I am beyond thrilled to have my dear friend Holly Robinson back on my blog to talk about her gorgeous new novel, Haven Lake. A tremendously talented writer, Holly manages, in all her work, to weave a powerful, emotionally gripping tale that engages, entertains, and connects us through story, while capturing the love and beauty in the human spirit. She’s also a beautiful, loving, generous woman and friend. I hope you enjoy our time with her!

Today, Holly has answered some interview questions. On Tuesday, we’ll see an excerpt from her beautifully written new book, Haven Lake. On Thursday, Holly shares a wonderful guest post – On the Pleasures of Being a Late Bloomer – before returning on Friday to share quick quotes from the book.

Read on – today and all this week – to enjoy Holly’s insights and a glimpse of Haven Lake, plus a giveaway below. You could win a $25 Amazon gift card, plus a signed copy of Holly’s previous book, Beach Plum Island!

A Week with Holly Robinson: Interview

With a husband and five children, plus a successful freelance writing career, how do you find time to write books?
Like all people who are driven to write, I find free hours, or even minutes, whenever and wherever I can. These days it’s easier, because I actually get paid to write novels and have deadlines I must meet. But, even long before that, I always made room: scribbling in journals while waiting for kids in sports practices, staying up after everyone else was in bed, scheduling weekend or even week-long writing retreats where I did nothing but write fiction for 10-hour stretches. Even during days when I’m too busy with other commitments to work on fiction, I keep my novels warm by sneaking in to tinker with a few sentences here and there. The time is there. You just have to believe in yourself enough to find it.
You've traditionally and self-published. If you were advising a young novelist on publishing, what would you say? Why?
I would say that both means of publishing can be viable and fun, and what you choose depends on a few factors:

1) What genre are you writing? Stand-alone novels and literary novels, for instance, are tougher to sell on your own than genre fiction like romance and horror, especially if you write that fiction in series form.

2) Do you want to publish electronic books, print books or both? And how deep are your pockets? To do a really professional job of putting your work out in print takes money—for editors, designers, and marketing help—but, if you can invest that money, you might make it back.

3) How much time do you have to devote to promotion? All authors—even those of us with big traditional houses—have to devote time to social media and personally promoting our work. However, with a traditional house, you will have a lot of marketing machinery and wider distribution automatically—that’s part of what you receive in exchange for giving up a larger share of the royalties. If you’re self-publishing, all of that will have to be done by you, or by someone you pay. Many indie authors love having complete control over their marketing efforts and enjoy this part of publishing, but it does take energy and entrepreneurial grit to do it successfully.

4) How quickly do you want to put your work out? Self-publishing is a much faster process, typically, since with traditional publishing, you have to work with an agent, an editor and the publishing house schedule, and it may take many rejections and revisions before your work is actually available to readers. On the other hand, you may enjoy the feeling of being part of a publishing team, if you’re with a traditional house, and you won’t feel quite so much pressure to put books out so quickly—those who make money in self-publishing are often writing several novels a year to build an audience.

Haven Lake is your sixth book and fifth novel. Wow! Does the writing get easier/go faster with subsequent books? Could you please tell us about your process? Where do you write? Do you write at a particular time of day? Any rituals?
The writing has definitely gotten faster, simply because I’ve learned a lot about how to craft a plot, and because I now have publishing deadlines I’m expected to meet by the publisher. For my early novels, I wrote the entire manuscripts and tried to sell them—that’s what all first-time novelists must do. However, now that I have a track record, I write a synopsis first and the publisher gives me an advance based on that, if they like the book idea. That gives me a sort of blueprint for writing the manuscript, though I still experience countless surprises along the way as the characters take over the story and do things I don’t expect. In general, I try to keep moving forward on a manuscript without going back to edit until I have at least a couple of hundred pages, because it isn’t until I have a good chunk of the book done that I can see what the voices really sound like and where the story ought to begin. As for writing time, well, any hour of the day is writing time for me, if I don’t have something else I need to do, like paid work or picking a child up from school. The only ritual I have, really, is to make a thermos of tea and bring it out with me to my barn office, where I write inside if it’s cold or out on my screened porch if it’s warm enough. I love writing outside—it frees my head of clutter.
Which of your books is your favorite? Why?
My favorite book is always the one that’s most recently published. I always feel like a mother squiring her youngest child to kindergarten, proud and happy to show her off! Right now, that means my favorite book is HAVEN LAKE. I also love this novel because I’ve drawn on so many different life experiences to weave together this particular fictional tale: being the daughter of a military man; living in the Berkshires; being a stepmother; my hippie roots; and the story of a tragic, mysterious drowning that is a true story in my own family.
Do you have a favorite character? What draws you to this particular character?
In HAVEN LAKE, my favorite character is Hannah, because she is a strong woman who has built a life for herself raising sheep and making art after surviving heartache and tragic events that would break a lesser woman. I also admire the way she lives close to the earth, almost off the grid, and the way in which she understands and takes in a very troubled teenage boy who is no relation to her.
Could you please tell us something about yourself - to bring us behind the scenes, so to speak?
Let’s see. Probably one of the things people find most interesting about my career is that I support myself in part as a celebrity ghostwriter. That means I get to live other lives—much like I do in fiction—as I follow around movie stars, TV actors, singers, and talk show hosts who tell me their stories and ask me to help them share their voices with the world. It’s an honor, and great fun, to do this kind of work—not to mention great fodder for future novels!

A Week with Holly Robinson: About Holly Robinson

Holly RobinsonNovelist, journalist and celebrity ghost writer Holly Robinson is the author of several books, including The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir and the novels The Wishing Hill, Beach Plum Island and Haven Lake. Her articles and essays appear frequently in publications such as Cognoscenti, The Huffington Post, More, Parents, Redbook and dozens of other newspapers and magazines. She and her husband have five children and a stubborn Pekingese. They divide their time between Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island, and are crazy enough to be fixing up old houses one shingle at a time in both places.

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A Week with Holly Robinson: About Haven Lake

Haven LakeRelease Date: April 7, 2015
New American Library/Penguin Random House

Sydney Bishop hasn’t returned to Haven Lake, her idyllic childhood home, since a pair of shocking deaths shattered her family when she was only sixteen. Now engaged to marry a successful surgeon, Sydney has worked hard to build a relationship with Dylan, her fiance’s teenage son, so she feels nothing but empathy when he runs away–until she discovers that his hitchhiking journey has led him to Haven Lake and her mother’s sheep farm. Now, as Sydney returns to Haven Lake for the first time in twenty years to coax the boy home, she must confront the devastating events that tore her family apart and answer the questions that still haunt their family about what really caused two people to die so tragically on the farm.

Tensely paced and deeply emotional, Haven Lake is a gripping story about grief, anger, and the healing power of love.

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A Week with Holly Robinson: About Holly's Other Work

Beach Plum IslandChance HarborThe Wishing Hill
Beach Plum Island“Your brother should know the truth.”

These are the last cryptic words that Ava Barrett’s father says before he dies. But Ava doesn’t have a brother, as far as she knows, so how can she tell him the truth? She dismisses the conversation and dedicates herself to bringing her family together for her father’s funeral. This is no easy task, since her sister, Elaine, has been estranged from the family and still harbors resentment against their stepmother and half-sister, Gigi. Ava, on the other hand, is a single mother who sees Gigi as a troubled teen in need of love and connection.

Ava, too, could use more love in her life and finds it where she least expects it. But the biggest surprise of all is that Gigi holds the key to the mystery surrounding her father’s dying words, and joins Ava in uncovering a secret that rapidly unravels the very fabric of their entire family…

Chance HarborCatherine and Zoe are sisters, but even their mother, Eve, admits her daughters are nothing alike. Catherine is calm and responsible. Zoe is passionate and rebellious. Nobody is surprised when Zoe gets pregnant, drops out of college, and spirals into drug addiction.

One night Catherine gets a call from Zoe’s terrified daughter, Willow, saying her mother has abandoned her in a bus station and disappeared. Eve blames herself, while Catherine, unable to have children, is delighted to raise Willow as her own.

Now, five years later, Eve is grieving her husband’s death and making reluctant plans to sell the family’s beloved summer home on Prince Edward Island. But a series of unexpected revelations will upend the family and rock three generations of women.

The Wishing HillWhat if everything you knew about your life was wrong?

Years ago, Juliet Clark gave up her life in California to follow the man she loved to Mexico and pursue her dream of being an artist. Now her marriage is over, and she’s alone, selling watercolors to tourists on the Puerto Vallarta boardwalk.

When her brother asks her to come home to wintery New England and care for their ailing mother, a flamboyant actress with a storied past, Juliet goes reluctantly. She and her self-absorbed mother have always clashed. Plus, nobody back home knows about her divorce—or the fact that she’s pregnant and her ex-husband is not the father.

Juliet intends to get her mother back on her feet and return to Mexico fast, but nothing goes as planned. Instead she meets a man who makes her question every choice and reawakens her spirit, even as she is being drawn into a long-running feud between her mother and a reclusive neighbor. Little does she know that these relationships hold the key to shocking secrets about her family and herself that have been hiding in plain sight…

A Week with Holly Robinson: Giveaway

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