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Interview With Robert Elmer

Meet Robert Elmer
Interview by Sandra Moore

Aside from the regular roster of questions, I conducted a little phone interview with Robert, who wants to be called Bob, by the way. With the release of his newest and first novel for adults, entitled The Duet, Bob is branching out from his usual audience of 8-12 year olds. When I asked Bob why the change, his initial response was "arrested development." :) But really it came down to he felt like he had another story to write, so he did! Here's a blurb from Bob's newest novel, sure to wet your appetite:
When widower Garrit Appledoorn takes his granddaughter to piano lessons one day, he finds himself drawn to her music teacher: a woman unlike any he has known. It's an unlikely attraction. He's a retired dairyman with mud on his boots; Joan Horton is a world traveler and former piano instructor at New York's most prestigious academy of music. Not quite "beauty and the beast," but close.
What's the worst part about writing? "Marketing. It's tedious. It's not always the thing writers want to do. Keeping up with it is tough." But for Bob, keeping a disciplined writing schedule isn't so tough. His journalism background has come in handy. Meeting deadlines is something he's used to and he has learned to pace himself--usually about 2K a day. He's disciplined though, because if he doesn't meet his daily 2K, it accrues into the next day until he's caught up. Wow! We can all admire that.

1) Tell us a little about yourself -- age, married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

I'm 46. Blissfully married to Ronda 24 years. Ronda is my first editor and most trusted co-worker. We live in Washington state and have three kids: Kai is 21 and he's a senior at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, studying radio broadcasting. Danica is 19, and she's a junior at Moody, studying Educational Ministries. Stefan, 18, is headed to Greenville College, also in Illinois, to study Contemporary Christian Music. They're all great kids who love the Lord.

I have 32 youth novels with Bethany House and four more with WaterBrook Press. WaterBrook also publishes my adult fiction; the first is THE DUET (released this past spring) and the second is THE CELEBRITY (coming next spring).

Right now I'm working on a new YA historical fiction series set in Berlin during the Cold War, called THE WALL, with Zonderkidz. I'm also co-editing an exciting compilation project of YA science fiction short stories from Christian authors called EAT MY MARTIAN DUST (Baker). And NavPress is releasing a new non-fiction classic I've updated called PRACTICING GOD'S PRESENCE. Other than that I've contributed to two short story compilation volumes from Multnomah, called THE STORYTELLERS' COLLECTION.

In my spare time (what's spare time?) my wife and I like to travel together, usually during the school year when I speak and lead writing workshops at Christian schools. Speaking is a great chance to get out and meet and interact with readers. I also love to get out on the water, sailing and canoeing, that sort of thing.

Before writing and speaking full-time I was a news reporter and editor, advertising and PR writer, college administrator and pastor. I have a degree in communications and Bible from Simpson College in San Francisco and an elementary teaching credential.

2) How did you become interested in writing?

I was a voracious reader when I was little, and always wanted to write things. In the third grade I put together a family newspaper and started writing essays just because. But I was a typical boy, too, and liked being out on my bike just as much as anything else. So I didn't really start getting serious about writing until I was in intermediate and high school.

3) What was your biggest obstacle in regards to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle has always been balancing the driving need to write and the constant need to support my family. Balancing the business and creative aspects of this profession is a constant challenge. A lot of times I just have to put my head down, plow ahead, and remember that people (editors) are waiting for me on the other end of the next deadline. It's a lesson I learned early, working for newspapers.

4) What has been the highest moment of your writing/publishing career?

I haven't gotten there, yet. Maybe that's part of what keeps me going. That, and the realization that God has been holding my hand all the way through this process, and obviously doesn't plan to let go. But I can say that one of the high points was when I received the first call from Bethany House, telling me they wanted to publish my first book. Wow! I couldn't believe it!

5) Who/What is your greatest inspiration to write? Where do your story ideas come from?

My parents often inspired me to write, through their gentle but constant encouragement to get me to read. Both were immigrants from Denmark, so English was a challenge for them. Early on, though, they invested in books, and often brought me to the library. Even my grandparents and my aunt--who also had to learn English--often gave me a special book as a birthday or Christmas gift. There was nothing better, and good books were always regarded highly in my family. Later, in the eighth grade, I remember my English teacher writing in my yearbook that "I expect to read or teach something of yours someday." I never forgot that, either. A little encouragement goes a long way.

6) Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot extensively before your fingers hit the keyboard?

Like most other writers, I need to plot extensively. However, I never feel constrained to vary from the plan if it makes sense and doesn't sink the overall plot. The more I get to know my characters the more likely that is. I love the feeling of freedom I get when I can sit down at the keyboard and simply craft the words, the scenes and the emotions... without worrying about what's going to happen next. If I do a good job of plotting hopefully I already have that part figured out. If I don't do a good job of plotting I become a de-facto seat-of-the pants writer.

7) What's the nicest thing anyone ever said about your writing?

The nicest thing ever was from a little girl in South Carolina. She wrote me a letter saying that before she read one of my books, she wasn't a Christian. But after reading one of my historical fiction adventures, in which the lead character comes to know the Lord, she believed, too, and prayed with her mother. I can be paid no higher compliment. More recently, a farmer came up to me and told me that even though he could count on one hand the number of books he has read IN HIS LIFETIME, he picked up THE DUET and couldn't put it down. He loved it and I count that as a high compliment, indeed.

8) Who is your favorite character in your books, and how did you come up with that character?

Joan Horton in THE DUET is one of my favorites. She's a sophisticated piano teacher who takes a one-year sabbatical to visit her daughter in a small rural town. She goes way out of her comfort zone, especially when she is attracted to a local farmer who is in most respects her opposite. I came up with her character by digging into my own past (having moved a lot as a child), adding a lot of insecurities common to us all, and then simply making her the opposite of the lead farmer character.


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