Debut author Robin Constantine discusses her book, The Promise of Amazing and gives us some background on Grayson and his shady behavior.
Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.
I’m from the same hometown as GoT author George R.R. Martin.
Thin Mints are my favorite cookies. I could probably devour a sleeve of them in minutes and am very grateful they are only available at a certain time of the year.
“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera is my power song when I exercise. I ran the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon two years ago and played it on repeat for the last three miles of the race.
I minored in Dance in college and have taken classes in everything from Baroque to Belly Dancing. Baroque is oddly difficult to master and killer on your calves!
My best friends are people I met in elementary and high school. It’s harder to keep in contact these days but whenever we get together it’s like no time has passed. We talk from the moment we see each other until the last goodbye. Then text each other like crazy for days after.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
When I was thirteen, my best friend and I would spend hours after school writing stories in notebooks and exchanging them. We’d write these epic, endless tales of life in high school, that were embarrassingly melodramatic but we loved them anyway. I think I may still have one of those notebooks somewhere! So I always loved to write and made it a point to have some sort of writing class or activity through high school and college. After graduation, I landed a job at a PR firm, and there was writing involved. It was more business writing than anything creative but that taught me to be concise. It was only after I had my first child that I decided to pursue fiction with the goal of publication. I joined SCBWI, an organization for children’s writers, and formed a critique group. The scariest part in the beginning was sharing my work and getting feedback, but it’s such a necessary step if you want to improve. I won some contests, collected some ‘good’ rejection letters where editors encouraged me to keep submitting, and I kept writing. In 2008, I connected with my agent through an online contest (which I won!) and when it was over she requested my full manuscript. Shortly after she made an offer of representation. My first manuscript didn’t sell, but in 2012 we went out with The Promise of Amazing, and within a week it sold. And what I’m realizing now is that publication is just a part of the journey. I appreciate where I am, and what it took to get here but there’s always room for improvement and more challenges. I think that’s why I love doing what I do – my work is constantly evolving. There’s never a day that is the same.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
As I teen I felt pressured to figure everything out before graduation. On this side of graduation, you realize while it’s great to have a goal, so many things potentially change along the way, even what you think you might want to do. It’s important to do well and get into a great school, if that’s what you’re striving for, but it’s important to realize the world won’t end if you don’t get into your first choice or things don’t work out as planned. I was sort of lost until junior year in college, but when I naturally gravitated toward communications, which was really a mash-up of everything I loved – psychology/media/writing – I realized it’s fine not to know what you want so specifically, you can figure it out as you go along. I wanted to address this in a story, have a character totally clueless but feeling pressured to figure things out and by the end knowing it’s really okay to take it one moment at a time. What I love about writing characters in high school is that it’s such a volatile time in life. On the one hand you’re expected to make all these life decisions and on the other hand you’re wondering where the party is over the weekend – and both seem equally significant. How can it not be exciting?
What was your favorite chapter/scene to write and why?
Easy. Chapter Fifteen from Wren’s POV in Guinevere’s Cottage where she and Grayson give in to their mutual attraction. I think this was one of the first scenes in my mind’s eye, the scene I was writing toward when I began the story. I love how it starts out so awkward, escalates to being a little steamy and then gets grounded in the awkward again. I wanted to make it funny, and cute and romantic because ‘love scenes’ if that’s what you want to call them, are my favorite to write. Hopefully I succeeded there!
In The Promise of Amazing, Grayson has done some pretty shady things. Where did you get the idea for what he and his friends were doing?
The seed of the story was planted in my brain while house hunting. I was concerned about the unusual amount of break-ins in the area I’d been looking in because it seemed so sprawling and green and sedate. My realtor calmed my nerves by saying that most of the crimes committed were not random, but came in rashes. (Not sure that was exactly calming!) Then she shared a news story with me about a group of teens who’d been targeting mall parking lots. They would scope out open vehicles, grab garage door openers and get the homeowner’s address from the registration, then head there and take things before their victim was finished shopping. I thought a couple of things after hearing that. One – I’d never leave my garage door opener in my car. Two – That was more thought out than your average crime. Three – That would make a great story. Crime wasn’t something I normally wrote about, so I pushed it out of my mind. Or so I thought – the story just kept stalking me. When I sat down to write TPofA the story elements fell together. I put a more sinister twist on the crime itself and took it from there.
Family dynamics play a role in the story as well. How did you decide to structure the families the way you did?
I knew I wanted both characters to have families who were present in their lives. The structure wasn’t planned but more revealed to me as I got to know both Wren and Grayson better. I love Grayson’s relationship with his father, in particular. He worries about him and I think out of everyone, letting him down makes Grayson feel the worst. And I loved Wren being the youngest in her family, because that’s my birth order too. I don’t think it would have felt authentic to me if their families weren’t a part of the story.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
My toughest criticism came from a rejection letter I received a few years ago that among other things contained the zinger: “The writing is just not there.” Ouch. That haunts me, but it also makes me work harder. Also “meh” is never a great thing to hear in relation to something you’ve poured your heart into writing, but not everyone is going to like what you do so you have to learn to embrace that.
What has been the best compliment?
“Your characters are so relatable, I felt like they could be my friends” is always lovely to hear because this is one of the things I strive for as an author. So is, “looking forward to your next book!”
Do you most relate to your main characters, or your secondary characters?
I’d like to think I relate to both, but it’s definitely important to get into your main characters heads since they are the focus. In TPofA, I completely related to Wren and her cluelessness about certain things, but I also related to Grayson and his struggle to want to do the right thing and falling short. That said, I also related to Luke. Yes, total jerk in some respects but I had to figure out a way to understand why he felt justified in doing what he did. It was also just pure fun getting into the heads of Wren’s friends. So while I would have to say I most relate to my main characters, I do love my secondary ones too, and could easily take any character in the book and tell you their story. I think it’s important to do that in every work. You need to be able to see the story through every character’s eyes. No matter how minor.
Do you have things you need in order to write (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music)?
Coffee. Fuzzy socks or slippers. Lip balm.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
This is going to sound insanely boring, but my favorite place to write is at home. I occasionally go out and about – editing and revision are easy for me to do at a library or a café – but when I really have to get serious work done, I need silence and focus and the ability to talk to myself without people looking at me like I’m crazy. I also like knowing my creature comforts are near.
What is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
First. You have more time to play around with it. I always worry my last lines aren’t profound enough.
What one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. Such a fun read! I love the London setting. And Julia and Jason’s kiss in the rain? Um, swoon. This is the kind of book I would have loved in high school. (I love it now though too!)
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a companion novel to The Promise of Amazing. The story takes place a few months later and is told from the POV of Wren’s BFF Madison and a new male character. While there might be some elements left over from TPofA, this story will be a new set of circumstances completely separate from the first book. It’s been great writing from Maddie’s POV because she’s so different from Wren and I’ve loved getting to know the new characters too.
About Robin Constantine
Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene.