As a young boy Robert always dreamed about becoming a fiction writer, but it never occurred to him that he could follow that dream. Some years later fate intervened and he was struck down with a debilitating neck condition known as Cervical Dystonia, which was brought on by a car accident some years earlier.
Rendered housebound on and off for well over a decade, he thought his condition signalled an end to his life, but Robert had failed to realise something … he was wrong, and in his darkest hours he turned to writing as a means of escape.
Never thinking anyone would read his work, let alone like it, Robert has now published four books in his Ancient Origins series and plans on writing four more, along with a fantasy series and a number of thrillers. His condition still keeps him indoors more than he would like, but it doesn’t stop him from writing, and more importantly it doesn’t stop him from dreaming …
Robert currently lives in the county of Kent in England and is a lover of science, archaeology and the mysterious. He has a passion for films, specifically action and adventure, science fiction and blockbuster thrillers, but as he got older he realised new releases rarely matched the classics he’d already had the privilege of watching, and it was partly this frustration that led him to create a world of his own. Robert’s website is http://www.sancturian.com, and he can be emailed at: email@example.com
Carrie: Hi Rob, welcome to Artist Strong! When did you realize you were a writer?
Hi Carrie, thanks for the invite! As to when I realised I was a writer, well, I suppose it sort of evolved. I wrote my first book in 2004 as I’d had to take voluntary redundancy from my job a few years earlier due to a chronic neck condition caused by a car accident. I wrote out of a deep desire, or need, to counteract the boredom and depression that had overtaken me at the time. I never let anyone read the book, a fantasy novel, until about nine years later when I took the plunge and gave it to my father to read. He really enjoyed it so I wrote another, an action adventure thriller, and when people seemed to enjoy that one too that’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It’s still strange to think of myself as a writer as I still have a lot to learn, in fact I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning with it.
Carrie: There is a lot of discussion on the interwebs today about self-publishing. Why did you decide on self-publishing?
I decided to self publish as my first full blooded attempt at writing a commercially viable novel in 2013 was more a case of testing the water and producing a book so that I could hold it up in the air and say: “I did this! I can do this!” So in fact, it was more of a vanity publication than a marketable product, although it did sell in small quantities and people seemed to enjoy it, which amazed me. I also self published as I was confident I could produce a good cover design, or more to the point I really wanted to spend time designing a cover as I think I like that as much, if not more, than the writing itself. To turn a manuscript into a saleable item is where the magic happens, for me anyway. It was a labour of love and a very rewarding experience.
Going on from that I soon realised my grammatical talents were sorely lacking and that the composition of my writing left a lot to be desired when compared to a professional. With that in mind I employed a copy editor, Julie Lewthwaite, who knocked my work into shape and gave me many pointers as to how to improve my work. She was a Godsend really and I’m lucky to have found her. I then reworked my first self published novel, 2040 Revelations, in 2014 and then wrote my second novel while improving further. Later this year I will rework 2040 Revelations a second time and add a couple of scenes. So, finally, in answer to your question, why did I self publish? Because initially my work wasn’t up to scratch and because I received a host of rejection letters from agents saying as much, two of which kindly gave me some pointers on how to improve, which I duly did.
Carrie: What has been a positive consequence of your self-publishing efforts?
There are many, none more than the confidence and sense of purpose it gives me. Unlike some lucky people, I never used to know what I wanted to do with my life, or perhaps more to the point, I’d been indoctrinated to conform by my school and social peers. I always knew I would love to write a novel, to be a writer, I just never thought it was possible for the likes of me. Now, however, I know I will continue to write regardless of financial reward, although of course I wouldn’t turn it down if it came knocking, who would? A rich person perhaps, or someone living outside of the world of debt and money, alas, neither of these are me.
My ideas come from my desire to see a film that I would really enjoy. These days I watch a film and more often than not I leave it feeling disappointed, or unfulfilled. This is probably because the older you get the more classics you’ve seen and the harder it is to be enthralled, thrilled and titillated. Since I write what I like it’s like watching my favourite film in slow motion. I also write what I love, mysteries, ancient secrets, forbidden knowledge and some grit and action throw in.
Carrie: Do you maintain the same schedule every day for your writing? What does your creative routine look like?
At the moment my creative routine has stalled, I needed a break and found the process very difficult. I will soon be back at it though with a renewed vigour. I try to get up in good time and write until lunch, I then continue writing for the rest of the day, with breaks, sometimes until late in the evening if I’m on a roll. Since I still suffer from my chronic neck problem I have the benefit, or perhaps curse, of being on the wrong side of agoraphobic, and as such I can devote all my time to my work.
Carrie: How do you know when a story is finished?
Instinct more than anything else. Plus the more I write the more I know what works and what doesn’t. So instinct and experience plus a dollop of common sense. Although saying that, I also need to try and tie down my endings so the characters don’t run away with the story. I have only written 3 books, nearly 4, so as I said before, I still have a hell of a lot to learn.
Carrie: What is one strategy you use to help you when you feel stuck?
It’s funny you should ask that, I recently had that problem and came up with a good solution, for me anyway. I write down a list of what needs to happen before the story ends and then I go from there.
Carrie: Tell us the story of an obstacle you have faced as a creative and how you dealt with it.
I would say the biggest obstacle to my writing is getting started. I suffer from depression and my life is bleak, so motivation is the toughest thing I have to overcome. I find the best thing is loud, fast music. Dance, trance or some uplifting rock, anything to raise my spirits to get my brain turning and my enthusiasm burning.
Carrie: What advice do you have for people who want to write, but are scared to start?
Don’t be scared, I spent half my life living in fear, but life is far too short. Just put fingers to keys and start writing and see where it goes. I find the best thing is to make the page size on screen mirror the page size of a book, about 3 pages to one A4 sheet. This means you complete a page very quickly and it’s amazing how fast they rack up. Even if you wrote 1 page a day, that would be 365 pages a year, which could be a whole book, or two or more if children are your target audience.
Carrie: What is your most valuable creative resource?
Documentaries maybe? I don’t know, good question! Hmmm … perhaps curiosity would be my biggest resource. According to Stephen King you should read lots of books, when I write I don’t read in fear of plagiarism, and I haven’t read any fiction for years, but if the great man says reading helps then perhaps that may become my greatest resource in the future.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Sparks of inspiration sculpted by hard work.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you have a simple but great trick like shrinking the page size you type on to help keep you going? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below.
Biannual Ancient Origins Newsletter – sign up: http://eepurl.com/BlYz5
Upcoming Book Signing:
21st March 2015 (1pm ‘til late) – Waterstones, Bluewater Shopping Centre, Kent, England.