Robyn Harding joined us in The Behind the Pages for a spoiler free Q & A to answer our questions about her new exciting and thrilling page turner The Swap. I am excited to share some of the Q & A with you today.

Brenda: What an exciting and twisted tale!!! How did you come up with the idea for the story?

Robyn: There are a handful of people in my orbit who have open relationships. And I’ve heard that it’s quite common with millennials. It got me to wondering how that would work in reality. And of course (because I write thrillers), how could it all go so wrong

Brenda: What came first the plot or the idea of the characters?

Robyn: I always come up with a plot first. And then I create characters who I want to spend time with, who I want to see endure the crazy twists and turns that I plan to take them through.

Lindsay: Hi Robyn! Just finished The Swap and loved it!

I’m wondering if you plan out your books ahead of time or do you start with an idea and then let the characters take you where they want to go?

Robyn: Thank you Lindsay! I always start with a kernel of an idea and build a plot from there. I use screenplay structure to create a loose framework, and write from plot point to plot point.

Lindsay: I thought all the characters were so unique and well done! I was fascinated by them and their inner thoughts. What kind of research did you do to come up with these characters?

Robyn: I always write detailed profiles for my characters, giving them backstories that inform the decisions they make and they way they act. I did some research into open relations (talking to people with experience in that kind of situation) and looked into influencer culture. When you spend so much time with characters, you start to innately understand how they would act and react

Brenda: You created a fast-paced page-turner here and one of the things that made it one for me was the sense of dread, foreboding and suspense you created by leaving us little tidbits at the end of the chapter that made it impossible not read one more chapter. Right from the end of the first chapter, I knew I need to know more about these Kindred spirits

How did you go about creating and maintaining that?

Robyn: I had never written like that before, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work. In early drafts, I had too many hints, too much foreshadowing, so I pared it down. I really like that story telling quality, where you feel like someone is sitting down with you and recounting what happened. I’m so glad it worked for you!

Brenda: I loved how the story was told from a few POVs and we got to see Freya from them. How did you go about capturing their voices and developing them? Did you focus on one character at a time or did you develop them as you writing and they appear in the book?

Why did you choose to leave Freya’s POV out?

Do you feel your characters speak to you or hear them in your head as you were writing?

Robyn: At first, I was going to tell the whole story from Low’s perspective, but I love writing multiple POVs and I knew it would give us greater access into the lives of the characters. I always write profiles for my characters, so I know them pretty well before I even start writing.

I intentionally left out Freya’s POV. She is the object of so much desire, anger, and obsession. Seeing her through the eyes of those who alternately love and loathe her, added to her sense of mystery and intrigue. I wanted her to be slightly unknowable, so that she’s as fascinating to the reader as she is to the other characters.

And my characters don’t really speak to me, but I do hear their voices as I write. I can see them too!

Carolyn: Hi Robyn, I’m interested in Low’s character and why she is a social misfit and became obsessed with the first person to take an interest in her.

Do you attribute it to her unusual appearance, her upbringing in an unusual family where the parents might have been more wrapped up in their lifestyle than looking out for the kids or is there something innate to her personality or mental health?

Robyn: Hi Carolyn. I think Low’s obsessiveness is a combination of all the things you mentioned. She never quite fits in because of her quirky personality, her unique appearance, and her family’s lifestyle. I also think she has some mental health issues that are exacerbated by her parents, who are loving, but distracted by their relationships and their younger children.

Brenda: You create some unlikable fascinating characters here. How important is it to you to create that balance and how did you go about creating them unlikable yet interesting enough for readers to want to turn the pages to find out what happens to them?

Robyn: I think I might be the queen of unlikable characters. 😉 But I write about people going through drama and strife, and it brings out the worst in them. I focus more on keeping them interesting, while trying to throw in some redeeming qualities. Personally, I love reading about unlikable characters, or watching them on TV. Succession is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and they’re all absolutely horrible!

Brenda: Was there one character you had more fun creating or one you found more of a challenge?

Robyn: Low was so much fun to write because she is so unique, and I find her really funny. She’s so young but so cynical and jaded. Jamie was hard to write sometimes because I wanted her to relatable, but she clearly made some suspect choices, and when the chips were down, her ugly side came out.

Brenda: How important is the setting to you and why did you decide on the setting you used and go about creating it?

Robyn: I am Canadian but my US editor prefers I set my books in the US. At first, I was a bit upset, but I’ve found it works quite well. Some of my books make more sense in a large, US city. But The Swap takes place on an unnamed island and I never specifically say whether it is in the US or Canada. I love the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC. And I felt like they were the perfect setting for a sexy, creepy story like this!

Marilyn: Do you have a vision of the characters after the book finishes? How they might continue on in life, despite or because of the things that happened in the story?

Robyn: The character I can really see beyond the story is Low. At the end of the novel, she is making some major changes in her life. Despite what she did and what she went through, I see her moving on and having a fairly normal life. She has a friendship. She’s getting an education. I think she might become a very successful artist or photographer

DeAnn: Hi Robyn! I’m curious if you are a potter since you made that a big part of Freya’s life on the island. I’ll never think of a kiln quite the same way now!

Robyn: Ha ha! I took a pottery class for three months and I loved it. I wasn’t exactly a natural, but I have two slightly lopsided bowls that I still use. My pottery teacher actually suggested the unique use of the kiln.

Carolyn: Hi Robyn, I’m interested in Low’s character and why she is a social misfit and became obsessed with the first person to take an interest in her. Do you attribute it to her unusual appearance, her upbringing in an unusual family where the parents might have been more wrapped up in their lifestyle than looking out for the kids or is there something innate to her personality or mental health?

Robyn: Hi Carolyn. I think Low’s obsessiveness is a combination of all the things you mentioned. She never quite fits in because of her quirky personality, her unique appearance, and her family’s lifestyle. I also think she has some mental health issues that are exacerbated by her parents, who are loving, but distracted by their relationships and their younger children.

Brenda: How has the journey of writing The Swap to the release and now been like for you?

Robyn: I had so much fun writing this book. I hadn’t written in first person for a long time, and I enjoyed the change/challenge.

I could never have foreseen that I’d be publishing during a pandemic! It has been quite stressful — though I know there ware much bigger things to worry about right now. The book has still not made its way into some book stores, but the online support has been phenomenal. I’m so grateful to readers and online book groups — like this one — for spreading the word!

Brenda: What would you like for readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like us to know?

Robyn: Many of my books have a common theme…. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Superficial things don’t bring happiness. When people pine for something or someone — for the wrong reasons — it rarely goes well. In real life, that probably won’t get you murdered, but it just might in a suspense novel!

Brenda: Are you working on anything you can share with us?

Robyn: I’m currently writing a novel about a family who look perfect from the outside: nice home, cars, the kids go to nice schools. One night, some hooligans pelt them with eggs. Then their tires are slashed. As the attacks escalate, the family denies any knowledge of why they’re being targeted. But each member of the family has a horrible secret. And it could be the cause of all the harassment.

I’m calling it MISCHIEF.

More of the Q & A can be found here

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