Rian: First off, what made you decide to write The Journal of Mortifying Moments? Was it something you’ve always wanted to write, or was it all done on a whim?
Robyn: The Journal of Mortifying Moments was really my first stab at humorous fiction. Over the years I’d attempted to write deep, literary novels but I never got very far and they were never very good. When I decided to try my hand at humor and came up with the concept for ‘Journal’, it flowed much more smoothly.
Rian: I adored the character “Kerry” in your book – she was one of those vibrant, larger-than-life characters who can actually make a book. Where did you get the idea or material for her character?
Robyn: There is so much of me in Kerry Spence – not really who I am today, but who I have been, over the years. She is largely based on a time in my life when I was young, single, just starting out in my career and incredibly insecure. Of course, I was never quite as neurotic as she is.
Rian: There are some pretty embarrassing things Kerry writes about in her journal. What, if any, of those “moments” are based on real-life happenings?
Robyn: They are all fiction! No one believes me! Everyone now thinks I have a really kinky sex life. Okay, the ski hill incident did happen to a friend of mine, but it was heavily fictionalized for the book. She was so sweet to let me write about it. And I did have a boyfriend who broke up with me just after I’d had my wisdom teeth removed. But other than that, all fiction! My husband and I are not into S&M!
Rian: How do you go about your writing each day? Do you have a set time, certain music you listen to, certain thing you eat or drink or certain place you have to be?
Robyn: I have two young kids so basically, I write when they let me. My youngest goes to preschool for a couple of hours in the morning, so I try to get some work done then. When my husband gets home from work I’ll race up to my office with a glass of wine and do a little writing. Sometimes, I end up spending most of the weekend sequestered in my office writing like mad. I try not to make it a habit to snack while I write, but I often do. And I like to burn aromatherapy candles.
Rian: When you were writing “Journal…”, was every character that appeared in the story thought out in advance, or did any of them just kind of make their way in?
Robyn: Not much of this novel was thought out in advance. It’s different now that I have a contract and have to outline the story before I even begin. But since ‘Journal’ was my first novel, I just winged it, and let the characters enter the story as they popped into my head.
Rian: I am eagerly waiting for your next book – what is it going to be about? Do you have any other books or writing projects in the works?
Robyn: My next book is quite a departure from ‘Journal’. Set in the suburbs, it is the story of Paige Atwell, a stay-at-home mom who has just sent her youngest child off to first grade. She’s feeling bored and unfulfilled with her life and her marriage, when her best friend, Karen confesses she’s been having an affair. Paige can’t help but feel a little envious. Karen seems so alive, so full of joi de vivre! That is, of course, until she’s found dead in her kitchen. Most of the neighborhood seems willing to accept that Karen’s death was an accident, but then they don’t know what Paige does. Trying to protect her friend’s good name, Paige decides to get to the bottom of Karen’s death on her own. The book is still light and humorous, but there is also a darker, mystery element to it. It’s been challenging, but also really fun to write. It should be out spring 2005.
I’m also talking with Penguin Canada about writing a couple of books for them, but it’s early stages yet.
Rian: What do you think of the chick lit genre? What about the people that put it down?
Robyn: I think chick lit is like any other genre – there are some great books, and some not so great books. It’s elitist to put down the whole category. Life is stressful these days, and if women want to read something fun and frothy that they can relate to, then I think that’s great. It would be pretty dreary to read nothing but deep, meaningful, heavy literature. If you compare books to television, it would be like watching nothing but 60 Minutes. At a certain point, you’d be screaming for a good ‘Sex and the City’ re-run!
Rian: What are your favorite kind of books/genres to read?
Robyn: I read only deep, meaningful, heavy literature. Seriously though, I do read mostly literary fiction, but if it’s good, I’ll read it, regardless of genre. The last book I read was ‘Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy.” I love David Sedaris. I was also really inspired by the Bridget Jones novels. Helen Fielding is the grande-dame of chick lit. I also think Marian Keyes writes great women’s fiction.
Rian: What was the most difficult thing about writing “Journal…”?
Robyn: Two things come to mindï¿½ 1. Finding the time to write – I had two small children and worked part-time as a communications consultant, and 2. Having confidence in what I had written. I was too shy to let any friends or family read my manuscript, in case they didn’t like it. I didn’t think my fragile ego could take the criticism. So, I sent it off to agents and publishers basically unread. Thankfully, even the rejections I got were encouraging, and eventually I received a couple of offers.
Rian: If someone asked you for advice on how to get over a bad case of writer’s block, how would you respond?
Robyn: I think writer’s block is caused by the internal pressure you place on yourself. Allow some time and space away from the project (assuming your deadline is not in two weeks or something.) Let your mind relax and think about other things for awhile, then go back to your project, refreshed.