I had the great pleasure of meeting Robin Lee when she was the keynote speaker at the 2003 American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) national conference in Houston. She was savvy and delightful. I'm happy to introduce you to her, too.
There are pieces of me in all of my characters and pieces of many other people I know or have met throughout my life. Two of my novels have borrowed heavily from personal life experiences (Beyond the Shadows and The Forgiving Hour), and yet the protagonists were not me but unique unto themselves. My characters become very real to me and react to situations in their own way, often times surprising me.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I’ve thought and thought about this, and I can’t find an answer. I don’t think of myself as a quirky person. I’ve done stupid things and crazy things, but I guess quirky is in the eye of the beholder.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
From the time I learned to read and write, I’ve been keeping journals, writing long letters, and telling stories on paper, but I didn’t think about writing professionally until just before my 30th birthday. I had a story rolling around in my head, an historical saga set before and during the Civil War. After a number of months, there wasn’t anything I could do except try to turn it into a novel. It took me almost nine months to write, and about a year after I began, I sold it to a small independent publisher. They went bankrupt a few months later, just after I finished writing the sequel. I sold both of the novels to Leisure Books the following year, and I haven’t stopped writing since. For nine years, I worked a full time day job and wrote evenings and weekends, but finally I quit my other job and made writing my vocation.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
All kinds! I love the Bible and have made it a practice for a decade to read through the Bible every odd numbered year and read the New Testament three to four times in even numbered years. I love biographies and histories. I read several Christian living non-fiction books every year. I read novels on the NYT bestseller list (The Kite Runner was a huge favorite; others have been terrible disappointments. Most of the fiction I read is CBA fiction, and I enjoy women’s fiction, romance, mystery, some suspense (but of the milder variety). Oh, I love “gum shoe” novels about hard boiled detectives, preferably set in the 1940s.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Return to Me is my 52nd published work (I’ve never written a book that wasn’t published). Others include RITA winners Patterns of Love and The Shepherd’s Voice; Christy winner Whispers From Yesterday; Library Journal Best Book selection Catching Katie; and some reader favorites, The Forgiving Hour, Ribbon of Years, Beyond the Shadows, and The Victory Club. For a full bibliography, visit my web site at http://www.robinleehatcher.com/ .
Readers, you'll want to check out her site. Now, Robin Lee, how do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I’m not sure I have. As I answer these questions, I am in the midst of selling a home and buying another and preparing for the move. My life is in utter chaos.
Some things that keep me a little saner is to be in the Word daily, to stay in touch with my family and my dearest friends, and to be active in my church. I try to remember to have fun and not be a workaholic, easy to do when you work at home.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes their names just come to me along with the idea for the book. Other times I have to go looking. Then I open Character Naming Sourcebook and start thumbing through it until the right name “hits me.” I always know it when I see it, a name that begins to flesh out my character.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Being the mother of my two wonderful daughters. When I see the strong but tenderhearted loving women/wives/mothers they became, I know I did a few things right as a parent. I love being their mom and their friend and am so thankful that we live in the same area.
I know what you mean. Both of my daughters live in the same area as I do. Now let's try something lighter. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A horse. There is nothing more beautiful and regal than a horse.
What is your favorite food?
I hate this question. I have way too many favorites – spaghetti, cheesecake, a steak cooked just right, fried chicken, and many more.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I am not analytical when it comes to my writing. I’m an intuitive writer. Plot is a four-letter word in my book. Trying to write a synopsis used to really frustrate me, but I finally learned to trust the voice inside of me. Plotting comes out of my characters. That’s how I create best. So I learned to relax and just let the characters tell me their stories. I enjoy the adventure more than way. And I have never turned in a novel that didn’t have a plot.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Write something every day. If you finish one page per day, you’ll have a 365 page manuscript at the end of one year. You will learn more by writing a book – and then another and another – than you will from any workshop or how-to book. Not that I am against those things. But the experience of writing will be your best writing course.
I was in a hotel room in Illinois, awaiting a television interview, when I “met” Roxy and heard the lines that became the opening of Chapter One of Return to Me:
"There exists a strange moment between sleep and wakefulness when dreams cease and realism remains at bay. That was when Roxy’s heart spoke to her.
"It’s time to go home.
"Roxanne Burke had given Nashville seven years to discover her. She’d offered her voice, her face, her fortune—and eventually, her body—but despite her desperate grasps at the brass ring, country music and stardom didn’t want her.
"Roxy was worse than a has-been. She was a never-was."
Somehow I knew right then that this was a story of the prodigal daughter (Roxy Burke) and her perfect sister (Elena Burke). Even more, I knew it would be an exploration of grace, a theme that runs through most of my novels but was more pronounced in this book. So you can imagine my delight when I read the RT review that said: “Rarely do we see such a clear picture of God’s grace as in this novel.”
That is really cool. Now, remind readers how to find you on the Internet?
My web site is http://www.robinleehatcher.com/. There readers will find my bio, bibliography, excerpts, and much more. I also have my Write Thinking blog (http://robinlee.typepad.com/) where I write about all sorts of things, from Bible studies to American Idol to my novel-in-progress to current events.
Robin Lee, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm intrigued by the book and will move it to the top of my to-be-read pile.
Now Readers, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Return to Me. You can still leave comments on Donn Taylor's, Marlo Schalesky's, and Susan Meissner's interviews.