Lynn Reynolds: Millions of readers visit Virgin River, the setting of your last series, every year. What made you decide to venture away from Virgin River in your new Thunder Point series?
Robyn Carr: It was time for something fresh and new for a lot of reasons—to keep me fresh and new, for one thing. But also, twenty books in a series is a lot for new readers to even comprehend, and no matter how many times they’re told they can jump in any time, many will be intimidated by the sheer number. I call this the Grey’s Anatomy Syndrome—I’ve never seen an episode because when it started, I chose another show to commit to. I know, I know—I could rent or download the early episodes and watch 147 straight hours of TV to catch up (ugh!), and I’m not likely to do that. So, we’ll at least take a break, move to a new location with a new cast and new theme. That doesn’t mean I’ll never go back to Virgin River.
Also—the town is getting large; the population is growing. My readers love it when I bring characters back together; they want to check on their people and make sure they’re doing all right. And as the list of characters grows, it becomes more of a challenge to bring them all together. And if I bring only a few back, my readers want to know where the others are!
There are certain things my readers love that will always be present, whether I’m writing about a small town, a long-running series or even a standalone women’s fiction—there is always a strong sense of community and commitment; there is always intense friendship. You can count on me for strong women and heroes dedicated to loving them loyally and keeping them safe—and safe is a relative term. It can be safe from danger or safe from loneliness or betrayal or fear. There will always be women’s issues, large or not so large. There will always be solutions to difficult situations that I hope are entertaining, intelligent and completely feasible, something that I intend to give my readers hope as they face their own problems.
Lynn: What was it like to start writing about an entirely new place after being in Virgin River for 20 books? Did it take you longer to write The Wanderer than it usually does to write a new novel since you were creating a whole new setting?
Robyn: I will admit—it was terrifying! I was so comfortable in Virgin River; I knew the town and the people so well after 20 books. The very thought of creating an entirely new community from scratch was very intimidating. I thought about this place and the original cast for a year before writing the first book. I was afraid it wouldn’t measure up. But then I began, and I fell in love all over again and found the process so exciting, so invigorating. The men stole my heart over and over, the women became dear to me, and the teenagers—I’ve always had a teen or two or three in almost every book—really spoke to me. I think this town will easily be as beloved as Virgin River and Grace Valley have been.
Lynn: What made you choose the Oregon Coast as the setting for your new trilogy? Did you travel to the area to do research before you starting writing The Wanderer? What about the landscape really stood out for you?
Robyn: At first the location was purely logical. This is my third series. The first —Grace Valley, was a valley town in the mountains. The second was a mountain town—Virgin River. It only made sense to head for the ocean. Also, Thunder Point isn’t terribly far from Northern California, with many of the same issues but plenty of new ones. I understand that part of the world. And yes, I went there. I spent a good deal of time with the local Coast Guard, conducted interviews, took pictures. Mainly, I stood on the high, rocky coast and let it soak into my skin, my head, my heart. I pictured people there, conducting their day-to-day lives, falling in love, rubbing up against crisis, relying on each other.
Lynn: What would you tell someone who is coming to Thunder Point for the first time? What do you want them to know about the town as they jump into The Wanderer?
Robyn: My husband and I have moved around a lot, thanks to his years in the Air Force and commercial aviation. Have you ever had the experience of living somewhere that just didn’t feel like your town? Or, conversely, landing somewhere that made you think you were meant to be there? When we drove from Texas to Sacramento and crossed over the Sierras into the Sacramento Valley, I remember thinking, Ahhhh, I’m a Californian! I never realized! I was instantly comfortable with the landscape, the people, the climate.
Hank Cooper has always been a wanderer. He’d lived and worked in a lot of beautiful and interesting places, but there’s something about this small coastal town and the people there that just hook him and make him think for the first time in his adult life, Maybe I’m home.
Lynn: You’ve always been known for your strong female characters. The women in Thunder Point are no strangers to struggle, and we can already tell there are going to be some great stories coming from them! Why do you feel strong women are so important in your books?
Robyn: Well, they’re role models. They’re admirable, which doesn’t mean perfect, it only means they’re indomitable and courageous and hopeful. They’re basically good, intelligent, optimistic people. They’re the kind of people I personally want to read about—I’m not real big on weak, weary, insipid characters who are older than five. None of us can escape struggle—it’s part of life. But whether we face it with determination and optimism or cringing weakness and fear makes all the difference in the outcome.
Lynn: Readers fall in love with your male characters. Hank Cooper, aka Cooper, (from Robyn’s bestselling Virgin River series) is especially dreamy… Is there an actor who you would like to see play his role if the series was ever turned into a movie?
Robyn: I don’t know the names of the younger actors very well, but James Denton seems to fit the profile.
Lynn: The Wanderer has an element of mystery with the death of Cooper’s friend. (Don’t worry—we won’t give any spoilers!) Do you like writing suspense? Do you think we’ll see more suspense with the other books in the series?
Robyn: I don’t actually think of that as suspense. Suspense is when you imagine you’re being chased by a guy with a bloody knife. Nor do I think of it as mystery even though there is a mysterious element. I think of it more as unanswered questions and a very obvious element of surprise coming. It’s also suspenseful, in a way, waiting for the results of a biopsy or worrying about how the new kid at school will be received—with rejection or welcome? But I think of those issues, the dramatic problems of daily life, and they’re quite mainstream, which means the average person will relate on some level—it either happened in their family, their neighborhood or their town. That’s the grist of a small-town drama. Whether the problems are large or small, there are conflicts to resolve and in doing so, the characters become more defined. I hope this mirrors life —as we live and learn, come to terms with our personal issues and life in general, we are a compilation of stories to be told.
Buy: The Wanderer