Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can't pursue her other dream.
If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world--twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don't want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.
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Purchase: Twisted Lies
Get to know Robin...
You and Writing
It takes courage to write.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young girl taking in the world of beauty—the towering oaks, the bluest skies, the whisper of the breeze through the trees of my small New Hampshire town. I longed to capture those impressions with words, but I had no idea how. I grew older, and my vocabulary improved as my confidence waned. By the time I reached high school, I believed I could never be good enough to make a living as a writer. I went to college and studied Hotel and Restaurant Management. That lasted precisely one semester, during which I decided that if calculus was required for a business degree, then business wasn’t for me.
I transferred and switched to journalism. It wasn’t exactly the writing I wanted to do, but it was a step in the right direction. Journalism morphed into public relations and landed me a marketing job after college. Marriage happened, then children and quitting work and home schooling. Something else happened in those years. God pulled me out of that hole of self-doubt and infused me with the belief that He created me for a purpose, and I was valuable even if I failed.
I was forty years old when I started my first novel. Even at that age, with all that God-confidence, it still took courage to try it, more to let anybody read it. I finally had the courage, and it came when I realized that whenever I fell—and I inevitably would—I would always land in God's strong arms.
Let's talk about your book. Why did you write it?
Twisted Lies is the second in a romantic suspense series, and I wrote it because in the first book, Convenient Lies, I became enamored with a secondary character. Nate Boyle is a man who nearly died to protect a woman who’d dumped him, an old friend he hardly had any contact with. What were the long-term ramifications of that decision? This book opens with Nate moving out of his house in New York, planning to escape to New Hampshire, hoping for a life devoid of excitement and danger. That’s what he longs for. So of course, I had to wreck it.
Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
I started the book for Nate’s sake, but Marisa, the heroine, quickly rooted herself in my heart. It’s her love for her daughter that hooks me, that and her blind determination to do what she has to do, regardless what that means for her personal safety. Her four-year-old daughter, Ana, is another of my favorites.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
Nate feels like he will never be a hero, because of something that happened in Convenient Lies—I won’t give it away. I hope readers learn along with Nate that courage isn’t fearlessness. Rather, courage is doing what’s right, despite that fear. Heroes are regular folks who decide to act in the face of their own terror. We all have the ability to be heroes.
What was a challenge you faced while writing it?
I’ve tried to keep the faith element in these books very subtle in the hopes of appealing to a broader audience. I would dearly love to stay comfortably in the Christian book world, but I have felt for a while the Lord encouraging me to step out, to reach readers who aren’t yet believers. I’m not sure yet what that’s going to look like, but I’m trusting God with the results.
For me, the biggest challenge with this book and its predecessor was filtering in truth without being blatant about it. I want to stir the reader’s soul, to create soft soil the Lord can plant into. I hope I’ve accomplished it.
Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
I had to do a lot of research on the 2008 real estate crash—that wasn’t fun at all, and the vast majority of what I learned didn’t end up in the book. (To my readers: You’re welcome. I didn’t want to bore you as I had been bored.) But since many of the early scenes take place in Acapulco, I got to spend some time on a cyber tour of that Mexican city. Someday, I’d love to visit it and the little towns in central Mexico I spent so much time researching.
If you’ve done any writing at all, you already know how hard it is. And you already know you have to keep writing, because practice makes perfect. Except I don’t think that’s true. I think practice makes patterns, and if the patterns are bad, then the results will be, too. So your job is to make sure your writing patterns are excellent. How do you do that? A few ways:
Read great books, read them with an eye for story and prose, and read both inside and outside the CBA. There are excellent writers in the general market, and if you steer clear of romance, you can find plenty that are relatively clean. I recommend this because the general market has a much broader scope of books, writing styles, and talent than the Christian market does, simply because it’s so much larger.
Read craft books. It’s amazing to me that people will spend hundreds of dollars to attend a writers conference but will balk at the cost of a book. I attended an all-day seminar by a great writing coach last year. In it, he barely scratched the surface of his book, which you can get on Amazon for $14. The exercises are in there, and if you do them, you’ll improve. Also, check out online courses available through ACFW and other organizations. They’re very affordable and can teach you so much. (I’ll make some recommendations below.)
Join a critique group. I’m a freelance editor, and you’d be surprised at how many people will offer to pay me to read manuscripts that nobody else has ever seen. Most of the mistakes I see, especially from newer writers, would be addressed in a good critique group. ACFW’s Scribes is where I met most of my critique partners, and I wouldn't publish a book without them.
Finally—you knew I was going to say it—write all the time. Not long after I became a Christian in the nineties, I started journaling. Twenty-plus years later, I still do it. In fact, I don’t just journal, I write my prayers. I have boxes and boxes of used journals, loose leaf paper, and spiral binders filled with my ramblings to God. Even though I know no human will ever read them, I try to write well. The Audience I’m writing for deserves my best. I believe that the practice of writing my prayers daily has vastly improved my writing ability. That’s not why I did it, of course, but what a great benefit.
Are there any books or resources you could recommend to younger writers looking to grow in their craft?
- Every book by Donald Maass
- Plot and Structure and other books by James Scott Bell (I haven’t read all of his books, but the ones I have read have been excellent.)
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King
- Story Genius by Lisa Cron
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
- Margie Lawson’s online courses (I’ve only done one, but it was excellent)
- 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. (The caveat here is that I’m one of those five editors. The other four are excellent, and I love how this book is set-up, with before and after examples.)
All right, let’s keep things real: Flowers or chocolate? …Or books?
Books, definitely! But some chocolate to go along with them is always nice.
What’s your most memorable (good or bad) Valentines date or gift?
My husband proposed on Valentine’s Day, so I’d have to say my engagement ring is the most memorable gift.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Stranger Things by Erin Healy. I’m about to start The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass. I’m also reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.
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