Robin W. Pearson writes books that sprout from her Southern roots, her faith in Jesus Christ, and her love of her husband and seven children—all lend authenticity to her novels. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she has corrected grammar up and down the East Coast in her career as an editor and writer that started with Houghton Mifflin Company more than twenty-five years ago. Both her Christy Award–winning debut, A Long Time Comin’, and her second novel, ’Til I Want No More, have earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on her blog, Mommy, Concentrated, where she shares her adventures in faith, family, and freelancing.
In this interview, Robin discusses her latest novel, Walking in Tall Weeds.
FF: This is your third book. What was your writing process for Walking in Tall Weeds like compared to your previous novels?
Our family slogged through our own tall, prickly weeds during the writing of this novel as we dealt with issues related to illness, caregiving of elderly parents, strained family interactions, and homeschooling decisions. Yet managing those situations also inspired the story and the telling of it.
When you compare my first two novels with my latest release, you’ll see the former take place over a series of months, but Walking in Tall Weeds invites readers to enjoy a weeklong “visit” with the Baldwins. While much happened in that family’s life before the opening line, a history that sets up their story, they confronted life-changing events in those seven or eight days. As I developed the plot and those characters over that period of time, I had to constantly ask myself, “Is this crucial? Believable? Logical? Relatable?” to ensure that I didn’t rush the whats, hows, and whys or sacrifice the whos.
FF: Where did your idea for this novel come from?
My faith and my family always inspire my brand of fiction. My husband and I met in college and married soon after we graduated. We brought lots of personal history into our relationship, yet we’re constantly discovering something new that stretches our perception of and love for each other—things about ourselves, our pasts, and our children. Our entire family has been learning what to hold on to and what to let go of, exciting and painful lessons. These changing personal dynamics birthed the relationship between my characters, Frederick and Paulette Baldwin, and with their only child, McKinley, and enabled me to tell their complicated story.
FF: Your stories often explore complex family dynamics. What compels you to untangle the “knots” within fictional families?
As writers of Christian fiction, we are called to walk alongside others in their distresses. By drawing from my own experiences, I seek to minister to, inspire, and help readers untangle their families’ “knots,” not merely entertain. In this way, I live out 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… . He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”
FF: Tell me about your main characters in this novel. What are they like?
This story centers around a mature married couple, Frederick and Paulette Baldwin, and their adult son, McKinley. Fred is a furniture designer who’s extremely dedicated to living up to his family legacy, including carrying around the anger and resentment he inherited from his grandfather. Etta, a former homeschooling mother and piano teacher, strives not to repeat her painful history, even at the expense of her marriage to the man she adores. Their son, an interior designer, must either walk away from all he knows and loves or confront it—and the hardship that comes with it.
FF: How did your faith shape the themes of this book?
Love, forgiveness, marriage and family, walking in truth. These tenets of my Christian faith serve as both the foundation and the framework of Walking in Tall Weeds. The way God loves and sees us should affect how we love, see, and relate to each other, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or where we worship.
FF: What was the most challenging part about writing Walking in Tall Weeds?
Every time I opened my laptop to work on Walking in Tall Weeds, I entreated God, “More of You, less of me.” This is hard! We’re human, and our personal history—our biases, culture, background, and suffering—affects how we view the world, make decisions, and relate to each other. But our love for Jesus Christ and His love for us should change our perspective. Frederick, Paulette, and McKinley must decide whether to walk out their faith or walk away from it, a choice we make more often than we realize in countless ways.
FF: Of your three books, which has been your favorite to write?
Just like a mama, I truly consider all my book babies my favorite because they represent different seasons in my life. Yet the “delivery”—the writing process and motivation—differed among the three. My debut, A Long Time Comin’, served as a love letter to my parents; it honored my grandmothers and their sacrifice. Though fictional, that novel strongly connected with my family’s history, traditions, and memories, and when I wrote it, I was thinking of how to link my past with my future—my own little people and future generations.
FF: How do you determine if one of your story ideas is worthy of becoming a novel?
Perhaps I should employ a cut-and-dried, practical approach that involves studying the publishing market, poring over other books to see how they handle certain topics, and conducting interviews and research. My process mostly depends on divine inspiration, however. I pray about a story idea and consider what’s affecting families, starting with mine. I believe these issues reflect what readers need to hear and what they’re talking about. Then I ask myself, “What does the Word say about these issues? How do I struggle with them?” because I can’t write what I don’t know. Finally I submit these ideas to Tyndale so we can discuss them.
FF: What do you hope readers walk away with after reading this book?
I try to give readers a mirror they can use to accurately view themselves and their relationships. Long after they close Walking in Tall Weeds, I hope they feel challenged to examine their heart and motivations and ask themselves hard questions such as “How do I love people who don’t think or look like me? Have I chosen bitterness over forgiveness? Can others tell who and what I believe by what I say and do?” I hope readers walk away feeling inspired to share this book because they connected to these characters and their story.
FF: What is next for you?
At the moment I’m working on my fourth novel for Tyndale, a story about three women whose bond is the very thing driving them apart. Each expresses their shared pain in very different ways and sees their common past through individual lenses. The novel shows how sometimes our preconceived idea of how love should look wars with our view of how it did look. We must stop yearning for a picture-perfect relationship and realize that the beauty of true love is in the eye of the Creator.
Walking in Tall Weeds
Robin W. Pearson
Release Date: July 19, 2022
Paulette and Fred Baldwin find themselves wading through a new season of life in Hickory Grove, North Carolina. Their only son, McKinley, now works hundreds of miles away, and the distance between the husband and wife feels even farther. When their son returns home, his visit dredges up even more conflict between Fred and Paulette.
McKinley makes it no secret that he doesn’t intend to follow in his father’s footsteps at George & Company Fine Furnishings or otherwise. Fred can’t quite bring himself to accept all his son’s choices, yet Paulette is determined McKinley will want for nothing, least of all a mother’s love and attention—which her own skin color cost her as a child. But all her striving leaves Fred on the outside looking in.
Paulette suspects McKinley and Fred are hiding something that could change the whole family. Soon, she’s facing a whirlwind she never saw coming, and the three of them must dig deep to confront the truth. Maybe then they’ll discover that their history is only skin-deep while their faith can take them right to the heart of things.
Buy Walking in Tall Weeds from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Walking in Tall Weeds from Amazon HERE!