Posted on 02/19/2019 at 02:50 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
A prolonged, dramatic health ordeal inspired Shawn P. B. Robinson to write and publish books, but not necessarily for the reasons one might think.
It wasn’t that he was destined to write medical thrillers or even that he had long dreamed of becoming a writer and his crisis became a wake-up call.
Instead, it was the much more sobering thought that if he didn’t recover, then at least his young sons would remember him by the tale he had spun them.
Long story short, Robinson developed encephalitis — brain swelling, in layman’s terms — after a bout with shingles, and once the diagnosis was clear, he found himself in an isolation room and unable to do much without pain.
The doctors were tight-lipped about his prognosis, too, which kept thoughts about his mortality at the front of his mind. So, during those difficult, dull months, the best thing to do was daydream.
While he continues to deal with the side effects of his ordeal, Robinson is out of the hospital and into a writing groove.
He has released a three-book series and a short-story collection for younger readers, with another one on its way.
We focused on his writing journey in our interview with him, but if you want to learn more about the medical drama (and who, beyond the needle-phobic, wouldn’t want to?), here’s an essay he previously posted.
SADYE: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative background before becoming a writer?
SHAWN: I was a very imaginative child. I would create a world and feel the emotions of it and work through the challenges.
I could laugh out loud or bring myself to tears with my imagination. In hindsight, it must have been quite the sight to watch me daydream.
I also loved to read and found myself immersed in stories. I can't tell you how often I felt I was the character in the book.
In my teenage years, I began to find some opportunities to create and tell stories to others. I began to teach a children's Sunday school class, I worked at a summer camp and told stories, and I even ended up working with youth, teaching and telling stories.
I had wanted to be a pastor when I grew up, and my dad had told me, "If you want to be able to teach adults, learn to teach children."
I think his point was, if you can keep a squirming eight-year-old with a four-second attention span interested, you can teach anyone.
Learning to teach and tell stories to children was, perhaps, one of the greatest things I have learned in life.
When my kids came along (from where I can't tell you), I took the opportunity to make up stories for them. I would create a story about one of my sons and a friend going on an adventure, extending the tale out over weeks or even months.
My books about Jerry the Squirrel are actually based on some bedtime stories I used to make up for them.
SADYE: Was it physically difficult to create your books as you recovered?
SHAWN: Absolutely! For one thing, I started to write my novel series while anti-virals were being pumped into my arm three times a day. ...
I was also dealing with terrible headaches (the kind of encephalitis I had was a viral infection in the brain). On top of the headaches, I had a viral infection in my eye, threatening to blind me — that was painful.
With the headaches and the infection in my eye, writing was quite hard. It was also the only thing I really could do. ...
One of the other challenges was (and continues to be) memory.
Since my brain was undergoing a major renovation, my memory ended up somewhat forgotten — by my brain. It's hard to write a story when there are many details about your story that you just can't remember.
The upside to the terrible memory, however, is in the editing phase.
Since I don't always remember everything I've written, it allows me to enjoy my story, almost as if someone else wrote it.
I write a lot of humor in my books, and I'm often surprised by it and find myself laughing as if I'd never read the story before in my life.
It's one of the joys of a terrible memory. I get to read my own books for the first time, again and again!
SADYE: What has been your favorite or most rewarding feedback from a young reader?
SHAWN: Oh, that's a hard one. I have loved my interactions with so many young people. ...
But I think one of the most rewarding interactions came from a young lady who told me she wanted to be a writer one day.
I can still remember, even with my poor memory, the look on her face as she asked questions, looking for advice as to how she could be an author.
The thought of being able to encourage her along her path was more rewarding than much of the feedback I've received so far!
SADYE: What message would you like readers to take away from your books?
SHAWN: First, I would like them to see the tenacity of the characters in the book.
They are faced with constant challenges and discouraging experiences, but they push through and continue on — often continuing even when no one is standing with them.
We need more of that in this world!
Second, I would like people to know that it is okay to enjoy a story and just laugh. So often we get caught up in life trying to be so serious.
We are worried about so many things. Perhaps we just need a good story and a good laugh.
One of the surprises for me has been with my books of short stories. I wrote them for parents to read to kids as fun bedtime stories, but adults seem to enjoy them as much (or more) than the kids.
Not because the humor is "adult," by any means. I think it is just that many of us can relate to the difficulty the characters face and the need for tenacity in our lives.
And, perhaps, we all just need a good laugh.
SADYE: What do your kids think about their dad being an author?
SHAWN: They have a great time with it. In my novel series, I named the two main characters after my two kids, and in some ways, the characters reflect a little bit of my sons’ character.
I think they like having books written about them. They also enjoy the stories and love the humor.
I read my books to my kids and get feedback from them first before I pass the story on to my editors or alpha readers.
They either love the idea that their dad is an author or they love me enough to pretend they don't mind.
SADYE: What do you find is your biggest obstacle as an author?
SHAWN: Since recovering from my battle with encephalitis, I've been left with many limitations. One of them has to do with my brain's endurance.
I can be writing and making great progress and suddenly find my brain says to me, “Okay, it's quittin’ time! You either stop and take a nap or you can stop and take a nap. It's your choice.”
I feel like I take enough naps to rival a household cat. I want to write, but I simply don't always have the energy.
I do, however, manage to write at least a little bit each and every day — between naps.
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Categories: Author Interview