QPQ: Hi, Robin! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and wit today.
RP: My pleasure. Though you say wisdom and wit, I think foolishness and folly, but maybe I can fake my way through.
QPQ: I have no doubt you’ll do fine! First, how do you do it? You’re a wife, a mom, and a writer. How do you balance those roles?
RP: It helps that my kids are teenagers, so while they still require a lot of emotional effort and prayer (a LOT of prayer!), I don’t have to tie their shoes and button their shirts anymore. And since I quit home schooling them a few years back, I don’t have to teach them, either. So I have more time on my hands.
I also guard my time very carefully, to the degree that some might call it hoarding. I have learned to never say yes to an opportunity without praying about it first. I believe the Lord has given me a few tasks—caring for my family, writing, editing, and a couple of volunteering commitments—and He wants me to focus on those. He wants me to do those well, to improve on those always, to reach for excellence in those few areas. When I take time away from those, even for something good, there’d better be a good reason.
QPQ: That sounds like wisdom to me. Next question: How important is imagination (discipline, wit, etc.) when your title switches from author to wife and mom?
RP: Such a good question. I’ve always had excellent concentration. A gift—and a curse. I can sit at my kitchen table surrounded by kids—mine and others’—and work, completely drowning out the people around me. When I do that—and I’m embarrassed at how often I do—I realize I have to shut my laptop and force myself to focus on the people, because they matter most. At the same time, switching into author-mode isn’t easy in the morning after the rush of getting the kids out the door for school. Some days, it takes serious discipline.
RP: Never settling. Being a writer is hard work, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. I don’t want to be a good-enough writer. I want to be an excellent writer. I’m not there yet, but as long as I’m still walking the journey, I’m successful. When I get so busy with other things that I start settling, then something’s going to have to give.
QPQ: Speaking of successful, talk goal-setting and deadlines.
RP: Do I have to? When you’re not under contract, then deadlines are nearly always artificial. Nobody cares if you get your word count in today. Nobody’s watching to see if you work ten minutes or three hours. But if you don’t write, then you’re not a writer. And all I want to be is a writer.
Since I started my freelance editing business, my life is busy. Even with my kids at school all day, I have to scramble to get everything done. I realized at the beginning of this year that I no longer had the luxury of setting word-count goals for my novel. I couldn’t keep writing until I got those 2,000 words on the page, because I had other work that needed to be done. And I’m not willing to cut into my family time too much (though it’s happening more and more lately.) So now, rather than setting word-count goals, I set time goals. This week, my writing goal was to write six hours. Just 72 minutes a day for five days. I exceeded it by nearly an hour, and I finished the editing that needed to be done, too. It’s been working for me lately. God-willing, I’ll finish my latest manuscript by next Friday.
QPQ: That’s awesome. And with your time-goal system, you’re able to take weekends off and enjoy your family. Oh yeah, back to family. How do you deal with family challenges differently from, say, your latest heroine, Amanda?
RP: Oh, Amanda is a mess. I know—I was just like her until about 15 years ago. Rather than face her problems, she runs away from them. She ran away from her abuser when she switched colleges and changed her name. Then when things got tense with her husband, she was ready to throw that relationship away, too.
I struggle with the temptation to run away. Not literally, but metaphorically . . . isn’t that why God invented chocolate and wine and good books? So we could escape? But I’ve gotten more straightforward in recent years. Rather than skirting a problem these days, I much prefer to just throw it out there and deal with it.
QPQ: Do you ever wish you could respond to challenges like Amanda does when we first meet her?
RP: It would be easier—in the short run. But Amanda didn’t know what I know, that God is in it—whatever “it” is—and He has a plan. When we trust Him, we don’t have to fix things ourselves or run away.
QPQ: Trusting is the key, isn’t it? But it’s tough to trust when we’ve been wounded. As a romantic suspense author, do you find it difficult to write Happily Ever Afters (HEAs) in a world that is often cruel and unjust?
RP: Absolutely, because sometimes, our endings feel too contrived. In this world, endings rarely get tied up in neat little packages. My husband read one of my unpublished novels, Longing for Birches, and when it was over, he said, “I knew you were going to wrap it up like that.” It wasn’t a compliment. He felt like the Happily Ever After was a little too easy in that novel, and he was probably right. Truth is, we long for happy endings, because we so often don’t get to see them in real life. So I’ll keep writing them, whether my husband likes them or not.
QPQ: I’m so glad! You recently stated the following as a favorite quote from author D. L. Doctorow: “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” Are there times you wish your protagonists would give you some peace and quiet?
RP: Not as much as I used to. In fact, I miss those voices. These days, I have to coax them out. Not sure what the psychiatrists would say about that.
QPQ: They’d say you’re a writer. Now, if your life correlated with a fictional character, who would you be?
RP: In a way, I’m like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. She was slightly clueless (though in her case, she was a child, so she has a good excuse), observing the world and trying to figure it out, and often jumping to completely wrong conclusions. At the same time, she truly wanted to understand, and she learned through the process. I can see that aspect of her personality in me.
QPQ: Interesting. And if you could choose to be any fictional character? Who would you choose?
RP: Harry Potter’s brilliant friend, Hermoine Granger. She’s smart, she’s talented, and she can perform magic. What’s not to like?
QPQ: If you weren’t an author, what career would you pursue?
RP: If I weren’t this author, I’d want to be bestselling author. Is that a cop-out answer? I love my job.
QPQ: It shows! Tell us about your latest novel, Finding Amanda.
Chef and popular blogger Amanda Johnson hopes publishing her memoir will provide healing and justice. Her estranged husband, contractor and veteran soldier Mark Johnson, tries to talk her out of it, fearing the psychiatrist who seduced her when she was a teen might return to silence her.
But Amanda doesn’t need advice, certainly not from her judgmental soon-to-be ex-husband. Her overconfidence makes her vulnerable when she travels out of town and runs into the abuser from her past. A kind stranger comes to her rescue and offers her protection.
Now Mark must safeguard his wife both from the fiend who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.
QPQ: I love it! For your fans, what’s next?
RP: For all my fans (Hi Mom!), I’m planning to release a prequel novella this summer that tells the story of how Mark and Amanda met. It’s tentatively titled Falling for Amanda, and it’ll be free on Kindle, so be sure to check it out. I’m about to finish a first draft of another romantic suspense. I have a couple of finished novels waiting in the wings, but I’m not sure what God’s plan is for them yet.
QPQ: I can’t wait to find out! Thank you for sharing with us, Robin. God bless your writing! Finding Amanda is available now from: Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Robin loves to hear from her readers. You can find her at her website, Robin’s Red Pen, and Goodreads. Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com. ~ Jericha Kingston