Author Interview: Robyn Ford

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Robyn was written by Robyn Ford.)

Kelly sat in the coffee shop on the first floor off to the side but with good view of the front door. She had just finished tutoring a teenager in the proper structure of an essay, and now she waited until her interviewee showed up. She checked her phone again for the time, and the door chimed. She looked up, but it was that attorney from the firm on the opposite side of the courthouse. He gave her a curt nod when they locked eyes, but then she shifted her gaze back to her computer and resumed typing.

Several more minutes passed. The attorney got his drink and left, and as he went out the door, he held it open for a young woman—an action Kelly noticed as she identified the newcomer. “Robyn?” Her query caught the woman’s attention, and they locked eyes. Kelly smiled because she knew she was right. She rose to her feet. “Hello! Welcome.” She extended a hand to shake Robyn’s. “I trust you’re doing well today.”

Robyn smiled. “I’m great. It’s good to finally meet you.” She glanced at the counter. “I stayed up a little late last night, so I’ll grab some caffeine and then I’m all yours.” She looked around. “I love this place. It seems like the kind of spot a couple of my characters would hang out in.”

“Sounds good! Go right ahead and get a drink. I’ll be right here.” Kelly motioned to the counter and returned to her seat waiting for Robyn to join her.

Once Robyn finally came and sat across from her Kelly smiled at her warmly. “So tell me about yourself, what you do, and how your writing fits into all of it.”

Robyn took a sip of her tea and then set it down on the table. She fiddled with the tea bag as she tried to decide where to start. It seemed like she’s always fiddling with something. “Well, first I have to say that I’m excited to be doing this and talking writing. I haven’t been doing much writing lately, and it feels so good to talk with another writer. My real world job is full of numbers and bureaucratic stuff.” She laughed. “It’s nice to talk to someone who gets it.”

“Ugh, numbers! I don’t know how you do it.” Kelly shook her head but smiled. “Well, I’m glad to give you a break from that. Why haven’t you been writing lately?” She tilted her head as she furrowed her brows. “Too busy or just not sure what to write?”

Some of her dark hair has escaped its clip and Robyn pushed it behind her ear. “The last couple of weeks have been crazy.” She grinned. “But the good kind of crazy.”

She took another sip of tea and the warmth feels good. “I think, like many writers, I’m very good at self-sabotage. I’ve been working on the same piece for a long time now—longer than I care to confess, but years!—and sometimes it feels like it’s not going anywhere.” She glanced at a print on the wall. “Sometimes I think that the rewrite is going nowhere and that I should just satisfy myself with being a cheerleader for my writer friends. But I have some pretty fantastic friends—and persistent characters—who know that’s not enough.”

“Have you tried not rewriting? But simply going forward? Pressing onward? You can always go back and fix things once you’re finished, but at least you’d have completed the work.” Kelly knew this wasn’t how everyone wrote, wasn’t their method, but if their current method wasn’t working, maybe another approach was needed.

Robyn laughed and tugged at her necklace. It was a horse pendant from a recent trip to Kentucky, something that she put on when she felt unsure or nervous. “There’s a completed manuscript. Two versions of it, in fact. They just don’t work for different reasons. The first one had way too many subplots and the second one kind of turned into Franken-book. I drastically changed the ending at someone’s advice, and it just didn’t work. It just wasn’t my story anymore.” She shook her head. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this, it’s that my story may change and evolve through re-writes, but it still has to be my story. I can’t change it for anyone else.”

She glanced away again and then back at Kelly. “But I think that’s still good advice. I keep second guessing this rewrite when maybe what I really need to do is keep pushing forward through this draft. Sitting still certainly isn’t getting anywhere. My characters keep talking, even when my fingers aren’t moving.”

Kelly nodded and smiled kindly. She could tell Robyn was nervous, and she wanted to put her at ease. “You’re right about the story needing to be yours in the end. No matter what others say, in the end, it is still your story—your characters’ story. I’m sorry through the stories are being very difficult for you though.” She frowned as she sat back in her chair, folding her arms. Then she smiled. “So, tell me about your stories. Maybe just talking it out might help untangle some things.”

Robyn sat back in the chair and felt her shoulders relax a little. She reminded herself that Kelly was a writer and that she didn’t start looking for the nearest exit when Robyn brought up hearing her characters speak.

“I’ve been working on a young adult novel for a long time. It’s about a girl named Meg who is in love with her best friend. She thinks she knows all of his secrets, because they’ve been friends since they were small and have been through some pretty serious things together. But she doesn’t know that he’s still hiding things from her.” She smiled. “It started out as Julian’s story, and I kind of met Meg along the way.”

This story sounded interesting, so Kelly leaned it, set her elbow on the table between them, and propped her chin in her palm. “Is this a fantasy story? Supernatural? Or what exactly?”

Robyn laughed. “Not supernatural, although I have one of those in the works. Serves me right for telling someone at a conference that I don’t do paranormal. Then the paranormal bug bit me.”

She leaned forward. Talking about the story always made it feel exciting again. And maybe talking would help get the fingers moving. “This one is realistic fiction. The first time someone told me my piece was young adult, I was a little offended. I thought it meant that it wasn’t as mature or as good as adult fiction. Then I started reading YA, and there’s some amazing stuff out there.” She waved her hand like she was waving those thoughts away. “Don’t get me started down that path or I’ll never shut up.

“The monsters in this book are of the human variety. It deals with abuse—physical and sexual—and mental illness. The research led me down some dark paths.” She tangled her fingers in a bit of loose hair as she remembered the biographies and workbooks that sat on her shelf of research books at home. “But I’ve looked at some of your work online. You’ve written about some hard issues yourself.”

“Oh yeah, young adult covers just about anything these days, so it’s a good place to be.” Kelly smiled but then cocked her head to a side. “So, you mentioned Julian and Meg, and you said Meg was best friends with someone…I’m assuming that’s Julian, right? Can you tell me a bit more about his secret without spoiling anything?” She was sensitive to not wanting to spoil books for others, but she was quite curious about this story.

Robyn wrapped her fingers around her mug. She’d been working with the same group for so long that sometimes she forgot what it was like to talk to someone who didn’t know the whole story. “Right. The story is told from Meg’s point of view. As I said, Meg and Julian have been friends for several years. Meg’s home life is pretty stable. She’s close to both of her parents and her grandmother. She has an older sister that she doesn’t get along with very well, but it’s normal sibling stuff.” She smiled as she thought of her own sister, her opposite in nearly every way except their short stature.

“Julian’s home life isn’t great. His father either ignores him or picks him apart. His mother has been in and out of a mental hospital since the death of Julian’s sister, Hope. Meg and Julian became especially close after Hope died. Meg knows all about Julian’s family and they even have a secret place they go when things get to be too much. She’s a talented artist, but she doesn’t know it. She thinks of herself more as a shadow to her older, beautiful sister and her handsome, talented friend.” She cocked her head, not sure if she’d ever laid it all out like that. “Then Meg starts to hear rumors about Julian that leads her to believe that she doesn’t know him as well as she thought she did.”

Kelly leaned forward, eager to know more, but she paused. “Okay, I’m really, really, REALLY curious to know what Julian is hiding, but I think it’d be better if I read the story rather than you tell me. So…” She dragged out the ‘so’ but then grinned at Robyn. “You really need to get moving on that story! Get it published already.” She then laughed as she drew herself back from the table. “It’s an intriguing story, and I really do hope you the best. Unfortunately, our time is about up,” she motioned to a clock on the wall, “but before we part ways, what’s your favorite thing about writing? What’s the one thing that keeps making you come back to it even when you want to give up?”

Robyn laughed. “Thanks. You have no idea how good it feels to hear someone say that. After looking at something for so long, you kind of lose perspective.” She glanced at her watch. “I can’t believe how much time has already gone by. Wow.

“My favorite thing about writing? A great question, especially when things don’t always feel like they’re going so well. I guess I love the story. I feel like I have characters that are demanding that their story be told, and they won’t go away until it’s done.” She laughed. “In fact, Julian wants his own sequel. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words and the right voice, but when it’s there…it’s great. I want to tell their story.”

“And that,” Kelly locked eyes with Robyn, “is why you shouldn’t give up. It may be difficult for you now, but all good things come with a struggle. You will treasure your stories even more because you’re fought so hard for them.” She smiled then raised her brows. “So, promise me you’ll keep writing?”

Robyn grinned and nodded. “It’s a promise. I will finish this! Within this decade!”

“You’ve better! And let me know when it’s published. I’d love to take a look at it and tell others about it.” Kelly grinned. “But unfortunately, I do need to go.” With a sigh and shake of her head, she rose to her feet. “Sorry time flew by so quickly, but thanks so much for stopping by and chatting. It was fun!”

“Will do.” She downed the rest of her tea. “I have to go myself. The real world demands that I get up early tomorrow. But thank you so much for the invitation. I really enjoyed myself.”

“I’m so glad. C’mon, I’ll show you out.” With that, Kelly motioned for Robyn to follow her out of the coffee shop where both would emerge back in their places in the real world.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Robyn’s story is titled ‘The Shoe Tree’, and has no set release date. To keep up with her, you can find her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/robyn.ford.7

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