The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter
Holly Robinson has been writing feature articles, essays and advice columns on health, parenting and psychology topics for national magazines since 1995. She has been a contributing editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents magazines. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Family Circle, FamilyFun, Fitness, Good Housekeeping, More, Parenting, Parents Expecting, Shape, and WorkingMother. Her first book, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter (Harmony/Crown, May 2009) is now available in paperback.
Prior to beginning her career as a freelance writer, Ms. Robinson worked as a science and health writer for the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and received the American Medical Association’s Will Solimene Award for Excellence. She has taught creative writing and English courses as an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University and has lectured on writing at numerous other colleges in the Boston area. Ms. Robinson holds a B.A. in biology from Clark University and is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in northern Massachusetts with her husband and their five children.
Book Review (coming soon)
1. Please tell the readers a bit more about you.
I grew up as a Navy kid, so I've lived all over and I still love to travel. At the moment I live in New England, where my husband and I have five children and are renovating a 1790's house and barn.
2. What types of books do you write?
I write contemporary fiction. I have written a memoir, and I also work as a ghost writer, helping celebrities write their own stories. Occasionally I also pair up with physicians and scientists to write about health and science, too.
3. Who's your main audience?
It depends on the book, but typically adults—and almost always women.
4. When it comes to writing- what are your strong points? What are your weaknesses?
My strong points are my clear style, lush descriptions of setting, sense of humor, dialogue, and quirky characters that you might find in your own neighborhood. The thing I need to work on most is putting together simpler plots.
5. What do you think of this term- Writer's Block? How do you overcome it?
I'm very fortunate to have worked as a journalist for many years, because it trained me to think that there can be no such thing as writer's block. There is always something to work on, even if you're just rewriting a few paragraphs. I live for deadlines!
6. How many books have you written?
About half a dozen novels and an equal number of nonfiction books.
7. How many are published?
Two novels and all but one of the nonfiction books. I have found it much easier to publish nonfiction in today's marketplace.
8. Are you self published or traditionally published?
Both! I was fortunate enough to have Random House buy my memoir. When I had trouble selling a novel, I self-published the one I liked best out of the few I'd written. About two weeks later, I got a call from my agent saying that he had sold my newest novel to Penguin! So I'm still wrapping my mind around that.
9. What's the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Finding enough hours in the day to write, because there are so many ideas zinging around in my head.
10. What type of books do you enjoy reading?
I tend to escape through reading mysteries—pretty much any kind of crime novel or cozy mystery will do. I also love books with exotic settings and nonfiction and history about offbeat topics, like orchids or animals.
11. Who's your favorite Author?
I don't have a favorite. It all depends on my mood. But some regulars: Elizabeth George, Jane Austen, Paul Bowles, Bill Bryson, and David Sedaris.
12. What's your all time favorite book?
I just read a brand new book that's my all-time favorite of the hour: Three Weeks in December, by Audrey Schulman. That's a truly mesmerizing novel. I was completely transported by it.
13. How long does it take you to write a book?
I marvel at all of the people out there who blissfully go around saying that they write several books a year. For me, every book takes at least 2-3 years by the time I draft it completely and revise it enough to show to my agent.
14. Out of all of your characters, which is your favorite? Why?
In the novel Sleeping Tigers, my most recently published book, I think Karin, Jordan's best friend, is my favorite character. She embraces every opportunity to throw herself into new situations and learns a great deal about herself along the way.
15. What is one of the most surprising things you've learned as a writer?
That any sentence, no matter how good you think it is, can always be refined.
16. What does your family think of your writing?
They were supportive but wary when I published the memoir. Otherwise, they're all quite enthusiastic—though I'm nervous about having my children read my fiction when they're older.
17. What does your writing schedule look like?
I do a lot of compartmentalizing, since I work as a freelance writer. For instance, I might write fiction for two hours, then switch over to a magazine assignment, then do some editing after dinner. I'm writing every chance I get.
18. Do you manage to write every day?
Yes! Both on my own stuff and on assignments from magazines and publishers.
19. What's the latest news you'd like to share?
Sleeping Tigers, my first novel, is a Book of the Year finalist in the ForeWord Reviews fiction competition (awards are given out in June). And my second novel, The Wishing Hill, is being published in spring 2013 by Penguin.
20. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Just keep knocking on doors, and one will open!