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Interview with Robin Lee Hatcher

It’s not every day we have the opportunity to learn from a prolific writer with more than 85 titles to her name and a wealth of experience across multiple genres, publishing houses, and markets. Who is this fascinating interview subject? None other than Robin Lee Hatcher! Read on to find out about Robin’s writing journey, how she’s rediscovering her own work, and what book she most recently couldn’t put down.
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Yours is a name familiar to those in the Christian fiction world. How do you feel about being a sort of household name in the Christian market? Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you'd be a published author with more than 85 titles to your name?
I can’t speak to being a household name. I know that I continue to hear from readers who have just discovered my books. But it definitely surprises me to look back and realize how many years I’ve been writing (nearly 42 years) and how many books I’ve written and published in that time. (My age surprises me too!) Some time after I passed 50 books, I began to hope I would be able to reach 100 before Jesus calls me home. I believe that is within my reach, God willing.

And let's be honest, 85 stories is a lot of stories! Do you remember them all? Or does something you wrote in the past ever come back to you and surprise you?
LOL! Given enough time to think about it, I might be able to give a one-line description for each of those 85+ books. But I couldn’t name all of the heroes/heroines/protagonists. Which is why I keep a master character name spreadsheet; it currently has about 1,300 names in it. I didn’t start keeping it until around 2000 or 2001 so it doesn’t contain every single character. But close.

Some of my older Christian fiction releases have recently received audiobook editions. It’s fun to listen to an older book and be surprised by it. Not long ago, I listened to one I wrote in 2001 and thought, "That’s a cute story. I really like it."

How do you keep your ideas fresh as you go forward with your writing? And do you foresee an end to your writing career or will you stay with it, God-willing, as long as you're able?
The characters in my books become “real people” to me very quickly. Their stories are unique to them. I believe that keeps things fresh. At least I hope so.

If I could write the ending for my own life, I would like to be writing a book when my head suddenly hits the keyboard and I wake up in heaven. I hope that my brain stays sharp and my typing fingers stay flexible long into old age so that I can keep writing. I don’t envision retiring. I love what I do.

Can you tell us a little bit about your start in the general market and your switch to the Christian fiction market? What prompted the switch and what was different about your writing for the two different markets?
While I sold the first novel that I wrote and that can sound amazing, unfortunately I sold it to a small New York mass market publisher who didn’t edit my books. Thus all of my mistakes are in print. It wasn’t until I sold to a new publisher after nine books that I discovered what it meant to be edited. It’s one reason I caution new writers who decide to publish indie to hire a good editor and don’t be in such a rush to publish. It is hard to overcome that less-than-stellar writing once it’s in print. Been there, done that.

I wrote my first novel in 1981. I sold it in 1982 while I was writing the sequel. The publisher went bankrupt a couple of months later. I sold both of those books to a new publisher in 1983, and they were published in February and March 1984.

My walk with the Lord went through a fallow time in the late 1980s, but in November 1991, I read Redeeming Love (in its general market edition). That book made me long to write something with that much truth and hope and the power to change lives. As the Lord began to heal me and draw me closer, He set my feet on a path toward writing for Him.

In 1995, my general market editor cut a scene where the hero fell to his knees and prayed, “God, save them!” when it appeared his wife and baby would die in childbirth. Her reason for cutting the scene was due to the prayer. “We don’t want to offend any of our readers,” she said. That was the beginning of the end for my general market career.

Next I had a dream. It was the opening scene of what would become The Forgiving Hour. I knew that story couldn’t be written for the general market. But it was a contemporary women’s fiction story, and all that I’d written up to that time were historical romances. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. While I might have let it be forgotten, God began to bring Christian writers and editors into my life, and He opened doors I hadn’t expected. In 1997, I signed with WaterBrook Press for three titles. The first was The Forgiving Hour. It was published in 1999.

What was different about my writing? The main thing was that I could write openly about the faith of my characters in the Christian market. I also noticed a change of voice when writing women’s fiction. That wasn’t intentional. It simply happened.

You've covered a variety of genres in your writing career. What genre did you start out writing? How did you expand to include other genres? Is there one genre that you gravitate to more than others?
My first 30 books in the general market were historical romances. Actually my first two were more historical sagas than romance, but since I sold them to a romance publisher, I quickly learned to write more true to the romance genre. As I shared earlier, my first contemporary women’s fiction was the result of a dream (plus experiences from my own life). Writing that book was a totally new and different experience for me. It allowed me to stretch my creativity. After that, I simply wrote the books that God put on my heart at the time. Sometimes those were contemporary and sometimes those were historical.

I gravitate to romance. Even when writing women’s fiction, there is always a romantic thread. I’ve written both historical and contemporary romance, and my women’s fiction have had both historical and contemporary settings. Over the past 25 years, I’ve loved writing dual time fiction as well, off and on, because it allows me to enjoy more than one era in the same book.

Teaser: My next four-book series is historical romance (late 1890s). I got the idea for these books more than a dozen years ago, and I am finally getting around to writing them.

What do readers and other writers most often want to know from you or about you?
Hmm. I suppose what readers ask most often is when will my next book release. Not sure what other writers want to know. I tend to be the Apple nerd in the crowd, and many of my writer friends contact me when they are having issues with their Macs or iPhones.

What do you find most challenging about writing? Most rewarding?
As a seat-of-the-pants writer, formal plotting is the biggest challenge for me. When I used to be forced to write a detailed plot, I found I no longer wanted to write the book because there were no surprises left. The joy of writing for me is each day getting up to discover what happens next in the story.

Most rewarding? Hearing from readers who share how my stories have touched them.

You didn’t ask, but my favorite part of writing is brainstorming with other writers. That energetic exchange of ideas, when anything is possible and the book you’re talking about is going to be great and almost write itself because it is going to be perfect. I love that!

Tell us something we might not know about your home state of Idaho.
Idaho has more wilderness area than any other of the contiguous 48 states. The deepest river gorge in North America is in Idaho (Hell’s Canyon). Shoshone Falls falls farther than Niagara Falls. The largest Basque urban population outside of Spain is in Boise, Idaho.

What was the last couldn't-put-it-down book you read?
Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

Any parting words?
Long writing careers happen one book at a time. Over the course of my career, I have written for nine traditional publishing houses and have had the pleasure of working with 20 editors (both acquiring and line), not to mention marketing and publicity teams, sales teams, creative designers, etc. My agent and I have been working together for over 33 years. Writing has brought many amazing people into my life, and my closest friendships are with other writers. I didn’t know at the start of my career how blessed I would be because of it.

Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing, and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones, and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family, and the unexpected turns of life at

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