I wanted to do this interview with Rob after reading his book Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #1). I loved it and it easily earned 5 stars from me. It will be available for sale on Friday the 26th but I will be out of town, so am posting this a bit earlier than I wanted. But I will be at the Phoenix Comic-Con from Wednesday to Monday. Meeting some of my Favorite authors, Like Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Jim Butcher, Scott Lynch for the first time. And many more that I have met before. Hopefully I will have lots of cool photos and stuff to share with you all when I get back.
1. If you could do it all over again, would you change anything in your FIRST book?
Yes. A few readers have accused me of trying too hard with The Heresy Within, and I can see it. Like a new friend trying too hard to fit in. I had yet to properly settle into my own voice and figure out my own boundaries. So yes, I would certainly change some things… but I have no idea what. Can I go with ‘I would have made it better’?
2. Have you ever judged a book by its cover?
All the time. The cover leads you to pick up the book and read the blurb. The blurb leads you to check out the first page. The first page leads you to buy the tome. A crappy cover and the book fails at the first hurdle. You judge anything with the information you have at the time and, when browsing books trying to decide which one to read next, the first information you have is the cover. I may never have discovered the joy of reading a Robin Hobb book if not for the Liveship Traders covers.
3. Who designed your cover/covers? Where you able to work with the artist or is it all the publisher?
Alex Raspad has done the artwork for most of my books with input from myself on some of them, very little input after the initial ‘Here’s what I want’ actually. Whether it’s character shots or vistas or pirate towns burning to the ground while the men on a ship watch, Alex gets it spot on and he just keeps getting better.
Shawn King does the design on all of them afterwards and I can’t praise him enough for turning the art into actual book covers. I don’t know all of the fancy design terms folk use, and any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic… So Shawn is a wizard. Also, I hear he once turned Gandalf into a frog.
4. Have you ever had a side character Try to steal the show? Would you like to go back and make a spin off series or something for them? Or is there a theme or idea you’d love to be able to explore in more depth?
Funny you should ask that. In earlier versions of Where Loyalties Lie there was a side character called Elaina Black who everyone (including myself) loved. In the rewrites she kept having more and more chapters and I think it’s fair to say that these days the story is as much about her as any of the others.
There are a few other characters who have made a bit of splash and when they do I tend to get a little bit inspired and write short stories around them. A few of those short stories will soon be available on my website.
5. If you could read any book again for the first-time What book would it be?
Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb. No book has ever hit me in the feels quite like that one. I actually cried. Also, Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding. There’s a scene involving a mid-air dogfight between a hundred flying machines, punctuated by a guy having a fist fight with a cat. It remains one of my favourite scenes in all fantasy.
6. When trying to figure out what a character should look like, do you think of Celebrities, or just start looking at everyone you pass as if your looking through a mug shot book?
Neither. Sometimes both. Most characters just sort of come about naturally in my head, though I probably take some inspiration from folk around me without even realizing. Some characters come from more direct inspirations. I like to reference a character from my second book, The Colour of Vengeance called Jacob Lee. He’s a psychopathic, super powered, zealot with a loose grasp of reality and he likes to dance to music that only he can hear. The inspiration comes from a film called Priest (2011)… actually it comes from a single shot in the trailer of that film where Karl Urban’s character is walking through a city in chaos and waving his arms around like a conductor. It’s a terrible film, but I loved that shot and it led quite directly to Jacob Lee.
7. How many books have you written, how many have you tried to publish, and how many are in print?
Thirteen so far.
2 of them will never see the light of day, early attempts at discovering my style.
2 are currently in print, my It Takes a Thief… series.
1 is being released on May 26th. Where Loyalties Lie.
3 are being re-released on June 21st. The Ties that Bind trilogy.
2 are being released later this year. The Fifth Empire of Man (the follow up to Where Loyalties Lie), and Drones (a sci-fi noir story).
1 is being released next year. City of Kings (the follow up to The Ties that Bind trilogy).
2 are currently being looked at by agents so I can’t share any details.
And I’m already writing the 14th.
8. Four children have small toys. The first child has 1/10 of the toys, the second child has 12 more toys than the first, the third child has one more toy of what the first child has and the fourth child has double the third child. How many cages are there?
How many cages are there? Four, I guess. How else do you store live children?
9. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Low pay, long hours, and that look of ‘You’re a unicorn.’ whenever you tell people what you do for a living.
10. How many people have you killed over the course of your career? Real people first, then fictional.
It’s impossible to say how many real people I might have killed over the course of my career. Due to the butterfly effect any action I take has a knock on reaction that could technically cause any number of deaths. I may be responsible for none of those deaths, but my actions may have indirectly caused events leading up to them.
As for fictional characters… A LOT. Tens of thousands at least. My First Earth saga is set on a world of turmoil where wars are a regular thing, especially in the current age. And the troubles on that world are only just getting started. Less than Star Wars, though… I’ve never blown up a planet.
11. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Did it end up helping? Or did we just count that person in question 10
Honestly one of the hardest criticisms for me to take is the times I’ve been called an Abercrombie clone. We have similar styles in some ways and a few readers picked up on that. At first it made me a little angry. Then I started looking at differently. Abercrombie is a hugely successful author with some very good books. If people want to draw comparisons between us then I will take it as a compliment.
12. What has been the best compliment?
Any one given by my big sister. She’s my very first reader and my hero, and really not afraid to tell me when I suck, so any time she says I’ve done something well, that’s pretty much the highest praise in the world.
13. Do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?
Never call yourself aspiring. Do you write words onto pages? Then you are a writer. Have you sold even a single copy of the words you have written onto pages? Then you are a professional writer. Also, marry into money.
14. What do you think will be your Final words?
“Well personally I kinda wanna to slay the dragon.”
15. What one question do you think I should have asked you, but didn’t?
16. Do you have any questions for me?
What is ‘The Captain’s Daughter’?