Welcome to Tanya (Who writes under the author name of T. R. Robinson.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.
So far I have only written autobiographical books. The first two in my new abridged, dialogue based series are: ‘Tears of Innocence’ and ‘Negative Beauty’.
Where do you find inspiration?
People often told me about themselves and their experiences, frequently in confidence. In listening to them I came to realise how different and dramatic were the lives of my grandparents, parents and my own.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why?
My mother who I unfortunately lost at an early age. She was one of the most loving and caring people to have walked this earth. These are not just my own sentiments; many who had known her told me, even many years later, how beautiful she was not just in her looks but also in her character.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why?
As my books are autobiographical it is perhaps incorrect to refer to ‘characters’. Nevertheless, in essence the participants play such a role. The ones I disliked the most were the Gestapo.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources?
Although I have an excellent memory, I had to undertake a little research when it came to my grandparents to try and determine what the plague they suffered was. I should say here that I originally set out to write a complete tale commencing with my grandparents lives. However, this made for a large heavy volume so I decided to break our stories down into more manageable segments. This is why at present it is only my own tale which is related in the current abridged series. I intend to write either my grandparents and/or parents story over the next year. Hopefully I will also be able to produce the third in the abridged series of my life. I use the internet mostly due to the fact I am not near a library. But in truth a library would be my favourite.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book?
Most definitely. I was born into a loving prosperous family but from the age of five, subsequent to my mother’s untimely death, I knew little else than abuse of one kind or another. Some, in fact too much, was very violent. Nevertheless, I survived and reasonably intact. In unrelenting circumstances I succeeded in giving my son a decent education and bringing him up to be a pleasant caring person. My story shows it is possible to overcome difficult obstacles and to have a reasonably successful life.
It is always good to have lessons in books whether fictional or not. However, for fictional works I would not say it is a necessity but by default, if the characters are to be realistic, most do have something to teach.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)
Most tales whether fictional or not are based round characters. If they aren’t realistic then the whole would feel false. Of course to hold together a story needs a clear plot whether it is chronologically or event based. World-building in most instances is really the background frame to most tales unless of course it is primarily about a defined period and society. Technical perfection is a theme I constantly see discussed. Yes as far as possible the book should be technically correct. Nevertheless, I have read several which contained errors and inconstancies but still enjoyed the read.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
For a while my books where only available through Amazon both as a paperback and a Kindle e-book. I have for some time wished to publish with other companies to make them available to a wider readership e.g. iBooks, Nook, Barnes & Noble etc. After much hesitation, due to the difficulties people often said they were having publishing with them, I reconstructed my first book for Smashwords. It took a while as I carefully followed their ‘Style Guide’. However, I am very pleased to announce I was successful first go with no error messages. The book was published on their site 3 December 2014 and should be available through the other distribution sites by the time your readers see this interview.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
I do self-edit. I really do not have much choice. We should bear in mind that many of us independent authors do not have the resources to employ editors, proof-readers etc. I understand editors do work hard but even so I have seen people comment about how they paid an editor and the book still got published with mistakes. I have also seen discussion detailing how an editor will argue with an author about how different aspects should be written or published. Of course, and thankfully, this is a small percentage but even so it does put things into a little more perspective. Inevitably another pair of eyes is an asset, if you have people you can give your draft manuscript to and whom you trust. Regrettably I do not have relatives or friends who could undertake such a task.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be?
Yes. I suspect many view them as ‘amateurs’ and as with anything will consequently consider them inferior. Nevertheless, as many well-known successful authors have decided to use a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing this attitude is decreasing. And of course there are now several well written self-published books which are gaining a following.
Do you read work by self-published authors?
Yes. I primarily read in the memoir genre of self-published books although there has been the occasional novel/novella which someone has asked me to review. I have come across some very interesting as well as enjoyable books which would never have seen the light of day if it were left to agents and traditional publishers.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews?
This is a difficult point. I have seen some discussions, on social media sites, arguing the pros and cons of doing this. I think it is naturally polite to thank someone who has written a positive review. I also consider it right to acknowledge negative reviews provided they are not rude and/or insulting. We can often learn from these because we are all different and unique and therefore view matters from different perspectives. However, as someone once pointed out, if you have multiple reviews it could be considered spamming or self-grandiosity to respond to them all. In these cases perhaps a general appreciation would be more appropriate. Of course those who are fortunate enough to have a substantial number of reviews cannot be expected to respond to all the individuals.
How important are they is another question. Many say they are very much so. However, a number of readers/authors, I am amongst them, tend to ignore five and to some extent even four star reviews of self-published books because it is frequently apparent these have been given by the author’s relatives, colleagues and friends. Having said that I recently read the results of a survey which indicated that over half of the UK respondents read reviews before deciding on a purchase.
When buying a book do you read the reviews?
Sometimes. For me though, and this has always been the case, it is the synopsis (blurb) which influences me the most. Just as an aside: there is a lot of discussion these days about how important the right cover image is. I have to say I think it sad someone will not bother to even look inside the book just because the cover does not catch their eye. I would have missed some good reads if I had followed this principle.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
Perseverance and self-discipline: Once you start your book try to write every day. In my experience it is particularly important to write when you least feel like it or, as some would put it, you have writer’s block. Even if it looks like nonsense just write. I have frequently found, when I return to that portion of writing the next day, it makes sense and is in fact usable and often I have surprised myself with what has come out. Of course there are the occasions, few in my experience, when it is mostly nonsense but even then there is usually something in it. But the thing to bear in mind is that if you do this it normally breaks the stale-mate.
Routine: In most people’s experience, there are the exceptions of course, writing in a haphazard way without any routine rarely produces very much. We are all different and therefore need to find what works for us. Some write for three hours first thing in the day before even turning on the internet or dealing with other matters. Some prefer to write during the quiet of night. Whatever it is for you, once you have found it stick to it!
Take breaks: Each of us needs to remember we are human: not machines. Our brains do get tired even exhausted. Frequently a simple five/ten minute break in a different environment, garden perhaps, helps clear the thoughts. I sometimes struggled with how to present a situation or what to omit and include but after a short break suddenly found my thoughts flowing coherently. Then when I returned to my desk it all fell into place. This also highlights the need for exercise: we need to get the blood flowing which in turn provides great stimulus to our brains. And of course it keeps the weight under control.
What are your views on authors offering free books?
This never worked for me. Several downloaded a free copy but I did not get any sales or reviews as a result. However, it does appear to have worked for some although they did give away huge numbers (250,000 in one case) before seeing resulting sales. Again this has been the subject of discussion in social media sites and many are now moving away from free to discounted offers.
Do you have any pets?
I love animals and as a young child had several pets. However and regrettably my places of residence and my responsibilities have prevented me having any in later life. Well I did have a budgerigar at one point. He was delightful and mimicked my voice a treat. But alas he died many years ago.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?
Despite all I have been through my son, often in sheer exasperation, tells me how naïve and innocent I still am. I want to believe in people and although I have been constantly cheated and lied to, still do believe what they tell me. I frequently wonder if I will ever learn but I never do.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Tears of Innocence: UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00MH7FJ6Y
USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MH7FJ6Y and now
Blogs: http://www.trbooks7.blogspot.com (Recently set up for this author name.)
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TRBooks7 (Recently set up for this author name.)