Like Robyn Carr‘s favorite film Love Actually, her Thunder Point series teems with interconnected characters—including the fictional town from which it gets its name.
Zola: Thunder Point, the novel’s fictional setting, is a charming Oregon coastal town. Is it based on anywhere you’ve lived or visited?
Robyn Carr: Thunder Point isn’t based on any one specific town, but I went in search of the perfect location. In a series like Thunder Point, if the setting is to become a character, then it has to be special and unique. On a road trip with my husband, slowly driving up the Oregon coast, there were too many breathtaking vistas to count. It was important to me to be near one of the US Coast Guard air stations; I had it in mind to feature a USCG Search and Rescue pilot. There was a spot just south of Bandon on the coast that excited me the second I saw it! It was a quiet bay between two long promontories that reached out to the Pacific. There were mountainous black rocks in the bay and the ocean was crashing against their rocky edges. There was a small town and marina tucked into one corner of the bay but the rest of the beach and land was undeveloped. One look and I said, “There it is.” It was small, peaceful, industrious. It was also ordinary; it was every town, a place where people made a living, made families, made friends and it was settled right into the rocky, mountainous coast, a rugged and sexy landscape.
Zola: There are many different relationships—between lovers, old friends, new friends, and family—that develop in the Thunder Point series. When you’re planning a new novel, how do you keep track of all of the interconnections?
RC: I make a lot of lists and keep a messy notebook—but I know where everything is. I also have to do a lot of re-reading. At any given time during the writing of a book in a series I probably have one to three earlier manuscripts in windows on the screen so I can keep track of facts. But I have to get to know a lot of characters before I can even begin. And I have to know how they’re interconnected because it’s important that their independent lives converge by the end of that book, that segment. It won’t surprise you to learn that my favorite movie is Love Actually, which has ten plot lines and ten different relationship stories that all come together in the end. I love a big cast!
Zola: You’ve said you use family events to inspire certain story lines. Which, if any, situations in the series are based on experiences you’ve been through?
RC: Well, I don’t actually use major family events so much as entertaining characteristics or statements or anecdotes. If I hear my daughter and husband joking around about something and it makes me laugh or cringe or almost weep with sentimentality, I might use it, but in an entirely different context. My son told me about some of his Army training films of actual events that he viewed while in his orthopedic residency—wartime injuries or medical interventions that both shocked and fascinated me. I used some of those examples for my characters who had been to war. The bottom line is: I pay attention. And if I hear something interesting or fascinating or miraculous or astonishing or funny or whatever, I’ll research it to be sure it’s accurate, then I might write about it in my own words. Be careful what you tell a novelist!
Zola: You were first published more than 30 years ago. To what do you attribute your long-term success? How have you evolved as a writer?
RC: That depends on your definition of success. I’ve only been a bestselling author for the past few years but for the entirety of my 35 year career, I considered it a successful year if I was able to write full-time, if I didn’t have to put my writing aside and get a day job to pay the bills and, most importantly, if I was proud of my books. I think the Virgin River series, the first of my bestsellers, struck the reading public at exactly the time when they were attracted to a book of the type I was writing—a long running community series that combined small town drama with romance and women’s fiction. I guess the short answer is, I had perseverance and the timing was finally right.
Zola: Of the more than 50 books you’ve written, which is your favorite?
RC: I have many favorites and my favorite is usually the one I’m working on, but I could never name just one and I’m so grateful for that. That means there are too many I love to list. In fact, when a reader writes to me about a specific book I’ll often respond with, “I’m so glad you like it! I loved writing that book!” Every book is an adventure, a trip to another place and time, a long visit with new people whom I find fascinating and so likable. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of them, hard to say goodbye. But there are more trips to take, more people to meet, more adventures ahead!
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.