I would like to start by thanking Ms. Robin Shope for agreeing to take the time to participate in this interview. Her latest book is The Christmas Edition, an inspirational romance / holiday book that begins the Turtle Creek Series! I absolutely loved the book (didn't stop reading once I'd started. . . until it was finished!). I am eagerly awaiting her next book in the series called The Valentine Edition.
If you haven't read my review of The Christmas Edition, click here.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was Christmastime one year ago. Thoughts of returning home for the holidays overwhelmed me. If only I could sleep in my bed once more, sit at the breakfast table and tease my little brother while Mom made pancakes and Dad sang songs. That was impossible with both my parents gone. There was only one way home and that was through my memory. I went there…to the lake now frozen still and the deep snow drifts filling the streets. I walked right into the lake house and felt the thrill at the sight of the Douglas fir standing tall with special ornaments all over it. Dad was struggling to untangle the lights as mother patiently watched. And the story began….I wrote it down.
Are any of the characters or places you wrote about significant to you?
Turtle Creek is what I renamed my hometown of Delavan, Wisconsin for the series. It conveys the feel of a small country area. Several of the characters are based on people who live there or once lived there. They are people whom I once loved and who, unbeknown to them, remain close to me in thought.
Can you personally relate to any of the characters or the things they faced/went through?
I related to Lucy when she was afraid of Joe never coming back to Turtle Creek because of her brother's rudeness. I had my own little brother who was rude. Older sister was pretty off putting too. Christmas filled me up with enough hope to carry me clear through to the next Christmas. Lucy was that way too. However, a few of my friends say I remind them more of Ulilla. For those of you who haven't yet read the book, I will leave it there for you to find out about her for yourself. I must admit, I am pretty partial to Ulilla.
Who was your favorite character to write?
Joe was lots of fun because he was mysterious. Lucy was fun to write because of her zeal for life. But I do think Ulilla was my favorite character. Although it was a small role, she always had something important to say and looked at people through rose colored glasses which served her well.
What was the most challenging part of writing the book? Were there any aspects of the book that you struggled with, ie. a particular scene, a character, an area of research?
Up to this book, I was a mystery writer. I struggled with romance and not because I didn’t enjoy writing it, because it was lots of fun. I worried that I wouldn’t have enough story to tell without a good murder…but then I decided to make Joe a mystery and that gave me a lot.
If your book was being discussed by a book club, or a few friends meeting over coffee or tea, what about the book do you think would drive the most discussion (particular character, event, theme)?
I think I would give each person one of the book's character to discuss. They would have to say why they liked or didn’t like that particular person. What effect did they have on the plot? Could they have said or done something differently that might have impacted the story making the outcome different?
Are you considering a sequel, if so, can you give us any peeks into the story-line? [Let me add here that I know you are writing a sequel, The Valentine Edition I think, can you give us any information on it?]
I am happy to give you the blurb.
Print ISBN 13: 9781601544841
Digital Release Date: 2009-02-06
Digital Price: 6.00
Print Release Date: 2009-02-06
Print Price: 12.99
Blurb: The last place in the world Jodi Williams wanted to live was Turtle Creek, Wisconsin, but when her stepdad refused to put in a good word for her at the Chicago paper, she had no other choice than to accept the first job offer that came her way. Josh Thomas was Turtle Creek's veterinarian, but he also happened to be single and quite handsome. His life was pretty peaceful until a pretty, young stranger came to his clinic with a dog that had been hit by a car. While his first reaction was to care for the injured animal, he couldn't help a few glances at this unique young woman. That day was one of quite a few new beginnings. Jodi came to the aid of an injured animal, earning her the respect of a handsome man, she started a new job as a reporter for The Turtle Creek Newspaper, and she gained the wrath of the vet's receptionist. Della had her sights set on Joshua, and she wasn’t about to let anyone come between her and the man of her dreams.
On your bookshelf: Is there a particular book or author that you find yourself returning to from time to time? If so, what keeps you coming back?
Children's books and books written for middle school. They are simple and written to the point with lots of heart and no nonsense.
While you are working on a book, do you find yourself entering the world you are writing about? If so, do you do anything in particular to prepare yourself for your writing?
I go 'away' for a while. Sometimes I feel like I should tell my family goodbye. "You will see me but I will be living in the fourth dimension kids, sorry!"
I get so immersed in the plot and in my characters that while I am on date night with my husband, I find myself drifting back to the place and people I created. Rick will ask "What are you thinking about?"
"Ohm, Ulilla needs to tell Joe something."
While reading your book, we get to catch glimpses of Ulilla Langston (who for some reason formed in the image of Aunt Jemima in my mind), a very strong woman with a lot of character. I really enjoyed her. First of all, how do you say her name? (I’ve been saying U-LI-LA) Will she be a recurring character in your series?
Bravo! That is how you say her name…but she is no stock character. I created her as a pseudo-society woman of impeccable fashion, big hair and kind hearted through and through. Yes, she will be back in all the books. We need her wit and her wisdom. She's is at the stage in her life that she just says things as they are without having a personal agenda.
There are a few places in the book where Joe does a wonderful job of getting details from people: the story behind Lucy’s picture of the leaf, the interviews in the neighboring town with the older couple who had only been married for 5 years, but had known each other for so long, and the young woman who didn’t understand why she liked Christmas so much until Joe helped her dig deeper into her feelings. As a reader, some of those scenes were my favorites, they were very touching. What inspired you to give him the depth and ability to really talk with people like that?
Probably being a teacher helped. You can't take the first answer out of someone's mouth. It's too surface. Meaningless. You have to mine for gold. Make the person revisit the scene, the core truth and re-experience it. Then when the answer comes it's so spectacular that you stand in awe. Everyone is shaped by experiences. We need to draw on that when we express ourselves. If you ask the right questions in such a way, the moment bubbles to the surface. It's magical. We are filled with stories everyone wants to hear.
Joe’s editorial pieces were wonderful to read. They were almost lyrical in a way, with a depth of feeling and well-expressed and meaningful thoughts. Did you have to do anything differently as an author to write from Joe’s perspective?
I wanted him to write with heart…and that was what Lucy was looking for. Anything less and he wouldn’t get the job. So that meant Joe had to identify with a human need and make it both emotional and compassionate. I searched newspapers for human interest stories and found one of a landmark store that was closing its doors after fifty years in business. Bingo. I had my story. I approached it as a man on the street type editorial and it worked.
Joe’s relationship with God was an amazing feature of the book. When we as the reader meet Joe, we get to see how haunted he is, and we make many assumptions as to why he is haunted, which are cleared up at the end of the book wonderfully . . . I don’t think his transformation would have been as significant without his troubles. After reflection, the book to me was almost more about Joe’s relationship with God and faith. I guess this question will be a multi-part one. First, when you were planning this book, which came first – Joe’s story, or Lucy’s? Second, how much research did you have to do about the psychological impact that Hudson had on Joe? His dreams were amazingly vivid and kept me wondering!
The story began as Lucy's..lost love…a past that she was still wounded by. Then enters Joe…why would Lucy want to trust him? What about this character would make her fall in love when so many other men had failed to win her heart. I had to make him more than a nice guy. I decided to make Joe a mystery! I wanted his past to haunt him but I also wanted to keep him a good guy. I had to walk a fine line because this is a Christmas book filled with romance and hope …so I couldn't go too dark. it wouldn’t work if I did. Yep, Joe was so fun to write about. He was whom he was meant to be when he was with Lucy…but when he was left alone to his thoughts, then the haunting began. I am glad you thought his dreams were vivid. I kept rewriting it until I felt creeped out. But Joe's need to help Lucy transcended his own past and that made it possible to reach out and touch God. This was my first time writing from two points of view. I was a little nervous doing it but the story called for it.
In Chapter 15, when Joe meets the elderly man in the church (not the pastor) who helps him to find his faith and get to the root of his problems, who was the elderly man, and why didn’t you name him?
I purposefully didn't want the pastor to do this scene. I wanted someone neutral. Someone new. Someone you only saw that one time …the time of Joe's greatest stress, when he was falling apart. God uses all of us in his garden…some prepare the ground, some plant the seed, some water but its God who gives the increase. Some readers thought perhaps this unidentified man was an angel, or a deacon, or a custodian. I will let the reader decide.
The scenes surrounding the Cotton Candy House were magical. Especially Joe’s surprise for Lucy. What was your inspiration for this place? Is it based on a real house, or a real location?
It's based on a prayer. I would love to live in that house someday…I created it from my imagination. And! Last spring, after I finished with the last edits, I drove to a small town to go antiquing. At one end of the town square there was my house! It was for sale too. No, I didn’t buy the house. But I did tip toe up on the porch to sit on the bench swing for a while, smelling the roses that grew along the walkway. (No one was home so I peeked in the windows)
The Collins family had a wonderful tradition surrounding Christmas, and the significance of each person’s ornaments. What gave you the idea to include the ornaments in the story? They seemed to be a catalyst within the story more than once.
At Christmastime when my children were little, I would take them to a store to let them select special ornaments. They always picked something that was meaningful to them from the previous year. When we decorated the tree, we would talk about that remembrance. Now that my daughter has a home of her own, I gave her a box filled with her special ornaments that tells of her life. She now decorates her own tree with these and is about to have a baby of her own, starting her own family traditions.
Lastly, do you have any last thoughts or questions you would like to share with readers?
I hope that you will read The Christmas Edition and that you will discover a new favorite author in me as a result. Please email me when you read the book and give me your thoughts. It means a lot. I will answer you too. Promise!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Again, I would like to say a huge thank you to Robin for agreeing to be interviewed! I had a great time chatting with her, and learning more about her book! (She has another stand-alone book being released in 2009: Wildcard)
If you would like to visit her website, click here.
This interview has been added to the About the Author Index! Click here to read more author interviews.