On the release of To The Grave, the follow up to his very popular book In The Blood, I interview Steve Robinson on the eve of his first year of being an indie author
How do you strike the balance between writing
something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in
terms of the compromises you make, if any?
I like to write the kind of books that engage and
excite me as a reader and I figure that if I can achieve that for myself when
I’m writing then others might enjoy my books for the same reasons. I like a good story and that’s what I try to
create. A good story, well-told. That’s
my mantra. It doesn’t really feel like
I’m making any compromises and that’s perhaps because I love the genres I write
for and crime-fiction in particular is very popular at the moment.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the
genre(s) you write in.
I love weaving a mystery through a book and it’s the
unanswered questions that keep us turning pages to find the answers, isn’t it? Also, because my protagonist, Jefferson Tayte,
is a family historian, I have the freedom to write in any time period I choose,
and that’s something else I love about the genres I write for - it’s exciting
for me when I finish a book and I start to wonder where the next story will
take me. It keeps everything fresh for
both writer and reader alike. To
paraphrase Forrest Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ scene, you never know what you’re
gonna get - and neither do I. Add in the
crime-fiction element and things get more exciting because I can also write for
the thriller genre.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep
thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits
of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use
I keep notepads by my bedside and all over the house
(as I’m sure every writer does), but most of my ramblings go into files on my
laptop. I don’t do longhand at all well
because I can type faster than I can write - if I want to keep things legible
that is. And I do ramble. By the time I’ve finished a book of around
100,000 words, I’m sure that I’ve written twice that in notes and research. I love technology for that reason. Without my laptop I’d go through so many
notepads, be completely disorganized and need a bigger house in which to store
all the boxes, drawers and folders I’d need to contain all those words.
How much of you is in your characters? Which of your
characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?
I’ve wondered that myself. My agent asked me this a few years ago when
she was trying to get a mainstream publisher interested in my debut book, In
the Blood. I was sitting with her at her office in London, having
hand-delivered my second book largely because it was cheaper to visit her than
post it. She asked where I got the
character of Jefferson Tayte from and I said that most of him came from
me. She said, ‘but you don’t look
anything like him.’ That’s true, but it’s
not really what I meant, although we are roughly the same height. I tend to define my characters by their moral
attributes as well as physical. When you
see a character you get an image that you can recognize, but you don’t know
them, do you? What I meant was that in any
given situation that I’d put Tayte in, I would ask myself what I would do. How he behaves is much as I would behave
myself or hope I would. Other characters
are taken from people I’ve met. Tom
Laity from In the Blood is a real person by a different name. The real man is exactly like the character in
the book and he also lives in Cornwall and ran a deli at the time. You can’t beat drawing from real life - and
you can always embellish. In To the Grave,
Tayte really shares the lead with a character from 1944 called Mena. She’s a 16/17 year old girl and I’ve no idea
how she came to me but she’s such a wonderful character that I’m so glad she did.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your
spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
I think she wonders where I am more than who I am.
I do tend to get into character though as well as the period when I’m
deep into a book. I think you have to or
how else am I going to feel it? And if I
can’t feel it, how can I expect my readers to?
It’s all part of the job. At
least I’m at home though, so I’m kind of around and the balance works okay for
us because my wife works long hours herself.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same
genre as you write?
Pretty much. I
like crime-fiction, of course, and I love a good mystery, but I’m off police
procedurals and I don’t like murder-mysteries.
I prefer to think of my books as mysteries with murder, where the
mystery itself runs deeper than whodunnit.
I like my mysteries to be more about why. Every now and then you come across a book that
grabs your attention outside of your usual genres, don’t you? I love it when that happens. If the storytelling in a book is strong
enough, I don’t really mind what genre it is.
What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that
your book has the X factor?
I like to raise questions in a book blurb while
letting the reader know what it’s about.
There are about thirteen questions in the blurb for To the Grave and
hopefully they will entice the reader to read on and find the answers. I don’t know about X-factor. I think that’s a little different for every
reader and the answer to whether or not a book has it for a reader can only
come at the end of the book. The reviews
from such readers stack up over time though and books that have that X-factor will
eventually show through. I guess the
only way I could try to convince you that my books have the X-factor would be
to show you what others thought about my work.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling
mistake(s) you have made?
really are doing me a service. I’ve had
what feels like a small army of proofreaders working with me on polishing To
the Grave and we’ve already had a great comment from one reader who said how
well edited and proofed it was, so credit to them. This is the very reason I’m holding back the
paperback release for a few weeks because it’s so easy (and free) to fix an
error in an eBook publication, less so when it’s in print. So, if you or any one else finds any errors
in my work, please let me know.
What do you like most about visiting KUF?
I’ve been a Kuffer since last year now and I find it a
very friendly and supportive environment.
I look in quite a bit just to keep abreast of what’s going on, even
though I don’t find as much time to interact as I would like to when I’m writing,
which is most of the time.
What is on your near horizon?
The 3rd book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime
Mystery series. I have the title and
most of the plot already. Beyond that
I’m planning a six book series, so four more to go, and maybe a second series
if there’s call for one. Once I’ve set
things up for the paperback edition of To the Grave, and once I’ve finished all
the jobs around the house and garden that have been piling up while I’ve been
writing, I’ll hunker down to book three, which I hope to release early next
Where can we find you for more information?
I’m told that my website is an interesting place to
visit. The address is: http://www.steve-robinson.me. Please drop by and take a look around. You’ll find my contact email there, too, and
I’m easy enough to find for a chat on the KUForum and the Goodreads UK Amazon