Beautiful and bella, both golden retrievers, have a penchant for putting their paws on Robyn Carr’s laptop and deleting things. Bella – she’s the bossy one – also likes to nudge or two when Carr is typing, which is a problem this morning as a Henderson resident and best-selling author of the Virgin River the series is racing against the deadline on its 65th – no, you didn’t read that book wrong.
“I’m terrible about deadlines,” Carr says. “Every time I see an email from my editor, I get scared. It’s, Oh no, she knows about me! Sometimes the rush is good, but I’m getting too old for that!
Carr, 71, is quick-witted, friendly and excited about this stage of her career – and why not? She is one of the best novelists in the country. So far, his 64 books have sold over 27 million copies and been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries. She spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times list of bestsellers and his 20 books Virgin River The series alone has sold over 13 million copies.
Oh, yes, and in 2019, Virgin River was adapted into a Netflix series that became not just a megahit but a heartwarming cultural touchstone in uncertain times. The series entered its fourth season in July and quickly hit the mighty stranger things – a slightly less comforting touchstone – of his first ranking. The series, and the books from which it sprang, inspired an entire subculture of Virgin River-ology, from fan fiction to college. Carr even learned that a graduate student had written a doctoral thesis on Virgin River.
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Carr discovered romance novels as a reader in the mid-1970s when doctors forced her to keep her feet up during a complicated pregnancy in San Antonio, Texas.
“I was 25, stuck in a small apartment with two babies and no car,” says the former nursing student whose husband was in the Air Force at the time. “A neighbor brought me 10 paperbacks to read. And I was hooked. I read novels all day, reading them falling asleep at night. I thought, if it’s so much fun to read them, wouldn’t it be fun to write one? So I took a notebook and a pen.
She joined a local writer’s review group where another writer pledged to help her find an agent. None of these agents worked, but Carr was determined. “I found an agent, and in 1978 he made photocopies and I sold my first book, a historical romance called Chelynne. It was sent to each publisher and one of them made an offer. We had just been moved by the Air Force to California, and I was alone with the babies that day. I learned that I had an editor, which was the best day of my life. The champagne was supposed to be popping, but I was alone unpacking boxes thinking, “My book is about to be published!” ”
In 2007, Virgin River, about a utopian strip of rugged land in California and the eccentrics who live there, struck readers’ right nerves. “The country was at war and in the middle of a huge recession,” Carr says. “It was a tough time. People didn’t have any money. Not that I planned it, but it was the perfect time to Virgin River. A city like Virgin River is a dream because while quirky, it’s about having good people around you. The Virgin River people are adorably bossy, but they seem to accept themselves as they are, which means a lot.
There were other deals to spin Virgin River in a TV series or movie over the years, but they didn’t stick around until Netflix called. The collaboration has been rewarding — and, in a way, refreshing: Carr doesn’t care about TV plots straying from the books. “I don’t know what’s coming, and that’s fine with me,” Carr says. “I decided before I even signed the contract that there would be a departure. I decided that I wouldn’t mind. The end result is somewhere between ‘Why didn’t they use my idea? to ‘Gee, why didn’t I think of that in the first place?’ I know they are two different projects – the TV series and the books.
Early on, Carr visited the show’s set in Vancouver, British Columbia. “The cast and crew were so personable,” she says. “And it occurred to me that this book had put a lot of people to work on a very good project, which made me happy. One day a tall, bearded carpenter approached and thanked me. Since then , Carr hasn’t visited the set often. “I made the decision not to get too involved. I don’t do movies. I don’t do TV. I could screw it all up. And it’s a totally different thing to write the scripts, what I might do might not be good for television.
Carr praises the cast — even if sometimes the cast’s appearances deviate from what she envisioned. “I am of a certain age. All the handsome guys were Tom Selleck,” she laughs.
But while actor Martin Henderson’s unmoustachioed incarnation of male lead Jack Sheridan strays from Selleck’s ideal, it’s fine with Carr. “Martin makes a very, very good Jack,” she says.
As for the leading lady who plays nurse practitioner Melina “Mel” Moore, Carr says, “Alexandra Breckenridge has more expressions on her face than they fit in a scene. She is marvellous.
The fans know that what makes Virgin River hot are the intense love scenes both on page and on screen between Jack and Mel. And Carr says what makes it work is not the skin, but the syllables.
“The dialogue,” she says, “makes for a good love scene — in a book and in real life.”
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Now single with adult children, Carr says her daily life hasn’t changed drastically since then. Virgin River became a multimedia success. (A TV series based on her Sullivan’s Cross books is also in the works.) “I have emails and interviews,” she says, “but the pandemic means I’m traveling less. Thank goodness for Zoom. I was at my wit’s end with the airports. Just sick of it. My last tour was 17 cities in three months and I was exhausted.
Carr says Henderson, where she has lived since 1999, is the perfect place to recharge her batteries. “I love Henderson, it’s like a small town in a big city. I live near the neighborhood and there are tons of great restaurants. Being a single woman at my age, my favorite outing is lunch or happy hour. I don’t like going out late. Does nothing for me. Meeting at someone’s house here in Henderson is fine too. I’m so introverted too.
Carr doesn’t create a crowd scene when she visits the local grocery store or walks the District sidewalk. “Once in a while someone will find out that I’m a writer and I wrote the Virgin River books. They’ll all be excited, but that doesn’t happen often.
These encounters come and go. What remains is Carr at her computer most mornings. She’s now working on a standalone book — and on that pesky deadline. “I write every day, deadline or not. People ask me the secret to my success and I always say to write anyway. You have to do it daily, even if you’re not inspired or in the mood. The next day, you think back to what you wrote and maybe you think, “Oh, that’s good. Or maybe you think you had a really good day and read it again. , knowing, “Oh, that’s bullshit.
“It doesn’t matter, you press a button, delete, then press the next letter.” ◆