Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Robin Jones Gunn
Robin is the award winning, best selling, and much loved author of the Sisterchicks, Glenbrooke, Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series, as well as two gift books, Mothering by Heart and Tea at Glenbrooke, and a non-fiction Mother-Daughter book, Gentle Passages. Robin and her husband Ross have been married for 26 years and they have two grown children, Ross IV and Rachel. They make their home near Portland, Oregon with their golden retriever, Hula.
Focus: Robin, you've written all sorts of amazing books in your nineteen-year writing career. Can you tell us how many books in total you've published?
Robin Jones Gunn: I think it's a total of 57 books.
Focus: You began writing for children, then you wrote two teen series' and your fabulous eight-book Glenbrooke series, and then last year, you began a new, totally unique series! Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of your latest books, Sisterchicks on the Loose and Sisterchicks do the Hula?
Robin Jones Gunn: The Sisterchicks books focus on two women who are best friends and have some kind of out of the ordinary experience that changes them. In the first book, Sisterchicks on the Loose, Sharon and Penny go to Finland in search of Penny's relatives.
In Sisterchicks do the Hula, Hope and Laurie complete a dream they launched 20 years earlier by finally going to Hawai'i. The stories are quite different but in each book the women experience the freshness that comes from having a true friend who is willing to speak truth over them at a point when they are entering a new season of life. The truth sets them free to fly into the next season with strength and dignity.
Focus: Your first two Sisterchicks books have started such a trend, I'm sure we'll be seeing Sisterchick conferences, Sisterchick cruises, maybe even customized Sisterchick saunas in the near future! But what's next in your near future? Can you tell us a little about what's ahead in the writing world of Robin Jones Gunn?
Robin Jones Gunn: I've definitely entered a new season. It's a dream come true season for a writer in many ways. When my publisher asked if I'd consider doing more than just the first few Sisterchicks novels, the marketing department started tossing out all kinds of fun ideas for titles, such as, "Sisterchicks Down Under" and "Sisterchicks in Gondolas".
Here's the dream part. My publisher said, "Then we'll give you a travel budget so you can go to these places, have your own sisterchick adventure and then come home and embellish it in a story." So guess what? I went on a cruise with my editor last fall to Mexico and am currently writing "Sisterchicks in Sombreros". The next exotic journey? Australia. Next month. See what I mean about living out a dream?
Focus: Your books feature heroines varying in age from teens to late forties. Are there particular characters in your stories with whom you most identify? In what ways are you and your female heroines alike?
Robin Jones Gunn: Those who know me well say they see a little of me in all the characters. I'm sure the trait of superimposing yourself on your characters is common with many fiction writers. The ways that I am most like my female heroines is in the spiritual discoveries they make in each book. It seems that whatever God is teaching me at the time I'm writing the book ends up being what the main character discovers. Only the heroines seem to be much quicker at learning these important truths than I am in real life!
Focus: Is there a particular book among all those you've written that you're especially proud of? If so, why?
Robin Jones Gunn: I know I'm supposed to say each book is like a child and how do you pick a favorite child, but I think the very first novel, Summer Promise, rises to the top of the list. It took two years and many, many rewrites on an old typewriter in order to finish that first book. Every week I took a chapter to read to the girls in the Sunday School class I was teaching and every week they would tear it apart. I'd go home and rewrite it again. Our kids were babies then and I would set the alarm and get up at 3:00 in the morning so I could type downstairs in solitude.
I kept that 3 am to 7 am schedule for many years because life was so full that I could never get any writing done during the day. I had been told that writing was a sacrifice and I knew the sacrifice needed to be mine, not my husband's or children's. So I didn't watch a lot of TV, I went to bed early four nights a week and I bought myself a teapot so I could brew up a friendly pot while the sun came up. God somehow forged the story of Summer Promise during that two year, early morning training session, and the fruit remains. The book is still in print after being released in 1988. Hundreds of girls around the world have come into a relationship with Christ after reading that book. And I still use the teapot.
Focus: Do you believe writing is a calling God has placed on your life, or simply a talent or career direction you have chosen to pursue?
Robin Jones Gunn: Writing is a calling for me. Storytelling is something God gifted me to do. I didn't set out to be a writer. It's just that I'm wired to tell stories and once I started, well . . . all this publishing stuff sort of happened. If I never was offered another book contract, I'd still be telling stories. If I end up in a rest home, I'm sure I'll be sitting in my rocking chair telling stories. I actually believe that when I get to heaven I'll be hanging out telling stories. That is what my soul loves to do as an act of worship. I love to give back to the Father that which He so lavishly poured out on me. I didn't choose writing as a career direction. I kind of wanted to be a missionary. Or a travel agent. Or a radio show host. In a way, I've done all of those. Last November I had the delight - really, true, super fun delight - of reading the first two Sisterchicks novels for the audio versions of the books and I loved it! I couldn't wait to get back to the studio each day. It was long hours of being closed up in a small space for days. So why did I love it? I got to use my mouth to tell a story in front of God because He was the only one in there with me. It was a wonderfully buoyant worshipful experience.
Focus: What do you feel is the greatest message with which God has entrusted you, and why have you chosen fiction as the medium for that message?
Robin Jones Gunn: The banner that waves over my life is that God is the Relentless Lover and we are His First Love. He doesn't give up on us because He wants us back. That truth is packed with mystery and romance and adventure. What does that look like? How does a woman experience the honor of being pursued by a Relentless Lover? I think that's why I keep telling stories. I want to explore what that looks like and how it plays out in a life.
Focus: One of your readers has just turned the last page of your latest book. Besides smiling for weeks, what other response do you hope to stir in this person?
Robin Jones Gunn: God is real. He is right here, right now. He's pursuing me. I'm not going to ignore Him anymore.
Focus: The characters in your stories often experience life-changing encounters with God. How important do you think it is that our Christianity be a dynamic relationship rather than a passive acknowledgement of belief?
Robin Jones Gunn: I keep telling stories about life-changing encounters with God because that's what keeps happening to me. Just when I think I've caught up with Christ, He turns a corner and I take off breathing hard after Him. I don't want to miss a thing. Jesus said if He was lifted up from the world, He would draw all mankind to Himself. I take that to mean that my part as a God-lover and a truth-teller is to lift up Christ. He does the drawing of hearts to Himself. I just lift Him up. He said to lift Him up the same way that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and all those who looked at it were saved. Why? How?
See? It's the mystery again. We think we get it and then He turns another corner and does the unexplainable and I go running after Him. You can't be passive when you're in curious pursuit of Christ. And there is certainly nothing passive about a Relentless Lover going back after His First Love.
Focus: Would you share a little with us about your own Christian testimony?
Robin Jones Gunn: My parents were Believers and we attended a strong Bible based church as I was growing up. When I was twelve I went to summer camp and on the last night the speaker said, "God doesn't have any grandchildren. Only children. Just because your parents are Christians that doesn't make you a Christian." I knew clearly at that moment that I must give my all to Christ. Perhaps I should say that the Relentless Lover caught me. Or maybe - I never thought of this before - maybe that night He was saying, "Tag. You're it." And I have been following Him with a pounding heart ever since. What happened that night in practical, evangelical terms is that I went forward, prayed a prayer of repentance and received forgiveness of my sins so that I might enter into a relationship with Christ.
Focus: You write stories that keep us laughing and flipping pages for hours. But besides writing, you also like kayaking, gardening, and research trips to Mexico :) Do you have any other hobbies?
Robin Jones Gunn: My close friends are my hobbies. I would make space on my calendar any day for one of my true sisterchicks or for my family. They fill me up. Isn't that what a hobby does?
Focus: Many writers are also avid readers. Do you have any favorite authors? Could you name a few of them?
Robin Jones Gunn: I'm a terrible reader. I always have been. I do the unforgivable. I read the first few pages and the last few pages. If I can't immediately think of an intriguing way for the story to get from that opening to that ending, I read the book. (I can't believe I'm confessing this! I'm sure anyone could do the same with any of my books and surmise the same criticism!)
Actually, to get us back on a positive note, I read a lot of poetry and I listen to poetry on tape all the time. If I ever went back to school it would be to get a Masters in Victorian Literature. The English language has a rich cadence that comes through in poetry and fills up a little corner of my heart.
I have read dozens of books on Hawaiian history. I guess I should have listed that as my biggest hobby because I'm a member of the Calabash Cousins of the Daughters of Hawai'i and my favorite place to hang out on Oahu is the Mission Houses Museum archives. I'm wild about the history of the early missionaries to Hawai'i. How strange is that?
I've read the Bible through a number of times in several different translations and paraphrases. Lately I've been listening again to The Book of God on tape and I'm reading from The Message. It makes God's one book - His story - fresh and amazing all over again when I hear or read it in a different format that what I grew up with.
Focus: How can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you? Are care packages of Irish Breakfast tea and Finnish chocolates acceptable?
Robin Jones Gunn: You are so funny! Yes, all tea and chocolate is welcome! Especially dark chocolate!
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Robin Jones Gunn: Two years ago I received a letter from a girl in Brazil who read a Christy Miller book in Portuguese and said she gave her heart to Christ as a result of the book. Well, really as a result of God, but He used the book. I get dozens of letters like this and I always cry. What really got me about this letter was that she said, "I realized God has dreams for me." I thought about that for a long time. I wrote about that thought in my journal and then I started praying, "Lord? Do you have any dreams for me that haven't yet come true because I've been hindering You with my sin and rebellion? Forgive me. I don't want to quench Your Spirit. I want all Your dreams to come true."
If I have one final thing to say, it's that God has dreams for all His children. He's not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. What if the Relentless Lover has dreams for you that haven't yet come true? My final thought is to pray for you. "Lord, may all your dreams for your daughters who read this come true."