MY INTERVIEW WITH DAVID ROBINSON
My guest tonight is a retired trucker, hypnotherapist and adult education teacher with a one-megaton sense of humour. He is a Yorkshireman from the outskirts of Manchester, northwest England, where he lives with his wife and a crazy Jack Russell Terrier named Joe (because he looks like a Joe).
He writes in several genres under different pseudonyms, but his mainstay is crime and mystery. He also produces darker, edgier thrillers which are aimed exclusively at an adult audience and which question the perceptions of reality. In a more light-hearted mood again, he turns out the occasional sci-fi or paranormal adventure and he has also published some non-fiction.
Often mistaken for the comedian David Walliams (it must be the dark, good looks), my guest tonight is David William Robinson.
David, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. We exchange comments on Facebook, but tonight I want to find out something about the man behind the keyboard.
Nervous? Shaking like a leaf. I really must cut back on my caffeine intake.
Orange juice from now on then! When did you start writing and what was your first book about (published, or not!)?
I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, and my first “novel” was 5,000 words long, written in a school exercise book, and it was blatant rip-off of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker. I can’t remember when I wrote my first serious novel. Probably some time in the 80s, but my first major effort came in 1997. I’d been working with a TV company, Trailblazer Productions, on a 5-hour thriller entitled Murder by Suggestion. We were close to a commission when we were rejected. I rewrote it as a novel entitled The Handshaker. After years of near-misses, I self-published it in 2011, and Crooked Cat have recently re-published it. The novel (and TV series) centres on the abuse of hypnosis and how far it can be pushed.
Hypnotherapist and teacher to author….. do you use many of your past working experiences as plots?
Curiously enough, no. Even The Handshaker is concerned more with abduction, abuse and murder than it is hypnosis. Naturally, there are experiences which I put to good use in all my fiction. Although my work history appears grand, I actually spent the greater part of my life as a trucker, and I have an excellent geographical knowledge of Great Britain, which is useful for the STAC series, and the repartee between Joe and his customers at the Lazy Luncheonette.
As a hypnotist, Alex Croft makes use of my training in the field, and other characters, like Chris Deacon in Voices, take from my work as an adult education teacher.
The STAC murder mystery series is doing very well and I see The Filey Connection is now #16 in British Detectives on Amazon. How did you get the idea for the STAC?
The STAC Mysteries are a comparatively new venture, born sometime around 2009. I was 59 years old at the time, and I’d always had two great passions: whodunits and humour. I decided to combine the pair in a series of light-hearted murder mysteries.
Using the Sanford 3rd Age Club as a fulcrum allowed me to bring in middle-aged people, like myself. I have this thing about growing old disgracefully. I can be a huge embarrassment to my wife, who is always a little shy and retiring, whereas I’m a born-again teenager, determined to enjoy myself without giving much of a hoot what anyone else thinks.
There’s a lot of me in Joe: getting on in years, still grafting, a workaholic, but harbouring his private passions in the background. He’s curmudgeonly, certainly, but if you look beneath his grumbling, you’ll find it’s cynicism, a dissatisfaction with the world and the way it has deteriorated – in his eyes – since he was a 20-something lad about town.
Rings a bell! Tell me, how do you promote your books?
Blatantly. I find that so many writers believe “I’ve written the book, and that’s it.” Not if you want to sell, it isn’t. You must let people know it’s there. I use social media: Facebook and Twitteand I use my blog, but it’s not a hard sell. I don’t believe you can hard sell books like you do insurance, mobile phones, and home improvements. Instead, I will use a little prompt and lead naturally to my book. Allow me to give you an example. “Snowed in? Dreaming of long, hot, sunny days. The Filey Connection, murder in a heatwave.”
One thing I find important when you’re working like this, is to keep abreast of the news. Here’s another example. “It took over 500 years to find Richard III buried under a car park. Pity Joe Murray wasn’t on the job. The STAC Mysteries; traditional British murder mysteries for your Kindle.”
I publicise my work a lot through social media and my blog, and some may say, “Give it a rest, will you?” My answer? No. I won’t. You don’t have to read the post, you can hide it on Facebook, you can block me on Twitter, but there are millions of people out there who don’t know about me yet, so I won’t shut up.
Does it work? Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend entered the top 20 of its genre chart on the UK Kindle, on January 6th, as I write, it’s slipped slightly, dropping back into the top 30, but The Filey Connection is in the top 20, and ALL FIVE STAC Mysteries are in the top 100.
It’s too early to say whether the sixth, My Deadly Valentine, which was released on February 6th, will be as successful.
You write books for adults. Have you ever written for younger people?
No. There is a good reason. I simply do not identify with youngsters. I don’t understand them. Their values and aspirations are so much different to when I was their age. Don’t misunderstand me. I have no downer on kids. I’m not particularly fond of very young children, but I don’t mind teenagers. I think they’re having a rough time of it. Their future is not so rosy or assured as was ours, and if I see some kid making an effort, striving for his/her ambitions, then I can applaud him. But I can’t pretend that I have anything to say that may entertain him.
Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?
I’m up between five and six every morning. I check my emails and newsfeeds for the first hour, track my overnight book positions, which is often an indicator to sales, then I set to work, usually by seven in the morning. I work for most of the morning, catch up a bit of sleep in the afternoon, and then do a little more before we have our evening meal. And I always work in the same place: at the back of the room where the workstation stands.
What projects are you’re working on right now?
Priority for now is the seventh STAC Mystery, The Chocolate Egg Murders. It’s targeted for an Easter release. Beyond that I already have outlines for the eighth and ninth STACs, and I’ll be working on a non-fiction title, explaining exactly how I sell using social media, and I have ideas for other crime series which I’ll be pitching to Crooked Cat later in the year.
What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?
I have this mantra: doubt everyone, never doubt yourself. It’s as simple as that. I have some wonderful people who help me along, particularly my dear friend and editor, Maureen Vincent-Northam, and Laurence and Steph at Crooked Cat Books, but essentially it’s up to me to get those words down on the page, and every writer must have that inner-belief. Without it, you’ll get nowhere.
One other piece of advice. Remember that most overnight successes take 20 years to achieve.
One last question, David. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
To see Joe, Sheila and Brenda on TV. At my time of life, most of my goals and ambitions have been achieved, but was it Mark Twain who said every man should die a failure. I take that to mean, you should be striving for something even on your death bed. To see the STAC Mysteries materialise as a TV series would probably be the crowning glory for... but then, I’d have to find another ambition.
David has an excellent web site which includes his blog at: http://www.dwrob.com/
David’s latest book, the 6th STAC Mystery My Deadly Valentine is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00B9HHF8I
Or in all e-formats from Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/281516