Friday, February 21, 2014

Wisdom from the Multi-Pubbed. A Visit with Robin Lee Hatcher...

by Kelly Klepfer

Tell us a bit about your current project.

A Promise Kept opens as Allison Kavanagh arrives at the house her aunt Emma bequeathed to her — a log home in the mountains. Her marriage of more than twenty years has ended in divorce because of her husband’s alcoholism. She was so certain God had promised to save her marriage, but obviously she was wrong. Now she is moving from Boise to Kings Meadow to start life afresh and find a way to heal from her heartbreak.

Like Allison, my marriage ended in divorce because of my husband’s alcoholism. I was devastated because I’d been so convinced God had promised me He would save our marriage. I had believed His promise through many difficult times, but it hadn’t come to pass. I knew God didn’t lie. Therefore, I must have misunderstood.

But God had many things to teach me in the following years, including that He answers prayers in totally unexpected ways and in His own time, not mine. One of those unexpected ways was realized when my husband and I were remarried more than five years later. God used the divorce to save our marriage! How amazing is that!


What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?


The first is an easy one for me. I would begin writing Christian fiction rather than having 30 general market books published first.


Second, I would start with a better publisher who actually edited my work before releasing it into the world.

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?


Procrastination. It's so easy to let a million other things distract me when I should be writing. The only way to handle it is to put my behind in the chair, put my fingers on the keyboard, and begin writing. Like so many other things in life, it is an act of will, whether I feel like it or not.


What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn't write?


When the characters come alive to me and begin telling me their stories. That fuels my passion.


If I wasn't a writer, I would want to be an actress. Although memorizing lines wouldn't be as easy for me now as it was in my twenties, the last time I performed in a play.

We are all about journeys...unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication.  


It wasn't very convoluted at all. After a series of events conspired to make me realize I wanted to try to write a novel, I sat down with pen and legal pad and began. Eight months later, I finished it. I mailed out 21 query letters (this was back in the dark ages). Mostly I received rejections, but the first publisher who requested the full manuscript offered me a contract. Several months later, I signed the contract. Three months after that, the publisher went bankrupt. Another six months passed until I sold both my first and second books to another publisher. They were released in January and February of 1984.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work, or struggle in a particular area such as writers block or angst driven head-banging against walls? Please share some helpful overcoming hints that you’ve discovered.


I experience self-doubt all the time. Even after more than seventy books, I still have the feeling that my career is a fluke. I've learned to accept these feelings as part of my creative personality. I don't have to like it, but it doesn't make me afraid as it once did. Another thing I learned is that around the halfway mark in every book I start muttering that I don't have enough story and I'll never be able to make this all work out in the end and whatever made me want to write novels when selling shoes at the mall would be so much simpler. LOL! Again, the only way to overcome is to keep moving forward. Sort of like life.

Have you ever had one of those awkward writer moments you’d like to share with us, the ones wherein you get “the look” from the normals? Example, you stand at a knife display at the sporting goods store and ask the clerk which would be the best to use to disembowel a six foot man…please do tell.


Many, many years ago, I had been struggling all day trying to come up with a particular phrase. It stayed just beyond my conscious thought. In the middle of the night, it came to me. I was awake in an instant, bolted upright in bed, and blurted the phrase aloud, startling my husband out of a sound sleep. He has never doubted the strangeness of his wife from that night on.

What event/person has most changed you as a writer? How?


The Sunday I knew God was calling me out of my general market publishing career and into writing Christian fiction as a means of pleasing Him.


What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why? (Doesn't have to be one of your books or even published.)


While I don't have favorite books—each one was written because it captured my imagination at the time—there are a few books that have touched large numbers of readers in a special way, probably because they came from a deeper corner of my heart: The Forgiving Hour, Ribbon of Years, and Beyond the Shadows. Those stories have opened doors for ministry and allowed me to pray for hurting people all around the country and the world. I believe A Promise Kept will join those other three in that respect.


What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you to grasp/conquer? How did you overcome it?


I used to try to plot out my books the way I heard other people did it. You know. Writing detailed synopses and using charts that showed goals and motivations. Trouble is, I am a total seat of the pants writer and those things made me want to bang my head against the desk. If I figure out the story ahead of time, I don't want to write it because I already know how it ends. So then I want to write a different story instead.


I had to get to the place where I accepted my process as legitimate. Part of that process is that I want to get up each morning wondering where my story and where my characters are going to take me next. I'm on a journey of discovery as I write, just as I hope my readers will be as they read.


There is no right way to write a book. Every writer has to discover what works best for him or her.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?


Set up Scrivener for the new novel. Name my characters. Write first person autobiographies of the main characters.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?


I had to laugh as I read this question. I'm pretty sure I have saggy middles, soggy characters, and soupy plots during my first drafts. How do I shape it up? Allow me to share a few lines from the movie, Shakespeare in Love.


Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.


So right there in that last line is my answer to your question about how I pull my books together: "I don't know. It's a mystery."


I guess that's part of what keeps me writing story after story. Some of what I do remains a mystery, even to me.

Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She discovered her vocation after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. Winner of the Christy, the RITA, the Carol, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and many other awards, Robin is also a recipient of the prestigious RWA Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the author of 70 novels and novellas with over five million copies in print.


Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. Her main hobby (when time allows) is knitting, and she has a special love for making prayer shawls. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with Poppet, the high-maintenance Papillon, and Princess Pinky, the DC (demon cat).



4 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

This is a wonderful book of healing and restoration of faith. I watched a close friend walk this road. Thank you, Robin, for being vulnerable and sharing your heart.

Robin Lee Hatcher said...

Thanks, Ane. I'm so glad you found the book wonderful. Means a lot.

Richard Mabry said...

Robin, It's nice to know that the twin terrors of the "imposter syndrome" and the "I can't finish this book" feeling are things other authors experience--even those with ten times more novels than I have in print. Thanks for a great interview. (And thanks, Kelly, for sharing it with us).

Myra Johnson said...

Robin, you have been an inspiration to me since the first time I heard you speak at a writers conference. Thank you for sharing your journey and your heart.