Hello! I’m so excited to have Robin Jones Gunn share with us about her newest release, Becoming Us today!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
From the author of the best-selling Christy Miller and SisterChicks series comes a new book of community, friendship, and tackling the hard things of life with God and loved ones around a table.
Five young moms, including beloved Gunn character Christy Miller, gather to share meals and soon become unlikely best friends. The regular gatherings provide opportunities for the women to reveal their stories, and those life stories endear them to each other. They experience their lives naturally meshing as they raise their children together in community. In Becoming Us the group find ways to challenge, encourage, and help each other become the nurturing mothers they wished they’d had when they were growing up. They unite to be remembered for what they do as moms and not for what was done to them.
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Hello Robin! Thank you so much for joining me on the blog today.
Your new novel, Becoming Us, focuses on developing strong friendships. Why do you think it’s important to build community with other women?
One of the prompts for me to write Becoming Us came from a tag line on an article in Simple magazine April, 2015.
Have we replaced real friendships with Facebook likes and are we too far gone to fix it? Here’s why face-to-face connections are so crucial.
The piece gave sobering statistics based on a study out of Duke University conducted over the last twenty years showing the changes in how we experience community.
– People who regularly invite friends over 30% drop
– People who join clubs and civic organizations 58% drop
– People who lack a close confidant and friend 25%
– People who are one friend away from social isolation 50%
– People who move away from their hometowns 60%
The article included a photo of a group of young women from Kentucky who started a book club but then changed it to a “non-book club” since so many of the women didn’t have time to read the book and then wouldn’t come. They switched to reading magazine articles instead and gathered to discuss them. One woman said, “We now share our deepest hopes and fears. I’m not sure any of us were expecting that level of connection.”
I’ve written several series of novels over the last few decades. All of them focus on a strong sense of community between the women. Christy Miller has her “Forever Friends”, the Women of Glenbrooke gathered together throughout the 8-book series and the Sisterchicks novels highlighted the benefits gained when traveling with other women.
Over the last few years, I’ve been paying attention to how this generation of young women is connecting and the ways they speak into each other’s lives. It’s different than the way their grandmothers did when they gathered to play bridge or the way their mothers joined a book club or a Bunko group. These women check each other out online before they get together. They can view images the other women post of their children, spouse, new sofa and what they made for dinner.
What draws them together is the need to experience the non-verbal communication that can only be experienced when face-to-face. They want to be known. They want to share experiences. They want personal antidotal advice beyond Web MD for why their child won’t eat apples. They want to belong.
The characters in Becoming Us are fictional but their life stage is familiar to me because my daughter and daughter-in-law have shared what their socializing looks like and what they value. I’ve been invited to slip into local gatherings of young moms and have been warmed by the depth at which the women share with each other.
Life issues haven’t changed over the generations, but the way women gather and share those experiences has. Becoming Us takes readers into a world that will feel familiar because of the interaction between the characters. But the story also shows ways that women can beat the current statistics and develop meaningful friendships.
The book kicks off with Emily attending a Favorite Things Party. Where did you get this idea? Can you share your “favorite thing” with us?
The inspiration for a Favorite Things Party came from a real life experience when I attended a Favorite Things party at Alyssa Bethke’s home a few years ago. I have a sweet relationship with Alyssa. We wrote a book together! (Spoken For) Yet as I approached her front door I felt nervous. Would I know anyone there? What if the gifts I brought for the exchange were all wrong? What if no one talked to me?
That’s when I knew where the story would begin. On the doorstep. Doesn’t it seem like we all end up on a doorstep at some time and it’s up to us to ring the bell before the next, new possibility opens up to us? It takes courage to make new friends in any life stage.
And just to let you know, Alyssa’s Favorite Things party was delightful in every way. Alyssa is a graceful hostess, like Jennalyn, and she made everyone feel welcomed. The gift I took that night was my favorite English Breakfast tea and little packs of Scottish shortbread cookies. My thought was that it could be a little treat that would prompt a pause during a busy day. I love to do that – stop in the middle of the afternoon and gather my thoughts with a cuppa tea and a cookie. What I didn’t anticipate was the number of gluten-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free young women in the group! They were the ones who brought spray bottles of homemade organic lemon countertop cleaner as their gift. (Which I liked very much!) My gift wasn’t a hit but the conversations that evening were golden.
During one scene of the book, the women get together for a “Grace Kelly Day.” What inspired this scene? Have you had your own Grace Kelly Days?
Oh, yes, indeed! I have had several fabulous Grace Kelly Days.
The first one was many years ago when my best friend turned thirty. I borrowed a classic red Mustang and three of us kidnapped her and took her to a new, hip restaurant. No kids, no counting calories, no fear of laughing too loud because no one in the restaurant would ever see us again. It was the best day.
Then about six years ago I wanted to do something like that with my friend, Jill. My husband and I live in Hawai’i and it’s terrible to say but sometimes all of us here get into such a focused work mode we don’t get out and enjoy the gorgeous beauty of our island home. Jill and I decided we needed to get out of the house, out of town, out of our ruts and feel like we were living a scene out of a classic movie. Grace Kelly came to mind and the image of her driving the winding roads of Monte Carlo without a care in the world.
I picked Jill up at 8am in a convertible. We wore big sunglasses, tossed long scarves around our necks and drove upcountry with the music blasting. We found a café where we had coffee and talked for hours. Then Jill showed me the house where their family lived when their kids were little. We walked through the park behind her old house and I learned so much about my sweet friend. We laughed hard and cried a little over shared places of pain in our pasts. That day was a gift.
I did something similar recently for another friend when she turned seventy. She painted her nails red, bought big, round sunglasses and pulled out a silk scarf from a trip to Europe long ago. We sailed down a country road and after breakfast I read to her from one of my favorite 100-year-old books. Such a rich time together.
Talking about these happy memories makes me eager for another Grace Kelly Day. Who wants to come with me? Not possible, you say? Well, at least you can read about the Grace Kelly Day the Daughter of Eve shared in Becoming Us!
What can you tell us about what you’re working on next? Will we get to read more about Emily, Christy, and Sierra?
The happy answer is, yes! Becoming Us is the first book in the Haven Makers Series. I’m working on the sequel now and can promise you more friendship growing adventures with Emily, Christy, Sierra, and Tess. The second book is told from Jennalyn’s point of view. It’s been five years since her mom passed away and Jennalyn is experiencing a new wave of loss. Now more than ever she needs to be surrounded by her closest friends. Why is it she keeps pulling away? What is Jennalyn hiding from them?
Thank you so much for joining me on the blog today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ROBIN JONES GUNN is the much-loved author of over 100 books with more than 5.5 million copies of her titles sold worldwide. Her Father Christmas books have been made into 3 Hallmark movies. Her popular Christy Miller series now continues in Christy & Todd: The Married Years and The Baby Years. Robin’s novels and non-fiction works have received multiple awards and are a favorite with book clubs and study groups. Robin and her husband have a grown son and daughter and live in Hawaii.