This week I’ve got an interview with author Robert Scott-Norton. The Tombs Legacy is Robert’s universe of connected fiction where he loves to spend time playing with different genres including sci-fi, horror, and thriller. His first novel The Face Stealer introduced us to this universe with Max, terrified and on the run, uncovering a conspiracy whilst being hunted by a horde of faceless assassins.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was a boy. I started creating comics for my own amusement when I was about eight, and started to seriously attempt novel writing at thirteen. I’m forty, so that’s around thirty years.
My most serious period of writing would be over the last ten years though. This was when I began to realise the effort that would be required and started to take action to make things happen.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing The Face Stealer around 2010 when I was thirty-five and spent a lot of time getting that right. Probably spent too much time working on that to be honest but I’ve learnt a tremendous amount from it.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I used to want to work in television for a time. But never anything in front of the camera. For a long time I really wanted to be a television cameraman and got incredibly frustrated at school when they pretended that such careers just didn’t exist.
Which writers inspire you?
Stephen King and James Herbert are the authors I most admire. I spent a lot of my adolescence absorbing their work and still find it so easy to slip into their worlds. They make it all look so easy. As a massive Doctor Who fan, I have to acknowledge the influence of Terrance Dicks. A writer responsible for sixty of the show’s novelisations, I must have read several of those books a week growing up.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’ve a young family so time is most often spent with them. I love to sit and draw with my daughter or play Lego with my son. If I ever get a bit of time to myself, I’ll spend it watching a sci-fi show or reading.
What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
The hardest thing is just finding that time to put my butt in the chair and write. I’ve learnt that writing is easiest for me early in the morning, so that means getting to the office before work starts and getting some words on the page. We all tend to underestimate what we can achieve over time and I’ve come to appreciate that even a thousand words a day can quickly build up to a novel.
All creative people go through creative blocks from time to time. How do you deal with this?
The one thing I don’t do is sit and wait for the muse to strike. I’m not sure I even have a muse. What I do is try and work out what my problem is. When I’m stuck, it’s generally because I’m not sure what my characters are going to do next. That smacks of a problem in my outline so I go back to the outline and prod it to check it’s still breathing.
Impressive book covers are often cited as the one of the most important things in helping book sales. What’s been your experience with book cover designers?
I did what lots of authors do in the beginning and try to make a cover myself. It takes time to settle into the ‘writing as a business’ mindset and that means that some expense is required. Despite the adage of never judging a book by its cover, no one really believes it when it comes to book sales. My first designer did an excellent job in showing what The Face Stealer cover could look like when it’s done correctly.
Since then, I’ve explored other options including buying pre-made covers from some popular sites. I’ve found Bookcoverpedia to be one of the best for this. I’ve been guilty of buying covers before writing the book as a form of inspiration. Whilst these are never going to be as suitable to the story as a custom cover they are professionally designed and unlikely to put readers off in the way that a home-made cover would.
How do you weigh up the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
It’s not something I even think about anymore. Accordingly to many authors more knowledgeable on this subject than I am, the deals for new authors in the traditional model are becoming less and less desirable. In most cases, the advances getting paid are far below the average salary in the UK and are not enough to replace my current day job.
When you consider that traditional publishers expect you to do much of your own marketing, whilst removing your control over pricing and promotions, it doesn’t seem that great a deal. I would sooner work hard for myself and reap any rewards that may come my way.
How do you market your book(s) and do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
I’ve two full novels available and a collection of short stories. For indie authors, that is a small inventory. What I’ve learnt is that marketing these isolated books is difficult. The common advice is that series sell and that’s my intention. I’m working on more books in the Tombs Legacy to build up my inventory and when I’ve more available I’ll make one or more permafree followed by paid advertising.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
I’d be lying if I claimed these didn’t hurt. The best advice is to read neither the good nor the bad. On occasion though, I’ve read a bad review, sulked for half an hour, then got back on with things.
Which social network works the best for you?
I’ve toyed with Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. I don’t exactly love Facebook, but for me it’s the easiest way to engage with people. Plus with Facebook advertising, it’s not too difficult to reach a wider audience than just those who’ve liked your page.
What is your favorite book and why?
Although I haven’t read it in a decade, it’s Misery by Stephen King. One of the first ‘grown-up’ books of my childhood, it showed me what gripping fiction could be like. Plus, there was a fair bit of gore which I thought was really cool.
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
I work for Sage Software as a technical writer. Whilst not as creative as my fiction writing, it’s taught me plenty of useful skills. Most important of which is the importance of deadlines. Working in software development teams with strict milestones has taught me discipline in my own work.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
My inventory is certainly going to be much larger. And I’ll have honed my writing process so I can produce more work faster. I don’t have any shortage of ideas and I want to turn these all into entertaining fiction.
Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?
I write to entertain myself. If I get bored writing it, my readers are going to be bored. Right now, that means I’m going to continue writing sci-fi, or thrillers, or horror. Who knows what that might change to in the future. This is one of the good things about being an indie-author: no one to pigeonhole you into one niche.
In The Remnant Keeper, no one has yet asked why the telepaths are sharing the same dream about the trees of the dead?
Do you honestly think I’m going to answer that?