Robin Jones Gunn is the author of more than 70 books that have sold more than 4 million copies. Her writing awards include three Christy awards for excellence in fiction, a Gold Medallion finalist, Mt. Hermon Pacesetter and the Mt. Hermon Writer of the Year award. Since beginning her writing journey more than twenty-five years ago, her books have been impacting readers and changing lives.
I know, because my life is one of them.
I never knew that Christian fiction existed until I was shelving books one night at the Warrenville Public Library (my first job) and put away a book from Robin’s Sierra Jensen Series. I ended up checking it out and was hooked. Since that day I’ve devoured every book Robin has written, including the latest, Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, which only just released October 1st (yes, I’ve read it cover to cover already and pressed it into a friend’s hands declaring it a must-read). Without Robin Jones Gunn’s books, I probably wouldn’t be a writer today.
Last June a lifelong, hardly whispered, dream came true when I got to meet Robin at a writer’s conference. During that week of training Robin came alongside many of us and offered needed encouragement. Her aptly spoken truth always comes at just the right moment and she was kind enough to stop by and offer encouragement to new writers today on the blog.
Robin, what did you find to be the most helpful habit when you first started writing, before you were published?
I had to believe that I was a professional writer and that writing was a job. That meant that I had to set regular hours when I was at work and I had to show up for work with no excuses. Since I work at home, I had to learn how to let the dirty dishes stay in the sink while I was working. If I were at an office I wouldn’t be jumping up to put the clothes in the dryer the instant the old washing machine chugged to a conclusion. I had to treat my working hours the same as I did when I worked at a bank for six years. Personal calls (or web surfing, even though it didn’t yet exist) would never be allowed on company time.
What would you say is the most exciting thing about writing, and the most discouraging thing?
The most exciting thing is getting the story out of my head and on paper. It’s so exhilarating to type “the end”. It’s also amazing to hear from readers that one of those stories drew them closer to the Lord. That’s very exciting and never gets old.
The most discouraging thing is the combination of all the little annoyances. Some of my more recent annoyances are physical pain from arthritis and from long hours of typing, glitches in the production process and rewriting portions of a book in the rewrite process. I find that sometimes a scene gets stuck in my head as happening the way I wrote it the first time and I find it challenging to expand my imagination in order to take in the editorial direction for what needs to be changed in that part of the book.
Where do you find story ideas?
I don’t find them. They find me. They follow me home and make themselves comfortable while they contentedly wait until I can show them some proper hospitality. Sometimes they push and shove each other around vying for attention. But for the most part the story ideas that adopt me are well-behaved and ever-so endearing. I never want to send a single one of them out into the cold. (Although, I do live in Hawaii so it’s never really desperately cold.) They have learned to politely wait their turn. And I have learned that the oldest ones are the ones that make me laugh the most.
If you could give three pieces of advice/encouragement to an unpublished author, what would they be?
1) Settle this inkling to write between you and the Lord before you go skittering too far down the long trail to publication. When He confirms in your spirit that this is what you are gifted and called to do then do the work. If the affirmation isn’t there yet, wait for it and don’t let any fear or any bitter thoughts take root in your heart. Consider going on and doing something else with all your raw energy and then come back to this dream in a year or so if it won’t go away and ask the Lord why it’s still there. He’ll make it clear.
2) Study the market. Go to writers’ conferences, take creative writing classes, join a critique group. Get into the circle of the writing world and learn all you can. I learned how to write articles and children’s books before I wrote novels. During that season I took writing classes at a community college, signed up for the Christian Writer’s Guild and attended writing conferences and workshops. I worked on my first novel and read chapters each week to the girls in my Sunday School class. But I also wrote articles, did interviews and wrote devotions in order to learn all aspects of the industry. The 50 articles that were published during that time funded the conferences and classes.
3) Keep a journal. Use it like a butterfly net to capture every creative thought that comes fluttering out once you open that door to the expansive imagination in your head.
4) And one more. Well, okay. Two more. Pray without ceasing. And if a story is going to touch a heart, it must come from your heart so always keep your heart clean and uncomplicated.
Thank you for coming by my blog today Robin, best of luck and blessings with all your endeavors. I’m counting down for the new Katie book and the new one about Jordan Bryce’s mother.
To learn more about Robin Jones Gunn, visit her website.
And if you’re like me and found yourself asking over the years, “Whatever happened to Sierra Jensen?” or, if you are interested in reading a wonderful book that’s set in Hawaii, I recommend ordering Love Finds You in Sunset Beach. I will have a review of the book coming in the next month, but here’s the blurb from Robin’s website:
Sierra Jensen has been serving faithfully in Brazil for many years and is not prepared for the doors that seem to be closing on her. She refuses to accept the possibility that her time in Brazil is coming to an end. Her close friend, Mariana, convinces Sierra to get away with her for a vacation to Oahu’s North Shore so she can recharge and decide what’s next for her life. An invitation to an extended family wedding on Maui during the same week prompts Sierra to accept Mariana’s offer. Sierra is eager to see her sister and her nephew but is she ready to see the groom?
Jordan Bryce is living the dream as a photographer when he captures the cover shot for the February issue of Surf Days magazine. He’s sent to the North Shore on assignment and agrees to take a side trip to Maui in order to shoot a wedding as a favor to a friend. The image of a “mermaid” with wild, curly blond hair appears in one of his beach shots and so mesmerizes him that he is determined to find out more about the mysterious woman.
What happens when two determined people with opposite life objectives find themselves face to face with each other and with their futures? Is it possibly that love will find them at Sunset Beach, Hawaii?