Because this idea is so novel, and also extremely timely, I'm thrilled to shine the Author Spotlight on Robyn Ryle. Happy Reading!
Who: Robyn Ryle
What do you tell yourself when you begin to doubt yourself as a writer? How often do you doubt yourself?
I doubt myself almost constantly, though a little less when I’m writing nonfiction. Maybe that’s why I’ve had more success in publishing nonfiction. Or maybe I feel more confident in my ability to clearly convey interesting information in nonfiction than I do in my ability to make art in fiction. Making art feels like a lot.
When the voices of doubt get worse than usual, I’ll make little affirmation post-it notes to put on my computer, right by the keyboard so I have to see them when I’m working. They say things like, “You’ve got this!” or “You’re always happy to have written!” or “You are the audience!” or “Keep going!” Obviously, some of them are just straight-up cheerleading. Some of them are reminding me of what is true—even when each and every word feels excruciatingly painful, I’m still glad to have written them. The next day, those words are almost never as bad as they felt when they were coming out. Even if they aren’t so great, it’s a place to start from. Something on the page is always better than nothing. So just keep plugging away.
Do you have a secret for handling bad book reviews? And, yes, what is it?
My secret is not to read them. Or at least to do my best to avoid them. I can’t lie and say I haven’t read any. But I do think that once a book is done and out there in the world, there’s not much point in reading bad reviews. It’s not like there’s anything I can do about it at that point. The book is written and my part’s done. The bad reviews I have read are all mostly about what my book isn’t. They’re disappointed that my book isn’t the book they wanted it to be and I get that. I can have compassion for that. I wish my book could be all things to all people, but there aren’t enough pages!
If you have pets, what do they think about the time you spend writing and not lavishing them with attention?
I have two cats so thankfully, they require only cat-sized levels of attention. My writing cat, Kevin (my daughter named her and, yes, Kevin is a girl), is almost always with me when I’m working. I write in our upstairs bedroom in the morning, so as I’m eating my breakfast downstairs, she sits at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me to head upstairs. While I’m writing, she’s either sleeping on the bed or on the footstool of my chair. If she’s not waiting for me at the stairs, I’ll say, “You want to write?” and then she’ll follow me up. So the words she knows are ‘treat,’ ‘out,’ and ‘write.’ I find it very difficult to write without at least one cat in the room. I don’t know how cat-less writers get anything done.
What was the most difficult part of SHE/HE/THEY/ME for you to write? The easiest?
The most difficult part was balancing what I hoped would be a fun book to read with the very real and serious issues involved. I worried about this a lot. It is interesting to learn about gender, but also people lose their jobs, their families, their friends, their health and their lives over gender. The discrimination and violence that so many people face because of their gender, sexual identity and race has to be treated with all the seriousness it deserves in a choose-your-own-adventure style format. That was hard, along with expressing as much as possible about the diversity of how people live their gender. I didn’t cover everything because that would have taken ten volumes. But deciding what got in and what didn’t was hard.
The easiest part was writing about gender in cross-cultural and historical perspective. As a professor, I get a lot of papers that begin with something like, “Throughout all time, women have been the caretakers,” or “Men have always….blah, blah, blah.” There is almost nothing you can say about gender that has been true for all time or across all places on the planet. Really. Nothing. And trying to get that across in the book was fun, which also made it feel easy.
If you could choose, would you have your novel adapted as a film, television show, mini-series, graphic novel or video game? Why?
Video game, of course! It’s in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure! I’d love for it to be available as an app people could download on their phone, with graphics and links to outside sources and videos. That would be awesome.