Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Post: author Robin Stevenson

How/why did you start to write?

I've always loved books but didn't start writing until 2005, while I was on maternity leave from a crisis counselling job. I got hooked on it pretty much instantly.

How did you become an author? What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

My first teen novel, Out of Order, actually began as a short story. I sent it off to a literary journal, and in response I received a very kind rejection letter and some helpful feedback. Among other things, the editor suggested that I needed to explore the relationship between the two main characters--both teenage girls--in more depth. I started writing more about these characters, trying to figure out who they were and how they had come to be in the situation they were in, and the story very quickly grew well beyond the bounds of a short story. I thought it might work as a teen novel, so after a few drafts some further polishing, I submitted the first chapters and a synopsis to Orca. They requested the full manuscript, and a few weeks later offered me a publishing contract. Out of Order was published in Canada and the US in the fall of 2007.
I have continued to publish with Orca, writing early chapter books, juvenile novels, and young adult fiction. I have two new books coming out this fall: a teen novel called Escape Velocity, and an early chapter book called Ben the Inventor. That will bring me up to twelve books altogether, with two more under contract and scheduled for publication in 2012 and 2013.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I worked for ten years as a counsellor and social worker. Counselling taught me to pay close attention to people, to relationships, and to communication; it gave me an opportunity to be involved in people's lives during difficult times and to learn more about how people understand themselves and their lives. I learned a great deal about child and adolescent development, family dynamics, trauma, loss and countless other issues. I think my ability to create realistic, complex and believable characters has been strengthened as a result.

What inspires you?

Family and friends, travel, books, my students, conversations, experiences, news, stories, debate... Just about everything, actually.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Honestly, I don't do nearly as much as I probably should. I decided that the best way to promote a book was to write and publish another...and another...and another. But I may just be choosing to believe that his is a good strategy because I am more interested in spending my time writing than marketing!

Parting words

If you want to know more about me and my books, please visit my website at . And feel free to send me an e-mail--I love hearing form readers and from other writers.

Robin Stevenson's fall 2011 releases...

I slip the key into the file cabinet lock and it opens easily. I glance over my shoulder at the front door. If Zoe comes home, she'll be furious. I tell myself that it's her fault I'm doing this. If she would tell me the truth, I wouldn't be forced to hunt for answers.

I open the top drawer, my heart pounding. A row of file folders, alternating blue and grey, all neatly labeled. Clippings, Documents, Letters... I stop, about to pull out the Letters file, but then I notice the next file: Lou. The skin on the back of my neck prickles, and I shiver, I raise my hand to lift out the file and just as my fingers touch it, I hear my mother's key in the lock.


It's the end of a long hot summer in Alberta's Badlands, and fifteen-year-old Lou is restless and dreaming of escape. Then an unexpected crisis turns her dream into reality and Lou is forced to leave Alberta and stay with the mother she has never known. Lou is overflowing with anger, hurt, and, most of all, unanswered questions. Why did her mother never want her? She is convinced that the answers lie hidden in her mother's novels, and is determined to find the matter what the cost.


Inventors invent Inventions! That's what Ben and his best friend Jack like to say. So when Ben discovers that Jack's family is planning to move to another city, he decides they should put their inventions to work. The boys figure that if no one buys Jack's house, Jack won't have to move away, so all they need is a plan to scare of potential buyers! Inventors are good at coming up with plans. But when Plans A, B and C fail to bring the result the boys had in hoped for, Ben discovers that not everything in life stays the same--and that while change can be hard, sometimes it isn't all bad.

Praise for Robin Stevenson's books...

A Thousand Shades of Blue (2008) was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Awards and the BC Book Prizes. Here's what reviewers said:

"[Stevenson] eschews cliche in her keen and credible exploration of family dynamics... Readers looking for a family drama with adroit characterization, serious issues, and a little risky romance on the side should sign up for this voyage." (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books)

"Rachel comes across as a real teen with whom readers will identify. Using the small boat as a setting highlights the cramped, suffocating feeling many young people have when spending a lot of time with parents and siblings. The book has no easy the novel a refreshing realism." (School Library Journal)

Inferno (2009) was selected for the ALA Rainbow List and was a finalist for the BC Book Prizes. Here's what reviewers had to say:

"[Stevenson} does a terrific job, capturing the impossibly large emotion and the power that propels teenage girls... This is a skillful writing featuring a strong female protagonist. A good story well told." (January Magazine)

"Stevenson creates a compelling portrait of autonomy vs. conformity... Dante's sexuality is refreshingly not a problem, just a fact of life. Readers will recognize themselves and many of their peers in Stevenson's complex, likable characters." (Booklist)

"Stevenson's writing is sharp and her plot tidy and briskly paced, making for a quick, engaging read. Even her integration of the tough themes of relationship abuse and the alienation of queer teens is seamless--not to mention free of heavy-handed lessons." (Quill and Quire)