Author Interview with Holly Robinson, Author of "The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter"
Created By: BookBundlz
1. If you could have coffee with any 3 authors, living or dead, who would they be?
Paul Bowles, Jane Austen, David Sedaris. I think that would cover all of my moods.
2. If you could only take one book, food item and drink with you to a deserted island what would they be?
John Cheever's collected stories, because there's enough pathos in every one of those stories to make my situation look paltry by comparison; a really good Manchego cheese; and a sparkling white wine (assuming that I can boil the salt out of the ocean water or find a spring on the island.)
3. What are your secret indulgences?
Talking to plants, napping with my cat, eating chocolate walnut fudge, seeing movies by myself so that I don't have to worry about my kids making fun of me when I laugh or cry.
4. What about you would surprise your readers?
I actually have three pet gerbils, despite having grown up on a farm taking care of 9,000 of them. You'd think I might have had enough by now.
5. What is your perfect day as an author?
Hiking with my dogs early in the morning, then writing for 6-8 hours, followed by dinner with my family or friends and reading.
6. If you could be any fictional character who would it be?
Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, because she was bookish and playful, yet tough. She said what was on her mind, had a great relationship with her dad, and believed in love.
7. What are the book(s) you are reading now?
I just finished reading Little Bee and Tana French's great new mystery, Faithful Place. Little Bee was difficult, emotionally, but worth the pain. I've read all of French's books and they just keep getting better. I'm now reading Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter, and wondering if I could raise and kill my own turkey.
8. What was your favorite book as a teenager, and why?
A Wrinkle in Time, because the heroine is a geeky little girl like I was (and am), and because I've always wanted to travel to other planets. It's also a fabulous adventure book.
9. (Aside from your own) What book(s) have you read that you think are perfect for book clubs?
Every book is perfect for a book club, because books are the starting point for great conversations and swapping stories. Among the books I've read lately, though, I'd list the following:
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Any book of short stories by John Updike, Paul Bowles, Jean Rhys, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver or John Cheever
Cry, the Beloved Country
A Short Walk through the Hindu Kush
Any book of essays by Joan Didion
Under the Banner of Heaven
About Your Book:
10. Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
My father was a Navy officer who somehow became obsessed enough with gerbils as “America's newest pet” that he decided to make a second career as a gerbil farmer. I wanted to understand how and why his passion sprang forth.
11. They say every book written is the author telling a personal philosophy. What personal philosophy are you trying to get across?
Being normal is overrated, and life isn't much worth living if you don't follow your own personal vision with passion and commitment.
12. Writers are often surprised by something that happens in their book. Perhaps a character says or does something you did not think they would, or something you thought would only be a couple of paragraphs turns into 10 pages. What surprised you about your book?
When writing a memoir, you have to interview the people involved. In my case, I researched my book by going through my father's old papers, talking to siblings and relatives, interviewing both of my parents, and tracking down everyone I could find who was somehow associated with my family during my father's career as a gerbil czar. The biggest surprise in store for me was how different everyone's memories were of exactly the same events. There is no one universal truth, when it comes to perspective, but many truths. Researching this book gave me the opportunity to discover (and write) many surprising truths about my own family, including how my sister died, how my father got his first stock for the gerbil farm, why my dad insisted on wearing a Speedo bathing suit everywhere, why my dad bought a giant wooden boat that he later crashed into a dock, and how my mother put up with everything.
13. If you were crafting a discussion question for book clubs to discuss about your book, what question do you think would generate the most discussion?
How do you decide which of your passions are worth following, and to what extent can you, or should you, follow a particular passion if you have a family?
About Your Writing Process:
14. What is your writing process like?
I write every day, whenever I can – usually when the kids are at school, and after they go to bed. I've had to become very disciplined about my writing since becoming a mother, because there are so few free hours in a day.
15. What gets you in the mood to write?
A cup of tea and walking the dogs. Or, if it's late at night, a glass of wine and thumbing through mindless catalogs. I also get great ideas in the shower, probably because the door is locked and it's one of the few places where I feel relatively safe from children interrupting me!
16. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read, and then read some more. Be fearless. Go ahead and get your words down on the page. Don't care about who's going to read them, or how bad they are. It'll get easier every time you do it, as you develop discipline. Remember that you can revise anything. And, when you stop writing at any given time, leave off in the middle of a sentence so that it's easy to come back to it. Just say, when you come back, “I'll just finish this sentence,” and pretty soon you'll find the words flowing again.