THE LIFE SHE WANTS~*~*~*~*~*~
By Robyn Carr
By Robyn Carr
Q&A with Robyn Carr:
Q: When Emma returns home, she is forced to take a job working for her former best friend, Riley, who now owns and runs a successful cleaning business. Now, Emma finds herself scrubbing and dusting the kinds of houses she used to own. It truly is a riches-to-rags scenario—almost a reverse Cinderella story (and Emma has a nasty stepmother, to boot!). Were you at all inspired by that fairytale while writing this book?
A: Oh yes, a contemporary Cinderella story (or part of a story at least) was fun. And it wasn’t reversed – Cinderella had a privileged life with her father, then her father died and her step mother reduced her to a scullery maid. I even gave her two step-sisters. Cinderella may be a fairy tale but for one thing – our families are often a mishmash of families thrown together by second and third (and more) marriages. For that matter, families born into the same bloodline don’t always work that well – just look through history! Family seems to be what you’re stuck with for survival and sometimes it’s the answer to all your needs and sometimes the worst nightmare. Cinderella was the poor relation, the scullery who was prettier than her advantaged sisters, and kinder. I loved the similarities and they worked perfectly for this story. It also worked perfectly that Emma had a chance to learn the meaning of real wealth.
Q: The damaged friendship between Emma and Riley is one of the central relationships in this novel. After having written so many successful romantic love stories, what was different or challenging about building your story around a fraught, deeply complicated female friendship?
A: I’m accustomed to writing “girlfriend books” that, from the beginning, have a very strong bond between the women, that the friends get each other through the tough times. I wanted to know how it’s different when the bond has been broken but the tough times are present.
You’ll find out what you’re made of when you go through a relationship crisis, when you feel scared and alone.
Q: Another interesting relationship in the book is the one between Emma and Bethany, a teenage girl who lives in one of the houses she cleans. What made you want to explore that storyline?
A: I think that on some level the people who clean houses do more than come into our homes, they come into our lives and see much more than we realize. They enter our private lives, our most personal space. They see how we live and what our values are. In the case of Bethany, she appeared to be unloved and tragic and had no support and Emma, who had looked the other way when her husband was robbing his clients blind, could not look away from Bethany. It showed the character of both Emma and Bethany and it was a turning point in Emma’s life.
Q: Can you talk a little about the title of the book? How did you come up with it, and what do you think it means to find the life you want?
A: The title was my editor’s suggestion and I love it.
I think it’s the lucky person who finds she’s living the life she wants. During my personal struggles I always ask myself if there’s anyone I would trade places with and invariably there is no one whose life I’d trade for mine. I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor, I’ve been lonely or overwhelmed with friends – my life hasn’t been perfect but what could I change and still remain who I am? My struggles were usually my opportunities, even if it’s hard to see it that way at the time.
What it means to find the life you want is to live authentically. To be true to yourself.
Q: We have to ask, what’s next for you? What are you working on right now?
A: I’m at work on the second Sullivan’s Crossing novel, no title yet. It should be ready soon and out the beginning of April 2017.
Fans of Robyn Carr adore the #1 New York Times bestselling novelist’s distinctive and humorous voice and it’s never been in finer form than in her new book, THE LIFE SHE WANTS (MIRA Books, October 2016, $16.99 U.S./$18.99 CAN.), a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale about women, friendship and the complex path to happiness set along the scenic Pacific coastline of Sonoma County, California.
Everyone had always said that Emma Shay Compton’s marriage was like a fairy tale. With a wealthy, handsome husband, a beautiful Manhattan home, cars and trips around the world—it sure seemed like it. But when Richard, her stockbroker husband, was convicted of operating a massive illegal Ponzi scheme before taking his own life, Emma was left to bear the brunt of his crimes despite her complete innocence. She quickly came to realize that the only fairy-tale thing about her life was how unreal it had been.
Now, with practically nothing to her name and notoriety preventing anyone along the East Coast from hiring her, Emma knows that to start over she needs to get as far away from New York as possible. And that means moving to the one place she vowed never to return—Sonoma County, the scenic West Coast area where she grew up.
Emma’s best childhood friend had been Riley Kerrigan. And after Emma’s father died, Riley’s parents and elder brother, Adam, practically became her surrogate family. When Emma was 18, however, away at university, she discovered that Riley had hooked up with her boyfriend, Jock. Crushed by their betrayal, Emma was determined to get as far away from them as possible and moved to New York, where she landed straight in the arms of her too-good-to-be-true husband, Richard. Despite their fabulous lifestyle and even after learning that Jock and Riley’s relationship had fizzled out after they had a baby, nothing ever lessened the hurt Emma felt at Riley and Jock’s unfaithfulness.
Adam Kerrigan had carried a torch for Emma ever since they were teenagers, when he was waiting for the right time to ask her out. But when things went nuclear between the two best friends, Emma seemed to disappear overnight before surfacing in New York and getting married. For Adam, it was clear that he had missed his chance. But after running into an out-of-work Emma, Adam suggests she try the one person she never wants to see again—Riley.
A successful small business owner, Riley knows how hard it is to start over and rebuild your life. Years ago, she was the tough, poor girl who made a mistake—a big mistake. Terrified, pregnant and abandoned by her best friend, Riley had felt utterly alone. Determined to make something of her life, Riley built up herself and her domestic cleaning business brick by brick. Now thriving, the last thing she needs is anyone threatening its stability. Riley’s willing to give Emma a job but on one condition only—that she has no relationship of any kind with Riley’s brother.
But Adam’s been waiting over sixteen years for his chance with Emma. This time he’s determined, that no matter what, Emma’s and his sister’s insecurities won’t get in his way again.
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“I’m frequently asked what it is about my stories that make them so popular. I think it’s the sense of community and that combination of romance and women’s fiction,” says author Robyn Carr. “I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story, I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ It’s very empowering to read about women like ourselves as they resolve the issues that threaten their happiness and peace of mind. It’s also empowering to watch smart women choosing and falling in love with men of honor and integrity.”
The author of more than 40 novels, Robyn reaches a wide audience with her writing. In addition to her touching novels, she’s written historical and contemporary romance, as well as a gripping thriller. “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas,” she
says of her writing career.
Originally from Minnesota, Robyn and her family have seen much of the country, thanks to her husband, Jim, and his career in aviation. After the two high school sweethearts married, Jim joined the air force. They’ve lived in Texas—all four corners—Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
The couple moved to Henderson, Nevada, so Jim could explore a new business opportunity. “At first, being a Midwest girl at heart, I said, ‘Oh, no, not another desert!’ It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beauty of Nevada—and the unrivaled spectacle of Las Vegas!”
Robyn well remembers how she began her career as an author more than 25 years ago. “I was trained as a nurse but found it impossible to get work because my husband was constantly being transferred. At the time, I was reading a lot of genre fiction for the sheer entertainment value, and I thought to myself, ‘I can write this!’”
And how was her first foray into the world of literature received? “It was universally panned. I thought I had written Gone with the Wind, but in actuality it was complete trash.” In fact, it was on her third try that Robyn finally succeeded in becoming a published author.
Now that Robyn’s two children are grown—and finally out of the house—she has the luxury of a little free time. “Until my kids grew up, I didn’t realize that a person could have hobbies other than laundry,” she jokes. But it turns out not to be hobbies that keep Robyn busy when she isn’t writing— she has found her niche in community service.
She has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out of state whenever possible and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fund-raising and visiting-author events that bring writers, their books and the community together. “It is the people in my life that fill the well,” she says. “Especially the people who share my love for books and writing.”