Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: Robin Roughley
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Robin Roughley, author of the DS Lasser crime series. At present I have eleven self-published books on Amazon.
How do you go about plotting your books?
For me writing is an organic process. I have tried plotting a novel but found it restricting and I like that feel of being surprised as the story unfolds. This can lead to problems later on in the books but I still prefer the seat of your pants approach. I believe in getting the first couple of chapter’s right, as this should pose a set of questions for not only the reader but the writer as well. So I am always looking to set up a mystery or a set of problems that I don’t have the answer to. It is then my job to go and search out the solutions.
Do you ever get writer's block? How do you tackle it?
I don’t believe in writers block, and waiting for the muse to appear is a falsehood as she rarely shows her face - and even if she does then she will eat all the food in the house and then leave without saying goodbye.
If you write then you have to accept that some days the words will be hard fought, though, I have often found that these are the productive times. When the writing is flowing and you are lulled into that state of thinking this is the best you have ever produced, then often it turns out to be drivel.
It would be like a baker saying I can’t bake bread today because I don’t feel inspired. He still bakes the bread and it may not be the best loaf he has ever produced but at least he produced something.
Research: Do you find it fascinating or laborious?
I have very little interest in research, we are storytellers, we want the reader to suspend belief if only for a short time. In addition, when you over research a subject then it
can often slow the flow of the story down or the writer is tempted to put the research in simple to show they know the subject inside and out. I have lost count of the chunks of writing I have skimmed over simply because it shouldn’t be there and tells me nothing of the plot or drives the story along.
How has your writing style developed over time? And the way you approach writing?
I think writers mature, it’s like anything else the more you practice then hopefully the better you become, though it doesn’t all feel that way. I never look back at my work as I know there would be something on every page that I would want to change. I guess it’s human nature to want to tinker but there comes a point where it can be used as an excuse to stop you moving on with the next novel.
What's the best writing tip you've ever been given? How did it influence you?
Best writing tip was to get rid of anything that doesn’t move the plot along or tell you something about a character.
I love Phil Rickman’s writing, wonderful dialogue and setting, and rich storylines with characters you enjoy spending time with.
What book do you wish you had written?
December by Phil Rickman and I always try to get people to read it. The novel is a ghost story that mixes the old with the new wonderfully well, now go and download a copy and give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.
Do you ever surprise yourself with what you've written?
I am always trying to surprise myself though it doesn’t happen as much as I would like. I think when you have written a long series then the main characters can evolve but only within their parameters. If you try to take them out of their comfort zone then the reader will soon spot it and the writing becomes false. Any surprises tend to come from new characters as that way you can mould them into what you want them to be and it offers scope to take more risks.
What's the best and worst thing about being an author?
The best thing about writing is finishing the novel, especially the first draft. The worst thing is the editing process, especially when you get to the third of forth read through, as you are desperate to move on to the next book.
Which book or character are you most proud of creating and why?
I would have to say DS Lasser the main character in the series. Eleven books in and he is still fun to write. He has a set of standards that people seem to like. I also enjoy making life difficult for the character and watching him squirm can be very enjoyable.
What's the secret of your success?
Well I don’t know about success but to try and make it work you have to put the time in and work at it. Also listen to what the readers tell you: they are the best judge of whether something works or not.