Born October 13, 1975 in Thomasville, North Carolina, Robin Parrish began his writing career on a plastic, toy typewriter. By age thirteen he had begun winning local writing awards. A feature on a website he started ultimately led to his life as a fiction author. On the site he created a serialized tale with a segment published every two weeks over the course of nine months. The story came to the attention of several publishers who saw its potential as a debut novel. In 2005, Bethany House Publishers contracted him for the rights to not only that book, but two sequels. These books became the Dominion Trilogy (Relentless, Fearless, and Merciless)–fast paced suspense/thrillers that not only crossed genre lines, but wiped them out altogether. Since then he’s kept us sitting on the edge of our seats with Offworld, Nightmare, and the newly released Vigilante. Always pushing the envelope, ever on the edge of where modern storytelling is going, Robin Parrish will gladly and unapologetically tell you that he’s an entertainer, a weaver of stories that ignite the mind and delight the heart. Defying labels and refusing pigeonholes, his imagination is fueled by the possibilities of asking “What if…?”, and as anyone who’s read his work knows, he has a very big imagination. Readers will be happy to know that he has an endless supply of wild stories with enormous scope, that are still yet to come. Robin is a full-time writer. He and his wife Karen and two children live in High Point, NC. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Robin: Kristen: Let me start by saying that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all your books to date, and am really looking forward to reading Vigilante. I was wondering though, which of your characters have you enjoyed writing the most?
Robin: That is a question I don’t think anyone has ever asked me before! And it’s a really juicy one.
Without a doubt, my favorite character to write was Payton from the Dominion Trilogy. The world through his eyes is such an extraordinarily clear-cut place with a powerful moral code, where there’s absolute right and absolute wrong and nothing in between. I love his directness, his integrity, and that he doesn’t suffer fools. He’s a man of action, not words, yet he has a rather acidic tongue that speaks only the truth.
He was the first character I ever wrote that entered my mind 100% fully formed, and never once did he deviate from that initial mental image.
A close second would probably be Maia from Nightmare. It was impossible to spend so much time under her skin (since Nightmare was written first-person from her perspective) and not love that character and really get to know her inside and out.
Kristen: Have you ever had a character that really grated on your nerves? Robin: Wow, another fascinating question. I’ve never really considered that one before. Hmm…
I can’t think of anyone that had that fingernails-on-chalkboard quality, where I just cringed every time they opened their mouth. Some very minor characters that only appeared in one or two scenes, maybe.
Oblivion from Merciless was the closest I’ve ever come to creating a character that embodies absolute evil. He was a creature who thrived on death, who needed to kill the way that we need to breathe. I wouldn’t say he grated, but writing him was almost painful at times.
Kristen: Your stories tell some amazing tales. Does the finished work usually tell the same tale you intended to write when you began, or do the stories take on a life of their own as you write? Robin: I’m a very strong believer in the importance of a good outline, because stream-of-consciousness writing, in my experience as a reader, tends to have no sense of flow or pacing. Too much time is spent on some subplot where more time should have been spent on something more important. That sort of thing.
So yes, there’s always a strong resemblance between my original outline and the finished product. I do leave room for better ideas that occur to me along the way, and that happens with every book. The degree to which each book differs from my outline is different each time. Offworld, for instance, changed significantly during the writing process, while Nightmare was nearly identical to its outline. Vigilante was somewhere between the two.
Kristen: When you aren’t writing, what are you most likely to be found doing? Robin: These days I spend almost all of my time writing, just trying to pay the bills. When I get a snatch of free time, I love to play with my kids, spend time with my beautiful wife, or partake of a good story by someone else. I rarely read books these days, but I enjoy an engrossing movie or TV serial, and I still love a good video game. Kristen: What is something about you that would surprise your readers? Robin: I can wiggle my ears.
Not very exciting, I know. Okay, how about this: before I knew that writing was my purpose, I seriously considered becoming an architect. I got quite good at drafting in high school, and I’m a decent sketch artist even now. Nothing remotely special, mind you. But it’s something I dabble in on occasion.
Kristen: Tell us a little bit about Vigilante, and why you decided to write this particular book. Robin: I got the idea for Vigilante while talking to another writer, years ago. We were talking about the ways in which Christians interact with the world, and in particular how we carry out the Great Commission. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got people who try to forge a relationship with someone, and let their lives be their witness. On the other end, you’ve got the people on street corners, holding up signs that proclaim John 3:16 or approaching strangers in public places and basically trying to forcethem to become a believer.
There was something in the tension between those two viewpoints that struck me as very interesting, and I couldn’t think of an instance of another novelist using that as story fodder before. That was the initial spark.
From there, Vigilante grew and grew, and I incorporated loads of other ideas and some storytelling elements that I enjoy — such as super-heroics — and to me, it ultimately became this really interesting character study wrapped inside a non-stop roller-coaster adventure.
Vigilante represents a lot of firsts for me. It’s got more social commentary in it than anything I’ve done before, it’s got deeper characterizations and motivations than anything I’ve done before, and for the first time ever, it’s a story set in the real world, with no supernatural elements to it. It’s the first time that I have a really fleshed-out, complex villain, who I think manages to be both repugnant and sympathetic at the same time.
Those things are by design. I always challenge myself to best what I’ve done before, to try new and different things. I’m a suspense/thriller writer, but under that umbrella I jump from genre to genre with each book I write, because I don’t want to get pigeonholed and I don’t ever want to get stale. I love lots of different kinds of stories and I’m eager to try my hand at them all! And not just books — I want to write for other mediums as well. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement on that front, by the way!
Robin Parrish wants to take you on a ride. A wild ride — which is exactly what you’re in for when you pick up one of his books. And he’s adamant that it will never be the same kind of experience twice.