Interview with a favorite author: Robin Jones Gunn
Carissa doesn't know who she is anymore. She and her husband, Richard, are recent empty nesters; Richard is spending more and more time at work counseling his volatile clients and less time at home with his wife; his clients are starting to show up at the house at night causing Carissa to feel scared in her own home; and to top it all off, Carissa's boss informs her that she's been "let go." She wonders where God is in all of this since He doesn't seem to be around to protect her - and she's already stopped trusting her husband. In the midst of her world tilting off center, she's offered time at a hideaway on Maui. Hiding seems like the best way to respond to life's overload, and the thought of being alone sounds like just the right balm to soothe her wounded heart. The languid Hawaiian sun, white beaches, and warm-hearted people bring respite, but meeting handsome Kai causes Carissa to toy with the idea of being romantically involved with him. Then, under a Maui moon, she looks to God for guidance and hope for the future. That's when she discovers His hand still is on her life, and that love is closer than she ever realized.
I absolutely LOVE all of Robin Jones Gunn's books. Her latest book, Under A Maui Moon, is WONDERFUL!! Thanks for stopping by!
Please tell us a bit about yourself. Is it true that you've always been a storyteller?
Yes. And I have proof! A few years ago my mom gave me a box filled with childhood mementos including my grade-school report cards. The teacher's note on my report card from first grade said, "Robin has not yet grasped her basic math skills but
she does keep the entire class entertained with her stories at rug time." How's that for early evidence? And I'm still challenged when it comes to math.
When it was clear that you were a storyteller, did you naturally decide you wanted to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be a missionary. I thought there was no higher calling than going to an unreached people group in some remote corner of the world and telling them about God's love. A long time ago a good friend told me that telling stories is simply what God created me to do and I shouldn't fight it. I didn't like their conclusion but I did like telling stories so that's what I put my heart into doing. Now, almost three decades later, I've discovered that exactly what I longed for has happened-my books have found their way to remote corners of the world and through the stories many people are hearing about God's love. What does the writing process look like for you?
I start by dreaming up a main character. She becomes a compilation of real-life friends as well as some of my own faults
and foibles. Once I can "see" her in my mind's eye and feel as if we are truly "imaginary" friends, then I ask her quite candidly,"What is your biggest problem right now?" As soon as she tells me I start spinning all the possibilities of what could happen along the way as that problem gets resolved. I don't usually know the ending of the story or the way her problem
gets resolved. That seems to happen organically as the story unfolds. This process often feels as if I've started out standing on a riverbank observing the scenery and tossing a few pebbles of possibility into the story to see what happens. Then I put my toes in and start writing. At some point I find I've waded in deeper and deeper until I'm immersed and can easily swim around inside the story. At that point the story seems to move me along on its current and I just keep my head up and type as fast as I can.
Aside from your strong love for Hawaii, what other parts in Under a Maui Moon were inspired from your own life?
Well, to be quite transparent, I'll tell you that my husband is a counselor. He specializes in counseling men who struggle
with sexual addiction. Like Carissa, I experienced a frightening situation one night when I was home alone and because of
my husband's line of work I did not feel safe in my own home. My similarities to Carissa's experience end there but that one
event planted seeds in my imagination for this story. I wanted to see what would happen when a woman like Carissa started to believe that "everything is redeemable" and that men who struggle with this prevalent problem are worth going after and helping through to the other side of the addiction. For helpful information on understanding sexual addiction, please visit www.skyviewcounseling.com.
Do you receive a lot of responses from your readers?
Yes, I do. It's always a happy day when I hear back from a reader. One of the most curious things to me is hearing what readers take away from a story. Many times readers will say that a certain part of a book was just what they needed to hear. However, what they got out of the book wasn't at all what I was thinking when I wrote that part. Sometimes my favorite parts never receive comments while other parts carry deep meaning for the reader. It's such a lovely mystery the way that happens. I've come to believe even more humbly in the power of fiction. A story that comes from the heart will most certainly touch another Heart.
You recently took a trip to Africa, can you tell us a bit about the purpose of the trip? Will you be writing about the trip or the area you were in?
I went to the LittWorld Conference in Nairobi, Kenya to teach some workshops on writing. We had 150 conferees from 36 countries at the tri-annual conference and the fellowship there was incredibly sweet. I'm on the Board of Directors of Media Associates International. MAI is committed to providing training for Christian writers and publishers in difficult parts of the world. <http://www.littworld.org> www.littworld.org.
Last year Angie Hunt and I partnered with a number of our Christian novelists friends and worked with Tyndale to publish "A Novel Idea". This handbook on fiction writing is a terrific resource book for new writers around the world. The best part is that all proceeds of sales of this book are going toward scholarships for future LittWorld Conferences.
I'm sure that one day Nairobi, the tea fields of Lemuru and the wildlife trek I took with my friend, Wambura, will show up in a future story. I've been so privileged to see so much of God's beautiful world. Those places and His people in those locations always inspire another story.
How did you come up with the concept for Under the Maui Moon?
At my first writer's conference more than twenty-five years ago I was given this advice: Write about what you know.
Since my husband and I were involved in youth ministry at the time I knew a bit about teens and began writing the still popular Christy Miller series. Over the years I've come to know what a gift it is to have close friendships and so I wrote about love and friendships in the Glenbrooke series and the SisterchicksR series.
Then three summers ago my husband and I were on the island of Maui celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary and I asked God, "What should I write about for the next twenty five years?" The answer floated to me on the gentle trade wind. Write about what you love.
At the top of my "What I Love" list are the Hawaiian Islands. Our honeymoon was on Oahu and our family lived on Maui for a year in the 1990s. Even though we've called Portland, Oregon, our home for many years, and love it here, our family returns to the islands every chance we get. Our aloha a'ina (love of the land) grows with each visit.
While we were living on Maui I picked up a Hawaiian history book in the reference section of the Lahaina library. Never would I have guessed how that book would ignite a passion in me for the people and places of Old Hawaii. I joined the Calabash Cousins of the Daughters of Hawai'i and began making trips to the Mission Houses Museum in Honolulu to research original documents held in the archives. What fascinates me the most is that everything the women on the islands felt and struggled with one hundred fifty years ago are still common issues for women today.
In my research of Ka'ahumanu, I found her to be a woman of great strength who used her influence and power to change the course of a nation. I love seeing women who get their strength back after a rough season. I call it "getting their heart back." I can relate. I've been through such seasons. I know my readers have, as well. Do you have a character in this book that stands out to you?
As I was writing Under a Maui Moon I felt so sympathetic toward Carissa. Everything came at her at once and she could have made some decisions that would have changed the course of her life. But, as in real life, God had His hand on her. He was relentless in His pursuit of her and I think once she caught a glimpse of how Ka'ahumanu "made herself strong," Carissa began to get her heart back. That's what I pray will happen in the hearts of many readers when they read "Under a Maui Moon." Will you have more books like Under a Maui Moon coming out with Howard Books?
Yes! Two more. The second one is set on the Canary Islands and the third one takes places on the Oregon Coast. These books are all stand-alone and not part of a series per se but the women in each book; Carissa, Carolyn and Erin, all go through difficult seasons of life and find that they need to come apart before they completely come apart.
That's an interesting thought and one that all women can relate to. How did you come up with that concept?
During my quiet time a few years I had copied a key phrase Jesus said to his disciples in Mark 6:31. Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat when Jesus said, "Come apart and rest awhile." I jotted a note to myself: "What does it look like when a woman takes the time to come apart before her life starts to come apart?"
That question became the sheltering theme for the three novels I wrote over the next 18 months. Each writing day I took extended dives into the deep places of my heart in order to revisit times in my life when I faced an experience I wasn't able to process in the moment. I had purposefully weighted and sunk those memories knowing that some day, when I was ready to make a fresh start, I would return to the wreckage and see what treasure might be salvageable.
Life is rough. We all know that. But there is treasure in the wreckage of all of our lives. God's mercies are new every morning. When we "come apart and rest awhile" as Jesus said, we find that's when we begin to get our heart back and remember what's really important. Will you be adding any more books to the SisterchicksR series?
I don't have plans for another Sisterchicks novel at this time but you never know! You keep in touch with readers through your newsletter and your facebook page. How can new readers get your Robin's Nest e-newsletter and connect with you on facebook?
It's easy to get the newsletter. Simply go to www.robingunn.com and sign up.
My facebook address is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Jones-Gunn/110691292261?ref=ts
Also, you can contact me at Robinsnest@robingunn.com. To see about setting up a time for me to come speak at your women's event, school, retreat or other event you can email Natalie firstname.lastname@example.org
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