Highly popular romantic women’s fiction author Robyn Roze is our guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on her writing experience. Robyn’s published novels are: Keeper, Keep Her, Find Her-Free Her, and Chain of Title. And HellKat is on the way! All are full-length, stand-alone romance novels that have kept readers up all night! The Keeper series is a trilogy that runs more than 500 pages.
Candi Silk: Robyn, thanks for joining us and answering lots of questions!
Robyn Roze: Thank you for having me, Candi. I’m thrilled to be here.
Candi: I’ve gathered some frequently asked questions from readers to share with you. So, let’s begin with one of the key questions: How did you arrive one day with pen, ink and paper in your hands as you began your first novel, Keeper? What tipped the balance scales of your motivation to write the first word, the first page?
Robyn: I suppose you could call it a midlife impetus. I had quite the imagination as a girl and teachers encouraged me to pursue writing as a career. However, practicality ruled the day. After a while, the scenes and dialogue that swirled in my head grew loud enough I decided to quiet them. I sat down at my laptop one day and the Keeper Series was born. I’m so thankful for technology! If I had to rely on pen, ink, and paper, I’d probably still be working on that series!
Candi: I totally agree with the wonders of technology. How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper to tell a story? What were early influencers, books, events, people?
Robyn: I’d say the writing seed sprouted in grade school and then bloomed in middle school. As a girl, I loved writers like Barbara Taylor Bradford, Sidney Sheldon, and Agatha Christie.
Candi: Three of your titles comprise the Keeper Series, which is listed as new adult romance. How would you describe new adult? What led you to debut your writing into that arena? I was particularly struck by the intensity of conflict you subjected your characters to. Care to elaborate on why you showed them no mercy?
Robyn: I describe new adult as people in their early twenties just getting a taste of the world—sans parents. It’s an exciting time of self-discovery and navigating through a world that loves to label and categorize us.
I started my writing journey with the Keeper Series because those characters were the loudest in my head. Whole scenes played on a loop in my mind at times and I built the story around those pieces, much like putting a puzzle together—without benefit of the finished picture from which to draw.
There is a lot of conflict in the Keeper Series and no one is spared, but that’s life. The main character, Olivia, has had a tough start in the world and she still has a hard road ahead of her when the reader first meets her. But with her own perseverance and the love of people around her, she makes her way out of the darkness.
Candi: One of the most popular fiction genres today is the romance. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla romance into a romance suspense, with a generous dash of eroticism?
Robyn: I describe my stories as romantic women’s fiction, and I borrow elements from the suspense and thriller genres to spice things up. Romantic suspense typically includes some mysterious event and/or questionable people that cause difficulties between the romantic leads. This usually runs parallel to the romance element and causes the reader concern as to what is coming next for the couple to whom they’ve become attached. There can be a romantic villain, a killer on the loose, a treacherous adventure, or any other number of circumstances that threaten the longevity of the romantic interests central to the story.
Candi: You have demonstrated a fine talent in utilizing those story elements! What is a typical writing day like for you? When does it begin and end? And do you use a lot of expensive equipment or materials in writing your novels? Can you write with background noise or do you prefer quiet?
Robyn: My writing day all depends on where I’m at in a particular project. For example, I’m currently working on edits and rewrites for my upcoming release HellKat. I’m taking my time with that process. Editor feedback can be tough, knowing how far to take their recommendations and how to reconcile those suggestions with beta readers’ comments can be dizzying. However, I received the best writing advice from another author about this dilemma: “Remember you’re writing for readers, not editors.” That freed me from my inability to move forward.
I am also mentally switching gears to my next project which will be a sequel to my best-selling novel Chain of Title. I’ve begun the difficult process of breaking away from my characters in HellKat by creating a new playlist for the characters in my Chain of Title sequel. I listen to music when I’m writing and when I just want to get my head into a particular scene or mood, like I am now.
Candi: A popular question for authors is: Have you experienced writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?
Robyn: Yes, I’ve experienced writer’s block. I do a variety of things to remedy it. Sometimes I simply put the story away for a while, or other times I re-read from the beginning what I’ve already written. This helps me rebuild the momentum to continue forward with the story and pick a fork in the road.
Candi: To what extent do your story characters shape your novels? What do they add? Isn’t it enough to just tell the story sort of like a newspaper article? (Jack and Jill met. Jack and Jill got married.) You know, just the facts? What distinctions do characters bring to a story? And what do you think readers are looking for in characters?
Robyn: A news story provides facts, not emotions. Readers want characters with whom they can identify and they want to be immersed in the feelings of the story. Each character in a story should have his/her own personality, just like in the real world. When a writer does a good job of character development, the reader will come to know and thereby understand the actions/reactions of a given character, even when the reader doesn’t agree with a choice made by a character in the story. Causing a reader to feel compassion for a character who would otherwise be reported as only a monster in the news is not an easy task. And when an author discovers they’ve succeeded on that front it’s incredibly rewarding.
Candi: How do you conceptualize/layout the plan or your approach of the plot for a novel you’re about to write? What’s the time sequence like? Is it finished over a cup of coffee or over a period of days or weeks? And what are the particular challenges of the process of solidifying and nailing down the plot? What challenges does an author face when doing research in writing the book?
Robyn: My process is organic. I have a general idea in my head, but I don’t know where it’s really going to end up until I immerse myself in the story and allow my characters to take the lead. My process is slow, because I a let scenes simmer in my head while I consider the effects of all the possible choices the characters could make. It’s like a chess game to some extent; each move has an effect on the opponent and ultimately how the match ends.
Candi: How long does it take you to write and publish a book, from start to finish? It must be easy and simple with all the advanced technology available today. Are there any major ups and downs during that process?
Robyn: Technology makes writing and revision much easier; however, an author still has to create a compelling story. And technology doesn’t make that part of the process any easier. The big advantage today is the ease with which an author can self-publish. I tend to work slowly. I have a job and a family, and I write whenever I can, but I cannot publish four or five books a year. I’m not sure I could do that even if I could devote all of my time to writing. But once I am ready to publish a book that is the by far the easiest part of the entire process.
Candi: Your commitment to the writing craft in the midst of real everyday living is inspiring. But I hear you saying writing and publishing are not automatic and 100% easy. So, what advice do you have for a person, let’s say my neighbor down the street, who says she wants to write a book? She’s got this great idea for a bestseller novel. Should she enroll in the nearest college writing class, buy 10 books on writing, or what?
Robyn: Some of my favorite authors never took a writing course and yet they have large, enthusiastic fan bases. Why? Because they have readers who love their storytelling style. Readers don’t know or care if you’ve taken writing courses. They’re looking for an escape and seldom ticking off what you’ve done right or wrong on some writing checklist. Readers know what they like when they read it. It’s really that simple. I would advise your neighbor to write her story, her way.
Candi: Great advice. Okay, time for a challenge question: You’ve just been notified that you’ll be teaching a university course entitled: Writing Your First Romance Suspense. What 3-4 points or pillars would you consider essential to the course?
1. Develop flawed romantic leads your readers will root for.
2. Create conflict that tests the heroine and hero.
3. Show how the conflict ultimately strengthens the h/H relationship.
4. End on a note of resolution or leave the reader ready for more.
Candi: What are the biggest challenges facing new writers today?
Robyn: One of the biggest challenges for a writer is to find her readers. Presumably a writer publishes because she wants others to enjoy her story. Unfortunately, clicking ‘publish’ on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other site does not ensure readership. The cliché build it and they will come is great in movies but not practical in reality. The biggest surprise to a new writer might very well be how much time she will need to spend networking and promoting her books and brand. Time most of us would rather spend developing intriguing characters and great stories.
Candi: It’s been reported that Amazon has over ten million titles (books) listed on their website. (They probably inventory Fred Flintstone’s diary carved in stone.) What are the challenges for readers in selecting “goodreads” from that many choices? What’s your best advice for readers on how to choose an entertaining/interesting book?
Robyn: A friend’s recommendation is always a great place to start. Also type in keywords or do a search for similar authors/stories that you already enjoy. You should always take advantage of the free sample most online retailers’ offer so that you can get a flavor for the writing style and pacing of the story.
Candi: Isn’t it enough for a writer to simply have all the facts for her story and just write it and publish, or to what extent does the writer’s imagination play a part in crafting a page-turning novel?
Robyn: Imagination is what makes for a compelling story, and writing style is what determines how the story is told. Otherwise, you have nothing more than a sterile news story stating only facts. In any art form, imagination is at the core, and the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Candi: From what I gather, many years ago (think post early printing presses) authors and readers rarely connected or communicated. A reader was lucky to just read the written book. But today the Internet is one huge gathering place where authors and readers can communicate freely. How do you feel about those dynamics and how do both authors and readers benefit from that kind of environment? How do you enjoy making and keeping in contact with your readers?
Robyn: I love being able to connect with my readers. I have a street team that’s been built with happy readers who want to spread the word about my books—it doesn’t get any better than that. Their support and encouragement is invaluable. Plus, I selected some of them as beta readers for my upcoming release HellKat. I’ve also had readers connect with me through my website and Facebook to tell me how much they liked a story and to find out what I’m working on next. I also have a growing email list for those who want updates directly to their inboxes about release dates, giveaways, sales and more. I love today’s technology. I think it’s wonderful for both authors and readers.
Candi: What are the advantages of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader devices? Isn’t there something to be said about a real paper and ink book in hand as one sits by the fireside of home and reads?
Robyn: I can’t remember the last time I bought a ‘real’ book to read. I love my Kindle. However, I just recently received the proof copy for my Chain of Title paperback. There is something very satisfying about holding it in my hands, thumbing through the pages, and inhaling that book smell.
Candi: And I noticed that Chain of Title is now available in paperback for everyone. You published the Keeper Series in the new adult romance genre. What about Chain of Title? What prompted you to enter into the mature romance genre? How about putting a framework around mature romance? Your protagonist (Heroine), Shayna Chastain was a standout woman in Chain of Title. As I recall from page one, Shayna is shackled with a ton of baggage to deal with. What were the dynamics as you developed her on paper?
Robyn: First and foremost, I write the kind of stories I want to read, and I’d like to read more stories with mature women. I’m fifty and I know a whole lot of life is still ahead of me and a whole lot of life experience is behind me, pushing me forward. I want to read and write about more women like that, like me.
In Chain of Title, Shayna slowly unraveled her story to me. She didn’t give me everything at once and it became clear she had issues to work through—don’t we all? She’s experienced abandonment and loss early in her life which has colored the choices she made as a young woman. She has to figure out if she can work through the hurts and betrayals from her past and find the courage to forgive those who have wronged her.
Candi: Often when readers thoroughly enjoy a particular novel, they want those favorite characters to continue on in another book, and another. What are the challenges facing an author in further development of a character in additional books?
Robyn: I think the biggest challenge in a series or sequel is making the readers happy. If you’ve written a book that readers have told you they loved and they want more of, as my readers have told me about Chain of Title, the pressure to continue the story in a way that your readers will love just as much, or more than the first story, is huge. The bar has already been set incredibly high. I also feel an immense obligation to reward the people who’ve stuck by me, encouraged me, spread the word about my books, and have promoted me on social media. I do not want to let my readers and fans down.
Candi: What can readers look forward to from the pen of Robyn Roze in the next year?
Robyn: I’m currently refocusing my creativity on Shayna Montgomery and Sean Parker from my novel Chain of Title. I have a poll on my website that many readers have voted in, expressing concern over how Sean will get out of the jam he appears to be in at the end of the story. Stay tuned!
Candi: I know many readers are holding their breath, waiting for the imminent release of HellKat, and now that there’s the promise of a sequel to Chain of Title you’ve got us on the edge of our seats. Robyn, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts with us and giving us an inside look at your fascinating writing world. May writing success continue as your companion!
Robyn: Thank you for your interest and time, Candi. I wish you every writing success. I’ve enjoyed your breakout women and look forward to reading more of your delicious stories.
Candi: Thanks, Robyn. Now, here’s how you can experience the entertaining writing of Robyn Roze, author of romantic women’s fiction, with additional thrills: