A Conversation with Robin Jones Gunn, Author of Under a Maui Moon
Is it true that you’ve always been a storyteller?
Yes. And I have proof! A few years ago my mom gave me a box filled with childhood mementos including my grade-school report cards. The teacher’s note on my report card from first grade said, “Robin has not yet grasped her basic math skills but she does keep the entire class entertained with her stories at rug time.” How’s that for early evidence? And I’m still challenged when it comes to math.
When it was clear that you were a storyteller, did you naturally decide you wanted to be a writer?
No. I wanted to be a missionary. I thought there was no higher calling than going to an unreached people group in some remote corner of the world and telling them about God’s love. A long time ago a good friend told me that telling stories is simply what God created me to do and I shouldn’t fight it. I didn’t like their conclusion but I did like telling stories so that’s what I put my heart into doing. Now, almost three decades later I’ve discovered that exactly what I longed for has happened – my books have found their way to remote corners of the world and through the stories many people are hearing about God’s love.
What does the writing process look like for you?
I start by dreaming up a main character. She becomes a compilation of real life friends as well as some of my own faults and foibles. Once I can “see” her in my mind’s eye and feel as if we are truly “imaginary” friends, then I ask her quite candidly, “What is your biggest problem right now?” As soon as she tells me I start spinning all the possibilities of what could happen along the way as that problem gets resolved. I don’t usually know the ending of the story or the way her problem gets resolved. That seems to happen organically as the story unfolds.
This process often feels as if I’ve started out standing on a river bank observing the scenery and tossing a few pebbles of possibility into the story to see what happens. Then I put my toes in and start writing. At some point I find I’ve waded in deeper and deeper until I’m immersed and can easily swim around inside the story. At that point the story seems to move me along on its current and I just keep my head up and type as fast as I can.
Aside from your strong love for Hawai’i, what other parts in Under a Maui Moon were inspired from your own life?
Well, to be quite transparent, I’ll tell you that my husband is a counselor. He specializes in counseling men who struggle with sexual addiction. Like Carissa, I experienced a frightening situation one night when I was home alone and because of my husband’s line of work I did not feel safe in my own home. My similarities to Carissa’s experience end there but that one event planted seeds in my imagination for this story. I wanted to see what would happen when a woman like Carissa started to believe that “everything is redeemable” and that men who struggle with this prevalent problem are worth going after and helping through to the other side of the addiction. For helpful information on understanding sexual addiction, please visit www.skyviewcounseling.com.
Do you receive a lot of responses from your readers?
Yes. I do. It’s always a happy day when I hear back from a reader.
One of the most curious things to me is hearing what readers take away from a story. Many times readers will say that a certain part of a book was just what that needed to hear. However, what they got out of the book wasn’t at all what I was thinking when I wrote that part. Sometimes my favorite parts never receive comments while other parts carry deep meaning for the reader. It’s such a lovely mystery the way that happens. I’ve come to believe even more humbly in the power of fiction. A story that comes from the heart will most certainly touch another heart. If that is how you felt as you read this story, I would love to hear from you. You can contact me at Robinsnest@robingunn.com or go to my website, www.robingunn.com to sign up for my Robin’s Nest Newsletter.