Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Q&A with Shauna Robinson




Shauna Robinson is the author of the new novel Must Love Books. She worked in the publishing industry, and she lives in Virginia. 


Q: What inspired you to write Must Love Books, and how did you create your character Nora?


A: The initial inspiration for Must Love Books was an idea about a single moment: a lowly assistant ordering the wrong sandwich for someone she needs to impress. I thought that would be an interesting way for two people to meet. The other details unspooled from there.


I set it in the publishing industry because I was already familiar with it--and then, since it was taking place in publishing anyway, I thought I may as well paint a grim view that reflected my reality. And thus Nora the jaded editorial assistant was born!

Q: You write that "because I felt so lost about my career, I'd wished there were more stories about people trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives." Can you say more about that, and about what you think the book says about the publishing industry?


A: When I started writing this book, I was an editorial assistant and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life--I only knew that I didn't want to work in publishing anymore. I felt lost, and I felt alone for feeling lost.


Many of the people around me seemed to have their lives figured out--or, if they didn't, they seemed to be okay with that. But for me, not knowing what I was going to do next made me feel helpless. Misery loves company, and I wanted to read about a protagonist who was dealing with the same uncertainties I was.


Must Love Books shows the publishing industry through Nora's eyes. Nora went into publishing thinking it was a booklover's paradise, and she got a startling discovery when she learned how the realities of the job contrasted with her glittery expectations.


In portraying the industry more realistically--which does mean stripping away some of that fun and excitement--I hoped to provide a more truthful view that reflected some of my experiences.  

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, "The rut Nora finds herself in is not only external, but internal, and while the book starts off a seemingly light read, it turns more serious, with insightful discussions of depression and suicidal ideation." What do you think of that description?


A: It's absolutely true that Must Love Books covers serious topics. It was important to me to not shy away from that. If people struggling with depression and suicidal ideation can see themselves reflected in Nora and her experiences, I hope it might make them feel like they're not alone in what they're going through.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I found the outline I wrote back when I first got the idea for Must Love Books (over six years ago!), and I hilariously stopped outlining before I got to the end. The outline just abruptly stops. I had no idea how Must Love Books would end, but I'm glad I didn't let that stop me from writing! Once I did write the ending, it stuck--the last chapter in the final book is very close to the last chapter in the first draft.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My second book is in the works as we speak! It's separate from Must Love Books, but people who love books about books won't be disappointed.


It's set in the bookstore of a small town with a literary history, from the perspective of a young woman who's working at the bookstore even though she has no interest in reading. Like Nora, our protagonist is in her late 20s and feels lost about where her life is headed, but in a completely different way.


There's a lot of discovery about the magic of books along the way--along with some other, more intriguing discoveries!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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