Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Life She Wants & Q&A with author Robyn Carr

Q: The book opens with Emma Shay moving back home to California from New York after her financier husband is revealed to be running a massive Ponzi scheme and commits suicide. How much was the premise of this book inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal, and what kind of research did writing this story involve?
A: I asked myself, what would it be like to be Mrs. Madoff? So of course I had to read about it – it turned out to be much more sordid and shameful in Bernie’s case than anything I had imagined. I wanted to create a character who was every bit as victimized as her late husband’s clients and that character was Emma. But the story was more about a relationship between two 35-year-old women whose friendship fell apart when they were young. The question is – how does Emma repair all the damage she suffered when she married a crook?

Q: After losing her husband and washing her hands of his sullied fortune, Emma returns home to California to rebuild her life and start over from scratch. Part of this involves reconnecting with old places and people she has not seen in over a decade. What inspired this idea of reconnection, of a prodigal returning home after a long absence?
A: I’m fascinated by relationships and one of the stickier ones we grapple with is women’s relationships with other women. There is no way to describe the heartache when best friends split up – it’s almost as bad as a divorce. I wanted a close look at that – both Emma and her former best friend, Riley, did unforgiveable things. Can they overcome it? Should they? Sometimes we pass our time with a friend and have to move on; sometimes it’s not too late. I never know how these issues will be worked out until I write about it. I have to spend some time with the characters, find out what they need, what kind of people they are, what they need.

Women behaving badly fascinates me, also. We’ve all experienced deep hurt from a friend and we all know how hard that is to overcome. How would Emma and Riley deal with their betrayal? That’s what I wanted to know.

Q: When Emma returns home, she is forced to take a job working for her former best friend, Riley, who now owns and runs a successful cleaning business. Now, Emma finds herself scrubbing and dusting the kinds of houses she used to own. It truly is a riches-to-rags scenario—almost a reverse Cinderella story (and Emma has a nasty stepmother, to boot!). Were you at all inspired by that fairytale while writing this book?
A: Oh yes, a contemporary Cinderella story (or part of a story at least) was fun. And it wasn’t reversed – Cinderella had a privileged life with her father, then her father died and her step mother reduced her to a scullery maid. I even gave her two step-sisters. Cinderella may be a fairy tale but for one thing – our families are often a mishmash of families thrown together by second and third (and more) marriages. For that matter, families born into the same bloodline don’t always work that well – just look through history! Family seems to be what you’re stuck with for survival and sometimes it’s the answer to all your needs and sometimes the worst nightmare. Cinderella was the poor relation, the scullery who was prettier than her advantaged sisters, and kinder. I loved the similarities and they worked perfectly for this story. It also worked perfectly that Emma had a chance to learn the meaning of real wealth.

Q:  The damaged friendship between Emma and Riley is one of the central relationships in this novel. After having written so many successful romantic love stories, what was different or challenging about building your story around a fraught, deeply complicated female friendship?
A: I’m accustomed to writing “girlfriend books” that, from the beginning, have a very strong bond between the women, that the friends get each other through the tough times. I wanted to know how it’s different when the bond has been broken but the tough times are present.

You’ll find out what you’re made of when you go through a relationship crisis, when you feel scared and alone.

Q: We have to ask, what’s next for you? What are you working on right now?
A: I’m at work on the second Sullivan’s Crossing novel, no title yet. It should be ready soon and out the beginning of April 2017.

About the author:
“I’m frequently asked what it is about my stories that make them so popular. I think it’s the sense of community and that combination of romance and women’s fiction,” says author Robyn Carr. “I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story, I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ It’s very empowering to read about women like ourselves as they resolve the issues that threaten their happiness and peace of mind. It’s also empowering to watch smart women choosing and falling in love with men of honor and integrity.”
The author of more than 40 novels, Robyn reaches a wide audience with her writing. In addition to her touching novels, she’s written historical and contemporary romance, as well as a gripping thriller. “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas,” she says of her writing career. 

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn and her family have seen much of the country, thanks to her husband, Jim, and his career in aviation. After the two high school sweethearts married, Jim joined the air force. They’ve lived in Texas—all four corners—Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

The couple moved to Henderson, Nevada, so Jim could explore a new business opportunity. “At first, being a Midwest girl at heart, I said, ‘Oh, no, not another desert!’ It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beauty of Nevada—and the unrivaled spectacle of Las Vegas!” 

Robyn well remembers how she began her career as an author more than 25 years ago. “I was trained as a nurse but found it impossible to get work because my husband was constantly being transferred. At the time, I was reading a lot of genre fiction for the sheer entertainment value, and I thought to myself, ‘I can write this!’” 

And how was her first foray into the world of literature received? “It was universally panned. I thought I had written Gone with the Wind, but in actuality it was complete trash.” In fact, it was on her third try that Robyn finally succeeded in becoming a published author. 

Now that Robyn’s two children are grown—and finally out of the house—she has the luxury of a little free time. “Until my kids grew up, I didn’t realize that a person could have hobbies other than laundry,” she jokes. But it turns out not to be hobbies that keep Robyn busy when she isn’t writing— she has found her niche in community service. 

She has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out of state whenever possible and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fund-raising and visiting-author events that bring writers, their books and the community together. “It is the people in my life that fill the well,” she says. “Especially the people who share my love for books and writing.”

Title:  The Life She Wants
Author:  Robyn Carr
Publication Date: Expected publication: October 1st 2016 by MIRA (first published September 27th 2016)
Length:  368pgs
Genre:  contemporary romance/women's romance
Shelf:  review
My Rating: ★★★★★
Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon(US)Amazon(CA) - B&N - Kobo - Indigo - Google Play

Back Cover Blurb:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr creates an emotional and uplifting ensemble of characters in this rags-to-riches-to-rags novel about women, friendship and the complex path to happiness
In the aftermath of her financier husband's suicide, Emma Shay Compton's dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients' life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband's crimes. She is left with nothing.

Only one friend stands by her, a friend she's known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn't easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she'd rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.

Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can't escape her husband's reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she'd ever ask for help—her former best friend. It's an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they've made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.

My Review:

This is one of those rare novels that has left me speechless.  Carr's hard hitting, emotional tale astounded me with it's intricacies while it drew me in with the sheer realism of the lives that she created.  I'll admit that it was a little hard to get into at first, but once I was there Carr's masterful storytelling shone through.  She brought this town to life, allowing me to visit the local haunts while my heart was being pulled in every direction by the intricate tale that she wove.

I love the way that Carr engages your emotions, drawing you deep into her character's stories.  Readers become part of this small town, experiencing the highs and lows alongside the characters.  I'll admit that I definitely fell in love with Adam.  I felt for both Emma and Riley, even if I wanted to lock the pair in a room together for a while.  The entire dynamic between everyone really allowed me to get a feel for the whole picture.  

This novel may be different from what I've come to expect from Carr but it was still an absolutely fantastic read.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a little escape into a small town where the lives of the characters become part of you.

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