A Conversation with Robin Reul, author of MY KIND OF CRAZY
Robin Reul and I have become good friends over the last year because not only do we (almost) share a release date for our debut novels, but because we share a publisher and a love for all things snarky. When I get confused or irritated or stressed about my book release, she’s who I email. Her debut novel, MY KIND OF CRAZY is everything I want in a YA novel–It’s damn funny, fast-moving, honest, and, stealing from the title, kind of crazy. It had better find a huge audience because it deserves it. Robin and I swapped interviews, and here’s the one I did with her. Oh, and here’s one she did with me!
Me: Okay, since you’re a debut novelist and not an infamous criminal or celebrity–least as far as I know–you should introduce yourself. You get 50 words. Go!
Robin: There wasthat one incident with a stolen grape pixie stick when I was a kid, but it broke in my pocket, so…karma. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I grew up on film sets and dabbled in acting, film and TV production but now write full-time.
Me: Okay, before we continue, we have to talk about the growing up on film sets thing because you’ve posted great pics on Facebook. So go ahead, name drop! What rich and powerful people were you best friends with? And yes, I will ask for photographic evidence later.
Robin: I have been fortunate enough to meet lots of different wonderful actors and actresses as a result, and had some enviably cool experiences, to be sure. So to answer your question, I wasn’t best friends with any but have had the pleasure of meeting, and in some cases getting to know many.
My favorite, by far: When I was five, my father worked on a film called SILVER STREAK with Gene Wilder. Yes, as in Willy Wonka. Gene and I instantly became friends, and we would hang out. He even baby-sat me a few times so my parents could grab dinner. We kept in touch for years, exchanging letters back and forth. I looked forward to visiting my Dad at work on the 20thCentury Fox lot because then I could visit Gene. He had an office just down the hall, and he would always welcome me in to hang out. I still have all his letters and reassure them, though we haven’t talked since I was in my mid-twenties. I feel lucky to have had that kind of a unique childhood experience.
For the most part, they were just normal people to me who flitted in and out of my life. But the one who left me star struck? Hands down my teenage crush come to life when I met him on the set of the Karate Kid: Ralph Macchio. Random trivia: It still says “Robin loves Ralph 1984” in the sidewalk in front of my childhood home.
Me: See, and since we both write YA, if this was a novel and we were friends back then, we could have teamed up to split up Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue, his girlfriend in Karate Kid. That’s your new novel idea right there, free of charge!
Did growing up in an entertainment environment nudge you toward becoming a writer? Are there lessons you learned in your time in “the business” that you’ve carried over to your writing career?
Me: I’m sure it probably did, because I grew up with entertainment and story as the center of my world. My writing tends to be very cinematic and dialogue driven. When I’m crafting a scene, it’s literally playing out like it’s a movie in my head. I’ve definitely learned several lessons from my time growing up and working in the film industry that I’ve carried over into my writing life. First and foremost, pay it forward. Take all you’ve learned, remember the amazing people who you met along the way who mentored you and showed you the ropes and opened the doors, and be that person for someone else. Also, make sure every scene serves a purpose. Less is more. Unless a scene is furthering the plot or establishing a character, no matter how beautifully written, consider eliminating it. And last but not least, be nice and don’t burn bridges. Cultivate friendships, not contacts.
Kurt: See, I think that’s why I liked MY KIND OF CRAZY so much, you don’t waste the reader’s time. Everything is there for a reason, and you don’t go on long, introspective ramblings by your characters, which personally always bore me. Less is more, as you say. Did the book start out this way, or did you end up cutting back significantly after your first draft? What was the process the novel went through?
Me: I think a first draft always goes on too long. Yes, there were definitely places that had to be condensed and cut back, but the overall story is largely intact as it was originally written. Altogether I think this book had about eight drafts. The earlier ones had more to do with developing story, and the later ones focused on amplifying character development. The first few went just to trusted beta readers, then about draft four it went to my agent where we worked together to craft the draft that ultimately went on submission. Once the book was acquired, it underwent three additional drafts: overall, line edits and copy edits.
Kurt: The novel itself takes a serious turn halfway through that I found surprising…not in a bad way, just in an unexpected way. Was that your intention all along? You keep a good portion of the tone and mood light, but it’s not the fun and games it started off as. Did you ever second guess this choice? Did you get any pushback on it?
Me: Great question. I did know I wanted the tone to get darker, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do that when I set out writing. The twist honestly came for me as it does for the reader. I didn’t see it coming until I started working on the scene and that’s what flowed out and I liked it. I didn’t second-guess it, because I knew the characters needed something of that magnitude to propel them in the directions of where they needed to go by the end of the story. The pushback I received during submissions was more subjective and had more to do with an individual’s feelings or moral compass about the choices Hank and Peyton make when things turn serious. To me, that’s what makes the book more realistic and honest, and I wouldn’t want to change that. I’m grateful my editor shared my opinion and I didn’t have to compromise it.
Kurt: Okay, to wrap it up with the lightning round. 5 questions you can answer however you want–with explanation or without. It’s a chance for your readers to get to know things about you they wouldn’t normally know. Here we go:
1. Hank makes a disastrous promposal at the beginning of the novel that sets everything in motion. Thinking back on your high school life, what’s the biggest screw-up you made?
2. Hank and his friend swear that one day they will take on the eating challenge of the How High Burger in a local restaurant. What food do you think you could eat the most of to the point of explosion in one sitting?
Robin: Sushi. Which is ironic because if you ever told me even five years ago that raw fish would become my favorite food I would be amused. But I could eat my weight in salmon sushi and tuna sashimi.
3. At one point the kids sneak into a strip club. What’s a place you snuck into?
Robin: Wow, I am so boring, because I think the most risqué place I ever snuck into was probably a movie theater to see another movie after the one I’d paid for was finished. Sometimes I’d do it two or three times in the same day. I was never particularly daring.
4. Video clip time! Watch this video, which is fitting to your novel, and tell me your reaction:
Robin: Oh wow. All the feelings. My heart went out to both of them in different ways. You work up the courage to put yourself out there, and the worst thing is when it doesn’t go as planned. It cuts like a knife and you feel so vulnerable. But when the girl realized what was going on, it was so raw and real knowing how she’d hurt him. You could practically see her beating herself up. I’m just glad she said yes! I’m a sucker for happy endings!
5. Dinner party! You can invite one rocker, one actor/actress, and one miscellaneous person. Who are you inviting? (All living, please.)
Robin: Musician: Alanis Morrissette (Gotta find out the person she wrote YOU OUGHTA KNOW about), one actor/actress: Kevin Spacey (I could watch him read the phone book and be elated), and one miscellaneous person: William Shakespeare (I would think he has some pretty great stories)
Kurt: Very nice! And to really wrap it up–I was lying before–I’ll give you the last word.
Robin: I’ve been accused of the need to have that before. Ha! My last words here are just thanks. Writing has brought me so many wonderful things: a creative outlet, amazing friendships and a community of people I am so honored to be a part of, and with the release of MY KIND OF CRAZY, the fruition of a life’s dream. If you really want something, you have to work hard for it, and faith is half the battle. I am so grateful for everyone who ever pushed me to work harder, think bigger, and believe. Some day, I would love to buy you all an overpriced caffeinated beverage of your choice. 🙂 Check it out on: Goodreads IndieBound B&N Amazon