Robin Shope: I knew romance writing was what I wanted to do with my life about eleven months ago. However, I always wanted to write…anything! I began with essays in middle school and then graduated to writing brochures when I was in college. It was there I took a creative writing class and wowed my professor but I didn’t think seriously about writing until many years later when my ten-year-old daughter won a national writing contest and had a book deal with Standard Publishing. Of course I was proud of Kimberly but also a bit envious. The dream still lived and I had let it founder for years. It was time to get cracking! I began by writing articles and was shocked when they sold and kept right on selling! I still write articles. I also write short stories, mainly they are about every day musings. Some of them have ended up in a collection on the New York Times Best Seller list. For years I have been a contributor to the popular chicken soup series. Just this month I found I had two stories in their 101 Best Chicken Soup stories ever! What an honor. I wrote some mystery books and then decided the world was naturally glum and I didn’t need to add to that genre. A year ago I found myself reaching for romance books at the library. At the video store I went for the romantic comedies. It was then I decided to try my hand at romance writing and a series was born, The Turtle Creek Edition Series, the first book is The Christmas Edition.
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Robin: The first fiction I wrote was when I was in college. I still have the first three chapters…its unfinished. Perhaps I’ll finish it. Someday.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for The Christmas Edition?
Robin: This will sound trite but the idea just came to me. It was my first attempt at romance writing and it slid together quickly. I must admit it has a touch of mystery in it which adds another dimension. I wanted to capture a feeling of new love filled with hope during the holidays. I grew up in Wisconsin and remember the feeling of finding love over the holidays. I wanted my book to have that special seasonal feel to it.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write one of your novels? And is it the same or different with each novel you write?
Robin: Each of my novels has been a different approach. Some ideas come so quickly that I hardly have time to get them all down. Those times are known as seat of my pants writing. At other times, I struggle a bit more and therefore plot them out. Right now I am working on an idea for a new romance series and this time I’m using a notebook. This is my 7th book but the first time I am approaching my writing like this. I needed to know the characters I was writing about so I thumbed through magazines to find pictures of my main characters. When I found them, I taped them into my notebook and did a character sketch. Then I write a rough outline of the book. For my 8th book, I may do something entirely different.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Robin: It took me years to write my first mystery and to get it published. However, my first foray into the romance world was very quick. I had the book written in 6 weeks and a contract a week after I submitted it. Nine months later, it’s in print! That is amazingly fast!
Phoebe: How did you feel when you finally saw your first published book came out in print and how do you feel about your other novels being published?
Robin: I must admit I was a bit frightened when my first book came out…and guardedly optimistic. The feeling this time is so different. The joy I have in my spirit wakes me up at night. When I touched The Christmas Edition book with my name on the cover the first time, it filled my heart with unspeakable fulfillment and completion. But it’s just the beginning.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Robin: Lately on a writer’s loop, there is an ongoing discussion about being ‘called to write’. Some aspiring writers who have yet to have their name on a book cover are lamenting about if they have been ‘called to write’. More seasoned writers are giving advice. Here is my advice to an aspiring romance writer; relax and enjoy the journey. Get in touch with those feelings of first love and write about that. You see, like you I thought I was called to be a writer. Even with proof to the contrary of enough rejection notices to wallpaper a house, I still felt the call. I kept plugging away. More rejection. tears. Maybe I was confused. More tears. I began to read all these blogs about how others felt called to be a writer. Hummm… if SO MANY are called to write, maybe I was called to read all these writers, I figured. Someone had to do the reading, right? So I began to read and then I sold a book. Sold another and another and now a series. I look at it this way, if you love it, write. I am compelled to breath, to love, to eat pralines and cream ice cream at night, and to write. It’s all part of my DNA. I write on my blog, I write for magazines, short stories, I write brochures, when one of my student’s bonked me with a metal door my police report was 40 pages long (just kidding), I just write. Not sure if I was called anymore but I went anyway! And that has made all the difference. So if it brings you joy then write.
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Robin: No matter the genre, there are facts you must check when writing, especially if it’s a historical piece. I just read a review for on another book this week and one of the reviewers said the book was well-written but the facts were way off and went on to document it. Ouch! (Glad it wasn’t me) Nothing can be a substitute for doing your research. You will loose credibility if the facts are wrong and someone out there will only be too happy to let you and the world know you missed the mark.