I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

I Always Loved You Signals Career Change for Oliveira

March 2014 — An Exclusive Authorlink Interview

By Columnist Doreen Akiyo Yomoah

Robin Oliveira talks to AUTHORLINK about a huge career change, and discovering gorgeous Paris to research her new historical fiction release, I Always Loved You.

I Always Loved You
by Robin Oliveira

Buy this Book
at Amazon.com

AUTHORLINK: Do you remember when you started writing, or is it something you’ve always done?

OLIVEIRA: I’m a registered nurse by trade. I worked at a hospital in Seattle, and I could’ve gone back to work as a nurse after my son went to kindergarten. But I’ve been an avid reader since I figured out what all those squiggly lines meant, and I decided to try to make one of those things I’ve always loved [books].

I wrote the terrible poetry in high school like everybody. I took several creative writing classes in college, but I gave it up after that and didn’t start again until my son was in school.

AUTHORLINK: How did you learn how to develop your skill? Through workshops, writers groups, studying?

“I tried to teach myself to write for a while on my own, and that wasn’t working so well, so I went to evening classes . . .”

OLIVEIRA: I tried to teach myself to write for a while on my own, and that wasn’t working so well, so I went to evening classes at the local community college. I graduated and went on to the University of Washington extension classes and finished a novel. I got an agent and almost got published. The novel wasn’t published, but I realized there was stuff I could learn, and I got an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2006.

AUTHORLINK: Is there a certain kind of writing you prefer over another?

OLIVEIRA: I’m a big fan of more complex prose, lyrical prose. I like books that are complicated and have lots of subplots. It’s the same. What I strive for is complexity of plot and prose.

“I learned that Mary Cassatt burned her letters from Edgar Degas just before she died.”

AUTHORLINK: How do you begin writing a book?

OLIVEIRA: There’s usually one idea, one small snippet of something. For this one, I learned that Mary Cassatt burned her letters from Edgar Degas just before she died. I wondered why she burned his and not anybody else’s letters. It prompted me to investigate their relationship.

AUTHORLINK: What was your inspiration for I Always Loved You?

OLIVEIRA: I found out that particular piece of info at the same I was visiting Paris for the first and I completely fell in love with the city- as people do–and I wanted to set a novel there, so the two dovetailed quite nicely. What’s not to like about Paris? I like its walkability, the beautifully created facades on the buildings–the uniformity is gorgeous. I like the bridges over the Seine, the lights in the city, café culture, and I loved looking in all the art museums.

“All the characters are historical personages, there are no fictional characters.”

AUTHORLINK: How did you research your characters and the setting, given that the novel is historical fiction?

OLIVEIRA: All the characters are historical personages; there are no fictional characters. Most of the Impressionists are in the book, so I had to learn all their biographies and become familiar with their artwork.  I am not an art historian. The only thing I knew about the Impressionists was that I loved their work, especially Degas’. I taught myself about art history, techniques, and art theory. It required actually getting on planes to see pictures on view in Philadelphia, New York. I also went back to Paris to see pictures important to the novel, hunting down all the places the Impressionists lived, walking between certain destinations to know how long it took, finding all their art studios, trespassing at times, and spending a lot of time in the basement of Musée d’Orsay.

AUTHORLINK: Do you have anything else coming up?

OLIVEIRA: I’ve started my next book. I have a degree in Russian, and I spent a month in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, but I never made it to St. Petersburg. I’ll be going back, and I’m writing a draft of the novel before go so I don’t miss anything.

About the Author:

Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter. She holds a BA in Russian and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is also a registered nurse, specializing in critical care. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

About Doreen Akiyo Yomoah:

Doreen Akiyo Yomoah is a nomadic freelance writer, currently living in Dakar, Senegal. www.doreenakiyomoah.co.uk