Sunday, February 17, 2013

Author Interview – James Robinson Jr.


What is your favorite quality about yourself? The quality that I enjoy the most about myself is my sense of humor. Unfortunately, I have type of humor that can turn some people off because it tends to be a bit sarcastic or sardonic. First drafts of the book were so sarcastic that they had to be toned down significantly in later drafts and I eventually developed a style which may be subtle and witty but lacks the hard-core sarcasm. Consider the title of Chapter 2: The Day My Butt Said Goodbye.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why? I have always liked the quote from the Indian warrior Crazy Horse who, before the battle of the Little Big Horn, was heard to say: “It’s a good day to live, it’s a good day to die. Brave hearts to the front. Cowards and weak hearts to the rear.” I like the quote because I think it speaks to the courage to take life as it comes and to live life on your own terms. In the book, I have an entire chapter devoted to death and state that the hope that—when I’m confronted with death—I will make Crazy Horse proud, that I will put my life in God’s hands and accept my fate with grace and bravery. At the end of the chapter I recommend—tongue in cheek—that a drill sergeant wake us up every day and drum into us the fact that every day is a blessing and that we should live every day as if it were our last.

What is your favorite food? This is a weird question for me. I don’t really have a favorite food. I definitely don’t eat right. This much I can say. I stay away from vegetables as much as possible. Asparagus makes me want to vomit. I guess I’m a basic kind of guy: hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, fried chicken. My big thing is drinks. I don’t drink alcohol including beer but I will go to a particular restaurant because they serve frozen or slushie drinks.

How long have you been writing? I was an English major in college and I did a lot of fiction writing there in addition to writing term papers about authors such as Shakespeare and Eugene O’Neil. But I really had no idea what writing was all about after this little bit of exposure to it. I graduated in 1974. I always wanted to continue writing after that and made writing my goal but I forced to take a long hiatus when I got married at age 24 and had three children in four years. I mention in the book that friends and family often said that I had “gotten the children out of the way.” I never understood that one—that certainly wasn’t my goal. By the time I began my modest writing career it was 1994 and that was when I got the idea to write about midlife and I started Fighting the Effects of Gravity. But there was no digital/online revolution at that time and I spent most of my time—years actually—honing my skills, looking for agents, paying for edits, and being turned down by publishers.

When did you first know you could be a writer? I realized that I could be a writer when I started writing Fighting the Effects of Gravity and something clicked for me; I discovered a style that of writing that I didn’t know I had. Writing non-fiction and writing about my own life gave me a new insight on writing. I realized that maybe non-fiction was a better fit for me because of my sense of humor and style.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? I’m in the process of writing a novella now which is challenging due to the elements of character and story development but I find that in all writing the hardest thing is getting started. I usually brainstorm with a pencil and pad before I sit down at the computer but that doesn’t make it a whole lot easier. First drafts can be absolutely dreadful! It seems like every time I write a first draft I read it over the next day and say to myself, there is no way this is going to work! I think when I was younger and wrote a first draft it may have stopped me from going any further because it was so bad. I have to keep reminding myself of something that the poet Maya Angelou once said to Oprah Winfrey: “I have never known writing to be anything other than hard work.” So, when I hear someone say how much they love writing I can’t help but think of what hard work it is and how awful those first drafts read!

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Genre – NonFiction Memoir

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

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