Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Keep Sending out Queries! Author Interview with Robin W. Pearson

Prior to writing your first novel, what writing credits did you have?
I began freelancing as a writer and editor with educational publishers, magazines, novelists, and homeschool publications in 1997, after leaving Houghton Mifflin Company.

What made you decide to write that first novel?
I started my debut, A Long Time Comin’, after writing down pieces of our family’s history and genealogy to pass down to my little people.

How long did it take you to write your first book?
The first draft took about three years, but the manuscript went through numerous edits before it was eventually published several years (and little people!) later.

Who encouraged you along the way?
Along the way, I was encouraged by my parents, my family, writer-mentors like Carrie Turansky, and by critiques from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Friends urged me to keep writing when I wanted to give up.

How did you go about finding an agent/publisher?
To find an agent I queried, queried, and queried again. Did I mention that I queried agents? I attended conferences such as Writing for the Soul and the Philadelphia Writers Workshop, participated in writing contests, subscribed to QueryTracker and Writers’ Digest, and…queried.

From the point you were offered a contract on that first book, how long did it take to make to print?
In September 2017, I attended ACFW’s conference in Dallas as a Genesis finalist and there, I watched Cynthia Ruchti accept an award for another writer. She blew me away with her humor and grace. A few months later, I learned she’d become an agent with Books and Such Literary, and I jumped at the chance to work with her.

I signed with Cynthia in February 2018 and ten months later, I signed a two-book contract with Tyndale House. Readers started digging into my debut, A Long Time Comin’, about a year later.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I’m like most mamas, so letting go of my “baby” is probably the hardest part. I always think it can be better, that I need to rephrase one more sentence, insert a comma, or rework another scene. I suppose I feel my characters will always need me. Yet, there comes a point when I need to type The End and submit—both the manuscript and my writer’s spirit.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
When my agent read my latest manuscript, she told me to ditch the semi-colons and watch out for over-used phrases. Now, I love semi-colons; they’re underappreciated punctuation. So, that direction cut right to my heart! With A Long Time Comin’, my editor kept me centered on nuts and bolts—the details—making sure ages and timelines matched, maintaining consistency, and deleting extra scenes and characters.

Sometimes when you’re parenting, you can get caught up in the lecture, not the lesson or the person. At times, that’s what I did in writing. Caleb reminded me to focus on the story; not to go down rabbit holes that led away from the plot. Painful, yet oh-so-necessary work.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I love when readers write to me and share how my characters remind them of a family member or that they’re still thinking about the book long after they closed the cover. This tells me that my writing has taken on flesh and blood; it lives and breathes and isn’t just words on a page. I want my work to elicit strong emotion so readers will identify with/love/hate my characters (emphasis on love) and jump right into the book.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
I always seemed to get thisclose in writing contests and lose, and the rejection hurt. Invariably, the feedback was either they didn’t like my Southern style of writing, they didn’t feel it was “Christian enough,” it was too religious, too multicultural, etc.

After a few stumbles, I had to push through by deciding to stay true to my style, my message, my characters, and my story—all inspired and provided by God. I learned to write in the wait, and at the right time, He brought a publisher and an audience that loved me and my work. I won where it counted without losing what made me, me.

What has frustrated you the most in writing or publishing?
Many may consider completing a novel while raising seven little people a Herculean feat. Yet, building a platform has posed a similar—and often greater—challenge. Managing social media—planning posts, balancing fun vs work time, and simply figuring out how to use Instagram stories—frustrates me; it’s a new world.

What has surprised you?
I’m quite surprised, however, how much this self-proclaimed introvert enjoys connecting with readers, other writers, and friends and family. Sure, I rarely post where I go for breakfast, but I love sharing how I feed my family spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
Writing tends to be a solitary activity; it’s a one-on-one, woman-and-her-laptop relationship. I have to withdraw to produce, even if it’s only mentally while sitting smack dab in the middle of my family on Friday pizza movie night.

If I’d known how supportive and loving my writing community would be, I would’ve emerged from my computer-shaped shell, many moons ago and engaged with my critique groups, attended book clubs, conferences, and interacted with online literary-based organizations.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
Don’t let anyone tell you how, where, or when to shine. You might write Christian fiction or general market, African American or Women’s, Southern Lit, Contemporary, or historical fiction. Children or YA. Any, all, or none of them. Find your own place in the sun and bask in it.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
Write every day. Don’t let rejection, the (in)existence of a publishing contract or pressure of a deadline, or binge-watching “This Is Us” episodes keep you from putting fingers to keyboard. Tap out ideas, outlines, a paragraph, chapters. Write. You never know when you’ll need to draw from your well of words.  

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
Tyndale releases my second book in spring 2021. It follows more characters from the area around Spring Hope, North Carolina. This novel encourages readers to see that their scars, weaknesses, and mistakes don’t make them “less than” or unworthy of love and acceptance. They’re uniquely made, and so is their pain, and they are more than enough.

Sounds like an encouraging story. If you’d like to learn more about Robin’s work, here are some links to get started
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