Robyn Carr once thought she wanted to be a nurse and studied the profession in college. However, as an Air Force wife she ultimately found fulfillment writing women's fiction novels. "These novels most closely resemble my take on life," Robyn said. “I want to laugh through a book, but I don’t want a book that’s a big laugh. As a reader I want to have a genuinely good time, but not a joke. I want real women’s issues, real humor, and real teeth in the story.”
Robyn obviously hit her mark in VIRGIN RIVER, which earned a Top Pick review from RT BOOKreviews, and this comment: “With sterling characters, enriched by emotion and humor, this book begins what promises to be a stellar trilogy. Homespun without being corny, it also manages to make small-town life seem unusually appealing.”
With all those broad-shouldered men's men and the bar as the town's local gathering place, the setting of VIRGIN RIVER - a remote dwelling deep in California's redwood forests - has the appeal of the "Men in Trees" series (without the simpering females) that launched this year on Thursday prime time TV.
Is this a real town? Did you visit the area or do you research on the Internet?
Virgin River is a fictional town, but the Humboldt County setting and larger towns in the area are completely real. I knew the general area from visiting Mendocino County a few years earlier to research the setting for my Grace Valley Trilogy. I went back to northern CA to spend some time specifically in Humboldt County, in the mountains and the cities of Eureka, Fortuna, Garberville, Arcata, etc. I made a lot of personal contacts at that time whom I could contact via phone and email with additional questions. I found the mountain areas to be even more majestic, rugged and rural than I had imagined.
Share with us something off-the-wall that happened during your research trips.
To start with, my friend, Kate, and I drove from Red Bluff to Eureka across a highway reported to be 140 miles - and it took us five hours across climbing, pitching, curving, two-lane mountain roads. It was unimaginably dark in the tall trees - unbelievably beautiful, when I wasn't hanging on for dear life. On the way home, we took a winding two-lane road around a large lake - a road without guard rails - and passed an RV that had just tipped off the road, fallen into the lake and split open at the seams, the people inside crawling up the bank to the side of the road while their vehicle was floating away! I have no idea what happened, but I can only surmise they took one of those turns a little fast and lost it.
While in Humboldt County, we stopped into a friendly little grill, and the owner turned out to be a retired highway patrolman who worked the area for years. He was able to give me tons and tons of information about living in a small town, how critical injuries and illness are medically managed (everyone in serious condition in that part of the country must be airlifted to larger trauma/emergency centers in larger cities - no one goes out on wheels, because of the length of time required) and the exact distances, travel times, etc. It was a great piece of luck.
Melinda (Mel) Monroe is a nurse practitioner/midwife who moves to Virgin River to escape the big city violence of Los Angeles and to find herself after a tragedy.
There's nothing in your bio that indicates you have this kind of a background, which means some serious research on your part. How did you write in the viewpoint of a nurse practitioner/midwife so convincingly? Is anyone in your family in the medical field?
I attended nursing college right out of high school, but that marked the beginning and end of my nursing career, though it always remained an interest. However, my best friend, Sharon, is a nurse practitioner in women's health, and I plagued her with questions, and she read over my work to be sure it was accurate.
Then I got into some very dramatic labor and delivery situations in the story, and Sharon said, "You need a real midwife - I'll find you one." And boy did she ever! My midwife consultant, Pam, was a dream come true. Through phone conversations, millions of emails and her willingness to pore over three completed manuscripts, Mel's character evolved into a nurse practitioner/midwife as devoted to her women as my two very generous and brilliant consultants are to theirs. It was a revelation - a character-developing leap I couldn't have made without that kind of expertise. And then there's the fact that these two women's health professionals answered cell phone calls from me no matter where they were. If you know women in these fields, then you know they speak very bluntly about their specialty, about the function and appearance of the more delicate aspects of women's bodies. Um . . . didn't matter if they were in the beauty shop or grocery store - they answered, in blistering detail. I imagine that at least in Arizona and Minnesota, people are still gossiping about what they overheard in the deli . . .
My son is in the Army Medical Corps-he's an orthopedic surgery resident - so if I need any information about broken bones or spinal cord injuries, he's my man. But even though he delivered a few babies as a med student, all he really knows about labor and delivery comes from his own experience of bringing me my first grandchild, a brilliant baby girl! But my son is every bit as much a soldier as a doctor, and he provides tons of military insight.
Jack Sheridan, the former Marine, who owns the bar, is hero of the year material, and yet he's human; he's not perfect. How did you dream up this character?
Jack thinks and acts the way women want their men to think and act. My daughter's best friend (who is 30 and married three years), said, "I love the way the men in these Virgin River books are so focused on the many ways they can please their women, when you know in real life he's probably thinking 'I wonder if there's any of that pizza left in the fridge.' " Well, maybe it's not as bleak as that - but Jack is the kind of devoted, single-minded man a woman can count on no matter what. He's courageous but kind; incredibly strong, and yet gentle enough to scoop up a newborn baby in those big arms and cradle her sweetly; sentimental enough to take a little whiff of that clean, powdery, new-baby smell. Yet Jack has his own issues - he's served in five combat zones. It takes great strength of character and emotional stability to survive that life, keep it in perspective and live a balanced, fulfilling life. I think Jack's bottom line is - though he has many admirable qualities and is sexy as hell, he's a good man. Committed, devoted, powerfully strong in his heart.
5. Word has it that, like Mel, you're gregarious, that you enjoy people, that you're in your element when you do speaking engagements. How much of you is in Mel?
The smart-ass part; definitely NOT the size 4 part!
In your "Carr Chats" for the Henderson, Nevada Public Library, you have interviewed many a celebrity author. What have you learned about authors from your interviews? What author surprised you the most by his or her personality?
The one thing that stands out is the differences in authors, the way they live and work, what factors drive them to create. While one is an introvert who works alone for hours every day, another one goes to Starbuck's every morning with a laptop and feels like he's in detention if he's stuck at home in his office. While one author uses romance and humor and can hardly read a tear jerker, another LOVES it when the book he's writing makes him cry. Some get up at five, some write through the night, some have to exercise great discipline to get in their five pages a day, while others resent that they have to stop writing long enough to celebrate Christmas. I can find a few similarities here and there between certain authors, but the differences are overwhelming - and fascinating. I anxiously awaited the visit of an action adventure novelist whose stories involve the annihilation of whole cities - and this was the sweetest, gentlest man I've ever met.
The biggest surprise was Nancy Pearl, librarian extraordinaire, critic, lecturer, and author of Book Lust and Book Lust II. After I read her amazing reviews, her intelligence scared me to death. I didn't think there was any way I could keep up with her book knowledge, her savvy, her brilliance. Well, truly I can't - but also there was this hysterically funny, down-to-earth, compassionate and generous human being. Her reviews are printed, aired on PBS and NPR, and she is the voice librarians all over the world listen to. And I did not realize until the interview that she ONLY recommends books! She says, simply, airtime and printed space are too valuable to waste panning a book. If she can't recommend the book, she doesn't review it! And - it's harder to do that creatively, entertainingly, than it is to write glib, snotty, funny and cutting reviews. I was even more impressed by her after knowing her than when I was in that intimidated posture. Plus - we bonded. We laughed so hard, we had to hold each other up! She is, simply, everything.
There are three books in your Virgin River series, one out each month from April through June of this year (2007). After the launchbook, what's in store for the town of Virgin River? What characters will have their own books?
Well now - does a good author tell? Maybe a little bit. First of all, the birth rate in that town is on the rise!
The men in these stories are part of a Marine Corps band of brothers who still hang tight after returning to their civilian lives after war. Many of them have served in both Iraq conflicts.
John Middleton, known as Preacher, is a huge, silent, hulking, frightening-looking man who followed Jack to Virgin River to turn himself into one of the best cooks in the region. At first glance, he doesn't appear to be the kind of man whose head would be turned by a pretty girl or who could soften toward women and children. In fact, most children hide behind their mother's skirts at first sight of him. But I'll bet there's a lot more to him. In fact, I'll bet underneath that rough, silent exterior is a dream man.
And there's Mike Valenzuela - hero and adventurer, passionate Latin lover, who was decorated in Fallujah and is, in his civilian life, a sergeant in the LAPD Gangs Unit, a man who hasn't been in touch with his softer side in many years. It would take just the right woman to help him discover that along with his strength and courage there is a perfect balance, an endless commitment.
There are more. Stay tuned.
What do you wish your readers knew about you?
I am absolutely, positively, having the most fun I've ever had in life creating adventurous, passionate love stories between the admirable, desirable men and women in these stories. My work is definitely my entertainment. I hate to leave it at night and can't wait to get back to it in the morning. I'm so grateful for that. When I think about the number of people who dread going to work, can't wait for the weekend or for retirement, I know this is a blessing to cherish.
When I was raising my two children, there were a couple of things I stressed with them. First, you must find work you love and at which you feel you make a difference. It doesn't matter what it is - whether you're pushing a broom or flying to the moon - it's so important to have a job that makes you want to wake up and get going in the morning. And the second thing is - a good partner, an equal, to share it with. I'm happy to report that both kids were able to accomplish those things - work they absolutely love and spouses who are perfect for them - loving and committed, supportive and totally fun. That makes a mother-in-law so blessed!
How can your readers contact you?
Through my website, RobynCarr.com.
A resident of Las Vegas, she interviews the book world’s biggest stars in her “Carr Chat” series for the Henderson Public Library.
Next in her Virgin River series is May’s SHELTER MOUNTAIN and June’s WHISPERING ROCK.