Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! I’m always excited when I have a friend as my guest, and this week I’m so happy to introduce you to Robin Patchen. Robin is one of the writers in my circle of friends and is truly one of my favorite people. I love every opportunity I have to sit and chat with her and could just hear her voice in this interview. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Read on to see how you can enter to win a paperback of her book Traces of Virtues and make sure you check out her brand new release of Touch of Innocence.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Through a series of unexpected events, this New Hampshire girl somehow ended up in central Texas—by way of Oklahoma, our home for twenty-four years. Though my husband and I haven’t lived in New England since ’96, I still long for the beautiful trees, the rugged seacoast, and the changing seasons. Of course autumn is my favorite, when the leaves explode in so much color that the world looks more like an artist’s rendering than real life.
That’s why almost all my stories take place in New England. It’s a way for me to “visit” without the pesky expense of airline tickets.
I loved living in New England, but Oklahoma was a great place to raise our three children, who call the Sooner State home—much to our chagrin. At least they’re fans of the right teams. (Go Patriots!)
My family moved to the Austin area at the start of the pandemic. Now that all my kids are grown—though only one is out of the house—I have all sorts of time to focus on my stories. It’s not easy to come up with multiple romantic suspense plots that take place in the same secluded New England towns, but I haven’t run out of ideas yet. If Jessica Fletcher can do it in Cabot Cove, Maine, then I can do it in New Hampshire. (Never mind that Jessica Fletcher is a fictional character. Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’m a novelist, after all.)
If you happen to catch me at home when I’m not writing, I’ll probably be reading, cooking, or working a puzzle. If you catch me out of the house—a rare and beautiful occurrence indeed—I hope I’ll be traveling to some faraway location. I want to see the whole world twice before I die. (I’m still talking my husband into that plan.)
Until we start traveling the world, though, mostly I’ll be tapping away on this keyboard, wreaking havoc and working magic to give my characters their happy endings.
Tell us about your current release: I’m so excited about Touch of Innocence. It’s the fifth book in my romantic suspense series, the Coventry Saga. It takes place in a small mountain town in (as you probably guessed) New Hampshire and features a gifted but wounded heroine from Washington, a handsome local businessman, and a darling eight-year-old girl who’s already had enough trouble for a lifetime. Oh, and there’s Regis, a cavalier king Charles spaniel, and a pesky gray cat named Oliver, who’s pretty sure he runs the show. This isn’t cozy mystery, though. Neither the cat nor the dog play any part in solving the mystery, though one or both might be involved in saving the day by the time it’s all said and done.
Here’s the blurb:
How can she protect the child if nobody believes her?
Grace used to try to save people, but that was before she realized how powerless she is. Now, she avoids emotional ties, working from her secluded cabin, content with her aloneness. When eight-year-old Lily starts hanging around, Grace enjoys her company but carefully keeps her distance—until she discovers the girl is being exploited. Little though she wants to, she must get involved, even if it means risking her own safety to secure Lily’s.
Andrew can’t help but be drawn to his new neighbor and her beautiful foster child. When he learns about Lily’s disturbing history, he offers to help Grace prove her suspicions about the girl’s father. But the more they learn, the more puzzling Lily’s history seems. They work together to unravel the mystery, determined to ensure Lily ends up with a family who loves her.
But Lily’s father isn’t giving up his muse—or his obsession—that easily. He believes Lily is rightfully his, and he’ll do anything to get her back.
If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Wow. What a great question. To have an effect on another person’s journey to eternity is an immense privilege. To lead a person to Christ is to obey the Great Commission and honor the Lord of all. If I could write a book that would save only one person, I would do it. Because no matter how much time that book might take to write, that person is infinitely more valuable than those minutes and hours.
Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? Not to compromise my standards, no. But there times I’m very delicate when delving into certain situations in order not to offend my readers? As I’m brainstorming story ideas, as I’m considering settings, even I’m writing love scenes, I’m thinking about my readers. The very last thing I want to do is offend anybody. I’m sure I do, though, occasionally. My books have covered some pretty gritty topics: addiction, organized crime, human trafficking. Touch of Innocence has a child who was exploited by a pornographer. There are people who prefer not to think about those things, and I respect that. But I write about them anyway.
How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? What made you take the plunge and finally do it? I first started writing fiction thirteen years ago. At that point, indie publishing still had a stigma attached to it, and most serious writers were seeking traditional contracts. That was the direction I’d decided to go. My first book was abysmal. My second, slightly less so. My third was actually decent, though not publishable, but I was getting there. It was my fourth book that garnered the attention of a literary agent, and he signed me. Unfortunately, no publishers were interested in that story. By then, more and more people were indie publishing and doing very well at it, including a dear friend of mine. On the advice of my agent and with the help of that friend, I decided to indie publish Finding Amanda. It did well enough that I kept on writing and indie publishing. Like a lot of indie authors, I still have the dream of landing a big traditional contract, but honestly, I’ve been doing pretty well with the indie thing, so if I never do, I’ll be content with that.
What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I always wanted to write. I can remember sitting on my little twin bed when I was a teenager with a pen and a notebook, trying to think of something to say. I studied journalism in college and after that worked in marketing and public relations writing ad copy and press releases. I always dreamed of writing a book someday but figured it would be nonfiction. Weirdly, it never occurred to me to write fiction until I was nearly forty years old. I had a story bouncing around in my head, so when my husband gave me a laptop for my birthday, I decided to write that story down. I completed the entire seven-hundred-page manuscript in three months. (Read that sentence again. Go ahead—you can laugh.) As I said in my answer to the last question, it was abysmal. But it was a very important first step to where I am now. I would never have written the second novel if not for the first. It was that first novel that showed me that I loved writing fiction, and honestly, that I was pretty decent at it. I wouldn’t take back that first epic novel for anything. (Though it will never, ever see the light of day!)
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Since I’ve been a freelance editor for many years, I’ve worked with my share of first-time authors. I have a lot of advice, maybe more than you want to read. The first bit of advice is obvious, though. Writers write. You don’t have to write every day—I don’t. But I do write consistently. Whether it’s an hour a day—or fifteen minutes, do it to get the words on the page—and to teach yourself to be consistent. But mostly, do it because writing is like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll be.
Next, don’t just read craft books, devour them. Study them, and then practice what you’re learning. (You can practice during those consistent writing times we just talked about.) Practice and keep practicing until what you’ve learned becomes second nature.
If you want to write and publish great stories, become a plotter. There are very few professional seat-of-the-pants writers. They’re out there, and some are excellent, but most of the people who are publishing today are plotters. (There are great books on plotting, which you should also devour.)
Join a writers group. Anything worth doing is worth doing with people who will encourage you. If I hadn’t joined a local writers group, I probably would have quit before I ever got started.
Find trustworthy critique partners. This is a hard step, but it’s worth the effort. Find people who get what you’re trying to do and know what they’re talking about. You might find these in your local writers group. You might find them online. Ask God to bring you just the right people and then trust that He will at the right time. Then, let them read your work and at least consider their comments seriously.
When you’ve finished a book, consider paying someone for an editorial assessment to get professional feedback on where you are and what you need to work on. Then, work on those things.
If the book is too messy, if you get tired of trying to fix it, if the story feels broken, don’t hesitate to put it aside and start another. (My first book was messy and broken, and I got sick of it. So I wrote another one.)
Writing fiction is not easy. In fact, it’s incredibly hard, but if you have a modicum of talent, and if you’re willing to work, you can do it. And keep something in mind: No artist sells his first landscape. No singer is paid the big bucks for her first performance. You have to be great at it before you’re going to get paid. So do the work to become great at it, and see where it takes you.
Find Robin online:
Robin is giving away a paperback of her book Traces of Virtues (U.S. winner) or a $10 Amazon gift card (international winner)! Here’s all of the fabulous ways you can enter to win!