romance novelist Robyn Carr shared the manuscript for
her latest book with her son, a surgeon, he told her the
opening chapter had to change. On the first page, Dr.
Maggie Sullivan sneaks into the hospital stairwell for a
good, stress-relieving cry after the twin emotional
gut-punch of a miscarriage and getting dumped by her
said, ‘She can’t be crying. Someone would say, ‘Stop
crying, you don’t have what it takes to be a
neurosurgeon,’ " says the best-selling author,
laughing. "He was wrong. Why doesn’t it upset men
if a guy puts his fist through a wall, but if a woman
cries, they don’t know what to do? Women get it. Men
don’t. It may be another century until they do. My
daughter is a police officer, and she has been known to
hide in her squad car and cry."
what women do and say and want is something Carr — who
calls herself "an old feminist" who fought for
the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida’s Broward County
in the 1970s — has considered hard over her long
career. At 65, she has written more than 50 books, the
latest of which is "What We Find" (Mira,
$26.99), the kickoff of her new "Sullivan’s
Crossing" series. In "What We Find,"
Maggie Sullivan finds herself desperately needing a
break, and so she leaves Denver for rural Sullivan’s
Crossing to stay with her eccentric father and —
hopefully — heal. Naturally life turns out to be more
complicated than she expects, and one of its
complications is a mysterious hiker named Cal Jones. You
will not be surprised to learn he has a secret.
taps into female emotions over and over in her books,
which incorporate romance and women’s issues.
romance, we’re trying to discover a perfect
love," she explains. "In women’s fiction, we’re
trying to find ourselves. Usually I create a
you’ll learn swiftly when you pick up "What We
Find," Maggie Sullivan’s weeping stayed in the
book. But Carr admits she always wants a happy ending.
don’t want to cry. I don’t want tragedy. I want
hopefulness. People do have hopeful lives. They resolve
their issues and have happy lives! Those are the people
I want to share with my readers."
Why are you drawn to women’s issues as a writer?
Since the dawn of time, women have been left in charge
of all relationships. Guys went out and slew woolly
mammoths while women were dealing with how the family
feels, the romantic relationships, who’s caring for
the children or aging parents. But those are all men’s
issues, too. My husband had to deal with his aging
parents and figure out solutions. Still he would say:
How ’bout those Red Sox! He didn’t want to talk
about it or dwell on it. Divorce and widowhood are every
bit as much a man’s problem. But women, we take each
other’s temperature to see how we’re holding up. Men
have brains divvied up into nice, neat little
compartments. Women have brains that have wires
connected to everything else. I want to be a man in my
next life for two reasons: One, they have compartments,
and two, they can pee off a boat.
Location plays a big role in your books. The
"Thunder Point" series takes place in an
idyllic Oregon coastal town, for example, and the
"Virgin River" series is set in California’s
redwood forests. Is the perfect setting part of the
Absolutely. You want to go there. To me, the places seem
realistic because they are! The Virgin River area of
Humboldt County exists among the redwoods and the
How did you choose the setting for the new series?
Starting a series is tough. You have to look for the
right location if you’re going to make that location a
character. It has to fit your style and what you do. I’ve
been thinking of Sullivan’s Crossing a long time, ever
since I read "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. I
really loved the outdoorsy quality and the hiking saga.
The idea of through-hikers fascinated me. I started
thinking I want to do something that capitalized on
that, so where would it be? Colorado came right to mind.
In the valley south of Denver in the "Sullivan’s
Crossing" series, there are hundreds of hiking
trails, hundreds of places to climb. All of that exists.
What doesn’t exist is Cal and Maggie. They’re mine.
Do you feel there’s a prejudice against genre writers?
We still see prejudice with romance fiction. "These
are just chick books," so therefore they’re not
great. Maya Angelou had that great quote: "There is
no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside
you." That doesn’t just apply to the poet
laureate. But I do think the prejudice is less than when
I started. Then it was horrible. Sexism was more obvious
then. People used to say terrible things in reviews of
What are some of the books or authors you’d recommend
to someone who wanted to dive into romance novels for
the first time?
Kristan Higgins’ "The Best Man." It’s a
great romance. If you like historical romance, read
Eloisa James. She’s also a college professor, a Ph.D.
She’s a brilliant woman and a feminist. And Susan
Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars series — it’s
about a football team! They’re great romance at its
Where do you recommend readers start with your books?
Probably the first "Virgin River" book
["Virgin River"]. If you like that, you’ll
probably like everything else. That’s the gateway
drug. I felt I was on something when I was writing them!
It’s so much fun. I promise I don’t suffer much at
all. I’m not a tortured writer. I have a lot of writer
acquaintances with the back of their hands planted on
their foreheads, but that doesn’t describe me.