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Interview With Sandra Robbins

Ever since I read Sandra Robbins's first book, Pedigreed Bloodlines, I've followed her career with interest. So the opportunity to interview Sandra excited me. I just finished reading her latest release from Steeple Hill, Mountain Peril. Even though Sandra writes about murder and mayhem, her gentle spirit shows through in her writing. This week, I'm pleased to introduce Sandra Robbins to the ACFW family.

How did you know you wanted to write fiction and romantic mystery and suspense in particular?

I've always had the dream that someday I would write a book, but I was so busy working and raising a family that my dream got pushed to the side. One day it dawned on me that life is very short, and if I wanted to accomplish my dream, I'd better get started. I thought historical romance was what I needed to pursue, and I wrote three books in that genre. None of those have ever sold, but in writing those books I learned a lot about writing and improving my craft.

Growing up, I was an avid fan of Nancy Drew mysteries, and I had continued to read mystery and suspense into adulthood. When I heard that Susan Downs was acquiring mysteries for a new line at Barbour, I wrote a proposal and sent it to her. She bought the book, and it started me on a journey that I never would have believed. Now I have one cozy mystery and two romantic suspense novels that have been published. Another one will release in December, and I have just sold a fourth one. In addition to that, I've been privileged to sell two historical romances to Barbour. One of those will be released in September and the other one next year.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. God has blessed me far more than I would ever have believed when I started on my writing journey.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I thought about this question for a long time before I answered. From the very beginning my journey to publication has progressed like a well laid-out plan. Things that I could never have done on my own have happened to me, and I know that it was the evidence of God working in my life. The people who've helped me, the contacts I've made, selling the first manuscript--all of these are significant to me. But I believe I have to say the most significant thing happened soon after I felt God telling me it was time to follow my dream.

I had begun writing, but I felt so alone. I didn't know what I was doing, and I needed help and guidance. So I went to my computer and began to surf the internet looking for something or someone to help me. I typed Christian romance writers in the search engine, and I was shocked when my query revealed an organization that was called at the time American Christian Romance Writers. I went to the site and was thrilled to see that there was a place for people like me who wanted to learn to write, and there were established authors who wanted to help new writers spread the message God had laid on their hearts.

I couldn't join fast enough, and I have thanked God through the years for leading me to ACFW. It was through a critique group, conferences, and the encouragement of ACFW members that I was able to become a published writer. Now I'm one who is encouraging new writers, and it gives me great satisfaction to know that I'm passing on what others gave to me at the beginning of my journey.

What's your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Each day I thank God that writing is my job now. I don't have to leave home. Some days I write from morning until late afternoon. If I have an appointment, then I can write after I get home and continue until late at night if need be.

However, I find that marketing presents a challenge that I face all the time. I suppose I've never been one to push myself on other people, and I'm shy at times about promoting myself. I'm trying to do better by keeping my blog active and doing social networking, but I must admit it's a challenge for me.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I grew up in a Christian home and was taught about living a life of faith not only by being told about it by my parents but also by seeing faith lived in their lives. My father and mother were the most dedicated prayer warriors I've ever known, and they've been an inspiration to me. It was only natural when I started to write that I should include my life experiences in my writing.

When I was a child, I liked to pull up the dandelions in our yard, blow on them, and watch their seeds drift off to burrow into the ground where another dandelion would grow. I like to imagine that the words God gives me are the same. They are drifting into the world, and I pray they find fertile soil in the heart of someone I will never meet.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career so far?
The greatest moment for me personally was getting the call that I had sold that first book. At the time I was still working as a principal. When I went to school that morning, all the phones in the building were out. I always kept my cell phone turned off and in my purse at school, but that morning I knew we needed some way to communicate until the phone company could find our problem. I turned on my cell phone and placed it on my desk. When it rang and I answered, I couldn't believe that it was Susan Downs calling to tell me I had made my first sale.

The funny thing about it was that she didn't have my cell phone number and had called a mutual friend in Texas to get it. Again, God had worked out a way for me to receive some of the greatest news I'd ever gotten.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I realized a long time ago that God created each individual with unique traits that distinguish us from each other. That is so true of writers. At times I'll read another author's books, and I'll wonder why I can't write descriptions like that or why my writing doesn't sound more literary. Then I think about what God has given me. I love mystery and suspense, and my friends and readers tell me I write a wicked villain. So I pour my energy in trying to come up with a chilling situation that has been created by a villain who has chosen his path because of something tragic in his background.

If I have anyone to thank for making me want to write a story that keeps a reader on the edge of her seat, it would have to be all those authors who wrote under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. They kept me immersed in the Nancy Drew mysteries. My imagination took flight, and I worked right along Nancy as she chased villains through all those books I read as a child.

If you were to change anything about your journey to publication, what would it be?
I would start writing earlier in life than I did. However, I believe that God gives us seasons in our lives, and He has a plan for each of them. Now is my season for writing, and He's there with me as I pursue what I've always wanted to do.

Finish this question. The best writing advice I ever received was . . .
The best writing advice I ever received is exactly the opposite of what I used to tell teachers when I was a principal. I always impressed on teachers the importance of interaction with their students and would often say, "One on her feet is worth two in her seat."

For a writer, however, you have to find a way of interacting with your readers. That can be a long and sometimes painful process. I was told, and found out that it's true, that if you want to write a book, you have to plant yourself in your chair and write. It takes discipline, hard work, and perseverance to write a book, and you have to stay focused on your goal. So even when I'm staring into space instead of typing, I am concentrating on finding a way to keep my readers hooked into the story.

What's next for Sandra Robbins?
At present I am working on a three book romantic suspense series set on Ocracoke Island, one of the barrier islands off the North Carolina coast. I vacationed there two years ago. I fell in love with the island, its people, and its rich history, and I've been planning the books I would set there.

In the 1700s the island was the home of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate. He was killed in a battle offshore, and island legend has it that Blackbeard's ghost still roams the marshes to guard the treasure he buried beneath what he called his Money Tree. It's never been found, but people still flock to the island to look for the lost treasure.

Any parting words?
The ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished authors has just concluded its first round, and the finalists entries have been sent to the final judges. This year I was privileged to serve as the coordinator of the romantic suspense category. There were fifty entries, and I was impressed by the stories that were entered. It let me know that God has His hand on a lot of ACFW unpublished authors, and we're going to see their books published in the next few years. I am so happy and proud to be part of a group that nurtures and guides those who are beginning their writing journey. I pray that God will use this organization for years to come to spread His message into the world.

Thanks for sharing with us, Sandra!

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