1). What are you working on?
Right now I’m working on a novel (which I don’t talk about until it’s finished), two book reviews, a speech that I’ve been asked to give to US Air Force Academy, and preparations for my class in English Lit for the Hunter MFA Program. Also a couple of short stories. I like working in different forms and genres, and I keep finding myself in situations that require my asking new questions, and coming up with new answers. I like the challenge.
2). How does your work differ from the work of others in the same area/genre? (April Bradley added this observation to the question: Genre is such a confining word, isn’t it?)
My genre is literary fiction, so we’re talking about a huge field. I like working in the realist tradition, which is very flexible and tolerant. It allows for unlimited experimentation in form while maintaining a focus on the exploration of human character – a subject that I find endlessly interesting. How does my work differ from others? I suppose my writer’s voice is my own, as well as the particular point of view that I bring to the subject. Though, like all writers, I’ve been influenced by the writers I most admire – those who combine a crystalline prose style, a profound understanding of human nature, and a deep sense of compassion. In my case, this would be a long chain of English and American writers: Woolf, Forster, Green, Hazzard, Maxwell, Updike. And Updike and again Updike, who is arguably our greatest twentieth-century novelist, not to mention stylist.
3.) Why do you write what you do?
I write to make sense of the world, to figure out what it is I really think, to set down my own experience, and to measure inner reality against outer reality. There are all kinds of writing, and with each one of them I try to pin something essential down. If I’m writing a book review, I want to clarify for myself the points the writer is trying to make, I want to make sense of the reading experience, to measure my own response against the writer’s intention. If I write a novel, I’m trying to explain something that I find inordinately difficult to understand, to explore a problem I can’t solve otherwise. I write novels about things that trouble me, serious things I can’t make sense of otherwise. I write stories about smaller things, a moment that I find compelling or hilarious or troubling. I write essays about everything. But all for the same reason: to make sense of the world.
4). How does your writing process work?
I write first thing in the morning, as soon as I get up. I try not to talk much, and I don’t read the paper or go online before I write. I write at a computer not connected to the Internet. I write for as long as I can each day, fiction first, non-fiction later in the day. When I start out writing a novel I can only write for a few hours at a time, but the further I get, the longer I can write each day. At the end I will go into a sort of retreat, and disappear, and write all day and late into the night. My family puts up with me.
Roxana Robinson is the author of nine books: five novels, three story collections and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Her books have been named Notable Books of the Year, by The New York Times, she has twice won the Maine Fiction Award, as well as an NEA Grant and Guggenheim Fellowship. She is currently President of the Authors Guild.