Elisabeth Robinson Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Elisabeth Robinson

Elisabeth Robinson

An interview with Elisabeth Robinson

Elisabeth Robinson explains how her first book is based on her own life and her relationship with her sister, but that she chose to write a novel rather than a memoir in order to be able to write things the way she would have liked them to be - with added 'wish fulfillment'!

Where did your idea for the book originate?
My sister changed my life, and I felt compelled to tell the story of how she did that. I'd always been interested in questions of faith--how can you believe there is meaning in life, or in God when terrible things happen to people? Her defiant optimism, even in the face of lousy odds, was amazing to me, because I had always been pretty cynical and pessimistic, and that became the structure within which I began to write.

Since the novel is based on the true story of what happened to you and your sister, why not write a memoir, why write a novel?
I fictionalized the story because I have been a screenwriter for some time, and after the restrictiveness of writing screenplays, I wanted to be free to discover things and let the story lead me. So, for example, while I did work on a script of Don Quixote, it never got made. But the themes in Quixote echo what I wanted to write about, and it has been a historically impossible movie to get made in Hollywood. So I decided to make it the one the protagonist is trying to produce. I also chose to write a novel so that I could write things the way I would like them to have been--there was some wish fulfillment, like the nasty letters to annoying colleagues and arrogant doctors.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, and what led to the publication of this book, your first novel?
I wrote my first short story when I was eight, and I won some prizes in junior high and high school. In college I lost my nerve and my focus, and I became overly concerned with making money, which led me to study economics, and eventually to the movie business. But my heart was always in books. My first job in film was actually related to publishing--I scouted books for studios to adapt for the movies--and I loved reading four or five books a week.

The last movie I produced was based on a book, and after it was over I had saved enough money for a year. I finally decided to put everything into this long-deferred dream of mine--to show the same grit my sister showed. I decided if I couldn't sell this story in a year, at least I would have really tried, and at least there would be this testament to her fight. Near the end of the year I was in the process of preparing myself for waitressing again when I got the check from Little, Brown--I had $300 left in the bank at the time.

Why did you decide to write the story in letters?
Writing in letters was my biggest worry, because I know it is not exactly in fashion anymore, but I have always been a big letter writer. There is a special intimacy and anticipation in correspondence. It is a very focused dialogue between two people, and there is also built-in suspense. I was reminded of this when my mother sent me an envelope of old letters I had received when I lived in Paris in my 20s, and reading through them I became engrossed to find out what happened--the natural gaps between the letters became an inherent drama. Letters also offered a familiar modularity--in screenwriting I thought in terms of scenes, and in the novel, I thought in terms of letters, which made it manageable to me.

Since your book is based on such an important personal story, what are some of the things you hope to learn or take away from the experience of having written it?
The novel was my own wish fulfillment, not only to write the angry letters I had always wanted to write to doctors, etc., but also to create a character I would like to be more like in some ways. I wanted to create an intimacy with my sister and events, and to spend more time with her by writing about her. Ultimately I hoped to find something beautiful in the inexplicable tragedy of her life, and to believe that she felt this way too. Finally, for me it was a way of truly saying goodbye.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Elisabeth Robinson at BookBrowse
The True and Outstanding Adventures of The Hunt Sisters jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Elisabeth Robinson but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

We recommend 6 similar authors

View all 6 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.