An Interview with Robin Storey
I’m going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
My first novel How Not To Commit Murder. It’s a comedy crime novel about a conman who’s trying to go straight when he stumbles across a plot to murder his parole officer. I had a lot of fun with it as I was writing it from the point of view of a thirty-something male (which clearly I am not) and it was inspired by my own experiences as a parole officer (though I never had anyone plotting to kill me – not to my knowledge, anyway!)
I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
One of the most common pieces of advice given to indie authors is to write series, as once readers find and enjoy the first book, they’ll gobble up all the rest. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Once I’ve finished a book, I don’t want to write another with the same characters – I want to write something completely different. I’ve had readers suggest sequels, which is nice, but I don’t think I could do justice to them.
There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
At the moment I’m working on another noir novel with the working title of A Time For Penance. It’s about a woman who travels back in time to undo a murder she committed twenty years ago. My previous novels have been comedies ( as is my newest book – a memoir called Making The Breast Of It), but when I was writing An Affair With Danger I discovered I loved writing about flawed characters who are the victims of their own weaknesses and doomed to failure and tragedy. So I intend to continue down that path with future novels.
Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
That is very good advice and my first novel sat in its virtual bottom drawer for ten years before I dragged it out again. I read it again, cringing a lot, then decided the skeleton was still worth preserving. I did a lot of surgery on ‘my baby,’ chopping bits out and adding others, (sorry if that sounds gruesome!) with the advice of my faithful beta readers, and it became my romantic comedy novel Perfect Sex, my second novel, published in 2013.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I have a couple of writing spaces. I share an office with my partner, who works from home, but this isn’t always conducive to creativity, so I often pack my lunch and spend the day writing in my local public library. It’s frequently noisy (gone are the days of silent libraries), but I am able to tune out and I find that being in a different space from home sparks my creative juices. And being surrounded by books is a lovely ambience.
What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
I definitely need an outline – the thought of starting a novel ‘blind’ fills me with alarm! I hand write it first, because that seems to work better for brainstorming, then type it up and import it into Scrivener, the software program I use to write my novel. I also need to know my characters fairly well before I start, so I write brief character profiles and download photos of people who resemble them, as well as photos of their homes, towns, pets, anything else relevant that will help me dive into the scenes as I’m writing them. Then I import them all into my research file in Scrivener and I’m ready to start!
How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
That’s a hard one, because it has to be the very best that you can make it, but you have to accept that it’s never going to be perfect. Once I’ve written it (and that’s usually multiple drafts) submitted it to my beta readers, made the suggested changes and had it professionally copyedited, I have to let it go and get on with the next one.
Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I love both as a reader and a writer. As a writer e-books are great for the ease of sales and the world-wide potential audience. As for print books, I have sold a lot through personal connections – I’m amazed at how many readers, even young people, still prefer print – and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of holding your own book in your hand.
As a reader, I love my Kindle for the ease of buying books and for travelling, but reading is also for me a sensory experience, so I also like to read a print book that I can touch and smell.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
Social media can be a huge timesuck but it’s an essential tool these days for indie authors as part of an overall marketing strategy. Social media is not so much about selling books as connecting with readers and once they get to know you, hopefully they will be more inclined to buy your books. I have a profile on many sites but I concentrate on the two that I enjoy the most – Facebook and Pinterest, and occasionally Twitter. You have to focus on just a couple, otherwise you will drive yourself crazy trying to keep up. I try to spend no longer than an hour each day doing social media, often not that long. I have five books published at the moment and I’m concentrating on increasing my productivity and writing more books.
You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
Sometimes people have asked me who my favourite author is, and it’s impossible to nominate one person. But for the record, some of my favourite authors are Megan Abbott (who writes great noir), Dennis Lehane (crime-noir), Michael Robotham and Chris Brookmyre (crime) Nick Earls, Nick Hornby and David Sedaris (comedy) and Helen Garner (non-fiction).