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INTERVIEW WITH ROBIN PATCHEN
What triggered the idea for the Hidden Truth Series? As my stories often do, the first one was triggered by a single image. I don’t remember what sparked the image, but I had this picture of a mother with an infant returning to her hometown in danger and without the baby’s father. I didn’t know where the father was or what had happened to him. I didn’t know who the bad guy was or why he was after the mother. But I had that image, and I wanted to write a story that took place sort of near where I grew up. The book—and eventually, the series—grew from there.
How long did it take you to write Convenient Lies? Hmm… Probably about six months to get the first draft, although that was a few years ago, so I don’t remember now.
I noticed the Hidden Truth Series isn’t your typical Christian fiction. Your characters are real with their actions and words. What prompted you to step to the side of the norm in Christian fiction? (Which I love by the way!) I grew up in New Hampshire about 40 miles north of Boston. I went to college in Boston and lived and worked for years in the Boston area. Twenty-two years ago, my husband and I moved to the Oklahoma City area, and in a lot of ways, it was as if we’d moved to a foreign country. My husband started working for a Christian company, and we started going to church and spending time with a lot of church-going folks. The culture was drastically different from the lifestyle we’d left. I loved it (and I still do. It’s a great place to live). But back then, I felt as if I didn’t belong, as if I weren’t as good as my new friends. I didn’t speak the language—Churchese is a dialect it takes time to learn, especially for someone who’s spent a decade in a city where the f-word is as common as Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. The more I got to know them, the more I realized they were normal and had had similar struggles to mine, but those first few years, with all my baggage, all the sins of my past, I felt like an alien species.
To me, much of Christian fiction is aimed toward those steeped-in-church, super-spiritual Christians, and the fiction itself features those same kinds of people. But there are Christians all over the place with entirely different struggles and situations, Christians who might be the only believers they know at their workplaces, at their jobs, in their neighborhoods. And there are people who don’t yet know the Lord and need to. I wrote the Hidden Truth series to show the struggle of nonbelievers (like my first couple of heroes and heroines) who, when danger lurks close, when things get hard, desperately want to believe in a God who loves them. The only Christian in the first couple of books is Samantha, a secondary character. She tries to support her friends and encourage them without pushing them away because of her strong beliefs.
With the Hidden Truth series, I wanted to show that the Christian walk doesn’t have to look like it does here in “the buckle of the Bible belt.” People can have strong, growing, dynamic relationships with God no matter where they live or what their backgrounds look like. They can attend tiny churches and have big faith. They can change the world right where they are. And they don’t have to have been raised in the pews and speak fluent Churchese to do it.
Who’s your favorite character in the series? Oh, that’s too hard, and I don’t want to play favorites. The characters might be fictional to you, but they’re very real to me. (Does that make me crazy?) I love Brady’s serious, protective streak. I love Garrison’s humor. I love Nate’s humility and Eric’s loyalty. Reagan is strong and persistent. Despite all she’s gone through, Marisa is still innocent. I’m amazed at how Kelsey survived her ordeal. And Samantha’s faith in the face of all she’s dealt with—and all she’s prayed her friends through—is beautiful. Oh, and then there are my favorites villains. Actually, that one’s easy. Julien takes the cake. He’s the best villain I’ve ever written. Well, except for Vanessa, but she’s going to be a villain-turned-heroine one of these days. I can’t wait to write her story.
Tell us a little bit about your typical day. Typical glamorous lifestyle of a writer. After I spend time with the Lord—because if I don’t do that, the rest of the day is worthless—and do my whopping fifteen minutes of yoga, I climb the stairs to my office. I read and answer emails, then write for about two hours. I spend the afternoons editing. (I’m also a freelance editor.) Interspersed in there, I work on marketing, I write blog posts, I answer more emails, and I do all the other little things that go along with being self-employed. I still have two teenagers living at home, so I make time for them whenever they want to talk to me. I try not to work past six p.m., though I often fail at that. Then, my husband and I have dinner and watch something on TV—lately, it’s been a lot of Red Sox games (which is convenient, because I can read). If I don’t have plans to leave the house, I spend my days in yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Glamorous, right?
When did you start writing? I always loved to write. I majored in journalism in college, and then I spent years working in marketing (the creative side, not the analytical side) and public relations. I didn’t start writing fiction until about ten years ago. Once I started writing that first (utterly horrible) novel, I realized that this is what I should have been doing all along.
When did you receive your first book contract? In 2011, Pelican Books published a Christmas novella, which was my first traditional book contract. A year later, they published another Christmas novella of mine. After that, I decided to try my hand at being an indie author, and I’ve been indie publishing ever since. I love having more control over my books and my publishing schedule.
What is the hardest part about being an author? The hardest part of being an author is writing an excellent book people will love, getting it from a concept in my head to words on a page. That’s the hardest part, but that’s also the part I love the most.
Who is your favorite author? There are too many to name.
What is your favorite book? I know it’s a copout to say the Bible, but that’s what I’m going with. Again, there are too many fantastic authors and books out there to pick a favorite.
Anything you want to brag about? I could brag about my kids, because they’re awesome, and my husband because my kids get their awesomeness from him. But I won’t. :o)
Now for the important questions:
Pepsi or Coke? Diet Coke
Candy, cookies, or cake? Yes, please.
Favorite food? Pizza
Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning; tea in the afternoon on cold days and when I’m sick.
Favorite vacation? So far, Paris with my husband for our 20th, but I always think the best vacation will be the next vacation.
Favorite TV show? Right now, Poldark. This changes often.
Favorite Movie? Hmm… Too many to name.