Welcome back to our special Q&A series with Old Iron Press authors. Today, we are thrilled to present Playing Authors contributor, Robyn Ryle.
Robyn Ryle is the author of two award-winning nonfiction books—She/He/They Me (Sourcebooks) and Throw Like a Girl, Cheer Like a Boy (Rowman and Littlefield). She's published short stories and essays in a wide range of journals and magazines, including Newsweek, CALYX Journal, BELT Magazine, and Bartleby Snopes, among others. When she's not writing, she teaches sociology and gender studies to college students in southern Indiana.
Her young adult novel, Fair Game, just came out this past week. Congrats and welcome, Robyn!
At OIP, we love the fact that everyone has their own set of “classics” (i.e., books, songs, recipes, comics, food, objects, movies, shows, etc. that shaped you). What were some of your favorite childhood “classics”?
Edward Eager’s books, which I guess are now called Tales of Magic. These books were much less high fantasy than Tolkien and minus all the Christian metaphor of C.S. Lewis. They’re about normal British children stumbling into magic, full of disbelief, and I always hoped the same would happen to me someday. I’d just stumble into magic. Maybe I have and just haven’t noticed.
What inspired your piece for Playing Authors?
Before writing my piece, I’d been thinking a lot about the expectations put on today’s writers—that they also be their own marketers. Build a platform. Assemble your own launch team. Plan and pay for your own book tour. It’s a lot and I have this creeping suspicion that all this pressure on writers to be salespeople begins about the same time women start publishing in serious numbers. I think Jaqueline Susann did the first proper book tour for Valley of the Dolls. Is it a coincidence that women become writers and suddenly there’s all this emotional labor expected of writers? Hmm…
Anyway, I’d been thinking about writing an essay on this topic. I kept trying to figure out if Hemingway ever had to do a book tour. Surely not. Then I saw the call for the Playing Authors anthology and I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting, though? To imagine Hemingway on book tour? Even back then, it’s clear that there was this tension between the public persona Hemingway created and who he was outside the literary spotlight. And so much of being a writer in the public is weird and lonely. But putting Hemingway on book tour was very fun.
Where would your adventure be set: underwater or in space?
Definitely underwater. Full Pisces here. I love the beach and spent most summers in a swimming pool, underwater. Space is so empty. And cold.
Snacks while you work? If yes, what’s your go-to?
Sour neon gummy worms. Or SweetTarts, but only the Valentine or Easter versions, which thanks to the internet, can now be acquired year-round.
What are some of your favorite tools-of-the-trade?
I read Matt Bell’s book about writing a novel—Refuse to Be Done—recently and I totally stole this idea from him. I keep a notebook—a physical thing—in which I record progress and notes on whatever project I’m working on. So I’ll write down the current word count and the date and what I think needs to be done next time I sit down to work on that particular piece. It’s nice because it’s not a screen—it’s a physical record. And it serves as a reward structure. After I’m done with my writing block, I get to log my progress. I don’t know, writing feels like chaos a lot of the time and this feels like imposing some order.
You are hosting a party. Who’s coming? Where and when? What’s being served? (Fictional characters and locales are welcome.)
One of our favorite bands—The Black Lillies—were having a fundraiser one year for the next album they were putting out. You could buy a house show and it wasn’t too expensive, so my husband and I had them come to our town, Madison, Indiana, and play in a local venue. We invited a bunch of people in town to come for free. I wish we could have invited more. If I could, I’d do that again and again. A great band. People in my town. Lots of dancing. Violet behind the bar making us gin and tonics. All my friends pitching in snacks, because my friends make really great food. And friends from out of town could fly or drive in, too.
What are some things you enjoy doing off-screen?
Walking around our town, which is the largest contiguous national historic landmark in the United States. I see something new every time. Trying new restaurants down the road in Louisville. Reading tarot. Cooking. Gardening. Hanging out with friends.
Any recommendations for the OIP community? What have you been enjoying lately? (Or, something you are working on that you would like to share?)
My husband and I have been watching Welcome to Wrexham, about Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny buying a Welsh soccer club. It’s just a big love letter to sports and community and place.
This summer, my young adult novel, Fair Game, will be coming out. It’s about a girls’ basketball team that challenges the boys to a high-stakes game, putting their futures and three cherished friendships on the line.
Thank you so much, Robyn! We love what you make, and we’re so excited to publish your work.