BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

NORA INTERVIEWS ROBIN JONES GUNN




What inspires you to write? What inspires you while you are writing?

I’ve always been a storyteller so I think writing or rather the inspiration to write is always there. Telling stories is simply what God made me to do. I don’t necessarily have to get charged up to start a new story. I sort of listen for it and dabble with it and then just keep wading in deeper and deeper until I can swim around inside the story and watch it move me on its current.

Sometimes I think the story makes no sense. It’s not going the way it should. I’m not satisfied. I’d hoped it would have been something different or better or stronger or richer or whatever. But I do the work and feel an unrewarding sort of peace in knowing that for that pocket of time, with whatever was going on in my life or my body or my brain, what I offered up was the best I could produce at that time. Then I go on.



Many, many times I’ll hear back from readers saying that a certain part of a book was just what that needed to hear. Some say God whispered to them through parts of the book. They’re very touched and grateful that I wrote what I did. I look at that book or that part of the story and am amazed because I know that as I was writing that part I wasn’t “feeling” it or didn’t see how it strengthened the book.


I’ve come to believe more humbly in the mystery and the power of fiction. I’ve also learned my best move as the writer is to get out of the way and sort of bob along on the flow of the story even though I usually have a different idea of how the story should go. I’ve seen this mystery unfold too many times to question the process.

When I go with the flow, readers come back and say they got from the story exactly what they needed to hear. I can’t explain how that happens. Most of my stories don’t “fulfill” me, if that makes sense. It’s like I get filled little by little with ideas and nudging as I write. Then I pour it all out and when I’m done a part of me is empty rather than fulfilled. But then I start the next book and the process begins all over again. Strange.


Oh, and you asked what inspires me. I’m going to go with the God answer. God inspires me. By that I mean, I see His hand in so many ways while I’m writing and I feel very much like I’m going along on the unforced rhythm of grace. There’s so much I can’t explain how or why it happens when it does or how it does.


But in the realm of the physical aspects of inspiration, I love listening to music as I write. All kinds of music. I love my little nest – my little home office – where I write. I usually write on the laptop instead of the main computer because it keeps me from checking emails, etc. Also, I can sit anywhere with the laptop and feel inspired by the surroundings. I’ll include a photo of the happy chair in my office where I often write on my laptop. When the afternoon sun comes in through the windows it’s golden, baby!


And I drink a lot of tea. That’s always good for inspiration!


Can you tell me of two "Wow" moments you have had since you have been an author?What made it a "Wow" moment for you?









A few years ago my husband and I went to Brazil because I was speaking at a LittWorld conference. The Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen and College Years books are translated into Portuguese and apparently sell well in Brazil. The publisher there invited us to visit several cities after the LittWorld conference so I could speak to youth groups, churches and do book signings. I spoke something like 13 times in 9 days. We didn’t know what to expect, though, when we started on this tour.

When we arrived in the first city a translator met us at the airport and explained that we were going to a school where all the girls had been taking tests on my books. “What do you mean, ‘tests’?” I asked. He said the teachers had turned the books into curriculum and all the students had to read the Christy and Sierra books and then take a test to see if they understood the spiritual truth hidden in the story.







We entered the school auditorium and all 350 girls started screaming. I thought something was wrong – the roof must be caving in. I grabbed the interpreter’s arm and said, “What’s wrong?”

He laughed and said, “Did no one tell you? In Brazil you are a Rock Star!”

That is one “Wow” moment I will never recover from, I think. It was a dream come true for my little missionary woman heart to have these stories going around the world, being translated into other languages and getting into the hands of so many young women. Many, many of the girls in Brazil told me they had given their life to Christ after reading these books.

Just imagine. We’re going to meet these girls in heaven. God chose to use a novel – a YA love story – to welcome His daughters into the kingdom.That still blows me away.

What part of Sisterchicks® Go Brit! came first for you – Plot,Characters, setting, subject matter? How did this story come together for you? Please explain?

With almost all the novels I’ve written I start with the characters. Of course, with all the Sisterchicks novels, the location was determined in discussions with my publisher so once we knew where the women would be going, I started working on the characters. I cut pictures from magazines to get an idea of what they look like. I start a binder with each book and “interview” the character as I look at her pictures. I always ask her,“What is your problem?” Sometimes they tell me right away. Sometimes I have to get meandering into the story before their hidden fear or foible becomes clear.








(View from front of C.S. Lewis's house - Robin standing at a pond in back of the house)

The best part of writing Sisterchicks® Go Brit! was that I got to go to England with my editor, Julee, and visit the places I wrote about. We really did have a crazy tour guide in Oxford who took us to the home of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many of the spunky parts of the book actually happened to us.

(J.R.R. Tolkien's house in Oxford)

With the other Sisterchicks® books, I’d go visit the location and all kinds of unusual and silly things would happen to me. Then I’d come home, write the novel and my editor would say, “We might need to take that part out. It’s hard to believe it could happen.” Then I’d tell her it really did happen and all the other bizarre experiences that happened that I didn’t include.


So when it came time for Sisterchicks® Go Brit! I told Julee she had to come with me and sure enough, we showed up and wacky things happened without prompting on our part. Now she believes whatever I write. :D

How did the concept for the Sisterchicks® series? How did you decide on what trips the Sisterchicks went on next?


I was asked to write a novel for Women of Faith. I proposed the story of two friends traveling to Finland because my best friend Donna and I went to Finland almost 20 years ago and experienced many of the adventures that happened to Penny and Sharon in the story. Once again, the Christy Miller books were translated into Finnish and I was visiting by invitation of the publisher. I spoke in the public high schools and a number of churches.


The story line didn’t seem to be a fit for the Women of Faith line up of novels so I went with a Mother/Daughter tale set in the south, titled “Gardenias For Breakfast”. That story is loosely based on a trip my daughter and I took to see my grandmother in Louisiana when my daughter was 12.


So here I had this idea for a book about two friends going to Finland and didn’t know what to do with it. Donna and I were talking about our friendship one sunny September afternoon while we were seated in lawn chairs. We started comparing our varicose veins and underarm flab and of course, laughing, which we do together very well. Donna said, “What are we, after all these decades of friendship? We’re more like sisters than friends.” I said, “Yeah, but we’ve still got a little attitude goin’ on. We’re chicks. Sisterchicks.” Donna sat up and said, “Write that down. You’re going to want that word. That’s what women our age become when they’re close friends that still embrace life. They’re Sisterchicks.”


The very next day one of the publishers I’d worked with for a number of years on the Glenbrooke series was in Portland. He took my husband and I out to lunch and asked if I had any potential projects I wanted to work on next. I told him about the Finnish book idea and how Donna and I are going to start calling ourselves Sisterchicks and his eyes lit up. I had a contract for three books within a week.

Now here’s the real God gift of it all. I wrote the first three books about places I’d been: Finland, Hawai’i and Mexico. The publisher wanted more books and suggested “Sisterchicks Down Under!” and “Sisterchicks in Gondolas!” My husband said, “Then you should send her to those places so she can do the all important research and then come home and write the stories with authenticity.”


The publisher agreed! They gave me a travel budget and for the next four years I went to Australia, New Zealand, Paris, Venice, England and The Netherlands. I LOVE to travel. This part of the project was, I’m sure, God’s special little gift to me.

Will there be any more Sisterchicks® books written? I totally enjoyed the pictures from your own trip in the back of the book. I also loved that I learned something about where you visited? Did you do that in all the Sisterchick books – I have read the first and Sisterchicks® Go Brit- What made you add the pictures at the end to this book?


At this point we don’t have plans for any more Sisterchicks books. The 8th one comes out May 19th – “Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes!” In that book Summer goes on a lifelong dream trip to The Netherlands to visit Noelle, her pen pal since 3rd grade. 40 years of writing letters and this is the first time they meet face to face. Summer is prompted to make the trip when she receives an abnormal report on her mammogram and before she goes in for the biopsy she realizes if she’s ever going to get to the land of tulips, this is the time to go. I have a good friend in The Netherlands so it made it even more special to write about the tulip fields and canal boat rides in Amsterdam because I got to experience all of that with Anne.



My terrific publisher is putting new covers on all the Sisterchicks books so they’ll all be more similar to Go Brit! So, since they’re doing a reprint for the new covers, I asked if I could put bonus material and photos in the back and they loved the idea. That’s why some of them have that personalized scrapbook at the back and some don’t. Soon all of them will.

What books do you like to read to relax and be entertained? Why?

I’m a nut about Hawaiian history. We used to live there and we visit every chance we get. I just can’t get enough of the history of the islands from when Captain Cook sailed into Hawaiian waters in the late 1700’s and how the arrival of western civilization changed that dot in the Pacific Ocean forever.






For Christmas my son gave me a reprinted copy of the Journals of Captain James Cook. I couldn’t put it down. It’s an unabridged account of all the places he explored in the Pacific and his impressions of the people and the various islands. I know. It’s odd. But that’s what I love to read.


I have an extensive collection of books on Hawaiian history and I haven’t read even half of them yet. I underline and take notes. It’s such a relaxing hobby for me because it’s like dissecting an intricate novel with all the characters and plot twists yet it’s not fiction. It’s real and it’s amazing. It’s one of God’s most intriguing historical, I think.

What were your favorite books you enjoyed reading as a child?


I loved the Box Car Children because they were so creative in how they made a little life for themselves with few resources. I also loved the Narnia tales, of course, even though I didn’t discover them till high school.



My favorite Lewis book is Perelandra. For Christmas I also received a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Children and he commented in that collection of letters that Perelandra was one of his favorite books, as well.











It was so fun reading Lewis’ Letters to Children now that I’ve been to Oxford several times and I’ve been to his home and the church where he worshipped for 40 years. He mentions certain life moments in those letters written in the 50’s and 60’s and I can picture what he’s talking about. For instance, he told one child that it was an unusually warm summer and he’d been for a swim in the small lake in the woods behind his home.


Julee and I walked the trail out the that small lake and took a picture. As I looked around, all I could think of was the scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace sees his reflection in the pond, realizes he’s become a dragon and how Aslan meets him there and peels off the scaly layers. I wondered, of course, if that pond was in Lewis’ thoughts as he wrote that scene.








I’ll include a photo of the lake along with a photo of the church where he worshipped. On the church grounds is the grave where he’s buried.

I know it's not fair to ask you which is your favorite book that you have written?It's almost like picking a favorite child – but I'm going to ask you that question anyway. Ha! What is the favorite book that you have written and why?

I’ve been asked this many times and I think I always say the first novel in the Christy Miller series, “Summer Promise”. That book was the first fruits of my labors and I believe that when we offer up our first fruits God blesses it in an unexplained way.

TOP FUN QUESTIONS YOU WANTED TO ASK ROBIN BUT WERE AFRAID TO SO I DID!










***Robin, I just wanted you to know that there were some questions I was afraid to ask you,(I know it's hard to believe - but true) like about this picture I found on the web. What's happening here? Since we are just getting to know each other. I'll save this question for the next interview, if you forgive me for showing this photo in the first place. It was on the web!! I couldn't resist. Ha! Ha!Nora :D****


If you found yourself in a life threatening situation and needed someone to save you, who would you pick? Why? You can pick a cartoon person, film star etc. the sky is the limit.

My husband. He’s a warrior. He’s always been there for me during the 32 years we’ve been married. He has laid down his life for mine many times. He’s my superhero.

If you had the opportunity to travel to outer space, where would you go? And why? " Sisterchicks® in Space" It has a ring! HA! Ha! If not, where would you really like to travel – given you have the time and the money?

Hawaii, my favorite place. I want my feet on planet earth. :D

If you could travel back in time and witness anything past or future? What would you pick and why? This includes t history of the world or your personal life. Which ever you want to share?








Again, I’d go with the Hawaiian history. Now which stretch of time and which island? I think I’d go to Oah’u during the mid 1850’s. It was a gathering place for whalers, sailors, traders from around the world. And the location of a lovely revival. I’d stay with Amos and Juliette Cooke, a missionary couple responsible to board and teach all the royal children.

I’d learn Hawaiian and sail around the islands watching the commoners become the most literate nation in the world at that time as copies of the Hawaiian Bible became THE book everyone was reading. I’d tell all the hard working missionaries that they were doing a good work. That their labor was not in vain. That in spite of all the opposition from the outside world, they were giving a beautiful gift to the Hawaiian people. I would ride a sea turtle and watch the ancient hula dancers and eat poi and sleep on the beach under the dancing fronds of a coconut tree.

If you had to pick one "Reality" TV Show to be on what would you pick and why?
(Robin having fun Down Under)
I would want to start my own reality TV. A travel show. I wish I’d had a video camera going while I traveled around the world these past 5 or 6 years. So many unexpected moments happened. It would have made a very entertaining reality show! Sisterchicks on the Loose for real!

What are your two favorite places to shop? Why?


I’m a TJMaxx sort of gal. Love a bargain.





I do love to go on a treasure hunt at Nordstrom Rack though, especially if I’m shopping with my daughter.

If time and money were not a problem and you could dine anywhere you wanted where would you pick and why? What would you order? If you could have breakfast anywhere you wanted, where would you pick and what would you order?







Hawai’i again. I think I’d have breakfast at the Gazebo in Napilli and order the macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup. And guava juice. And Portuguese sausage. Ooooo. I’m getting hungry!

If had 24 hours to hang out with anyone dead or alive in the history of the world/ what 2 people would you pick and why? What would you do? Talk about?










Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, changed the course of American history. She was an astounding woman. I’d ask why she put so much effort into writing The Key To Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was an explanation of everything she wrote in her novel and was written in an effort to silence the critics. I’d urge her to stop defending her art – her story – and just keep going and write more. I’d take her to the deep south (incognito) and visit a working plantation and observe what was happening. She lived in Ohio and had never traveled further south than one trip to Kentucky where she heard some slaves singing in their quarters. With only that one taste of slavery she wrote an astounding novel. What could she have written if she went and saw and experienced a plantation and didn’t feel the need to explain herself to her critics?

I’d also love to meet Ka’ahumanu, a powerful Hawaiian ali’I (royalty). I’d like to meet her when she was 15 and given in marriage to Kamehameha the Great and learned to surf the long boards off the Kohala coast and make kites 15 feet across, which she flew on the beach. Then I’d like to see her again in her 40’s near the end of her life. She became a Christian as a result of the New England missionaries she allowed to come ashore and set up a mission outpost which flourish over the several decades that the 100 or so teachers and pastors and doctors ministered to the Hawaiians on all the islands. I’d like to be there when she professed her faith in Christ and said she felt as if the dark heavens opened and light poured down on her.

ARE THERE ANY FINAL COMMENTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE WITH MY READERS?
My son just got married a couple weeks ago. I've included a photo. We don’t have many back yet but here’s a little glimpse of the beauty and bliss of their wedding day. I’ve come to believe that purity shows invisibly on a couple on their wedding day and just makes the whole celebration sacred and deeply moving.









Thanks so much Robin for taking the time to do this interview. It sure has been fun getting to know you and your love of Hawaii. Thanks for answering some of my silly fun questions. Inquiring minds just want to know. Ha! I LOVED all the pictures you've shared. Their the best!!

I’d love to invite readers to receive my Robin’s Nest e-newsletter by going to www.robingunn.com and signing up. Each newsletter I offer a drawing for free books. They can also become my friend on Facebook – Robin Jones Gunn – and view more of my photo albums there.

Oh,One more thing. Last month we just hit 4 million copies sold and the release of Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes is the 70th book in print. And for fun, here’s a photo Karen Ball just took yesterday (March 31st)of my Sisterchicks editor Julee Schwarzburg and me. We were at a tulip field in Oregon on a COLD afternoon. Sisterchick and Editor in LARGE wooden shoes. hee hee! Thanks Nora for letting me share this exciting news.

Blessings on your next writing adventure. Remember if you are ever in Atlanta you'll have to stop by and speak to us at book club of course.

Until Next Time Robin!!

Nora :D

14 comments:

  1. Lovely interview, Robin and Nora :)

    To think you were down under, Robin and I didn't know it ;-) Can't promise I would have screamed at the sight of you....but I still would have been impressed - LOL!

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  2. Love this interview--neat tip about writing on the laptop to avoid checking emails.

    Loved the details and questions/answers.

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  3. I am so impressed that your books for girls were printed in Portuguese, and that they used them to understand the spiritual meanings of your books!! My sister and husband have had two young men as Exchange students from Brazil, so I've gotten to know a little about Brazil. Thanks, also, for sharing your son's wedding pics. I love to see them.

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  4. Wonderful, wonderful pictures and interview. I enjoyed reading about the countries you visited, and so many neat things you saw. Loved the pictures of your son's wedding too...so nice and a lovely couple.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Sandy

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  5. Thanks for the interview. Great! By the way were those wax lips in the mystery picture?
    I haven't seen wax lips for years :-)

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  6. Loved the interview and can't wait to share it with my daughter. She has absolutely loved all of the Christy Miller series, etc. and we both have read all of the SisterChicks books. I think you may be her favorite author.

    I'll look for you on Facebook and plan to sign up for your newsletter.

    Thanks for sharing everything with us and Nora thanks to you also.

    Gail Mundy

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  7. What a fun and interesting interview! I love Robin's books, and though I have 2 boys so have never had the Christy and Sienna stories, we do have the "Billy and Bear" books from loooonnnggg ago!! :D They are some of my 3 year old's favorite books!

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  8. This was a wonderful interview. I loved all the photos! We lived in Hawaii for 8 years, and I also love Hawaiian history. Robin, would you ever consider writing a historical book set in Hawaii? Oh, I would love to read that! Thanks for all the great books you have given us!
    Blessings,
    Carrie

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  9. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the interview. Blessings, Holly

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  10. Nora, you do the best interviews ever. Nice job. They must take you hours to put together.

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  11. This was a fantastic interview. I really enjoyed reading it.

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  12. Nora,
    I followed a link from Robin's newsletter to me to this site. What a great interview! I will visist again.

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  13. Nora and Robin,
    That was such an awesome interview! I followed Robin's link to this site and its just amazing! Thanks so much for interviewing her Nora. I love every one of her novels and cant wait for the next ones! God has blessed this woman with a special way of writing that you dont find in many authors today. Thanks for everything. God bless both of you. :)

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  14. Thanks so much for the great interview.
    Heather

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