Interview with Robin Jones Gunn {Christmas, Stories for Girls, and Mother-Daughter Connections}

Hello, dear Robin! Thank you so much for joining me for an interview! It is such an honor! I first heard about your books through Hallmark Channel, when Erin Krakow from When Calls the Heart (one of my favorite shows) was in the movie Finding Father Christmas. We watched the movie, and then I checked out the book from the library and fell in love with it! Tell me, what was it like getting your book turned into a movie? Did you like how the characters were portrayed?

It was an honor to have my books made into 3 Hallmark Christmas movies! The process took many years and the results were so fun to see. I felt the actors did a superb job of bring the characters to life.

I should say here that in response to so many people asking how it all happened I wrote a short e-Book titled “How My Book Became a Movie”. The proceeds from sales of that book are going to provide scholarships to LittWorld, a conference designed to provide training to writers in difficult places in the world. If you like hearing the behind the scenes story, download this book and you’ll be helping train writers around the world!

Finding Father Christmas is such a sweet story about belonging to our Heavenly Father, even when we feel alone. It brings a depth that so many contemporary Christmas stories lack, which I really appreciate. What gave you the idea for Miranda’s story?

A close friend of mine was reconnected with her birth mother and it changed so many other relationships in her life. I was inspired by her experience. As I watched her story unfold I knew I wanted to write about the journey of reconnecting with family one day in a novel. That opportunity came with the first book, “Finding Father Christmas”.

I think most people know you for your beloved Christy Miller books 😊 which are some I have just started reading. (Still not sure how I’ve never heard of them until the last year or so!) One of my dear friends recommended the series to me, and I am planning on reviewing them this year! Such good stories that really hit home when it comes to devotion to Christ and how sometimes it’s hard to follow Him, but it is always worth it. Tell me a little about the story behind Christy? What made you write the books that have impacted so many women?

I first started writing novels because I was concerned about the kinds of books the teenage girls in our youth group were reading. They challenged me saying that if I didn’t like the books they were getting from the library then I should write wholesome novels for them. They even volunteered to tell me what to write! And they did. For two years they helped me make the first Christy Miller story the kind of teenage innocent love story that seemed to be missing from the market.

At the time I had a dozen children’s books that had been published by traditional publishers. I didn’t think I’d be able to write an entire novel. The process was all new and uphill. I received 10 rejections for the first book but when it was finally published, letters from readers began to pour in. I kept writing about Christy and her Forever Friends and am still writing about them.

After Christy’s high school years the characters continue in Christy & Todd: The College Years, Christy & Todd: The Married Years and Christy & Todd: The Baby Years. 

Now the same readers who grew up with Christy are writing again to tell me that Christy is still a favorite role model for them because they are now in the same young married, starting a family season of life. Some even have daughters who are old enough to read the books. It gives them an ideal chance to talk about life issues during the teen years as well as provide moms and daughters a sweet way of connecting over their favorite books.

Almost every week I hear from readers that they can’t find enough novels and TV shows that display uplifting family values. They continually request that Christy Miller be made into a TV series. I would love to see that happen!

Have you always enjoyed writing? Did you see yourself as an author when you were a little girl?

I was always a storyteller but I never dreamed of being a writer. I had a bit of encouragement along the way from two teachers but it was really my husband who encouraged me to get training and start trying to write for publication. He believed in me much more than I did. He pushed me to go to a writer’s conference and I remember being so mad at him! I thought I’d be embarrassed and way out of my league. But the conference was wonderful and just what I needed. I’m still close friends with some of the writers and publishers I met at that first conference.

The first piece I had published was a short devotion for “The Upper Room” magazine. That opened the door to more articles, interviews, children’s books and then novels for teens, more novels for women and five non-fiction books and several gift books.

I have no doubt now that telling stories is what I was gifted and called to do. I’m so grateful for the extraordinary career this has turned into.

What is one piece of advice you would give the beginning writer?

Get to a writers’ conference or workshop. Take creative writing and journalism classes. Join writers’ groups. If you make the effort to get out and be around other writers, publishers, editors and agents you will be encouraged and inspired.  If you take the time to do the hard work, you’ll acquire the skills and discipline necessary to keep going and finish the work. Many creative people have plenty of ideas about what to write. They may have sudden spurts of inspiration and get a good running start at a project. The only way to succeed is to keep going.

How did you go about writing successfully and being a mom? For me personally, it is already so hard to keep priorities straight and budget my time wisely. I’m wowed by women like you who do so many things, so well. What wisdom would you offer?

When our two children were little, I knew that if I was going to ever finish anything it would require sacrifice. That sacrifice should be mine, not my family’s. So, I established a routine of getting up at 3am, 3 mornings a week. I could write from 3 to 7 and no one ever interrupted me. The phone never rang. All my ideas were fresh. I bought a tea pot and drank from a china cup as I wrote my little heart out in those wee hours. That’s when the majority of the work was done. I still rise before the sun when I’m working on a project. It’s the best time of day for my creativity.

Try shifting your schedule around and see what works for you. Figure out what you might need to give up. For me it was watching TV at night before the mornings I got up early. I simply went to bed when the kids did. I worked part time and full time for many of those early writing years. People at work would talk about what had happened on popular TV shows and I had no idea what they were talking about.

And last, but not least… tell me. What is your favorite thing about Christmas?

I love the lights. I love driving around looking at houses that are all lit up in the darkness. Very symbolic, right? Stories are like little lights that shine out into dark places.

It’s been a family tradition for a long time to get hot cocoa and go driving around with the Christmas music turned up and us singing along. We live in Hawaii so it’s especially fun to get hot cocoa and drive around with the windows open as we sing. Joy to the World!  

Thank you so much, again. It is such a joy! Thank you for all your writing and the light you are for Christ!

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