Because of that passion I decided to craft my own thriller filled with DNA, and fiber evidence. It took root and everywhere I looked I saw a potential story. By the time my third book was published, I had acquired a bevy of forensic experts that I consulted. I also bought an underground book of how someone can acquire a new identity and studied that for my fourth mystery book, Wildcard, which is coming out 2009. Yep, mystery writing was my genre.

Then the unexplainable happened. Just like in my books, there came an unexpected twist. No one saw it coming, least of all me. Right in the middle of forensic evidence, blood spatter information, and DNA, I developed an idea for a romance story. I bit back my laughter and went with it. It was time to grow as an author.

Clearly out of my comfort zone, I knew the general idea but it was the details and putting it all together that eluded me. I couldn’t imagine what a hero and heroine would have to talk about if they didn’t have a case to work on together. What did I know about romance? My opinion of romance books up to that point was; woman falls in love with man. Man falls in love with woman. A problem arises that causes the woman and the man to break up. Woman cries. Man sulks. Woman and man get back together. The end.

What to do? The only thing I could. I turned to Lifetime TV for help. The romance kind. And watched a weekend worth of sweet, very romantic stories, and I took notes. On Monday I headed to the library and checked out best selling romance authors. Ooou, I soon discovered that romance is ripe with emotion and conflict. And dark villains. Okay, by then I was hooked.I wrote The Christmas Edition. Queried a publisher. A week later, bang, I signed a contract for a series. The Valentine Edition – book 2 of the series – comes out early 2009.

I still love reading and writing mysteries, but in the past year a change has come over me. Perhaps it’s due to the worrisome condition of world events. Or needing to read/watch something uplifting and inspirational, I find myself leaping over my old favorites to the new one, contemporary romance.

Everyone wants to love and be loved. It’s a basic need. To be important to someone. But then stuff gets in the way. Stuff like trust issues, past relationships that ended badly, disappointment, hurt, not living up to someone’s expectations. This is what links us all together, disenchantment in love on some level at some time in our life. I decided to write heartwarming romance where love and hope and faith were the cornerstones.

I found myself replaying popular love songs from my high school years. They were about being with the person you love, holding their hand, thinking about them all day long, dreaming about a future together, waiting for that first kiss. I found myself transformed by the melodies, the positive words.

That’s when I began thinking about love being a powerful force. It’s a transformational power that can make us reach to the greatest pinnacle of our life or it can be our fatal flaw. This single emotion has a depth that is limitless. It can make you change directions.

Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

I do get writer’s block. What helps me get rid of it is to physically move. I take a walk, run errands, fold laundry, vacuum…and it always works. In The Christmas Edition, my characters needed a shared goal for them to work toward together and then opposite goals each felt passionately enough about that it would eventually tear them apart. Joe needed to be a mystery when he came to town. Although they had never met, something from his past and the heroine’s past hooked them together. One of them knew about it, the other didn’t. I worked out the details while dusting.

Some novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What was the most difficult part of writing for you?

The hardest part about writing for me is giving up family and friend time. That sounds mean but if you are serious about writing there has to be some adjustments made to get the time to write. I work fifty hour weeks at a youth facility for troubled teens. When I am writing a book, or editing, which is almost constantly, I have to pull aside from people-time in order to meet deadlines.

How did you overcome it? Is there something that tends to set your creative juices to flowing?

The smallest thing can create an idea. Then I scramble for something to quick jot it down on. It happens to me while in traffic, making me pull over to the side of the interstate. Genius also strikes as I try to sleep. Quietly, I get up so as not to disturb my dear husband. I learned from experience that if I do not write it down immediately, it’s gone. I try to kid myself into believing I can hold onto the thought for another thirty minutes when I pull into my parking spot at work, or that I’ll still remember it when I wake up in the morning, but I never do. My brain is a sieve.

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I share a workspace with my cat. She edits for me. And she isn’t so cooperative.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up at four or five and write until six when I get ready for school, pack my lunch and drive twenty miles. After school I pick up dinner on the way home. I hate doing that instead of cooking but when I need to write, I can’t spend time cooking and cleaning it up. I write until ten or later each night, depending on if I am inspired or tired. On weekends I write until midnight. Saturday mornings I take a break and then start again in the afternoon, only stopping to make dinner. Yes, I do cook on the weekends. Other times I take breaks from writing that can last a few weeks. It’s important to refresh your soul.

Some authors can write 5-10 thousand words a day. Some struggle to make 2 pages. Do you have to tweeze each word out, or do you knick the figurative vein and bleed words?

I am all the above. Creativity cannot be bottled. Some days I have to hit the keyboard all day long, logging thousands of words, as ideas rush through my head and onto the page. Other times I cannot think of a single thing to say so I edit what I have written. I can sit and analyze a sentence for an hour.

What do you reward yourself with after a good writing day?

A nap! It feels so wonderful to nestle into my covers with the breeze coming in through the open window and take a thirty minute nap. I awake refreshed and ready to jump right back in front of the computer again. Bluebonnet ice cream is also a great reward!

Do you prefer creating or editing? Why?

I love both! But if I have to pick one I will say it’s creating. When ideas keep coming one after the other, it’s like rafting the rapids. But when I hit slow water (the new ideas stop) then I get to enjoy the scenery (edit), enjoy what I have written and spend time choosing the right words, spend time developing a scene, emotions.

What are three of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?

The Island of the Blue Dolphins Is the book that made me fall in love with reading and started me on my journey when I was in the fifth grade. I bought it at a book fair right before summer vacation and took it with me to our lake house in Wisconsin. I read that book four times and cried all summer long.
The Diary of Anne Frank is another favorite. I loved teaching it to my students. The spirit of that young girl who endured the unspeakable is remarkable.
The Bible brings us face to face with our Savior and teaches us about Him as we learn to live our life in the manner that pleases Him.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Create a flawed heroine.

What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in your journey to publication?

I *told* a good story but I needed to *show* a good story. I wish I had known about showing versus telling. Now I do.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

My advice is simple; know your audience and genre.

If you are like me, you enjoy various types of music, and your reading tastes run the gamut from fiction to nonfiction to children’s books and books meant for adults. Many new writers, including myself, started out writing anything and everything . . . that is not so bad, and quite energetic for an aspiring author.

But when we become serious about being published then writing takes on a whole new meaning. Pick one genre that you feel most passionate about and learn it. That means read that genre.

Study it as though you are preparing for a college exam. Take notes on how the characters are developed, when the problem occurs, how a hook is used, what about the story keeps you right on turning the pages. Better still, write down what you don’t like.

Writing takes work. Writer Loops are filled with the same type of questions from aspiring authors all asking the same basic questions such as I am writing a book for young adults. Can anyone suggest a good author for me to read? I shiver when I read that and not in a good way. Their shelves should already be filled with the likes of Jean Craighead George and Cynthia Rylant