Robin Woods on Teaching, Writing, and Insomnia
By A.C. James
I’m interviewing YA novelist Robin Woods. If you like what you read, please investigate her books on Amazon or visit her on Twitter.
A.C. James: Hello, Robin. It’s great to have you on my blog. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Robin Woods: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am a wearer of many hats and a drinker of too many cups of coffee. In addition to writing, I am a full-time high school English teacher and mother of two young children, one of them still in diapers.
Through the years I have always enjoyed writing, but the novel series actually came about because of insomnia. I was struggling with a particularly long bout of it and decided to make use of the time. I turned off the television, pulled out my computer, and started working on a story I had begun back in 1996. Three months later I had the first draft of The Unintended.
A.C. James: I can relate to both the insomnia and motherhood. I have three children—two under the age of five. So as you can image, most of my writing is done at night. Television only gets turned on when I fold laundry. I tend to save up my few favorite shows on my DVR and watch them while I fold laundry to distract me from monotony. What genre do you generally write and what have you had published to-date? What do you think of eBooks?
Robin Woods: My preferred genre is paranormal and urban fantasy, but I may branch out at some point. Each of my books are infused with a nice dose of historical fiction. Despite the fantasy elements, I enjoy having my characters grounded in reality. I strive for the pain my characters to experience to be real pain, something beyond the boo-hoo-I-broke-up-with-my-boyfrind-and-now-I’m-sad-and-irrational.
As far as eBooks go, there is something about the kinesthetic pleasure of holding a real book that I can’t give up. I do read eBooks on occasion and understand the benefits. So, I guess you could say that my feelings are mixed. I do love the price of eBooks and the fact that I don’t have to buy another bookcase.
A.C. James: I know what you mean about the feel of holding a physical book. When I walk into any small or antique bookstore I think what gets me is the smell. It reminds me of sitting with my grandmother and her reading classic fairy tales to me. Occasionally, I will buy physical books. I recently purchased a cookbook because I wanted to be able to sit it on my kitchen counter and spill sauce all over the pages rather than damage my Kindle. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with my Kindle and the majority of my reading has been ebooks. Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you to become an indie author?
Robin Woods: My first novel, The Unintended, was originally self-published. A few months later I was picked up by a tiny publishing house. I am still essentially indie. I continue to do most of my own promotion and still use my own editors.
A.C. James: Finding good beta readers and editors is paramount for any indie author. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Robin Woods: Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the list goes on. I had a fabulous English/Theatre teacher when I started high school that inspired me to not only read, but to visualize literature and be more creative.
A.C. James: Can you see me smiling? I think English and History are my two favorite subjects. My father was a history major and a poet. He actually taught as a substitute history teacher after serving in the army during the Vietnam War but ended up working for the police department instead. I think my grandmother and my father were the two biggest influences that encouraged reading and writing in my life. So I have a great appreciation for the classics you mentioned. Do you manage to write every day, and do you plot your stories or just get an idea and run with it?
Robin Woods: I do my best to write every day. Of course, life happens and I don’t always get to. But I think it is very important to make it a habit, even if I only produce a paragraph or two. It keeps the story current in my head so that I’m not constantly having to reread previous material.
I do plot, but not in detail. Generally, I write what I call “tent-pole” scenes. They are the three or four main scenes that change everything. Once those are done I start at the beginning and work my way through connecting the dots. The revelation that I didn’t need to write in chronological order was huge. I write what I am inspired to write each day, those scenes that are weighing heavily on me.
A.C. James: Could you imagine if we still had to do that with paper and pencil or with a typewriter. I think it would kill me not to be able to copy and paste! Do you do a lot of editing or research?
Robin Woods: My novels run through four different editors, each one specializing in a different area. I think finding a team that can help you is one of the most important things in writing. It is impossible for me to edit all my mistakes, I simply don’t see them.
Yes, I spend hours researching. As I mentioned before, my novels have historical fiction aspects; despite the vampires.
A.C. James: When writing vampires it’s really easy to insert bits of history because of their mystical immortality. I think that’s why vampires and fey are two of my favorite characters to write. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Robin Woods: My prologues are in third person and the rest of the novel in first. I enjoy both, but I always feel more connected to the character when it is written in first. When I was younger, I was all about third. It’s funny how tastes change. I have never tried second. I probably will at some point. I like to set little challenges for myself with each book.
A.C. James: My current manuscript is in first person because it’s a romantic urban fantasy and I do think it draws you to the character. Although I must confess that I usually don’t enjoy reading first person nearly as much as a really close third. I’ve never tried second person or third person omniscient either. What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Robin Woods: My true love is the first draft. I have a focus group that reads along with me chapter by chapter as I write, and I love getting that initial feedback. My least favorite would probably be editing the fourth and fifth drafts. I am so done at that point, but I want to stay strong, even when it is tempting to skip edits. I know that I will always kick myself in the end. I have been surprised at how incomplete my day is without writing.
A.C. James: Writing is a really great release. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Robin Woods: Just teaching English and advising the literature club.
A.C. James: Teaching must be extremely rewarding within itself. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Robin Woods: I am involved in some groups on Facebook and GoodReads. They can be very helpful when you have a question. Twitter is my most valuable asset. If I tweet regularly and support the community, I sell books. If I don’t, my sales drop to nothing. It is that simple.
A.C. James: I love talking to people on Twitter about writing, parenthood, or simply my lack of coordination when it comes to Zumba. It’s a fantastic way of meeting authors and connecting with fans. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Robin Woods: I am usually working on two writing projects at once. Currently, I am editing Allure: A Watcher Series Prequel set to be released in September 2013. While I am waiting for chunks of material back from my editors, I am moving forward with book four in my series currently titled The Fallen set to be released sometime in 2014.
A.C. James: I would love to have you back in September when it comes out. Tell us more about The Watcher Series and why it’s been so well received with your readers.
Robin Woods: The mythology seems to be my biggest strength and the reason it is resonating with both adults and teens. There are a lot of vampire books out there, but my lore has a new twist that keeps it fresh.
A.C. James: Yes, we’ve all seen our share of sparkling vampires, southern vampires, or brooding vampires. But I do confess to having a weakness for fangs. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Robin Woods: I have several avenues of social media
Facebook: www.facebook.com/robinwoodsfiction (latest news)
Home Site: www.RobinWoodsFiction.com
Tumblr: http://robinwoodsfiction.tumblr.com/ (ask questions here)
Fan Site: http://robinwoodsfan.wordpress.com/ (extras and shorts here)
A.C. James: Thank you for interviewing today on my Paranormal Passion blog! Good luck with Allure: A Watcher Series Prequel and we look forward to having you back in September when it’s released. Tomorrow I will be talking to Erica Stevens who is giving away ten bundles of the first three books of her series in my Sizzling, Hot, Memorial Day Giveaway. Until next time…