Interview with Dorothy Robey

I met Dorothy in one of my on-line writers groups, Women Writers, Women’s Books and I was happy when she contacted me to let me know she had just published “Passage of Promise.”

Dorothy Robey received her B.A. in English and Creative Writing in November 2018, with honors from Southern New Hampshire University. Her short story, Summer Memories, written in 2015, was published in Scribes Valley Publishing’s April 2018 anthology. In addition, one of her short plays, Falling Up Stairs, originally written for a playwriting class in college, was performed on a small, local theater’s stage in January 2018. Her novel, Passage of Promise, was published May 1, 2020.

What inspired you to start writing? Ever since grade school, I had a natural inclination to write stories, with a big imagination. I daydreamed a lot. But what makes my ability to write so extraordinary was that I hated to read and had reading comprehension problems through elementary and secondary schools. Still, somehow I could write, for the most part, grammatically correctly. Thankfully, I could also spell pretty well. I believe watching TV shows and movies were my inspiration to be able to write. It goes along with my being a visual learner, seeing the scenes in which my characters are within, like a movie in my head. 

How long have you been writing? If I include the works I wrote in my early teens through my mid-twenties and since starting back up in 2014, it would be about fifteen years.

What about your latest book/story? If you are referring to Passage of Promise, published this past May 1, it’s a story about a woman finding herself via internal and external struggles. She is on a journey to self-discovery, learning what real love means, about a faith instilled in her youth but nearly forgotten as an adult, working through her fear of her nephew’s serious illness, and the contentious relationships with her mother and sister. Woven among Marina’s journey are her family’s Greek Orthodox traditions, adding, I believe, depth and richness to the story. It took five years to get it to the finished/polished state for publishing.

If you are speaking of my newest or present work, I’m revising and editing my novel, What She Didn’t Know, to prepare it for my editor’s editing and proofreading in a few months. It took a year and a half to write, from January 2018 to July 2019. It is about the lives of three sisters who grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father. The middle sister, Gloria, ran away from the violence, and wasn’t seen for a decade. The crux of the story is the effects their harsh and physically abusive father had on each of the sisters by their interactions with each other and their relationships with men.

What influenced the way you tell a story? It’s a combination of personal experiences throughout my life and a pretty fertile imagination. The structure, mechanics, and writing rules I learned via two venues: my critique group and my college writing workshop classes.  

How do you approach the art of writing? I originally wrote my stories, until after writing Passage of Promise, the pantster/stream-of-consciousness method. But I found that it took a lot more revising, as well as, scrambling to create the plot chapter by chapter. So, when I wrote my novella (which is still in revision) Mourning Dove in December 2017, I wrote notes—notes on the main character and supporting characters, as well as plot, so that I had a type of story map in which to study while writing the story. Eventually, I would write notes before starting each chapter, which I also applied in writing What She Didn’t Know, that explained the scenes that would happen in them. I write sporadically, and on average every other to every couple of days. Although, I need to work on a reasonable schedule to keep my shoulders and posture healthy. I need to keep up simple exercises for my shoulders and posture because of perpetual sitting. I would like to work 4-6 hours a day with 5-10-minute breaks each hour, Monday through Friday. For this to come to fruition, I’d need to just write down the ideas that pop in my head to add to my stories in my allotted schedule. This is my goal. 

My favorite place to write is in my bedroom at my nice desk or lying on my bed. The latter is due to my shoulder injury in mid-May, that caused me to be laid up for a couple of months due to horrible pain. In lying down, my neck and shoulders aren’t put under stress because of how most of us work on a computer—hunched over with our heads jutting forward toward the monitor. I’m completely guilty of that! I know it sounds crazy to lie down while typing, but it works for me when I need a break from sitting at the desk. 

Some worthy tips to other writers, from my perspective, is to write out a rough outline or notes on your characters and the plot for your story. Know where your story is going up until the end of it. As I learned from a writing coach, Kate Johnston, if you know how your story will end, you’re more likely to finish it. Also, don’t worry about how well you are writing when producing your first draft. Just write it out. Then you can go back and revise it as much as you like, and from my experience, it’s often. Because, once you have the skeleton of your story, you can add the vital organs, muscles, and skin during the revision and editing process.

What do you read?  I like to read fiction about the human condition. The genres I prefer to read are: women’s fiction, suspense/thriller, and classic literary. 

For growth, I read books on how to improve your writing like the Emotional of Writing, and I do like to read books on Orthodox Christian Saints that inspire me and uplift me in my daily path toward closer connection to God.

My latest recommendation is a book that was out a couple of years ago, I believe. It’s Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. One of the best books I’ve ever read. She had me on the edge of my seat, while my insides were swirling with anticipation and dread on what would eventually and ultimately happens in the story. I cried four times in different sections of the story, and when it ended, I was ready to go back to page one and start again, which, other than the series of the Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes that I read in my late teens and early twenties, I hadn’t wanted to do before. Another book I really enjoyed was Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. So unique, precious, and good in delving into the human condition and the journey of self-discovery, as well. 

I have a few authors that are at the top of my list: Kristin Hannah, Jodi Picoult, Nora Roberts, and Rachel Joyce. A couple of classic writers I enjoy: Mary Shelley and Somerset Maugham. 

I agree! The Great Alone is a fantastic book.

In Passage of Promise there are several highly emotional themes, the most significant being dealing with an ill child. Do you write this from experience?  The idea for the subplot of Christopher’s illness comes from my experience with my son’s medical history—surgeries and treatments—that mirror the character’s experiences, but the character is a few years older than my son was at the time he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 13 months old.

Your writing has a very spiritual leaning and I noticed the genre reflects this. Having read Passage to Promise, I was pleased that the faith reflected was not overwhelmingly specific to one certain belief but generalized enough to include all faith. How has your own faith impacted your writing? What about in these crazy times, when we are all dealing with things we only thought existed in science fiction? Thank you for those kind words. I’m glad you found the novel’s spiritual aspect all-encompassing. Orthodoxy Christianity is a way of life. It’s an actual lifestyle that is part of your everyday routine and existence. The small traditions, as well as the yearly calendar of feasts, fasts, and activities, give me a wholeness as a human being on this earth. My belief in God gives me strength, peace, and comfort throughout all the upsetting and cataclysmic events shaping our world year by year. Therefore, anytime I write a story, that Orthodox lifestyle bleeds into the scenes and characters in one way or another, almost in passing, in some cases, I’ve been told by one of my fellow critique partners. And it works well, according to the feedback I’ve gotten. So, in whatever story I’ve written, with the exception of a couple of very short stories, this will be woven subtly or more overtly in my stories. He gave me the gift to write, and I do so with this natural inclination, and it’s a blessing.

You have another book to be published soon, “Painted With Good Intentions.” What can you tell us about this novel? Actually, Painted With Good Intentions is my work-in-progress. I’m still in the process of writing and creating it, but I’m making great progress! The story that I’m hoping to publish by early next year is What She Didn’t Know that I mentioned earlier. I’m very excited about it! It’s around 4,000 words longer than Passage of Promise, a bit meatier, and from three women’s points of view. It’s a heavier story, but I believe, and others have told me this, that it may be my “break out” novel. I just have to wait and see. God willing, it’ll be loved by many. ☺ 

That’s exciting…I’m looking forward to reading What She Didn’t Know AND any other work.

Any upcoming events? Originally, I had a few events planned, but they were moved to next year. The Authors Showcase event at my local library where 12-15 authors talk about their newest book, with a meet-and-greet, signings, etc. with refreshments, was supposed to have happened in August and then November but has been moved to sometime next year. I don’t have a date right now, as the library hasn’t sent me a scheduled date yet. Barnes and Noble isn’t doing any events (author or otherwise, I was told) any time soon. They didn’t have a date for me. This is the same for the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. Whenever they open up, I’ll be back in touch with them. In addition to that, I had a small signing at my local church last Sunday. It was kind of a last minute set up, but I will probably do another one at my church before the end of the year. Originally, I was hoping to have a booth at my church’s Greek festival it has every year in August, but since it was cancelled, I’ll try next year! 

Final words of wisdom? Make room in your life to do what you love.

Here are links to access Robey’s books and her media