Robin, before we talk about your new book, can you give us a little background on you, the author?
I was born in the small coal-mining town of Windber, Pennsylvania and I remember a wonderful childhood with my parents and two older brothers.
I have worked in the administrative field over the last thirty years and have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. I am currently employed as an Administrative Associate at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
I have four children – two daughters, Jennifer and Sue, and two sons, Michael and Nathan –three granddaughters – Tessa, Anna, and Abigail, and a grandson, Brendan.
My husband Bob and I were married in Sharpsburg, MD in 1998 by local historian, Rev. John Schildt. After falling in love with the town, we decided to move to Sharpsburg three years later. In 2002, we bought a log home, circa 1783, and we continue to restore the fourteen-room house. It has been a true labor of love.
Even though I have to squeeze my writing into creative times of the day, it is during those moments I feel exhilarated and renewed. There is no greater feeling than to have found my passion in writing. I also find time to swim and love to travel.
Tell us about the genre of your work.
Sullivan’s Secret is a paranormal mystery, and my first published book in the series. It includes many facets and captivates the reader with murder, suspense, and the world of the paranormal.
Why did you choose this genre?
I have always loved mystery stories, movies, and TV programs. Combine that with my fixation on the paranormal, as well as paranormal investigations, and the genre was a perfect fit. It was such a natural flow to write about and it was easy to bring my characters to life in this story.
Can you tell us about your book, and where we can find it?
Sullivan’s Secret – Synopsis: Dr. Marie Bartek's life has been uneventful as the local veterinarian on Sullivan's Island, SC, until her ability to see spirits returns after eighteen years. After confiding in her best friend and realizing their interests in the paranormal, they organize a paranormal investigation team called Sullivan's Island Paranormal Society, SIPS. Marie learns to channel her ability through the help of one of the team members, but not before learning the spirits are trying to warn her about the murders taking place on Sullivan's Island.
ISBN – 13: 978-1461091363
Sullivan’s Secret can be found at Amazon (Kindle & Paperback), Barnes & Noble Nook Book, libraries, and local bookstores.
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
Interestingly enough, the setting for my story came by pointing on a map of a place close to a beach. I absolutely love the water, and when I wanted to write this story, Sullivan’s Island, SC made sense to me. My husband and I did a mini-vacation to visit Sullivan’s Island for research and it did help me get the feel of the area. It put me into the right atmosphere when it came to write about it. I have found as a reader, when a writer wrote about a real place, but did not use real street names, etc, it broke my relationship with that writer. I wanted to be sure to keep it as real as possible in a fictional story.
The characters pop into my head in many different ways. I will begin with a name and then when I am thinking of which particular character it is, I will pull from my imagination of what they look like. Sometimes they reflect someone I have met, or saw in a movie or TV show. They will sometimes change when I begin using dialogue for each character. Then I will go back and embellish on them if I feel it is needed. That is the fun of fiction, you can create them however you choose.
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?
Developing Marie Bartek in Sullivan’s Secret was easy. She resembles me “a little” in appearance…or maybe a younger more athletic me. Her personality was the professional side of me, whereas, her best friend, Gale Winters, was the fun-loving, crazy side of me. I did not plan it that way, it sort of developed as I began discovering their dialogue. I have had numerous people say they loved the friendship between Marie and Gale. It was easy to make them likeable because each of them had the both sides of me.
What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
Yes, without giving it away, there is a serial killer loose on Sullivan’s Island. He is the reason that Marie, Cory, the police chief, and the Sullivan’s Island Paranormal Society (SIPS) joins together in solving the murders…oh, and the ghosts too.
What is your favorite thing about your book?
Wow, that is a hard one to answer. There were many aspects about the story that I loved. But, I would have to say the character relationship. There is such a strong sense of friendship and respect among the group. I have had people tell me they felt as if they were right in the middle of the action with the characters. I would usually respond in saying, “That’s how I felt when I was creating them.” I had a hard time putting them away for the day.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
This is my first published story in the paranormal mystery genre, but I did write a romance story that takes place in Ireland that I would like to readdress. I would have to say the basics are the same (i.e. setting, plot, characters). I go about them the same way with regard to organizing the storyline. But, it is a different creative thought process between the two. For the romance story, I am tapping into the love elements. As for the paranormal mystery, I had to tap into the macabre side of my mind.
Why and when did you begin writing?
This will sound strange, but by accident. Let’s see if I can explain this. It was around 2006 when I had this unsettled mindset of what I wanted to be when I grew up. My husband had found a passion in history and I admired how it came to fruition for him. I used to drive him and myself crazy of trying to figure out what my passion was. Then, in July of 2006, I literally sat down at my laptop on our back porch overlooking our yard and neighbor's garden, and began to spin the tale of this romance story. My husband and I had been to Ireland twice, and from out of nowhere, these words started to fall from my mind onto the keyboard. After about two pages I had this euphoria come over me. I tried to figure it out and my husband chuckled and said, “That’s your passion. That’s the feeling you get when you’re doing something you love to do.”
I finished the story and stumbled onto a few writing courses. After taking the writing course, I learned a great deal and realized my story needed polishing. So, after three years of writing courses, out came Sullivan’s Secret. And I have never looked back.
What is your writing schedule?
Well, I work full-time, so I write more on the weekends in the morning. I love to have my breakfast, take my coffee into my study, plop down into the recliner with the laptop on my lap, and write. There have been times when I have an idea or a thought and I jot it down in my journal. And I’ve even had an occasion when I can’t sleep and I think of a way to kill off one of my characters, so I’ll send myself an email from my phone.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am working on the second book in the series after Sullivan’s Secret. The SIPS team will continue to do ghost investigations and stumble into a crime or a cold case.
What kind of advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Go for it! Perseverance is the key. I used to hear that from other people who were doing what they loved, and now I understand what they mean. There are always stumbling blocks and self-doubt, but you need to knock those thoughts out of your head and press on. You will realize once you worked through that hurdle, what lies on the other side proves you can do whatever you set your mind to.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
I am a newbie in the writing world, so I learn something every day about myself, my craft, and my passion. But if I had any advice for a writer starting out…I would tell them to write from their heart and soul, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. When it comes from somewhere deep inside you, you will always know you are being true to yourself and your story.
What do you do when you are not writing?
As I said, I work full-time, but I enjoy swimming twice a week. I tend to the daily chores of life and continue to help my husband restore our home. I love being a wife, mother, daughter, and Nana. My family holds a very warm spot in my heart, and I enjoy getting the chance to see them when time allows it. My husband and I will take rides on the weekends to go antiquing or discovering new places that contain history, historical homes, and great places to eat.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
There are quite a few that would take awhile to put down. But what pops into my head at this moment would be the response back from my publisher wanting to publish my story. After all of the writing courses, many struggles with writer’s block, arguments with myself wondering if I had what it took to be a writer, when that email came back to me it was one of the greatest “I Made It” moments this year. I am looking forward to many more in the future.