Here’s the first FFI of the New Year. Blimey, where does all the time go. Don’t know about you, but I’m far too old to set New Year resolutions, but if any of you have made one, good luck keeping them.
Wonder what’s in store for us this year? Who knows? I’ll be publishing a new Casebook in a few weeks and after that, more writing, I guess, but enough about me.
Today, I’m chatting with Bob Rector another of my friends from the online writing group ‘eNovel Authors at Work’.
KJD: Hi Bob, welcome to the lair.
BR: Thanks for the invite Kerry. It’s great to be here.
KJD: You have a background as a music video and film director, but today we’re going to concentrate on your work as an author. Before we do anything more, let’s get to know you a little better. You are from Chattanooga, Tennessee. What’s the best thing about the place?
BR: Chattanooga, TN, is called the Scenic City for good reason. On one side is Lookout Mountain, a popular tourist destination, and on the other is Signal Mountain, where we used to live (got tired of the ride up and down the mountain). The Tennessee River winds between them with public parks on both sides of its banks. We live on The Ridge, which overlooks Chattanooga, a small, friendly college town that has managed to attract a lot of hi-tech companies. It is quintessential small town America right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
KJD: Oh wow, that sounds great. I’ve heard the name from watching US film and TV and relate it mainly to the song about the train, but I guess you’re tired of outsiders mentioning that song, right?
BR: There’s a song about a train in Chattanooga? Really?
KJD: Teehee. Guess I deserved that. Seriously, I found the place on Google Earth—looks beautiful. Moving on, what can you see out of your studio window?
BR: A birch tree with branches cascading down to the ground. When the leaves are on, it’s all I can see, but now that fall has fallen I can see our homey little neighborhood and the street that runs through it which is not much wider than a country lane. The homes were built mostly in the 50s and 60s and each one is distinctly different, which I like. Lots of big, shady trees. Lots of songbirds. Squirrels are scampering around gathering nuts. Guess it’s going to be a long winter.
KJD: In my vast experience, winters are always too damned long, but it really does sound lovely. What would you consider to be the most exotic place you’ve ever been and have you thought of making it a setting for one of your novels?
BR: Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory. We performed our show Letters From the Front there for British and American troops. It’s literally in the middle of nowhere and looks as if they filmed Jurassic Park there. We flew from Singapore for many hours over open ocean to reach it. Island folk tend to be very friendly and DG was no exception. It gives new meaning to “tropical paradise.”
KJD: Man, that sounds spectacular. Where else would you like to visit and why?
BR: Scotland and Ireland, the lands of my maternal ancestors (the Gordons). I’ve already visited Bavaria, the land of my paternal ancestors. I think it’s interesting to see where you came from.
KJD: I once spent a week in Scotland, but it was closed and it rained the whole time (funny and true!). Ireland though, is stunning and the place of my birth.
If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?
BR: You’re assuming I’m not perfect in every way. How rude. 🙂
KJD: That’s me all over—rude. Come on now, ‘fess up.
BR: Okay, I could be thinner, taller, have more hair on my head, and be 25 years younger. Oh, and have more money in the bank. A lot more.
KJD: Apart from the hair, I’d go along with you on all of them, Bob, especially the bank balance. This writing lark doesn’t exactly match to income of your friendly banker/shark, does it?
BR: Darn right.
KJD: Can you tell me a little about your writing history and about your current works, which sound fascinating?
BR: Unthinkable Consequences is a thriller/suspense book with overtones of romance. Letters From the Front is a drama with overtones of romance. To me, any story, whether it’s sci-fi, comedy, historical, adventure that doesn’t have a strong romantic component is pretty boring. As you’ve heard said over and over again, ‘love makes the world go round’. I totally agree. I started writing professionally for TV in 1970, so I’ve been doing it for a LONG time. These were all scripts, a very disciplined kind of writing dictated by the demands of film, video, and stage. Unthinkable Consequences was my first attempt at a novel and I loved most of all the freedom to get inside character’s heads, hard to do in a script. Letters was an exercise in painting with a limited palette. It was financed out of the back pockets of myself and my wife and business partner Marsha Roberts. We could afford two actors and one set. The challenge for me was to make the production look much bigger. It must have worked because we toured the play around the world for 15 years and are preparing to take it out again.
KJD: That is brilliant and I congratulate you. I tried writing a screenplay a couple of years ago but found the art form too difficult and restrictive. Abandoned the project early on and converted it into a yet-to-be-published novel.
What’s the most romantic scene you’ve ever written?
BR: In Unthinkable Consequences there is a scene in which Kurt realises he must sacrifice himself to save Paula and she realises with horror that’s what he intends to do. In that moment everything else is stripped away except their love and devotion for each other. I think that’s the most intensely romantic scene I’ve ever written.
KJD: Lovely. I’m looking forward to reading the book really soon. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you a pantser?
BR: I sketch out chapter headings (sequences in a script) until I feel the story points are well balanced and the players are defined as to their purpose in the narrative. Locations (settings) come next because that’s where the action takes place. All this becomes the foundation for the ‘bible,’ where all info about the story lives and is constantly updated as the work progresses. I just can’t keep it all in my head. Then I’ll choose a chapter I think might help me set the tone of the story or define a lead character and start working on it, even though it might come midway through the story. This process will be repeated several times until I feel I have a firm grasp on the story and characters, then I’ll write chapter one and continue through to the end. I do research as needed but I never do general research. BTW, what’s a pantser?
KJD: A pantser comes from the phrase ‘by the seat of your pants’. It refers to authors such as me who don’t plot in advance but let the writing flow. The major problem with being a ‘pantser’ is that you often end up in a very different place to where you started and have to go back time and again during the rewrites to fill in plot holes. I tried writing a detailed outline once, but the process didn’t work for me as I found it too restrictive. I do like the sound of your method though and might try it.
Okay, moving on. Tell me a little about your latest work. Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview?
BR: It started out as a musical comedy and was the play we originally intended to do before we changed our mind (long story) and did Letters From the Front instead. I found the treatment for it gathering dust on a storage shelf a month or so back and when I read it found myself laughing out loud. So now I’m turning it into a comedy novel—with romantic overtones. I’m too superstitious to tell you what it’s about or even the title. I hope to have it completed early in 2015.
KJD: That’s fair enough, and I’d never push you on that. What’s next in your life?
BR: Getting Letters From the Front back on the road again. It’s a monumental task. Every day Marsha and I look back on those 15 years and ask ourselves, “How the hell did we do it?” Fortunately it was all documented and that’s where we go to find the answers. You can also buy the play from Amazon.
KJD: I wish you well in your efforts. Never having done anything like that, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to put on a play.
Can you tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know.
BR: My parents are deceased. My partner is also my wife, Marsha Roberts, an author and a producer. We both came from bad previous marriages and from the beginning we said, ‘No judgement, no restrictions on what either of us felt, said, or did, no boundaries, and absolutely no secrets’. We’ve just celebrated 39 years living under that code.
KJD: Fantastic—congratulations on that. Jan and I have been married since 1977, one year behind you, ain’t it grand?
BR: You said it, Kerry.
KJD: And finally, finally – is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re desperately, desperately keen for my/our readers should know?
BR: Thirteen questions, eh? Well obviously YOU’RE not superstitious.
KJD: Nope, never have been, never will be—touch wood. 😉
BR: All anybody need know about me is that if you’re my friend, I’ve got your back.
KJD: Wonderful thing to say Bob, I’d like to think it’s the same with me.
BR: Also, I’d like to add that I’ve enjoyed participating in your interview, Kerry, and found your questions stimulating and tinged with humour. Thank you.
KJD: Thanks very much for spending the time, Bob. Best of luck for the tour and for 2015.