Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway Part 1: Holly Robinson, Sleeping Tigers

Jordan O'Malley has everything she ever wanted: a job she loves, a beautiful home, and a dependable boyfriend. When her life unravels after a breast cancer scare, Jordan decides to join her wildest childhood friend in San Francisco and track down her drifter brother, Cam, who harbors secrets of his own.

When Cam suddenly flees the country, Jordan follows, determined to bring him home. Her journey takes her to the farthest reaches of majestic Nepal, where she encounters tests—and truths—about love and family that she never could have imagined.
Funny, heartbreaking, and suspenseful, Sleeping Tigers reminds us all that sometimes it's better to follow your heart instead of a plan.

Author Interview
About the author

Holly Robinson has been writing feature articles, essays and advice columns on health, parenting and psychology topics for national magazines since 1995.  She has been a contributing editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents magazines.  Her work has appeared in several national magazines. She has written two books under her name: The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter, (Harmony/Crown, May 2009) and Sleeping Tigers. She has also written seven books as a ghost writer.

She has taught creative writing and English courses as an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University and has lectured on writing at numerous other colleges in the Boston area.  Ms. Robinson holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She lives in northern Massachusetts with her husband and their five children.

1. What is your current profession/job/career?

I am lucky enough to make a living at what I love doing most:  writing!  I take on a variety of paid writing assignments.  For instance, in the past year, I was the ghost writer for three celebrity memoirs for Penguin publishing; I wrote several women's magazine articles and essays; and I wrote marketing materials for colleges and universities. 

Charleen: In other words…Holly knows all the dirty little secrets of these unknown celebrities!

2. Previous book?

I published THE GERBIL FARMER'S DAUGHTER:  A MEMOIR with Broadway Books, a division of Random House.  It's a comic memoir (bet you couldn't guess that!) about growing up with a father who, during his career as a Navy Officer, became a sort of gerbil guru.  We had over 9,000 gerbils on our farm at one time—along with horses, sheep, pygmy goats, pheasants, peacocks, lizards, you name it.

Charleen: Gerbils? O.o

3. What is your favorite book/author?

I have so many answers!  One book that has stayed with me since childhood—a book that I reread regularly—is A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle, because I always identified with the geeky, outcast heroine.  Through college and grad school, I was completely obsessed by James Joyce's ULYSSES, because the language is so dense and rhythmic, and the tone is alternately sensual and melancholy.  (My youngest son's middle name is Ulysses because I still love that book so much.)  Later, I fell into the dark world of Paul Bowles—I especially love his short stories.  

Charleen: ULYSSES is a great novel and exercise in the entire literary genre. The words masterpiece don’t do it justice. 

4. Which authors do you follow? 

At the moment I seem to be reading more nonfiction than fiction; my current favorite nonfiction author is Susan Orlean.  I also gobble up humor by David Sedaris and mysteries by Elizabeth George and Louise Penny.

5. Which books are you looking forward to in 2012?

There is an absolutely brilliant book of short stories coming out by another of my favorite authors, Susan Straight.  It's being published by McSweeny's.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Most people will say that you can't make a living as a writer.  This is patently untrue—the world will always need writers to do everything from crafting marketing campaigns for cereal to writing movie scripts.  However, if your goal is to write a book of your own, you have to truly be in love with that project—enough so that you'll not only write it from start to finish, but be willing to tear it apart and revise it several times over.  Do this for yourself, not for anyone else.

7. Future projects?  

My agent is currently shopping around a new novel, and I'm finishing another book this week.  The novel making the rounds now falls into the same women's fiction category as SLEEPING TIGERS, though it's also a mystery.  The new book is a complete departure—a ghost story for grownups!

Charleen: I.e. She’s busy!

8. What inspired you to become an author?
Reading was always my favorite escape.  Telling stories came naturally to me—my mother used to make me sit in the back seat and tell stories to my two younger brothers on every car trip.  I never thought I'd actually be an author, though, until my last semester of college, when I took Creative Writing as an elective course and discovered that writing absorbed my attention like nothing else on earth.  I can be writing for seven hours and it feels like seven minutes.  That was true when I began, and it is still true now.

The Writing Process

How long did it take to write the present book?
About three years the first go-round.  Then, when my agent had trouble selling it, I took another year to revise the book before finally publishing SLEEPING TIGERS.

Your Book

1. In your words, what is Sleeping Tigers about? How did you become interested or inspired by this idea?

My book, SLEEPING TIGERS, is about a woman who starts her life over again after surviving breast cancer.  I drew on many of my own experiences to write this book, since I, too, survived a bout of breast cancer.  I was lucky enough to have it diagnosed and treated early; however, the experience completely changed my outlook on life.  Other parts of the book are also drawn from my own experiences; for instance, like the main character, I moved to San Francisco from the East and felt like I'd arrived in a foreign country; I have two brothers who I would do anything for; and I spent several months trekking in Nepal, a country that I found equal parts majestic and inspiring.

2. How would you describe your main character?

Jordan is a young fourth grade teacher when she receives an unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer.  She has always been organized about everything, from her daily lesson plans to weekend outings with her fiance.  The diagnosis and treatment leave her reeling with a new sense of mortality. She wonders if she'll ever enjoy being in an intimate relationship again, much less have a family.  Ultimately, she discovers that cancer opens her up to new experiences in life as she begins to live with an open heart, embracing new risks and relationships.  

3. Do you relate to your main character?

I don't think that I've ever been as cautious or constrained as Jordan is at the start of this book—I think I'm probably more like her best friend, Karin.  But there are parts of me in both of these characters.  That's the best thing about being a writer, really:   you can just pick and choose which parts of yourself you want to put on the page, and then make up the rest!

4. Favorite quote from your book. 
When Jordan travels to San Francisco to track down Karin, her best friend from childhood, she realizes that her experience divides them in a way she hadn't expected.  She says, "Despite being my best friend, Karin had yet to realize what I now knew: each of us carries a sleeping tiger inside, and we can’t predict when that cat will wake, stretch, and sharpen its claws." 

Author’s info : Holly Robinson

Twitter:  @hollyrob1

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