Robbie Terman has been writing stories ever since she sat in front a typewriter. Her first taste of publication came when her mom and third-grade teacher conspired to print and bind a 24-page story Robbie wrote about her summer vacation. After seeing her name in print, Robbie knew she was destined to be a writer.
Robbie’s debut novel, A Date for Love, was released in October 2007 by Wild Rose Press. Her next novel, The Baby Interview, will be available in May 2009.
I met Robbie briefly at RWA® Nationals in San Francisco during The Golden Network Dessert Reception. I got to know her when I served as a judge for the Golden Pen contest. Her dedication and selfless gift of time given on behalf of her fellow writers shows what a wonderful heart she has. She and her co-coordinator, critique partner and best friend, Liz Heiter, serve as inspiration to many.
•Robbie, I loved hearing how your mom and third grade teacher published your first story. What support and encouragement! Who provides those elements in your life today?
I have incredibly supportive family and friends. As always, my biggest supporters are my parents. They have always encouraged me and believed in my dream of being a writer. They didn’t even flinch when I entered college and registered as a creative writing major. When I sold my first book, my mom bought me a charm bracelet to mark the event, and she has added a charm for every success since. Every time I look at the bracelet, I’m thankful I have such a great family.
My critique partner, Liz Heiter, also provides endless support and encouragement. She is the first one I call when I have writing news.
•You say in your Web site intro that you’ve been writing “forever.” When did you begin writing romance and pursuing publication of your first novel?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always written. When I was young, I wrote mainly short stories—until I realized I had way too much to say. I was unfocused, however, and tried different genres.
Things changed when I was in high school and read Julie Garwood’s Prince Charming. The moment I finished, I knew I was meant to be a romance writer. I wanted my characters to always have a happy ending.
I didn’t finish my first manuscript until I joined Romance Writers of America® in 2003. The support and encouragement I received there gave me the courage to start submitting. And keep submitting! I didn’t sell the manuscript until 2007.
•One of your biggest pre-publication successes was finaling in the 2007 Golden Heart. How did that experience affect you? What part did that final play in landing your first contract?
Finaling in the Golden Heart was definitely one of the highlights of my writing career thus far. I had only entered a handful of contests before, and finaled in just one (the Lake Country Romance Writers Barclay Sterling). The reason I even entered the GH was because I was attending my first national conference and figured I may as well try.
I was shocked when I got the call that I finaled. I was in my car, on the way to meet my critique partner, Liz. We had a screaming and jumping fest in the middle of Caribou Coffee.
The GH actually played no part in selling my first book, A Date for Love. By the time the finalists were announced, I’d already been offered a contract. The GH finaling entry, by the way, is actually my second book, The Baby Interview (available May 2009).
•Many not-yet-published writers dream of crossing the threshold to published author. You have. I can’t get my fill of call stories. Would you tell us in total gleeful detail what it was like when you got The Call and your first contract offer from The Wild Rose Press? Did you do a happy dance, squee and otherwise terrify your cat, Sunny, or were you able to remain calm and dignified about the whole thing?
I had to be more dignified than I would have liked. I was still in Graduate School at the time, and I had arrived to class about 10 minutes early. I decided to pop into the computer lab to check my email before class, and in my inbox was an email from Wild Rose Press offering a contract. There were way too many people around to scream and dance. I did have just enough time to call my mom and Liz. Then I had to sit through three hours of cataloging. For all you librarians out there, you can well imagine my pain. Sunny and I celebrated when I got home.
•Your first book has done well, garnering six five-star reviews at The Wild Rose Press. It’s now for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. What has been the most surprising aspect of having your first book out in the world? And I do mean in the world, since I saw that it’s for sale in Germany and Holland. Have you seen those foreign vendor sites yet?
It has been thrilling to get my work out there and get such positive feedback. I’ve had wonderful reviews on sites like The Romance Studio and Fallen Angel Reviews. Every writer wants to entertain, and I hope I’ve done that.
I actually had no idea my work was available in other countries. I’ll have to check it out!
•Not only are you a published author with a debut novel on the shelves, but you’ve sold a second book to the Wild Rose Press. The Baby Interview is due to release May 6, 2009. I’m captivated by your great story lines and enjoyed reading the blurbs on your Web site. Where do you get your ideas? How do you develop a story once you have one in mind? Are you a plan-ahead plotter, a free-spirited pantzer or a combination of the two?
Thank you! I really have no clue where I get my ideas. Usually, I start with one thing, maybe a person, or a place, and then I build a story from there. For instance, I had seen and read a lot of stories about single women pursuing parenthood on their own. I started wondering what would happen if a man wanted to be a single parent—how would he go about it? And what if the one woman he wanted to have his child was the one who refused? That’s how I started The Baby Interview.
Until recently, I’d always been a plotter. I’d fill a notebook with character sketches and outlines before I wrote one word. For my current WIP, I decided not to do a complete outline. I did fill out my character sketches and wrote out major plot points and conflicts, but I’m not being as rigid as usual. I think this change is inspired by my cp, Liz. She was an even bigger plotter than me and has had success with this system. I decided to give it a try, too. Thus far, it’s working.
•Many writers tout the value of having a critique partner, but few have one who goes back so far. You and Liz have been friends since second grade and writing partners since high school. What makes your partnership work so well? What would you say are the most important assets to look for in a cp?
I’m very lucky to have a lifelong friend who shares the same dream I do. All my friends are super supportive and encouraging, but no one understands what I go through like Liz because she experiences the same disappointments and the same excitements.
One of the benefits of having such a person as a cp is that we know each other so well, and we can pretty much say anything to each other and still remain friends. Also, many critique partners are just a part of each other’s writing life, but Liz and I are friends, first and foremost. So, we talk about our writing all the time, whether it’s in the car, or in a restaurant, or just hanging out. We constantly bounce ideas off each, whether or not we are in front of a computer.
I know most people don’t have that kind of relationship with their critique partner, but there are certain other aspects that work for Liz and I that has nothing to do with how long we’ve known each other. What I think works most is that we don’t write the same thing and we have different strengths and weaknesses. Liz writes more mystery than romance, and she is great at helping me layer my plots, while I’m always trying to get her to add more romance. She is also a lot better at grammar than me, and I rely on her to catch all my silly mistakes. Above all, I trust her to be honest about my work.
•You and Liz work so well together that you serve as co-coordinators for two contests, The Golden Network’s Golden Pen and your local Greater Detroit RWA’s Between the Sheets contest. Those are major undertakings. What are the rewards for you as a contest coordinator? What advice would you give entrants on how best to prepare an entry, based upon having seen so many?
The biggest reward for serving as contest coordinator is helping my chapters raise money. The money that is raised through contests benefits the chapter members directly because it allows the chapter to bring in speakers, such as editors and agents, and to put on programs. I’ve been benefiting through the hard work of others since joining RWA, and this was my chance to give back.
The main advice I’d give to an entrant is to please read the submission directions! Most contests will tell you exactly what they want, so be sure to check the rules. I’ve seen many entries that didn’t. I personally can’t disqualify someone because of it, but some chapters do. So, double-check your entry before sending it.
I am always touched by how grateful and excited finalists are—and notifying them is one of my favorite parts of the contest. I especially love to tell them when the final judge has requested a full manuscript.
•I see that, like many writers, you love chocolate. What’s your pleasure? American or European chocolate? Milk, Dark or White? Any particular brands tickle your tongue?
I prefer milk chocolate, and any kind will do. I’m not picky!
One of the highlights of the San Francisco conference was eating a chocolate sundae at Ghiradelli.
•And now a question just for fun. Being addicted to Coach bags, I smiled when I saw that you have a thing for purses and shoes. If a generous benefactor bankrolled a shopping trip for handbags and footwear anywhere in the world, what would be your destination and why? What brand of bags would you snag? And would you be after stilettos, flats, boots—or any kind of footwear as long as it was stylin’?
Just the thought of having unlimited funds for shoes and handbags makes me grin. I actually consider the Nordstrom anniversary sale a national holiday, and take the day off work so I can be at the door when it opens.
If I could do my shopping anywhere, it would probably be New York, where so many of the designers work. Of course, heading to Hong Kong where many designers have their factories would be no hardship. I’m a Coach addict too, but I also love Kate Spade and Rafe (where my good friend Esi is a designer).
And I’d be wearing heels. My feet are just not made for flats. Liz made me buy some for the RWA convention in San Francisco, and my feet were blistered on day one.
It’s been great having you as my guest, Robbie. And now, in closing, is there a final comment you’d like to make or a question you’d like to ask?
Thanks for having me, Keli. I appreciate the opportunity to share my work.
I’ve talked a lot about how important it is to have supportive people in my life. Who is your biggest supporter?
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Three Cool Drawing Prizes!!
One person leaving a comment is in for a real treat. Robbie is offering one visitor an autograph copy of her debut novel, A Date for Love. She will choose that winner at the end of the day 12/11.
Robbie chose her winner: Anne Barton. Congrats, Anne!
Since Robbie’s into purses, I’m holding a drawing for a set of Hallmark note cards in the shape of handbags. Each of the eight flocked leopard print cards is fuzzy to the touch. Pretty cool.
Because Robbie’s also a chocoholic, I’ve added another prize to the mix, a box of chocolate-themed note cards in four tantalizing designs.
I’ll hold the my two drawings on 12/13 for all those who entered through 12/12.
I’ve picked my winners. Stephani Hecht won the fuzzy pink purse note cards. The chocolate set goes to Carol Jo Kachmar. Congrats, ladies!