Author Kim Robeson grew up overseas in Greece, South Africa and Saudi Arabia but to her, Encinitas is the place that feels most like home. She also made it the home of the main character in her first novel titled The Greek Persuasion. Currently an English professor at Los Angeles Valley College, Robeson explores the nuances of sexual orientation and the complexity of mother-daughter relationships in her debut novel.
Why did you choose Encinitas as the home of your protagonist?
Having spent half my life overseas, I felt at home in Encinitas, so it was important for me to situate my character in a place that also felt like home. Unlike me though, my protagonist is uneasy and feels incomplete in Encinitas. She is searching for wholeness when the novel starts. She, too, has a home but is not at peace with herself or her surroundings.
How did you come to choose the plot line?
I wanted to tell a story of women, over three generations, who grew up with traditional values, and what happens when a woman is not necessarily happy — or satisfied — with the choices she makes. Because I knew pieces of my grandmother’s and my mother’s lives, I thought it would be interesting to examine, through matriarchal stories, how strong women make choices. The contemporary character lives at a time when more choices are afforded to women. As a result, it was organic to set one part of the novel in 1940s Egypt (where my grandmother grew up), one part in 1960s Greece (my mother’s country), and the third part in the early 2000s United States (where my protagonist lives).
How much is the protagonist like you — a Greek-American professor?
I think many debut authors start with what they know, and this was certainly true for me. I adore Greece and wanted to share this amazing country with readers. I took stories from my family and my own experiences as a starting point, but ultimately my characters and their experiences are imaginary. Thair (the main character) is open and strong; she’s bolder and more introspective than I am. Like me, she is an English professor, so I put her in settings that I could write about in a genuine way. Thair’s love of teaching and her overall philosophies are, indeed, a part of me.
Why do you call this a “not so typical” love story?
At one point in the novel, Thair has an interaction with an adult student and the student states that when it comes to love “it doesn’t really matter. Man or woman. No preconceived stereotypes… No society dictating what’s right and what’s wrong. If people didn’t see color, race religion, or even gender… if others were more open, then they would see that there are a helluva lot of people out there to love.” Thair takes this advice and even though she is very traditional at heart, she opens herself up to live. As a result, she has various relationships that interrupt her previous values of a typical love story. Through this process of being open, she finds peace — maybe alone or maybe with someone. You have to read the novel to find out!
This is your debut novel. What kind of challenges did you face in writing it?
The biggest challenge was time. As a full-time English teacher, I never had time to create my own art because I’m always grading! With my husband’s support, I dropped down to part-time hours for several years and finally wrote my book. My first draft was too long for industry standards for a first-time novelist. I wrote it in about nine months, and then took about seven years to cut 130 pages. Finding a reputable publisher and then the process of editing, copy editing and design took another year. Overall, the biggest challenge has been sticking to it year after year and smiling when someone asks, “Is your book done yet?” Now I can finally say, “Yes, it is!”
What do you hope readers take away from your novel?
I hope they enjoy the protagonist’s journey and the virtual vacation to Greece. I also hope that readers whose values are challenged when reading the Greek Persuasion will see that we are all the same. People just want to love, be loved and feel at peace.
“The Greek Persuasion” is available on Amazon.com. If you’d like to meet the author in person, Robeson will have a book-signing event on Sunday, June 9, at the Carlsbad Library starting at 2 p.m. Address: 1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad.