Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Author Interview - Robyn Bradley - Contemporary Author

    Thank you for joining us as we sit at an outdoor restaurant on the pier. The warm ocean breeze welcomes us today so we're glad to share this with you. With  me is a wonderful author who is no stranger to readers and listeners. It was a joy to interview her and I know you'll love meeting her, too! Help me welcome Robyn Bradley!
     Robyn Bradley is a Short Story Seductress and Novelist Ninja with an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Her work has appeared in FictionWeekly.com, Metal Scratches, The Breakwater Review, Writer's Digest, and The MetroWest Daily News, among other places. In 2007, she won a short story award for “A Touch of Charlotte.” Forgotten April is her first novel and is available on Kindle, Nook, iPad, and in paperback. When she's not writing or sleeping, Robyn enjoys watching Law & Order marathons, drinking margaritas, and determining how many degrees really separate her from George Clooney. Learn more at www.robynbradley.com.

Deanna:  Robyn, thank you for having us here in Provincetown MA! It's gorgeous! Tell us a bit about YOU that our readers might not know.

Robyn:  Random facts about me: I'm the youngest of six (I have five brothers). I worked full time in morning radio for almost seven years -- my days started at 3:00 a.m. I love cats. I'd gone sky diving, hot air ballooning, and rock rappelling by the age of 21. (Life has gotten considerably boring since then.) I did stand-up comedy in my late teens and early 20s and was one of the first comics doing Lorena Bobbitt jokes. (Remember her?) I have a big crush on George Clooney.

Deanna:  What made you want to become a writer?

Robyn: It all began when Mrs. Shea gave me four red stars on a short story I wrote in the fourth grade. The whole experience -- drafting the story (in pencil), finalizing the story (in pen), and sharing it with an "audience" of fellow fourth graders -- was magical from start to finish. I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life, although it took some time to get where I am today (and I took a few detours as well).

Deanna:  Do you write under a pen name?

Robyn: I used to early on, and I have some publication credits under my nom de plume, E.T. Robbins. Here's the story behind the name: I'm actually closer in age to my oldest niece and nephew than I am to my brothers (see the first question above). So when I was nine or so, my niece and nephew were learning how to talk. They had trouble wrapping their tongues around "Aunty Robyn" -- it came out as "E.T. Robbins," and in my wisdom at age nine, I said that E.T. Robbins would be my pen name when I grew up. I abandoned it back in 2007 after I won a short story award and the story was published under my real name. I took it as a sign.

Deanna: As authors, we love all of our characters. Is there a certain type of character that is easier to write than another?

Robyn: I love getting in the heads of all my characters. For me, I wouldn't say that there's one type that's harder to write than others. My goal is to make all of them -- protagonists and antagonists alike -- as three-dimensional as possible. Some of my characters probably wouldn't be considered "good" people but that doesn't make them any less human or complex. Even evil people have tender moments. I feel it's important to show all sides.

Deanna:  Do you read in the same genre that you write in?

Robyn: I do, but I also read outside my genre. I think it's important to read widely.

Deanna:  Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Robyn:  I'm quite fortunate, and I thank my lucky stars every day for the time I have to devote to my writing. I'm a self-employed copywriter by day -- have been for almost a decade -- so my days (and much of my nights and weekends) consist of writing, whether it's copy for clients or my creative work.

Deanna:  At least your day job keeps you in the writing loop! Most of us have pretty vivid imaginations when it comes to story lines. Where do your story ideas come from?

Robyn:  I'm one of those writers who feels there are stories everywhere. I'm never at a loss for something to write about. Some of my favorite places to get inspired include Post Secret, movies, crime shows (I'm a huge Law & Order and Criminal Minds fan), well-written television shows (The Good Wife, Lost), The Week (a magazine that culls news from a ton of sources -- there's always some gem within those pages), people watching anywhere, long drives.

Deanna:  Not many of us can have such vivid imaginations. How long did it take you to complete your debut novel, Forgotten April?

Robyn:  The idea started in 2001. I worked on it off and on -- and during some of those "on" phases, I was working on it full time -- for nine years. I went through no fewer than six drafts, and I'd consider four of those to be complete rewrites. I'd buried the book twice, only to resurrect it. It wasn't until the fall of 2010 that I finally figured out how to fix the opening three chapters, which had been dogging me since the beginning.

Deanna:  Well congratulations on completing your novel. Is it your first novel, or do you have a "bottom drawer dweller" like so many writers claim to have?

Robyn: Oh, I definitely have a bottom drawer dweller. It's called Lilly's Legs. I think Lilly is a thinly veiled version of my 23-year-old self, and I'm still not entirely sure why her legs are so important that I needed to mention them in the title.

Deanna:  Sometimes titles just stick in our heads and we need to run with it. No plans on resurrecting that one?

Robyn:  No. If I tried, it would be scary, kinda like the scenes in Pet Sematary. Some things are better left dead.

Deanna:  Not many can use their first work and that’s not a bad thing. Who are some of your favorite writers?

Robyn: Lionel Shriver, Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, Susan Orlean, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Jo Ann Beard, Cormac McCarthy (though I've only read The Road), Jack London (there are too many to name, really).

Deanna:  Some writers listen to certain genres of music while they're writing, and sometimes the genres change from book to book. Does this describe you?

Robyn: With Forgotten April, I wasn't obsessed with music as much as I was obsessed with Terry O'Quinn, who played John Locke on Lost. I didn't start watching Lost until the second season, and it was because I saw a promo with Locke and I thought, "That's Hugh!" Hugh is one of my characters in Forgotten April, and I kinda developed a crush on him as I was writing the book. I can remember spending one summer watching archived clips of Lost, over and over, just to get a better sense of Locke's physical presence, which enabled me to describe Hugh better.

With my forthcoming novel, What Happened in Granite Creek, which is coming out this October, I did have a musical playlist of sorts. I don't own an iPod, but what I've been known to do is watch a bunch of videos on YouTube, always the same ones. These included "Say" by John Mayer, "Possum Kingdom" by The Toadies, "Far Away" by Nickelback, "Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson, "Give You Hell" by The All-American Rejects, "Hands Clean" by Alanis Morissette, and "Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam. There were others, too, but these come to mind.

Deanna:  Keyboard or longhand?

Robyn:  Keyboard. My handwriting is atrocious. I'm a self-taught typist, and sometimes my fingers can't keep up with my mind, but it's still better than my handwriting.

Deanna:  I have to agree on that one! My handwriting is sometime hard for even me to read! E-books or physical books?

Robyn:  I love stories. The medium isn't important to me per se, but I'm now more of an eBook purchaser than print books, mainly because of speed, space, and cost. I own a Nook.

Deanna:  Fill in the blank. The hardest part about writing is ____________________.

Robyn:  Waiting. There's a lot of waiting in writing, which requires patience. Putting a draft aside and waiting (for however long…a few weeks, a few months, etc.) before going back to it is necessary, I think, but still hard. Then there's waiting for responses from lit journals and agents. Waiting for publication (my wait time isn't as long as authors who are going the traditional route, but there's still some wait time, if you do it right).

Deanna:  Coffee or tea?

Robyn:  Coffee, coffee, oh, and more coffee. (I do like a nice iced peppermint tea every now and then.)

Deanna:  Adding Bailey’s isn’t a bad thing! *laughing* Are you in a critique group? If yes, how's that working out?

Robyn:  I am. I've been with the Nobscot Niblets, a group I co-founded, for 6.5 years. It's been great: from a productivity standpoint, a support standpoint, and a friendship standpoint. Last month, we devoted a whole meeting to workshopping the draft of What Happened in Granite Creek.

Deanna:  I learn quite a bit in my critique group that I will always carry with me. I noticed you have an MFA in Creative Writing. How important is an MFA?

Robyn:  It's not. You don't need an MFA to be a writer. Here's what an MFA can help you with: being in a program might give you the permission you need to devote one or two years to your writing. It provides accountability and deadlines. It's also a "terminal" degree, so if you want to teach writing at the college level, you need it. You'll also meet like-minded folks, which is helpful in developing a support network of fellow writers. But you can do all of this (minus the terminal degree part) with a good critique group. I don't regret having gone for my MFA, but you don't need one to be a writer.

Deanna:  Congratulations on obtaining the MFA anyway! Anything else?

Robyn:  I love connecting with readers and fellow writers. I'm active on Facebook and Twitter and would be honored if you checked my profiles out and considered following me. Let's talk writing and books!

Contest Info:  TWO Winners will be drawn on Friday. I’d like to do a giveaway: I'd love to give away a signed paperback copy of Forgotten April (person needs to be in the US), and an eBook copy (choice of Mobi or ePub file). The drawing will be done Friday from those who leave a comment.

Thanks so much for having me, Deanna. This has been fun!

Deanna:  It's been a pleasure getting to know you, Robyn. I know our readers here today will be visiting your sites and adding your work to their reading lists. Readers, I'm pleased to share with you the synopsis from Forgotten April: 

     For April Sullivan-LaMonica, the last ten years have been hell: her husband and young son were killed in a car accident, and soon after, her mom descended into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. So when broadcast journalist Maggie Prescott shows up claiming to be April’s half sister and tries to capture their reunion on film, April outwardly regards Maggie with much suspicion. In reality, she’s simply afraid to grow close to someone again, only to have that person leave — or worse.

     Maggie, meanwhile, is battling her own demons: figuring out why her biological mother gave her up, facing a secret she’s kept from the one man she’s loved all her life, and giving herself permission to follow the dream she’s had since she was a child.

     Separated by nearly two decades and radically different life paths, April and Maggie must decide if pursuing their sisterhood is worth it…or even possible.

     A story of loss, love, survival, and redemption, Forgotten April will speak to anyone who’s experienced the pains — and riches — of an unexpected friendship that emerges from family ties.

Purchase Links for Forgotten April:

Robyn's website - Learn more at www.robynbradley.com.