Posts Tagged 'Robin Summers'

A Bold Strokes Books Author Interview with Robin Summers

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

My first real foray into writing was inspired by a high-school English teacher. As we were leaving for winter break one year, she handed me two books—Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy—and told me I had to read them over break and tell her what I thought when I came back. After I got over being mad that I had to do extra work on my vacation, I dove into two of the best books I’ve ever read—completely different but equally vivid and amazing. After the break, I wrote my first short story, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write the types of stories I’d want to read. I have eclectic taste—adventure, sci-fi, mysteries and thrillers, nonfiction, romance, even horror—so I tend to genre hop. But I’m fascinated with people who have experienced loss, who are damaged and broken but fight to overcome their pain and not just survive, but thrive. If there’s an overriding theme to what I write, that’s it.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I’m blessed to have a very supportive partner, family, friends, and coworkers. I was lucky enough to have my first book, After the Fall, BSB_After_the_Fall_smallpublished before my dad passed away. He was always supportive of me, but I was a bit nervous that reading the post-apocalyptic lesbian romance novel penned by his daughter might be a little much for him. His only complaint with the book? That the main character’s father was described as clueless with technology, and that his friends would think I was saying he was clueless!

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I can be inspired by anything. Sometimes I find myself in the mood to read a particular type of story, and if I can’t find anything that fits the bill, I start to think about what it would look like if I wrote it. That’s how Season of the WolfSeason of the Wolf 300 DPI came to be. Other times, an idea just pops into my head and my brain runs with it, which is what happened with After the Fall.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

My instinct is to just write—to take an idea I have forming in my head and follow it wherever it takes me. But a good story requires planning. Narratives are a progression of plot points and emotions, and it’s important to understand in advance how each step of your story will build upon the previous one. That’s not to say you can’t change things along the way—I often find as I’m writing that something I planned doesn’t quite work, or I need to add more or move things around. But when you plan, you generally avoid writing yourself into inescapable corners.

  

What makes Season of The Wolf special to you?

I was part way into writing Season of the Wolf when my dad got sick. He was my rock, and the best man I have ever known. Writing took a backseat while he was sick, and for many months after his death. But when I finally was able to write again, everything that had happened with my dad and the things I was feeling connected me in an unexpected way to my characters. There is a scene toward the end of the book that is very much in honor of my dad, a final good-bye that I didn’t have a chance to say. And the whole book is dedicated to him, so it will always be very special to me.

  

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

There’s always a little of me in everything I write, but how much is inspired by me, my life, or the people in it differs. After the Fall is a work of fiction, but it also has a number of elements inspired by my life and the people closest to me. In many ways, it pays homage to my family. Season of the Wolf is completely different. The characters are nothing like anyone I know, especially Billy. I thankfully have never met anyone like him, ever! At least…not that I know of—scary thought.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

There are many authors whose work inspires me in different ways: to be more creative, to find better words, to dig deeper and think bigger. I take inspiration wherever I can find it.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Just write. You don’t have to be published to be a writer, but you do have to write. During the nearly three years it took me to write and edit After the Fall, when I would get frustrated by how long it was taking or how bad I felt the writing was, my partner would say, “Just finish the book. Even if it never gets published, you’ll have written a book. How many people can say that?” Also, I would tell new writers: be true to your own process, whatever that process is. I don’t work well when I feel like I must do things in a certain way or in a certain time—it’s too constraining, and it robs me of creative energy. Don’t feel like you have to follow anyone’s rules but your own.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I have some hobbies—lately I’ve been really into making music mash-ups, though I’m not very good at it—but between work and writing, I don’t have a ton of free time. Mostly I enjoy spending time with my partner. We spent about five years apart while she was in school, and we’re finally now living back together, which is such a blessing. So mostly right now I’m just having fun with her, getting into adventures or just hanging out at home.

 

Which is the favorite of the books/stories you’ve written and why?

Each one is special for different reasons. After the Fall will always be a favorite because it was my first novel, and in many ways it is a reflection of my family. Season of the Wolf is a favorite as well, for so many reasons. I absolutely love the characters in this story, and the story itself, but it’s also special because of the connection with my dad. But probably the favorite thing I’ve ever written is a short story that’s never been published, called “January.” It is a deeply personal story, and it forced me to push myself as a writer.

 

 

Giving Thanks

By Robin Summers

 

I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving. Always have been. What’s not to love? Turkey, pumpkin pie, your entire family crowded in around the too-small dining room table, smashing elbows every few minutes, people talking and laughing between mouthfuls, and ultimately the obligatory food coma that overcomes everyone as we crash out in the living room to watch whatever football game happens to be on. In my family, we have Bears, Lions, and Packers fans, so if any of those three teams is playing, it’s an extra-special Thanksgiving Day game.

 

This year, however, will be different than any Thanksgiving I have ever known.

 

It was one year ago this week that the world as I knew it began to change. My dad, my rock, my hero, was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. He hadn’t felt good for a while, and it had only gotten worse in the preceding few weeks. Over the course of Thanksgiving week, the ground beneath us shifted once, then again, as one bad diagnosis was followed by another, even more unthinkable one.

 

Yes, Mr. Summers, you need open heart surgery. But sorry, Mr. Summers, you also have leukemia.

 

I will never know exactly what ran through my dad’s mind at hearing that. But I do know how he responded, and how he kept responding over the next six months: with courage, humor, and a grace no one had any right to even think possible. He had his down days, to be sure, but they never stayed. “Whatever it takes,” he would say, and when he couldn’t, we would say it for him. Seven weeks in the hospital? Whatever it takes. Endless days of chemo and being poked and prodded and fed on a schedule and never getting a moment’s peace? Whatever it takes. Being essentially poisoned so you can be strong enough to withstand open-heart surgery? Whatever it takes.

 

Dad was still saying whatever it takes right up until the last few weeks of his life, before the mini-strokes caused by the strain on his heart from the chemo and surgery devastated his mind. Before the previously undiagnosed lung cancer that had spread to his spine devastated his body.

 

Yes, Mr. Summers, your leukemia is in remission. But sorry, Mr. Summers, you only have 3-6 months to live.

 

They gave him 3-6 months. He lasted a little more than two weeks.

 

So this Thanksgiving, one year after things began to go so wrong, I find myself meeting the holiday with mixed emotions. I still love Thanksgiving, but I hate that my dad won’t be here. But when the sadness creeps in, and the anger, I can’t help but think, what would Dad want me to do?

 

I can see him at the head of our dinner table, his goofy smile as he made his mountain of mashed potatoes with the pool of gravy in the center, the joy on his face looking out over our family – his family – with their clanking dishes and talking over one another at an ever-increasing volume. I see him there, in my mind, and I know he would want me to enjoy it, to give thanks for what we still have, even without him.

 

So I am thankful for Thanksgiving, for my family, for being together. I am thankful for the impromptu trip out to Illinois less than two months before Dad’s initial diagnosis, and for the impossibly perfect weekend we all spent together. I am thankful for an understanding boss and co-workers and Board of Directors, who made it possible for me to spend so much time at home with my family while Dad was sick. And I am deeply thankful for the time itself, to have been able to be there in the hospital, with Dad, with my family, sharing in the laughter and heartbreak and hope and terrible pain.

 

So often the true meaning of Thanksgiving – giving thanks for all our blessings, even the ones we can’t see as blessings at the time – is lost amidst the food and the football and the Black Friday deals. But this year, perhaps for the first time, I am determined to give thanks for each and every moment: past, present, and future. I hope you will do the same.

What Happens After the Fall?

Bold Strokes Books author Robin Summers talks about her newly released novel, After the Fall, and her upcoming works.

What Would You Do After the Fall?

by Robin Summers

Billions are dead. The federal government has disappeared. The world you know has ended, yet you remain. If you lost everything, would you have the courage to let yourself care about anything?

That’s the central question of my new novel, After the Fall, which will be released on July 19.

I’ve always been a fan of the end of the world. Not that I’m particularly interested in it arriving anytime soon. But if there’s an asteroid hurtling toward the Earth, an
earthquake devouring entire continents, a tidal wave towering over skyscrapers,
or if the Earth’s core comes to a screeching halt, sending the magnetic field
into a planet-sized hissy fit, I’m totally there.

Like any red-blooded American moviegoer, I love the explosions and the “Run for
your lives!” and melodramatic power ballads that accompany the hero when
he or she (mostly he) is about to save the world from its impending doom. But
my fascination with all things apocalyptic extends to books as well. From Alas, Babylon to The Road, reading about the end of the world is just as interesting
to me as watching it on the big screen.

Whether on the page or at the movies, all these stories have some universal truths in common. They are about hope, or the lack thereof. They are about choices, both good and bad. And they are, at their most fundamental level, about the best and worst of
humanity.

After the Fall is about these truths, told through the eyes of Taylor Stone. She has spent months struggling to get home, trying to keep a promise made over a broken phone call to the father and family she knows are most likely dead. She survived the end of the world and the horrors that came after by keeping to three simple rules. Keep moving. Keep to yourself. Don’t get involved. The plague took a particular joy in killing the women of the world, making it that much harder for the ones who survived.

When Taylor stumbles across a place called Burninghead Farm, she finds a group of people who offer her more than just another day of survival. There is Buck, a man who reminds her of her father in all the ways that matter. There is Duncan, a boy struggling to become the kind of man his parents would want him to be. Most of all, there is Kate, a woman who makes Taylor realize love is still alive and dream of things she no longer thought possible.

But in order to claim her future, Taylor will have to overcome her past. In a present steeped in despair, when some would rather rule than rebuild, can Taylor find the courage to let herself fight for something better? To care for someone? To
live?

Could you?

Find me on Facebook and at www.robinsummerswriting.com

Riding Roller Coasters, and Other Life Lessons

By Robin Summers

I am not the most patient person in the world. Anyone who knows me would tell you that. Actually, they would tell you that I’m about as patient as a four-year old trying to get her mother’s attention, yanking on her sleeve like a German Shepherd with a chew toy, screaming, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” in a rapidly escalating wail when all Mom wants to do is talk to that nice old lady from down the street whose cat just died.

Seriously.

So you can imagine that this whole waiting-for-my-first-book-to-hit-store-shelves thing has been… difficult. My first novel, After the Fall, comes out on July 19, 2011. Three months may not seem all that long to wait, but I got the glorious news that Bold Strokes Books would be publishing my novel waaaaaay back in June 2010. So for the past 9 months I’ve been waiting. And waiting. Then giving my input on the novel’s cover. And waiting. Then editing. Then more editing. And more waiting. And tracking my book’s status on Amazon every five seconds to see if maybe, just maybe, by some miracle, someone pre-ordered a copy.

Let’s be clear. Yes, I’m a freak. And pseudo-real-time, inaccurate publishing “data” is a bad, evil thing to know exists—it means nothing and yet it’s like a train wreck. You just can’t look away.

Having my first book published is a bit like riding the scariest, most thrilling roller coaster around. When I was growing up, it was the “Eagle” (at least that’s what I called it) at what was then called Great America, outside of Chicago. Sure there were other roller coasters at the park that were taller or faster, or that had loops that would make you lose your lunch, but nothing could beat the Eagle.

It was this old, rickety scrap of a thing that you weren’t entirely sure was going to survive the few minutes you’d be on it. Yet everyone—including me, dragging my poor mother behind me—flocked to the Eagle. Why? Because the entire ride was about the first, gut-punching drop, and there was nothing else like it. It seemed to take forever to get to the top, the “clank, clank, clank” of the chain straining to pull us up the long, steep track.

If you were lucky (or unlucky, in my mother’s opinion), you were sitting in the first car. When you reached the top, time slowed. You could see the entire amusement park from up there, like you’d ascended Mount Everest. Then you’d start to crawl over the apex of the first hill, and you’d just hang there. You knew the cars were still moving, but you’d be hanging there staring down the drop, the terror of it making your stomach clench and your teeth ache. And then you were flying, racing down the track so fast you could swear you’d hear a sonic boom any second. It was the closest thing to space flight most mere mortals will ever experience, a few seconds of perfect, exhilarating weightlessness followed by a rather unpleasant and bone-jarring crash back to earth as your stomach slammed back into your body.

As soon as the ride was over, I’d beg my Mom to line up and do it all over again. Because even though it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done—and even though I absolutely hated waiting for anything, let alone standing in an hour-plus line—all that fear and, yes, even the waiting, made the ride all the more satisfying.

So I remind myself that even as I want my book to be out NOW (insert whiny, temper-tantrum foot stomp here), I am lucky to be having my book published at all. I am grateful to those who have helped me get here, who supported me and took a chance and keep encouraging me every day. And I will happily stand in line, waiting semi-patiently for July to come, and fighting the ever-present urge to keep from clicking the refresh button on Amazon.

Writing a Book I Wanted to Read Instead of the One I Thought I Should Write

By Robin Summers

I used to have what I termed “Chapter Two Syndrome,” a terrible affliction that prevented me from ever writing more than two chapters of anything.  I could write poems, songs, and even short stories, but novels were completely out of the question.  It was not for lack of trying, or even for lack of interest.  If anything, my inability to write anything longer than a snack wrapper was due to too much interest—as soon as I settled into writing one thing, five new ideas would pop into my head and hold hostage my ability to focus.  Indeed, buried in a brown accordion file in the highest, darkest corner of my hall closet are a hundred-plus “novels” without a Chapter Three.  Like those jeans that have not fit me since 1998, I just can’t bear to throw them out.

Around ten years ago, I overcame my self-inflicted disorder.  What prompted this transformation, you ask?  A combination of coming out, a lot of coffee, and a little television show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  I was in my second year of law school, and I had just rediscovered BtVS after a couple of years’ absence.  Thus, I had missed the whole “Willow’s gay now and has a girlfriend named Tara” storyline, but was quickly sucked in.  I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I had always identified with the character of Willow, and my fascination with her being gay was really about acknowledging that same part of myself which had been buried for way too long.  But I digress…

So once I discovered the magical gayness of Willow and Tara, I spent an inordinate amount of time combing the internet to try and figure out what I had missed, and along the way discovered a previously unknown world within the web: fan fiction.  Some of the writing was amazingly good, while some was, well… not the greatest.  Yet even as I critiqued the poorer writing, I had to give the writers an A for effort.  These people had not only completed (in many cases) novel-length stories—something I had never been able to do—but they had put their work out there for the whole world to see and to judge, something that takes incredible courage.  After months of lurking, I finally decided to suck it up and add my own contribution.  What started out as a three-chapter short story (I was determined to get past Chapter Two) evolved into a 200-plus page opus, complete with a beginning, middle, end, and even an epilogue.

What was different than the 100-plus other attempts I had made to write long-form fiction?  For the first time, I could see past the idea for the story and imagine how the characters would act within it.  The characters were alive in my head in a way they had never been with anything lengthy I had ever tried to write, and that spurred me to keep writing even when I got stuck with a certain paragraph or chapter.  I wanted, even needed, to tell their story.

Several pieces of fan fiction and a law degree later, I decided I wanted to write a novel, with my own characters in my own, original world.  Actually, I decided I wanted to write the next Great American Novel, a grand narrative full of depth and meaning that would inspire generations.  So I started writing, and stopped.  I tried another idea, and stopped again.  Chapter Two Syndrome was back in full effect, as if I had learned nothing from all those pieces I had written about Willow and Tara and the rest of the Scooby Gang.

It finally occurred to me that the problem was that I was not invested in my characters, or their story.  I was trying too hard to write something grand instead of something I was actually interested in writing.  I realized that if I was going to actually finish a novel, one that was wholly original from protagonist to “The End,” it needed to be the kind of book I would want to read.  That being settled, I still needed an idea—like most good ideas, it finally hit me when I was not trying to think of it.  I was driving the 900 miles to my best friend’s wedding in Iowa when an image formed.  I imagined a woman walking alone beside an empty road, struggling to get home after some horrible disaster.  I could see this woman, this strong yet broken woman, who was surviving but not truly living.  Then I wondered what would happen if she finally found something—or someone—worth living for.

The more I thought about her and her story, the more I realized that I had never read a post-apocalyptic novel that featured a woman as the protagonist, let alone a lesbian.  And that is how my first novel, After the Fall, came to be.  It took three years, a lot of nights and weekends, and a very supportive partner, but I finished the book last year.  And on July 19, 2011, After the Fall will hit store shelves, thanks to the fabulous people at Bold Strokes Books.  Hopefully you will enjoy reading my novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And just in case you’re wondering, I have finally kicked that nasty Chapter Two Syndrome, once and for all.


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