T.R. Robinson is an independent author of memoir, autobiography and fiction, together with a writer’s blog, which is highly informative with masses of easy to follow reliable information and tips for writers here
The interview, December 2019:Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a writer and artist living in Scotland where I relish the rural life. The natural world has inspired my paintings for many years and an abiding interest in human nature and psychology feeds into my writing. I’m middle-aged so I’ve accumulated quite a few passions and interests which include gardening, walking, reading, crafts and I volunteer in social care, primarily in mental health.
What first inspired you to write?
The impetus came after I finished an Open University degree in the humanities, in which I’d found the combination of painting and teaching art, alternating with studying art and literature, so wonderfully fulfilling. I wanted to carry on with this balance in my life so I enrolled on a diploma course in creative writing and when it was over, I felt I simply had to carry on writing. It was if writing tapped into a latent need in me to express what it is to be human, and I also found the process and craft of writing truly fascinating and challenging.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
My particular genre seems to have been dictated by what it was that I so loved about studying literature, namely the language aspects and the exploration of the inner world of the characters in realist nineteenth century novels where there is a particular psychological intensity. So I’d say I fit the literary fiction genre primarily and address themes for women readers in mind.
Do you write under any other name(s)?
I write under the name of Lynne Fisher and keep my legal name for my painting – as Lynne Henderson. When I married I elected to keep my own surname of Henderson, but picked my husband’s surname for the writer me. I love that I’ve done this and it feels so apt.
Are you working on another book?
Yes, a women’s literary fiction novel, entitled After Black. It’s in the publishing production stage just now and I had an intense time in the writing of it. A good deal of research was needed concerning the 1950s in particular. Here is a little taster:
‘Recently widowed Janet returns to her beloved job at the store, only to find her future happiness threatened by a feisty young woman co-worker she loathes. The mutual antagonism of the two women leads to challenges Janet could never have imagined.’
I’m also carrying on with a novel I prepared earlier on the theme of midlife passage, that preparation being getting the first three chapters written and introducing the characters. It really is a joy to get back into the creative side of writing as opposed to the ‘processing’ side.’
If your books have required research: What do you consider the best resources?
It depends upon the nature of the research, but in After Black, for example, I had to seek personal accounts of aspects of life in the 1950s as well as find accurate sources of social history concerning this period. These were available online, and there is such a wealth of material online now, there really isn’t any excuse for making glaring errors which can really spoil the story for the reader. Doing my degree has helped me understand how research has to be from viable and dependable sources, where you have to evaluate the likely authenticity of the content. On the other hand, the setting of Dalyan in Turkey for On Turtle Beach was developed using direct experience through two holidays there with me scribbling in my notebook. My interest in psychology and associated reading has been invaluable too. But in a more accessible way, resources can simply be found in living one’s own life and from listening to, observing, and reflecting upon, other people and their lives.
Do you consider your books convey messages to readers?
I’d like to think so, though I’m very aware that the story must come first. Personal development is a huge interest of mine so I naturally gravitate towards creating characters and storylines which reflect this and the life messages that go with it.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
Learn the craft of writing first, the basic rules and conventions, read a lot, and then simply go for it. Trust your instincts for telling your stories your way. Beware of becoming conflicted through the mountains of advice for writers out there. It can be a minefield! As Stephen King says, write with the door closed.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
I do it myself as I can’t afford to pay a professional. Having said that you must leave a long gap after finishing a manuscript before editing, and if possible edit and proofread a physical draft copy of your actual book before publishing. There’s something about having it in your hands, just like any other reader, that can bring the vital objectivity needed.
How do you go about marketing your books?
Hmm, well its quite tough for all writers these days. I make sure that my product information is up to spec and I use social media and my blog to get the books out there. The Goodreads site is important to me and I would happily invest in an author’s ‘giveaway’ as I think this attracts readers to your books, even if they just add them to their ‘to read’ list. Composing quote boxes, using suitable images and quotes from the book, is useful and enjoyable to do. I also use free promotion book sites and whatever else comes along or occurs to me, for example, thinking of what age groups and types of people would be interested in the themes concerned, a kind of targeted approach.
How important do you think reviews are?
Very important and such a difficult area for authors. Numbers count it would seem, and yet, obviously, an author wants reviews to be favourable when they’ve put so much work into their writing. There is no doubt that good reviews attract more readers than poor reviews, so it would seem important to try to write to suit the varied tastes of a wide range of potential readers, but what about the advice to writers to write for themselves? It’s a bit of a dilemma but overall quality counts and one hopes reviews will reflect that for the most part.
If you consider reviews important, how do you go about obtaining them for your books?
Well one method which I didn’t act upon with my first novel, but which I will be doing from now on, is to put a friendly request in one’s book, perhaps in the ‘about the author’ section, which is the most direct method. Other methods are quite random really, such as asking someone who says they have enjoyed it to do a quick review, and sometimes you get approached by book reviewers. But I draw the line at paying for reviews because that really blurs ethical boundaries for me.
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
Not really, as I love variety. But I tend to go for the authors I like such as Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, so I can easily enjoy supernatural thrillers, literary fiction, psychological fiction, dystopian themes and science fiction, but my cut off point is pure fantasy because I need real world settings.
This is an age old question but one I consider of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the psychological intensity.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, for the seafaring adventures.
Emile Zola’s Paris based L’Assommoir for its social realism.
I’m very aware that these are realist fiction books and classics too, but for me they are kind of timeless, and through this I think they would help me feel connected to civilisation and not so alone.
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Many thanks for inviting me here, T.R. It’s very much appreciated.
Here are my links….
(original interview here)