24 January 2009

Teen Series Turns 20, Hits 2.5 Million Sold



Teen Series Turns 20, Hits 2.5 Million Sold
Robin Jones Gunn Reaches 4 Million Copies of her Books in Print

THE WOODLANDS, TEXAS--When taken individually--having a series last twenty years with all the titles still in print; seeing 2.5 million copies of those titles sold; and having 4 million copies of your children's, teen and adult books in print--could be considered quite an accomplishment. Yet bestselling author Robin Jones Gunn has achieved all three milestones. Just last week she turned in her 70th book.

Gunn, the wife of a former youth pastor, never intended to become a writer. "We were on a camping trip with the kids in our church youth group, and a bunch of girls were hiding out in their tent reading evocative novels." she states. "When I said I didn't want them reading those books, they challenged me and said, 'Why don't you write a book for us, then? We'll tell you what to write. How hard could it be?' I soon found out that it was very hard but those girls helped me every sentence of the way."

It took two years to finish Summer Promise, the first title in The Christy Miller Series, and 10 rejections from publishers that claimed they just didn't see a market for them before the title was contracted. "I wanted to say, 'You can't see them because they're hiding in the tent with a stack of books from the library.'"

But the book division of Focus on the Family was aware of the need for clean teen books and had been looking for a writer to create a series. When then-editor Janet Kobobel Grant read the manuscript for Summer Promise, she realized Gunn understood how to connect with teens.

By the time the first book was published, Gunn was committed. She had fallen in love with the art of telling stories to teens. "The cast of characters in the The Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, College Years, and Katie Weldon series are all very alive and real in my imagination. Over the years I've received thousands of letters from teens that feel the same way. These characters are their friends."

The books have been translated into several languages, including Portuguese. "Whenever I receive another email from Brazil with lots of exclamation marks I smile," she says. "I can't read a word of it, but my heart knows what they're saying."

Every one of the thirty novels in the Christy Miller, Sierra Jensen, College Years, and Katie Weldon series is still in print. Indeed, fans of the first books are now introducing a new generation of readers to the books they love. One of the original readers, Tracy, showed up last year at a booksigning Gunn was doing in Indiana. Tracy surprised Robin by bringing her teenage daughter with her stack of books ready to be signed. "My daughter still doesn't believe I helped with these stories," Tracy said. "She says they're too authentic to have been written in my generation. I told her it's a God-thing."

"Robin's books have connected with teen girls for twenty years, with the first Christy Miller novel releasing in 1988," says Janet Grant, now Gunn's agent and founder of Books & Such Literary Agency. "How fitting that during this anniversary year, her teen books should reach this level of sales."

Grant remains as surprised about the longevity of the series as Gunn. "Neither she nor I ever envisioned such a long, happy and spiritually productive life for Todd, Christy, Katie, and the other authentic characters Robin created. Yet she receives letters and emails from girls every day who gave their lives to Christ or made other significant spiritual decisions as a result of reading these works of fiction."

"After two-plus decades of writing for publication," Gunn says, "I have come to ask of myself and of God the same questions I ask of these fictional characters: "What happens next? What if . . .? and Why not?"

Gunn's desire to write in a way that teens connect with and to touch their lives continues to be her driving force. In the words of one of her fans, "These books totally changed my life. You have no idea how much. Please don't ever stop! No one else writes for us like this. You have to keep writing for us until your hand falls off!"

Given Robin Jones Gunn's track record, many productive years lie ahead of her, and she still has stories to tell that teens long for. Her next teen book release, in May 2009, will be an addition to the Katie Weldon series, Coming Attractions.

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