Featured Authors Talk About It
ATAI: Tell us a little about you.
Robert: I was born and educated in the UK, eventually studying Science, at Cambridge. It was there that I realized the sheer amount of brilliant chemists far superior to me would preclude easy access to a Nobel Prize, and so I looked around for something else. As it happened, the City of London was poised for its great leap forward, and though I rather fell into it (I had no great longings to be in finance), I ended up in the thick of its development and loved every minute.
ATAI: How long have you been writing?
Robert: I dabbled a little at school and university, though mainly by writing music with lyrics from others. Then when I left the City in 2007 and found that I finally had the time, I started more seriously on the music. Writing lyrics was the way in for me, and then I graduated some years ago to writing plays. Finally, a few years back. I had the idea for a novel.
ATAI: What was your most recent release?
Robert: I have just published A Season in the Sun, which is my first novel. It details the story of a rather world weary City financier who gets a new lease of life by taking on the management of a cricket team in the Seychelles.
ATAI: What do you love most about writing?
Robert: There is very little better in the world than hearing someone laugh at a joke or situation you have created. And I do enjoy the satisfaction of having written a good piece of prose or poetry. But most enjoyable of all, I suspect, was the moment when the first box of final copies arrived at my door. There is nothing like holding the result of months of endeavor for the first time – almost like a new born baby!
ATAI: What do you find most challenging?
Robert: Correct punctuation. I am a lazy writer and both my wife and daughter would berate me constantly about the sloppiness of my script. Personally I leave that type of thing until editing – but it used to drive them crazy. In terms of the books and plays themselves, I generally find the beginning and the denouement easier than the middle – it is a question of keeping the pace going without giving anything away too early.
ATAI: Where do your ideas come from?
Robert: Everywhere! And it is different for different types of writing. One of the pleasures of writing pantomime is that the story is prescribed. And everybody knows how it ends, leaving the playwright enormous discretion in setting, sub plot, characters etc. I set Cinderella in Bavaria (not unusually) but had an Agatha Christie like sub plot about who killed Cinder’s father. It was solved in the end by the brilliant Constable Von Direction.
For my novel it was simply seeing a team playing cricket in the Seychelles one afternoon when I was driving around. The Seychelles is not the Caribbean, and cricket is clearly a new thing there, so I let my mind wonder about the what ifs – what if a small village team were to win the cup? What if match fixing were to rear its ugly head. The story came to me over the next few weeks lying on a beach.
Ideas for songs are even less easy to pinpoint – a mood, one single line, maybe just a phrase that grabs you and won’t go away. And then sometimes the music comes first and you have to find a lyric that fits.
ATAI: What is your writing process?
Robert: Start at the beginning and carry on until you get to the end. Then go back, start at the beginning again etc. I do occasionally leave areas blocked out but unfilled (to be finished later) but by nature I am usually chronological. There will be some plan in my mind, possibly roughed out in a very basic way, but I find that it is just as likely that the story will take a different path half way through. I find that really good characters tend to create their own reactions. I am merely a recorder!
ATAI: Do your characters (or message) ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?
Robert: Funnily enough, it was always my ambition to write non fiction. I have since university (where I studied Natural Science) been interested in History and Philosophy of Science, and was preparing to write about some subject within that area. However, the request to help on the local pantomime came just at the right (wrong?) time, and science’s loss became Aladdin’s gain! As I mentioned above, in fiction, the best characters do seem to react with a level of independence within the situations I place them. I suppose that at least I can dictate the situations.
ATAI: What’s your favorite part of your book (or one of your books)?
Robert: I have very fond memories of working in the City, especially in the 80’s and early 90’s. Some of the character of Henry Fanshawe, my hero, has been borrowed from a large number of my colleagues. It was great fun to reminisce in a book about the good old days!
ATAI: What are you working on next?
Robert: At the moment I have a number of irons in the fire. A new Pantomime script is due this winter, but at the moment I am casting around for the right story to adapt. 2018 is also the 100th anniversary of the First World War. In 2014 I and some village friends put together a booklet describing the lives of those soldiers from our village who died. There were 50 listed on our memorial, and in the course of doing this, we found another 30 unmentioned. I am looking at another booklet to add these names in. Then, of course, my friend Henry Fanshawe may have other ideas…
ATAI: Where can people find you online?
ATAI: Thank you for sharing with us and our audience.
Robert: Thank you for giving me the chance to tell you about myself and my book. I hope that some of you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
*NOTE: ATAI does not edit the responses of the authors.
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