Robin Lyons, Author of the School Marshal Series, lives a quiet California life in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains. After twenty-nine year career in public education, Robin’s fiction aims to bring awareness to crimes taking place on school campuses and crimes involving the people connected to schools in the School Marshal Series.
Is your recent book part of a series?
The most recently published book is Mac, a prequel novella in the School Marshal Series. Mac takes the reader back in time, providing a glimpse of the main character’s roots (Cole ‘Mac’ MacKenna) and helps readers better understand the leading man in the series.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
It’s important to keep the characters’ information and stories straight as they move from book to book. Equally important is keeping the places and settings consistent. In case I need to refresh my memory about someone or something, I keep a few books open and readily accessible while I’m working on a new book.
One aspect I love about writing a series is it’s pretty easy to pick out something mentioned in an earlier book and then twist it into a plot or subplot down the road.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
One time, as I wrote a plotted scene with a character I had planned to also use in a future book, I felt the character needed to go another direction. I remember telling my husband about how it felt like the character made the scene turn differently from what I had intended.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I outline the entire book using index cards before I begin to write scenes. Once the scenes are plotted, I lay the index cards out to arrange and rearrange until I have them in an order I believe flows. When it’s time to write scenes I have the entire story swirling in my mind. I start out writing in order, but I’m able to bounce around when one scene speaks louder in my head than another.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
It’s so hard for me to ignore and continue writing when I see a squiggly colored line under a word or sentence, so I correct typos and incorrect words as I go. I don’t recommend editing as you write because it brings the creative flow to a screeching halt. But for me to ignore those darn squiggly lines would be the same as not picking up a tissue I’ve dropped.
Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
Yes and I factor in other things besides whether the name feels right or not. I do an internet search of names, titles, fictional business names, fictional locations, fictional cities, etc. I change the name if something pops up that I wouldn’t want to be associated with me or my stories.
I write in Scrivener and love the name generator tool. If you aren’t familiar with Scrivener, you can select the gender and region the character is from to influence the name choices suggested. It’s pretty cool.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Don’t do what I did. I spent years learning as much as I could about writing, editing and publishing that the publishing world changed as I was learning. I thought I wanted to pursue traditional publishing, then vanity publishing. After six years of learning, researching, writing, and re-writing—in that order, I ended up independently publishing. All of what I did was necessary for me to proceed, but it didn’t need to take six years. The priority should have been writing.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
Social media is a challenge for me. Through trial and error, I’ve learned where my comfort zone is.
I’m active on Twitter and enjoy getting know Twitter friends. Direct Messaging (DM) on Twitter can be frustrating. You get inundated with DMs asking you to buy this and like that. Often people send a DM suggesting they’ll like your Facebook page if you do the same for theirs. Assuming the person is genuine, I’ve liked someone’s Facebook page and then replied to their DM letting them know I’ve done so and include a link to my Facebook page so they can do the same. More often than not, I don’t receive the same in return as promised in the DM. Twitter Lesson #1 – Some people are dishonest.
I’m active on Facebook as well. I enjoy Facebook for providing tons of interesting and relevant content but I haven’t mastered Facebook friendships other than in groups. There are some fantastic writer groups on Facebook. I’ve found most people in the groups are super friendly and helpful.
I’m also on Goodreads and LinkedIn but seldom go there; I don’t fully understand how to interact with others on either platform.
My Instagram account is mainly personal for connecting with friends and family.
How much research was involved in writing your book?
I love research! And therefore I do too much research. To accurately write about something I sometimes get bogged down with the tiniest detail. For example, do crickets make noise year-round or only during certain seasons? If I’m going to write about a cricket making noise—the time of year must be accurate.
*Nerd Alert* For the School Marshal Series, after I researched the names of everyone and everything, I created a town map to give me a bird’s eye view of where everything is. When I write about going to a restaurant or the police department or sitting on the back porch enjoying the view, I know exactly where the character is on the map. And with each book written more is added to the map. At some point, I may have the map professionally drawn and include in one of the books.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
My covers are super important to me. I began saving book cover graphics that appealed to me long before I began to write. For me, the cover has to relate to the story. I like my covers to come alive in the first few chapters so the reader can connect the cover to the story and the story to the cover.
What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
I’d say it’s the Power of ONE.
ONE dollar donated to a worthy cause.
ONE kind comment said to someone having a bad day.
ONE instance of helping an older or disabled person cross a street or open a door.
ONE time helping a bird with its wing caught on something.
ONE call to a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a long time, etc.
ONE review has the power to help thousands of people decide what book to purchase.
ONE review also has the power to help boost a book’s ranking.
ONE review does matter.
Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?
Yes, I sure have. As soon as I retired, I went to the small town in South Dakota where my mother grew up because I wanted to write her life story as a fiction novel. After the trip, I did extensive research and then began writing. Not having a clue what I was doing or that there is a structure to novels I struggled to write chapter one. I tried first-person POV, then third-person POV. All of the research was shelved, and I began writing a story about a gigolo. Upon completing the gigolo story, I sent a sample to an editor and was kindly told it was crap.
Unsure what to write next, I began to study the craft. At that time, I was an elected school board member in my hometown. Our community was suddenly thrust into a tailspin when a beloved school principal was gunned down in his office by a co-worker. I’d known him for more than twenty years; he was my children’s middle school principal and my grandson’s elementary principal. The loss felt by the school district and community was tremendous. I knew then I needed to write the School Marshal Series with an imperfect protagonist keeping a watchful eye over the school and all who are connected to the school. The protagonist doesn’t always prevail because there is no such thing as a perfect world, but he sure gives it his all. It comforts me to think if there had been a security guard or a school resource officer or a school marshal on the campus the day of the shooting, maybe the outcome would have been better.
Mom’s story is still in the queue…
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I’ve skydived. Tandem with an instructor, but still an incredible experience.
What makes you angry?
Very little. I’m an easygoing person. I may get frustrated or turned off by someone’s behavior, but I try not to get riled.
What was the most valuable class you ever took in school?
Those valuable lessons taught so many years ago now help me understand how to format. A necessary skill for an indie-published author.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Stop judging others based on your opinions.
Say two positive comments or praise for every negative remark.
Praise children for what they do right instead of criticizing what they do wrong.
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