Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
If you’ve read a Christy Miller book you might see some similarities here. (Write what you know, right?) I was born on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. My parents moved to southern California when I was five. I grew up in a strong, church going family. My dad was a junior high history teacher and coach. My mom directed a pre-school at our church. My sister and I squabbled over clothes and chores, my brother and I liked to make forts in the orange grove next to our house and sleep out in a tent in the backyard in the summer. The three of us were all born within five years and I’m in the middle. We’re still close. In high school I started a Christian club at my school and went on missions trips to Mexico with our church. I had some really great God-Lover friends and we spend many hours at the beach and around campfires singing praise songs.
I attended Biola University for two years. I traveled to Europe when I was 21 to attend a Bible school in Austria and work for a mission organization in Germany. My husband and I married while he was finishing seminary and we immediately began a journey together of doing youth ministry for 22 years. Our son was born five years after we were married and then four years later our daughter arrived. We moved a lot. The favorite year for all of us was the year we living on Maui. We’ve been in Portland, Oregon area now for 15 years where my husband is a counselor. Our God-loving son is married to a wonderful young woman and our daughter is living back in California, working and loving life and loving God in new and deeper ways. I feel so blessed. Really.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
Travel, travel, travel. And when I read, it’s all about Hawaiian history or poetry and hymns. I’ve incorporated the travel in all the Sisterchicks books over the years as well as the Christy, Sierra and Katie books. In “Coming Attractions” I sent Katie off to Africa and I’m going to follow her there in real life. I’m going to Kenya, Lord willing, in November to teach at an International Writers Conference www.littworld.org
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Actually, last month I did feel as if I had a superpower. God gave me the superpower to forgive someone and wow! What a supernatural change that made in my heart.
What has God been teaching you lately?
Every year in January I take a full day where I curl up in a chair in the living room by the fireplace and a pot of tea. I light a candle, open my journal and read what I wrote over the previous year. My heart is always overwhelmed with the faithfulness and goodness of God. Then I list all the evidences of His hand on my life and thank Him some more. My final tradition is to ask Him for a word. Words are what my life is all about so in sweet and personal ways over the years I have seen God give me a gift each new year – a gift of a word. That word becomes a banner over me for the coming year. And as you can imagine, when I look back over the year the next January, I can see specific ways that He wrote that particular word over my days many times across the months. This year the word He gave me was “radiate.”
And yes, I’ve felt the fulfillment of that word already this year in opening Robin’s Nest Online Shop http://firstname.lastname@example.org The influence of the stories I’ve been writing all these years are now “radiating” to a wider audience. We listed some stories on the landing page that are really touching from readers and shoppers. What I’ve been so aware of this year is that in order to “radiate” there has to be a source of power that comes from elsewhere. I’m just a reflector of the power of God. There have been some really difficult times this year when I wanted to turn off the switch, so to speak, and go dark into hibernation/invisible mode. But then I roll back around to the reality that I’m not the one producing the energy. I am powered by God’s faithful, extravagant Spirit. All I have to do to radiate is stay plugged in.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A missionary. I wanted to travel to foreign lands and translate God’s Word into a language that unreached people could understand. I tried applying for a position in Africa when I was in my twenties. The only opening they had for someone of my very limited abilities and talents was a “laundry supervisor”. It wasn’t what I had in mind as my life work for Jesus, but I applied and was rejected. The fun part of this story is that when I was teaching at a LittWorld Conference in England 11 years ago I met an African woman named Wambura who had read my books as a teen in Kenya. When I told her my story of rejection she said, “Oh, Robin, you did not need to come to Africa to wash our clothes. God sent your stories and they have washed our hearts.” !!! When I go to Kenya this November I’m spending 4 days with Wambura. She says she wants to help fulfill God’s will for my life so she’s going to let me do her laundry.
Where are you headed next?
Well, Africa in November. Career wise, I have several options available to me at the moment and am thinking and praying and waiting on the Lord to make some big decisions. I’m not able to reveal specifics yet. I keep readers updated in my e-newsletter, which they can sign up to receive by going to www.robingunn.com
How did you get involved in writing?
I started writing 22 years ago when our two kids were babies. I didn’t really set out to be a published writer or dream about someday writing a book. I think my motivation was probably to satisfy a storytelling instinct I didn’t even realize I had. Or maybe I didn’t understand how “bad” I had it!
My first series of six books for toddlers was released in 1985. It took two years and I think 10 or 11 rejection letters. I was ready to give up but my husband along with several friends kept encouraging me to continue sending out the book proposal. Determined friends can be such a gift! They believe for you long after you’re ready to give up.
The publishing journey with the Christy Miller series started with a distinct moment in a tent. My husband and I were on a camping trip at the beach with our youth group and some of the 13-year-old girls were sitting in their tent reading books rather than going out to the beach and hanging around with everybody else. I asked if I could read three of their favorite books out of the stack of probably 20 books they’d brought from the library. I got in the tent with them, read their books and soon said, “You know what? I don’t want you reading these books. This is not what I want you putting into your young hearts. Do your mothers know this is what you’re reading?” The girls shrugged and said, “What else is there to read?” This was 1986 and the selection of Christian fiction was quite limited.
The girl challenged me to write a book for them. They said, “How hard can it be? We’ll even tell you what to write!” And they did. It took two years and those teenage girls brutally critiqued every word I wrote. They changed the book into the kind of story they cared about. It was the best writer’s training course I could have ever taken. If you want to find out if your work rings true or not, read out loud to your potential audience and believe me, you’ll know. That first YA novel, Summer Promise, released in 1988 and grew into a series of books, followed by the twelve-book Sierra Jensen series. Then I wrote the College Years, because I wanted to find out what was happening with all the characters! Christy’s best friend is Katie, so the Katie Weldon series is the continuation of all those characters as seen from Katie’s point of view. I have to say the three Katie Weldon books were immensely fun to write.
I should mention that I started writing the eight Glenbrooke novels 15 years ago because we had just moved to Oregon and I loved the idea of connecting all these 20-something-plus characters to Glenbrooke, an imaginary small town in Oregon. How did these couples meet? How did they know they were in love? Those were the sorts of questions my readers were asking when I started that series. That was a delightful series to write. The Sisterchicks® Series just sort of happened. I was actually writing a novel for The Women of Faith and it turned out to be its own sort of new beginning. That book was Sisterchicks on the Loose! So, instead of that book going to The Women of Faith, I wrote Gardenias for Breakfast for them and launched the Sisterchicks stories into an eight-book series. Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes! just came out in May.
What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
This week I’d have to say it’s the rewriting process. I’m not very fast at rewriting and it seems that with some books I have to really work at getting the adjustments to the story just right. It’s as if the story happened so clearly in my imagination just the way it came out and now when I go back to make changes there is a battle in my head as my imagination says, “Hey, why did you change that? That’s not how it happened. I was ‘there’. I saw how this story happened. You’re changing the facts.” It’s an odd dance between the right and left brain I guess. Editorial direction almost always wins out and that has been a good thing. But my free spirited imagination bucks against it every time. I actually get sulky and feel subversively belligerent during the rewrite process. Then I see the finished book and get all humbled again and think, “Yes, this is much better than what I first wrote.” Love the results, hate the process.
What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
Collecting the ideas, jotting notes, cutting photos from magazines to visualize the setting of the story and getting to know the characters. I think I work more on this preliminary part of my own unique writing process than I do on the actually spilling of the story. I do best when I really “know” the characters first. Then I just listen and they tell me their story.
How do you find time to write?
Finding big spaces of creative time is getting more challenging as all these other avenues of promotion keep opening up. When our kids were little I had a set routine of getting up at 3am three days a week and writing for four hours while the house was nice and quiet. I still get up early sometimes to write but not like I used to.
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
First, commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3) It was His idea to infuse your imagination as He did. How does He want to use this gift He gave you? Explore ways to get training. Classes, conferences and workshops abound and many of those can be found in Sally Stuart’s Christian Market Guide. Also, I highly recommend Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild as a fantastic mentoring program. Second, learn how to discern between criticism and advice. Be open to both but know what to sift out and throw away and know which gems to pick up and hold on to.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
The idea was with me for many years. I wanted to find out what happened to Katie and Christy and the rest of the God-Lovers gang. But after I finished writing I Promise, Christy and Todd had just walked down the aisle and my 14 years of writing about these characters ended. The day I typed the last line I clearly sensed the Lord impressing on me that I had finished what He invited me to do when I started writing for teens. So I asked Him, “What’s next, Lord?” What followed was the Glenbrooke Series, the Sisterchicks Series and 4 non-fiction books. But no more teen novels.
Every week for the next seven years I received requests from readers all over the world asking me to write more novels for teens. With every letter I’ve asked the Lord, “May I, please?” The answer was always silence. I even approached two different writers about the possibility of them writing about these characters. Both times the projects didn’t develop. So I surrendered again, stepped back and asked God, “What’s next, Papa?”
The answer came in a unique way one afternoon a few summers ago. I was stretched out on the couch for a little nap with my eyes closed. In my heart I distinctly sensed the Lord saying, “I’m giving Katie back to you.” I opened my eyes and looked around to see who spoke because the words seemed so clear. The sun streamed through a high window bathing me in light and a sweet sense of peace. Out loud I said, “Am I making this up or are you directing me, Father?” Just then the music on my computer switched to a song I have long considered Christy and Todd’s love song. I felt a rising sense of excitement. God was doing a new thing.
From there all the doors swung wide open and I am overwhelmed and grateful and thrilled that I was able to write these three Katie Weldon novels. Peculiar Treasures released from Zondervan in March, 2008, and picked up where I Promise ended. Then came On a Whim and now Coming Attractions.
The question I’m asked now every single day is, “Will there be more?” My answer once again is, “I don’t know. I’ll keep asking God and see what He says!”
What are the major themes of the book?
Katie is a college student and in each book she is facing all the struggles that come with that season of life; what am I going to do next? Do I really love Rick? Does he really love me? Are we supposed to get married? What about this nudging I have toward one day going to Africa? How can I resolve this ongoing unsettled relationship with my parents? How am I going to get the money I need for tuition? Where am I going to live after I graduate? Who are my true friends?
The themes, as with all the novels I’ve written, revolve around friendships and moving ahead in relationships with others as well as an authentic relationship with God.
What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
Before I started the series I went to a university in southern California, similar to the setting of the imaginary Rancho Corona University Katie goes to in the books. (Yes, I’m sorry to have to say it, but Rancho Corona is an imaginary college! I receive letters every week from readers who want to go there.)
My editor and my agent went to the California college with me and since my daughter was attending that school at the time, she gave us the grand tour, answered a bazillion questions and gave me lots of details of what her experience was like since she was an RA that year, like Katie. I told lots of photos, talked to groups of women in the dorm at night, spoke in chapel, ate in the cafeteria and sat on a bench by the fountain and just watched. That was a very helpful trip. Having my daughter working in tandem with me on the books was the biggest help, though. She allowed me to draw from a deep well of her own feelings and experiences and I think that’s what helped make the books feel true to life for readers.
With which character do you, personally, identify most and why?
Katie, I think. But I was a lot like Christy when I was growing up and so I’ve always been able to relate to Christy’s timidity. I like to put all my “spiritual” thoughts into Todd’s dialog, though. So I don’t know. I feel connected to all the characters in different ways.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
That was actually my daughter’s word for the year when I started writing the Katie books. Yes, my daughter has begun her own tradition of running away with Jesus for a day in January and asking Him for a word. I hope readers will see how deeply and intimately they are loved by God and how He has pursued them and called them by name and longs to have a close relationship with all of His daughters. I hope they will see that in every situation there is hope. When you shake all the frivolous stuff out of life, as Paul said, “These three things remain; faith, hope and love.” We all know that the greatest of these is love. We also all know that our journey with the Lord begins with faith. But I think we forget that the bridge there between the two is hope. For Katie, hope is what kept her going. Hope is what she was willing to take risks for and release the past in order to embrace the future. “May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:22
While I was writing these stories I loved listening to a band named “Ruth” http://www.myspace.com/ruthrock Their lyrics gave me such a great sense of what Katie and Rick and the rest of the gang were feeling throughout this series. Plus I like the music! Give a listen and see if their music reminds you of Katie and the gang, too.
I would love to add you to the list so you can receive the Robin’s Nest e-newsletter! Go to www.robingunn.com to sign up. We are always coming up with new ideas for drawings for free books. And now that we have the brand new Robin’s Nest Online Shop http://shop.robingunn.com/ you can order my books directly through the shop along with some adorable Tshirts, keychains, posters and more fun items related to all my books. Oh, and please stop by the guestbook on my website and sign in. I love to go to that page and just pray for all the readers from around the world. It would be a joy to pray for you
Thanks for stopping by Robin Jones Gunn’s Coming Attractions Blog Tour.
Here are the blogs featuring Coming Attractions during our AUG 31-SEPT 4 Tour.
4 the Love of Books
A Peek at My Bookshelf
Blog Tour Spot
Book Nook Club
Christy’s Book Blog
Come Meet AusJenny
Deus e Fiel
Drive Home Productions
Great Christian Reads
Karen R. Evans
Life is one daily adventure
Mama Kenz Studio
My Christian Fiction Blog
Red Said Paisley
The 160-acre Woods
The Friendly Book Nook
The Gospel Writer
The Writing Road