This English teacher turned funeral director who can write a serious novel, you can understand why I wanted to feature him again, right?!
His answers are killer, so I'm going to let him do the 'talking'.
I first read your book Killing Richard Dawson in November (and loved it). Do you read your own stories?
Thanks so much! I generally don't go back to something once it's finished. I haven't read either book since they've been published, though I'll occasionally refer back to specific scenes of sections to see how I wrote something, or to check phrasing, things like that. I'm sure I'll go back to them one day, but at the moment I think all I'd see are things I wish I'd done differently.
It came from a combination of a few smaller ideas. The first was wanting to write something in the first-person, which I'd never really done before, but write it from the perspective of someone who was quite emotionally damaged and who could not always be taken at his word. I was interested in the challenge of making the reader relate to, or sympathise with, someone who was quite selfish and unlikeable. I wanted to explore those parts of our personalities we all have but don't like to admit.
The second part was wanting to tackle the 'teen' genre in a subversive way. I was about seventeen, maybe eighteen, when I started writing KRD, and at the time we were being bombarded with teen-centered shows and movies that I found to be wildly inaccurate to what I was experiencing at the time. I thought of the book as the anti-American Pie, where it dealt with much darker subject matter and was - tonally, at least - more accurate to what my friends and I experienced at that age. The events in the book are entirely fictitious but the lifestyle portrayed and the attitudes of the characters were true to my experiences. I also wanted to gently mock the whole 'teen angst' thing and not take any of it too seriously.
How do you write? Do you have a set time or place to write?
I tend to write in spurts during the first half of a book, then finish it in a mad rush over a very short time-frame. I always liken it to going on a rollercoaster: there's the long build-up while you're getting everything in place, then once you pass the crest it's non-stop to the end. I wish I could write faster but when I force myself to write and I'm not in the mood, I'm never happy with what I produce and usually end up deleting most of it anyway.
How do you feel when you finish writing your final draft?
It's a strange feeling - it's a mix of relief that it's finished; fear that it's not good enough and doesn't say what I wanted it to say; joy that it's finally completed, and also sadness that I won't be spending any more time with these people whom I've come to know over the last few years. It's funny living with these characters in your head all day every day, then suddenly they're gone. It's always hard saying goodbye!
I'll generally finish the first draft then put it away for a few weeks so I forget all the little details, then come back and re-read it with a fresher perspective and make some further changes. Then I send it off to a couple of close friends who I trust to give honest feedback, then make changes based on their suggestions. It then goes to my publisher, who reads it and sends it back with their thoughts, which leads to another set of rewrites. I then send it back and, if they're happy with it, it goes to my editor. She then does a structural edit, which is a very general, overall review (which involves things like moving certain scenes around for a better flow, making sure characters and events are consistent throughout, things like that), which leads to more rewrites. I then send that back and she does another edit with a fine-tooth comb, which covers all the little things like spelling, grammar and punctuation. While I do the final rewrite my publisher is also finalising things like the cover design and internal typesetting. They send me an electronic copy of the final layout so I can check for any last-minute changes, then it's all done and released into the wild. It's a long process but also a lot of fun, and the book gets better and better with each revision.
Do you have a favourite character in Killing Richard Dawson?
I've always had a soft spot for Mel and would have liked to spend more time with her. Beau was the most fun to write and I think he has the best arc, but I like Mel and how she was almost a mirror of the narrator's feelings.
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it?
I'm currently reading Suttree by Cormack McCarthy. I've been on a bit of a McCarthy binge lately as I really enjoy his minimalist style. I am enjoying the book, though I prefer his more narrative-driven work like Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men or The Road. This one doesn't have much of a plot and feels a bit meandering at times but the quality of the prose makes up for it.
What's the worst advice you've ever been given?
"Things will work themselves out" or any variation thereof. They don't, you need to work for them.
What's the best?
In regards to writing: My first draft of KRD was quite different to the finished product - the story was the same but the style was a lot more unusual. Everywhere I submitted it rejected it as being "too weird". I was participating in a writers' workshop at the time and spoke to the author running the program about the problems I was having and he gave me this funny advice: "get famous before you get weird". It made me laugh at the time but I took it on board, then went back and rewrote another draft which was much more accessible. I saw an immediate improvement in feedback and this was the version I submitted to my eventual publisher. I credit that piece of advice for getting me published.
Thank you so much for chatting to Love 'Em! I hope there are some exciting things coming up?
Thanks so much for inviting me! I am currently working on my third novel, titled Pareidolia, which will hopefully be out next year. I will also possibly be appearing at the Perth Supanova Festival in June 2015, so come say hi if you're in the area!
To buy the book, read a free extract or just to read more about Robin, click HERE.